Monday, July 29, 2013

Blinky Birthday Card

I know lots of kids love making special cards for parents on their birthday. Actually, I know a lot of adults do to! But what do you do when you have a hacker husband and you want something that really says, "Wow!" Well, in my case, you add some LEDs.

The finished card, with an embossed and decorated envelope.
For this you'll need cardstock in red and black, a printer, a paper cutter, an X-acto knife or something similar, a glue stick, 2 LEDs (I used ones that blink), an old mousepad, a tack, a coin battery and some duct tape.

Making the card is easy. I created a graphic (in GIMP) using the Android robot and added a present to his belly. In my case, I cut it from red cardstock using my digital cutter (a Sillhouette, which I love), but you can print the graphic and use an X-acto to do the same thing. I sized it to fit a standard 4.25" x 5.5" card, which I made from textured black cardstock. I just used a glue stick to paste the robot to the card.

Click for the full-size image, and right-click to save it. 
The card before LEDs.
To add LEDs you'll need two blinking LEDs and a coin battery. I pulled both from a "Learn to Solder Skill Badge" from MakerShed that I had laying around, but you can buy the same thing at RadioShack.

To place the LEDs in the eyes, I opened the card and laid in flat on an old mousepad. Then I used the LED itself to determine where I wanted the holes for the leads. Using a tack, I punched the holes and inserted the LEDs.

On the inside of the card, I traced my coin battery in between the leads. Then I bent the positive leads (the long ones) against the paper and cut them so that the met inside the circle I'd drawn. I trimmed the negative leads a little as well, though I left them long to account for the thickness of the battery. I placed the positive side of the coin battery (marked +) on top of the positive leads and then bent the negative leads over the battery. I little red duct tape, pressed well for good contact between the battery and the leads, sealed everything in. I didn't bother with a switch (though that'd be super cool).

All that was left was to add a cheesy birthday greeting to the inside. :)

Quick, easy and impressive. To "turn off" the battery, you just need to loosen the tape a bit and let the negative leads lose contact with the battery. This isn't a card I'd mail, by the way. It'd get damaged and the blinking envelope might put more suspicious postal workers on high alert.

If you like the music in the clip, it's called "Stardazed" by a band called "Virtualizer" and is available for free on

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