Hello, Intarwebz! I recently posted this picture on Twitter and got some good feedback. One user asked me about how I got the lights in the clay, so I thought it would make for a good blog post. So here it goes!
Let me preface this by saying I am not an artist, nor do I typically do anything like this. Every now and again I have a thought like, “Oh it would be cool if someone did X” or “Man, I would like to have Y”. Then I think about it for a few minutes and convince myself, “I bet I could make that…” and then things just start happening (I guess this is how most things are invented?). Next thing I know I’ve made four trips to Hobby Lobby/Michael’s and Lowe’s and I’m in the zone. I get kind of obsessive and HAVE to do the thing as soon as possible. Otherwise it will haunt my dreams, nagging at me like a splinter in the mind.
Warning: Mild spoilers of a 10-year old published campaign ahead.
If I remember correctly, I believe I was at the office and my mind wandered off to the recent events of our current campaign. Jim was DM’ing a 5E conversion of Paizo’s “The Shackled City Adventure Path” and I knew that we were going to be fighting at least one Beholder soon. Meanwhile, a friend of mine at the office mentioned something about wanting to attach small LED lights, typically used for model trains, to the staff of a sorcerer miniature that he was painting. It was about that time that his voice began to fade into the background and all around me the lights dimmed…
I did some quick Googling and within 20 minutes or so I had a plan.
- Lights – Obviously, the lights are the BIG DEAL here (at least for me). Working lights on the eye stalks brought this to the next level and are the whole reason I did it in the first place. I found a website for model trains that sells a kit with a coin battery and switch. It’s already put together for you. Then I just ordered some additional lights. As you can see, I went with all red. But if you’re HARDCORE (and you know you are) you can get 10 different colors to make the Beholder more authentic (and popular at raves).
- Modeling Clay – Standard white(ish) modeling clay. You can get this at most hobby stores. I went with the standard 2lb pack.
- Styrofoam Balls – 3″ or 4″ NON-smooth styrofoam balls. You want the flaky kind. This is what I used for the core of the body and also at the base.
- 3/4″ to 1″ Wide PVC Pipe – Really doesn’t matter what it’s made of, so long as it’s rigid. Doesn’t need to be long (maybe 2″), but I recommend getting it at least 4″ and then sawing it down if needed. This is what attaches the base to the Beholder and also how I got the lights into it.
- Crafting Wire – Pretty standard. Just look for jewelry/crafting wire. I bought a small spool because you don’t need much. You could probably also use paper clips. I cut off sections of the wire to act as the “bones” for each eye stalk because I didn’t think the clay would hold up by itself.
- Some kind of tape – This is optional, but it helped me hold some stuff in place to make things easier. Also might want electrical tape, but not necessary.
- A Spoon – You should be able to find one in your kitchen. If not, what is wrong with you? Go buy some spoons, you savage. How else do you carve out
I am going to describe this as best I can using the power of WORDS. I did this about 18 months ago and did not even think to document the process (because there was no ggnore or blog). Also, I will do it in a bulleted/outlined format because that’s how I do.
- Test your chip light kit to make sure it works out of the box.
- Connect the additional LED lights to the chip light kit. Twist the tiny metal wires (they are very small) onto the main, exposed wire of the chip light kit (likely where the pre-existing light is already connected).
- Verify they all light up.
- Use some tape to wrap the wires so they hold.
- Feed the wires through the PVC pipe until the chip battery touches the end. If the diameter of your pipe is smaller than the battery then the battery won’t fit (which is fine), but if it’s bigger than the battery then it might fit in the pipe. Just make sure the battery is hanging out of one end and the lights out the other.
- Cut a styrofoam ball in half.
- Use your spoon to hollow out the halves. You’ll want them to be maybe 1/”2 to 3/4″ thickness.
- On one of the halves, drill a hole the same diameter as the PVC tube you have. This is what the orb will be attached to and how the wires for the LEDs will feed into the orb.
- On the other half poke/drill some small holes where you want the eye stalks to be. This is where you will feed the wires.
- Cut off enough pieces of the crafting wire (1″ to 1.5″ should suffice) for eye stalks.
- Stick the wire into the foam ball right next to each hole (hopefully they will hold). If they don’t hold then you might need to use tape.
- Feed each wire through the holes you poked/drilled earlier (from the inside of the sphere to the outside). They should come out right next to a piece of crafting wire.
- You can now try to tape or wrap the LED wires to the crafting wire (this was a pain to me because the LED wire are so tiny). It’s not absolutely necessary, but it can make the latter steps with clay a bit easier. I wasn’t able to get the LED wires attached to crafting wire, so I ended up just wrapping the LED wires around and into the clay at the very end of my process.
- Now take the other half of the orb, the one with big hole in it, and feed the bottom half of the PVC tube through the hole. Move the half-orb up to the other half until it forms a complete sphere again.
- Tape the edges together so it will remain a sphere.
- You should now have a styrofoam sphere with a PVC pipe sticking out of the bottom, LED lights protruding from the top half and a battery with switch dangling from the end of the PVC pipe.
- Take another styrofoam ball and cut it in half. This is going to act as a base for stability and support. Beholders can be a bit top-heavy.
- You don’t need to hollow out this one, but you do need to drill a hole through it like you did the previous one.
- Feed the chip light battery, switch and PVC pipe through the hole. You should have enough length on the chip light so that it protrudes from the base about an inch or two.
- The bottom should look something like this:
- Test your lights.
- Take some sips of your preferred alcoholic or caffeinated brew.
I won’t go into much detail on the clay. First I added a layer all around the sphere, pipe and base. Then I rolled some up into eye stalks to put around the crafting wire. Once the eye stalk clay was in place, I wrapped the LED wires around and into the clay. It’s messy but it worked.
The facial features were just what seemed legit to me. I’m no sculptor or artist, so I’m not sure what the best way to go about it would be. I just rolled up some more clay to make an eyeball, eye “brow”, lips and teeth. Then attached and blended them a bit.
The final result is what you see in the picture. There was a
FIRE FIGHT EPIC BATTLE with a ridiculous ending (maybe another post?). I think the idea is solid ::pats self on back::, but the implementation is crude. I can barely imagine what all you talented artists out there could do, and would love to see what you can come up with. Highly detailed textures and paint? Silly googly eyes? STROBE LIGHTS? Get to work! Leave us comments on the blog, Facebook or Twitter.
If the instructions above aren’t sufficient then please let me know. If enough (maybe five, aka our entire readership) are interested then I can deconstruct my beholder and show you how it works. For SCIENCE!