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  1. #1
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    Default TECH: Wing a Custom Taillight

    I promised ChopCult I'd put this up at some point, and with the "How-To" contest acting as motivation, here goes:

    This may be a bit artsy for the 'Cult but I had to put it out thereÖI think the customization of the process will suit the readers well, as I know weíre a creative bunch.
    The idea behind this project was that I was pretty disappointed in the aftermarket motorcycle lights offered; they were all skulls or flames or dumb shit. I like some of the vintage STOP or bullet lights, but it seems like every custom bike I see has one of those, and I wanted something a bit more unique than that, so I started searching around Ebay.


    Figure 1. Won this wall hanging off of Ebay and the madness began. Who the hell would hang this in their house? I guess it could make a cool rapper necklaceÖ

    Won a hummingbird hanging on Ebay for $3.49. They came in a set of two, but I knew I only needed this one; it was hard finding a bird with the right amount of detail that was also in a good position for a taillight; taking into account screw placement, position on the bike, etc. I also knew I needed a hummingbird because if you've seen my bike you'll understand why...but this is where you use your imagination; this process can work on any shape you can find. Hell, make a Hitler portrait or a dildo or a viking riding a wolf throwing a skull. Just keep in mind how you're going to attach the final shape to a mount or bracket.

    Figure 2. The hummingbird with a clay build-up on the back. This is regular modelerís clay you can get at any art store. To the right is another hummingbird that came with the first, which Iíll make a cat dish out of or something.

    Obviously, the hanging wasnít deep enough to house a bulb, so I went to work making a clay housing for the bird that was deep enough for a light; I used an old Harley light as a reference as to how deep to make it for an 1157 bulb. For clay, I used regular old modelerís clay that dries in a few hours when exposed to air. When youíre happy with the clay and itís dry, cover the outside with something that will make it glossy, like shipping tape, your ladyís nail polish, or the stuff they put on concrete to make it appear wet (I got this at my local hardware store). You want the outside to be as smooth as possible to make sure the clay doesnít stick to the mold youíre about to make.
    Next you need to pour a mold around this model. I used a two-part silicone mold and you have to pour it around the object, slowly, so air bubbles donít get trapped. The worst part is it comes in 16-oz kits (about $30-$40 each!) so you donít have a ton of material to play with. The good news is that once you have the mold, you can use it hundreds of times with no loss of detail. This stuff is super strong, so you donít really need thick walls. Also, use a plastic container, not a glass one, because getting the mold out of the container requires that you cut it out. You have to get the mold out of the container so that you can peel away the sides and remove the clay model.

    Figure 3. The finished model that Iím about to make a mold of. This one has shipping tape on the outside, but Iíve found anything that makes it shiny and smooth will work great.


    Figure 4. This is the reverse mold of the object in the previous picture, done using a two-part silicone rubber mold kit you can get online or at a local art store. You mix the two things in the bottles in a 5:1 ratio, and then pour it over the object to be cast.


    Figure 5. Just another shot of the mold, showing some of the detail. Look how flexible that rubber is. Hmmm, what else could you use this for? Donít use this when youíre shitfacedÖ

    Once I had the mold, used a two-part clear polyurethane resin kit, again found at a local art store. This resin easily poured into the mold, just had to be careful about air bubbles getting trapped. I wish I had access to a vacuum, but even the little imperfections look cool, as you can tell right away it's not some factory part. For this particular project, I had to tint the clear polyurethane with a red transparent dye. The hardest part is knowing how much to add to the resin, as we can see....

    Figure 6. Hereís two different hummingbirds, my first and second attempt. The first one was the perfect color red, but then I began to cut into the resin to make room for the bulb, and it started to get pink real quick. Now itís a very feminine paperweight.

    The first time I added dye, I just put in two or three drops and it looked like the right color red. But remember, youíll be carving out much of the material to make room for the bulb, so itíll get much lighter. The second effort I added about half an ounce of dye and it was black as hell, but when I carved it out, it was perfect.

    Figure 7. Digginí away with a dremel. Note: Learn from my mistakes, if you have a girlfriend or wife, donít do this on the kitchen table.

    Once the resin is dry, you can start carving room out for the bulb. Easy to do with a dremel, and the residue cleans up nice with just soap and water. The resin is hard as hell, so you donít have to worry about cracking or breaking it. Carve out from the bottom, because you are going to make a little clear plastic window so the white light hits your license plate, if thatís how youíre running this. Otherwise, dig from the back and be easy.


    Figure 8. The skyís the limit. I made a brass ring around the back, a clear window for the license plate illumination, I even made a light for another bike out of the cap of a spraycan. Go fucking nuts you crazy bastards!


    Figure 9. On the bike, the light was looking good. There will always be some imperfections in the resin; some little air bubbles cannot be avoided, but itís got a vintage, clearly one-off look to it that separates it from the CNC or machine-cast parts out there.


    Figure 10. This was the best picture I could get at night, but it still doesnít do it justice. At night, you can literally see every little detail in the hummingbirdís beak and wings. The resin had this nice warm red color. If someone rear-ends me, Iíll punch them in the brain.


