Making Of The Nuclear Option

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The Nuclear Option is my Magic: The Gathering war chest with magnetically-activated animated edge-lit deck boxes. Learn how I hacked together this nerdy showpiece.

Most pictures in this post were taken with Google Glass. It’s the best tool to document a project – nothing sucks more than wasting precious project time dicking around with a camera.

All the low-tech hardware came from Harbor Freight.

All the low-tech hardware came from Harbor Freight. The project was inspired by a Reddit commenter who used the same toolbox. I bought some foam mat and diamond-tread foam to add some structure.

The box was lined with some cheap, gnarly foam. I ripped it all out.

The box was lined with some cheap, gnarly foam. I ripped it all out.

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I cut a long strip of diamond-tread foam and used 3M Super 77 to bond it in place. The clamps prevent the top edge of the foam, which people will see, from curling.

I laid out the decks on my block of pick-n-pluck foam and marked the corners with toothpicks. If I had used chalk or marker, it could have spoiled the look of the finished project.

I laid out the decks on my block of pluck foam and marked the corners with toothpicks. Chalk or marker would spoil the finished look.

I pulled out holes for the decks, and toothpicked out the placemat slot.

I pulled out holes for the decks, and toothpicked out the playmat slot.

Also one for the dice. Planning first let me keep its borders even, so the whole thing looked consistent.

Also one for the dice. Early planning let me keep its borders even, so the whole thing looked consistent.

I test-fitted the stuff and traced the outlines into the bottom foam.

I test-fitted the contents and traced the outlines into the bottom foam.

I used programmable WS2812 LED's left over from a client project, which come pre-soldered to circuit tape. I cut the tape to fit the outlines I traced earlier.

I used programmable WS2812 LED’s left over from a client, which come pre-soldered to circuit tape. I cut the tape to fit the outlines I traced earlier.

Then I soldered the tape back together into one continuous strip. What a pain in the ass.

Then I soldered the tape back together into one continuous strip. What a pain in the ass.

I traced the deck cutouts onto a piece of floor mat and cut them out. This will prevent the deck backlights from bleeding into each other.

I traced the deck cutouts onto a slab of foam. The frames will prevent the deck backlights from bleeding into each other.

A few sticks of hot glue will keep that s**t locked down.

A few sticks of hot glue will keep that shit locked.

Everything fits, but will it work?

Everything fits, but will it work?

Spoiler alert: It does.

Spoiler alert: It does

Now let's glue it all down before something changes!

Now let’s glue it all down!

I cut a block to fit into the center of the LED strips. This will support the decks and hold the magnetic sensors.

I cut a block to fit into the center of each LED sub-strip. These will support the decks and hold the magnetic sensors.

I melted a channel into each block with a soldering iron. This produces toxic smoke and you should never do this. I glued a reed switch into each channel

I melted a channel into each block with a soldering iron. This produces toxic smoke and you should never do this. I then glued a reed switch into each channel. The switch detects the deck magnet and activates the lights.

I soldered a quick-and-dirty PCB on some Veroboard. The processor is an Arduino Pro Mini. The relay closes at 4V, and draws only 30mA, which an Arduino pin can sink without a switching transistor. We still need a flyback diode, or the Arduino will be crispy barbecue.

I soldered the driver to some Veroboard. The processor is an Arduino Pro Mini. The relay closes at 4V, and draws only 30mA, which an Arduino pin can sink without a switching transistor. We still need a flyback diode, or the Arduino will be crispy barbecue. The capacitor stabilizes the rail as the batteries die.

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Why use the relay? Even when they’re totally off, each WS2812 LED draws 1mA of quiescent current. If the relay didn’t break the circuit, the 32 LED’s would drain the AA batteries in a week¬†with the lid closed. The WS2812’s, Arduino, and relay use nominal 5V but work fine on 4.5V.

I glued thin styrene sheets over the LED's. These diffuse the glow, and when you look into a deck slot, you see smooth plastic instead of raw electronics.

I glued thin styrene sheets over the LED’s to diffuse the glow. When you look into a deck slot, you see smooth plastic instead of raw electronics.

I used a utility knife to make a cutout in the foam. This will make room for the electronics without exposing them to poking nerd fingers.

I used a utility knife to carve into the foam. This will make room for the electronics without exposing them to Cheeto-dusty poking nerd fingers.

I cut some foam into risers, so the dice and playmat are in easy reach. The diamond-tread foam looks manly as hell.

I cut some foam into risers, so the dice and playmat are in easy reach.

Stackin' em up!

Stackin’ em up!

The diamond-tread foam looks manly as hell.

The diamond-tread foam looks manly as hell.

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I forgot to take a picture, but the case came with a pocketed tool-card-holder-thing with a nice toggle clip. I decided to repurpose this to hold my binder.

I cut off the toggle clasp...

I cut off the toggle clasp…

...and bolted it to a slim three-ring binder.

…and bolted it to a slim three-ring binder.

A bumper protects the cards from the other end of the screws.

A bumper protects the cards from the other end of the screws.

I cut a card-sized foam slice for each deck and glued on a very strong neodymium magnet.

I cut a card-sized foam slice for each deck and glued on a super-strong neodymium magnet.

A magnet-foam thing goes inside each deck box so the reed switch can detect when the deck is removed.

A magnet-foam thing goes inside each deck box so the reed switch can detect when the deck is removed.

The final reed switch will detect when the lid is closed. I disguised it in foam for maximum subtlety.

The final reed switch will detect when the lid is closed. I disguised it in foam for maximum subtlety.

I mounted two fat-ass neodymium magnets on the upper lid. These bastards will make sure this case knows its damn job.

I mounted two fat-ass neodymium magnets on the upper lid. These bastards will make sure this case knows its damn job.

I glued some scrap pick-n-pluck to some scrap foam to make a dice lid.

I glued some scrap pick-n-pluck to some scrap foam and cut out a notch to make a lid for the dice box.

Fits in real purdy.

Fits in real purdy.

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Test fit is a success.

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What up, Quagsire?

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We got that jank

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Dat edge doe

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Hear me, O nerds, and tremble!

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