I won this belt buckle online and the madness began. Is there anything cooler than wizards?
I won this belt buckle online and the madness began. Is there anything cooler than wi
Here's a little project that's definitely a weekend job, and the finished product is something you'll probably never see on another bike. Best of all, the whole project uses some basic tools that most people have lying around, so no need to break the bank.
I got motivated on this project because I was looking for an aftermarket taillight for my Shovelhead, and flipped through various vendors' catalogs and couldn't find anything all that personal. I mean, you can get a tombstone light, or a cat's eye, or a STOP light, but it's "been there, done that" to me. I read an article online about guys who were re-casting old car tail lenses, and my mind was made up. I had to try something even crazier.
I went shopping online and found an old wizard belt buckle for $8.99 with free shipping. Sold. Old belt buckles are so killer and this one has just the right amount of detail and the bust is in a good position for a taillight; taking into account screw placement, position on the bike, etc. I also knew I needed a wizard because I'm going with a mystical, weird theme on the bike...but this is where you can use your imagination; this process can work on any belt buckle, or just about any shape for that matter, that you can find.
The belt buckle wasn't deep enough to house a bulb, so I went to work making a clay housing for the wizard 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 modeler's clay that dries in a few hours when exposed to air. Now, you can do this one of two ways. You can 1) build up the clay completely and pour a mold around it, or 2) build the clay up, then dig out the clay at the location where the light bulb will be, and then pour the mold. The second method has an extra step, but it will save you from having to grind out the hole for the light bulb in the cast when it's done (this is a messy process).
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 don't get trapped. The worst part is it comes in 16-oz kits (about $30-$40 each!) so you don't 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 don't 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.
Once I had the mold, I used a two-part clear polyurethane resin kit, again found at a local art store. This resin easily poured into the mold, I just had to be careful about air bubbles getting trapped. (As an aside, I wish I had access to a pressure chamber, but this is a fast drying resin so you need a high quality (read: $$$$) compressor to get enough psi, and this is a DIY, so I can live with a few bubbles. You will always get a few here and there, but they're barely noticeable when the light is off, and they reflect amazing when the light is on! How many bubbles you get will depend quite a bit on what shape you try to cast: start out with something easy, and see how it turns out. For me, the wizard's beard was very difficult to get detail out of, but in the end I was very happy with the results.) Back to the resin pour! As you pour you need to add a red transparent dye (again, a local arts store has this; you should know everyone's first name at the store by now). As you're stirring add dye until you think it looks about the right color. It's hard to tell how much you might need/want in there, I added about half an ounce of dye and it was very dark, when I carved it out, it was perfect.
Here's the wizard with a clay build-up on the back. This is regular modeler's clay you can get at any art store. To the right is some of the clay. It dries slow so you really have plenty of time to get it just right.
Here's the wizard with a clay build-up on the back. This is regular modeler's clay yo
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. Here you can see I've dug out the clay for the light, so that the mold material filled that hole in. Now, when I pour the resin, it won't fill up the space where the hole needs to be. Still with me?
This is the reverse mold of the object in the previous picture, done using a two-part
The resin material. You'll need the two-part polyurethane resin, the transparent red dye (regular red dye won't let out the light!), a plastic container for mixing, and a pair of gloves just to be safe. Judge the color as you mix as best as you can. My first taillights all came out pink!
The resin material. You'll need the two-part polyurethane resin, the transparent red
The resin gets poured into the mold. Make sure you pour slowly to avoid trapping air bubbles at the bottom. The resin dries fairly quick (10 minutes) so work fast but careful. Wear gloves!
The resin gets poured into the mold. Make sure you pour slowly to avoid trapping air
Once the resin is dry, it's hard as nails, so you don't have to worry about cracking or breaking it. If you've already dug out your light hole, you're done with the cast. If not, carve out the resin with a rotary tool, and carve out from the bottom because you are going to make an opening for little clear plastic window so some white light hits your license plate.
Now comes all the fun stuff. Drill the holes for the mounting screws through the resin. Carve out a back plate for the cast (I use aluminum) and cut a hole in it to mount the 1157 socket. I also make a little rubber gasket to fit in between the taillight and the backing plate, to keep rain and moisture out. You can make this out of plumber's gasket found at any hardware store.
When it comes time to mount it to a license plate bracket, there are plenty of places to get these and modify them, but I only get mine from James Maund at Maund Speed Equipment (maundspeed.com). These brackets come in both vertical and horizontal styles, are cast aluminum, and are high quality for very reasonable prices. These brackets were cast to accept old Lucas-style lights, but you can easily modify them to look like, oh I don't know, the top of a wizard's hat or something...
Okay, that's all there is to it. It may seem like a long process, but each step is a blast, and the end result is something you can take pride in. I made my light kind of silly, but my buddy just showed me pics of his armed forces tribute light that he cast from a Vietnam-era plaque, and I was really inspired. That's what makes this DIY so cool, every light can be an individual creation.
Man Hours: 8-12
Aftermarket Parts Used: Maund Speed Equipment License Mount
Total Cost: $60-80
Here you can see the plastic rectangle I cut out of a sandwich container and used for a plastic window that will allow white light to shine out the bottom of the wizard and hit the license plate. I attached it with some silicone.
Here you can see the plastic rectangle I cut out of a sandwich container and used for
I hot-glued an 1157 bulb socket to a custom back plate I made out of aluminum. You could weld this too, but I've glued a bunch like this and have never had one separate.
I hot-glued an 1157 bulb socket to a custom back plate I made out of aluminum. You co
Here's a shot from the back showing the light bolted to the Maund Speed Equipment license mount which was modified to match the design of the wizard light.
Here's a shot from the back showing the light bolted to the Maund Speed Equipment lic
Here's what I used to make this. The model, mold, cast resin, some screws from the hardware store, a back plate, and a gasket. Oh, and a bulb.
Here's what I used to make this. The model, mold, cast resin, some screws from the ha
And the wizard lives! If the finish of the resin doesn't look glossy when you cast it, try using some clear enamel nail polish to give it a nice shine. And learn from my mistakes; don't tell your girlfriend that you used her polish!
And the wizard lives! If the finish of the resin doesn't look glossy when you cast it
Ready for magic? Here's the lighted resin. The picture doesn't do it justice. You can see every little beard hair in there, and the color is unbelievable. I usually use two screws to hold these (the resin is lightweight), and I haven't had one shatter yet, even on a hardtail. Get ready to meet a lot of ladies with this taillight (but even more dudes that are into role-playing games). You'll need all the magic you can muster when you face the hardest part of this DIY; getting a plate from the DMV before you're as old as the wizard himself.
Ready for magic? Here's the lighted resin. The picture doesn't do it justice. You can