    Figure 11. Warm and fuzzy. Here you can see the holes drilled for the brass screws, the resin is mighty tough so you donít have to worry about cracking it.

    Okay, thatís all there is to it. It may seem like a long process, but itís not bad once you get started and the end result is something that you wonít ever see on another bike. You could also use the same process to copy an old tombstone or maltese cross light, in that case you already have a good model. But, hell, I want to see that damn viking riding a wolf!

  2. #2
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    Dude! you need to win the contest for this one! Kick ass idea. I think i just found a new hobbie (like i dont have enough all ready.) Gonna try this one for shur. Great job on the light.

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    thanks man! now im going to make my flippin the bird tailight ive wanted my whole life!

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    Very cool post. Thanks

  5. #5
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    Killer. Thanks for following up like you said you would, Ryan. I'm dying to do this now.

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    Very cool. Have you though about making a small vacum form that you could just fit into your oven. It would elliminate the need for the mold material. If you could find the correct transparrent red plastic I think it would work really good.

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    off to ebay

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    Very cool tech! Definately could do alot with this, or even re-pop cool old tail lights.

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    Great guide, and awesome light. Thanks man.

  10. #10
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    awesome how-to, love seeing people be creative and using found items. i have a shed full of stuff(crap) that people always say "what the hell are you keeping that for" this is why, because one day there will be a project that requires one of these bits.
    god i can ramble.....

    keep up the good work

    Bison

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    Quote Originally Posted by BFJosh View Post
    off to ebay
    Haha. Get it!

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    That was amazing. I now have some ideas of what I might want to try and make a light out of. You get my vote for the best How-to.

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    Default I think that was a great write up

    and the end result is tasteful. Certainly worthy of the time it took you. I would have like to see how you fashioned the base as well....

  14. #14
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    Bitchin, everyone is goin to have crazy taillights now!

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    hell of a write up!

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    Pretty sweet. How did you make/attach the clear piece though? Now I gotta find some cool shit to make.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pantsbeer View Post
    Pretty sweet. How did you make/attach the clear piece though? Now I gotta find some cool shit to make.
    that's what I 'm trying to figure out too. maybe clear silicone?

    also, Can the resin material be filed/sanded, and buffed? or do you just run
    it as it comes out of the mold warts & all?

    How much was the total investment with ALL the materials, resin, silicone, Dye, etc ?

    & finally........Nice Job.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Revelator View Post
    that's what I 'm trying to figure out too. maybe clear silicone?

    also, Can the resin material be filed/sanded, and buffed? or do you just run
    it as it comes out of the mold warts & all?

    How much was the total investment with ALL the materials, resin, silicone, Dye, etc ?

    & finally........Nice Job.

    Thanks guys, let me try to answer some of the questions that came up.

    1. The clear window is the corner of a plastic GLAD sandwich container. It's bowed out a bit cause when I made the first one flat, it started to yellow from the heat of the bulb. That little bulge makes all the difference. I just attached it to the resin with clear silicone seal.

    2. You could do anything you want to the resin. In fact, if you look at the first pink one I made, that's been heavily sanded. You get rid of an dimples (not warts, cause air gets trapped in as you pour the resin and leaves little holes) on the surface but you lose lots of detail and surface gloss. One thing I found you can do to return the gloss anyway is to put this coating they use to make concrete glossy, can't remember the name, but I got it at Home Depot, you just brush it on the resin and get all the gloss back.

    3. If I did it right the first time, total cost would have been:

    1. Hummingbird - $4.00
    2. Silicone - $35.00 (cheaper online)
    3. Resin - $30.00
    4. Dye - $6.00

    So maybe like $80 or so? Two things about the cost, the mold you make could conceivably be used hundred of times, so if I ever wanted to make a third or fourth, it would only be the cost of the resin. 2. The resin can make way more than one light, but unfortunately once you mix it you have to pour quick. So, you could either have multiple molds ready to go, or carefully measure out how much you need and only mix that amount. On this particular run, I obviously wasn't worried about saving money or time....

    I'm really proud to be able to share this with the Forums guys, hope this helps!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nicko View Post
    and the end result is tasteful. Certainly worthy of the time it took you. I would have like to see how you fashioned the base as well....
    I didn't cover the base with pictures cause it came way after.

    1, I just carved out the basic shape of the hummingbirds with brass and put a big hole through the middle.

    2. Used my old 1157 bulb socket and literally silicone sealed it to the backing plate. I think welding would have been much better, but so far the sealing has worked fine.

    3. Now, you need some way to seal the backing plate to the taillight, but you have to be able to remove it as well to change the bulb. So, I just took a plumber's gasket and cut out the shape and inserted between the backing plate and the light. I dumped a cup of water over it and it didn't get anywhere inside the light, so that was my test. I live in SoCal though, so if you're making one of these and you live in Boston, maybe a better seal is in order. One thing that would be easy to do is to make the backing plate a bit bigger and then curl over the edge to act as lip, creating a nicer housing for the light. With this particular shape (I tried this!) it was impossible to shape the lip around the tight corners at the beak and wings.

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    so sick, im in a pickle on the best one. this one... or the bacon dog one. but this is really rad/

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