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Since I first read the Lord of the Rings, I have been fascinated with the description and drawings of the doors to the Mines of Moria. I would have loved nothing more than to have those or something like it in my house. I just had no idea how to accomplish that sort of thing. Fiberoptics? Rope light? Projected image? UV Paint and a blacklight?
And here is a video of the doors performing as described in the books: glowing in moonlight (well, when the overhead lights go out), and opening when the word "friend" in elvish is spoken:
Sorry the volume is so low. It was fine on the original befor eI uploaded it to YouTube. Also, one of the trio of LED's started flickering just before I took the video. I'll have to remove the doors to fix it, but I can't make myself take them off right now. It is less visible in person...
For those that are interested, I will detail how I made the doors below, again giving thanks to the above mentioned poster.
The first step was a proof of concept. I went to Lowes and got the smallest piece of plexiglass I could find. Then I printed out a picture of the door and taped it to my small piece of plexiglass. Using my Dremel tool with an engraver bit, and a few LED's I had laying around, I was able in about 45 minutes to knock out this proof-of concept:
I freely admit it isn't pretty, but it was enough to convince me I COULD do it, with some practice.
SO, I enlarged an image of the door to the right size (roughly 57"x44"), mirrored it and split it down the middle into two images. The lady at Kinko's looked at me a little weirdly, but gladly took my money to print it on their wide printer in two pieces. Another stop at Lowes and I had 2 very large and thin sheets of plexi I could cut down to the right size. That was challenging, since I drive a Mini-Cooper.
After taping the first printout to the back of the plexi, I spent SEVERAL hours over several days etching the first panel. While I was doing that, I was waiting on the LED's I ordered to come in. The were 5mm, 50,000mcd white LED's, and are VERY bright. The problem is, they were way too big for the thin plexi I got. The light simply wouldn't enter the plexi the way it is supposed to. I tried some smaller LED's and still couldn't get it right. I was quite upset, as you can imagine.
Knowing what I know now, I probably could have made it work, but at the titme I decided to order some thicker plexi. So I ended up with two perfectly sized pieces of 1/4 inch plexi to start over on. I am glad I did it this way, as the first panel, though seemingly wasted, gave me the practice I needed to handle the Dremel tool correctly.
After completing the two panels and creating the first of the 4 light strips (I can detail making those if anyone asks, I did it similarly to the method described in the post above), I plugged it in for a test:
I was amazed at how well it turned out and was ready to tackle the actual doors. I was most worried about this part. I decided to use cedar, as it doesn't warp that badly over time and isn't THAT expensive (though more than I wanted to pay, I will admit).
To make a long story short, I took 3 3/4" thick boards and edged glued them long way for each door. When the glue dried I routed out 1/4" from the center of each for the plexi and light strips to rest on. I painted the routed portion black, since I didn't want the doors to be completely see through. It is my "old computer stuff" closet doors I replaced, and didn't want that stuff visible.
For the front of the doors, I took some more 3/4" cedar and attached them like you see in the image at the top. I routed a 3/16" edge around that so that they would fit over the tempered glass pieces I ordered to sit on top of the plexi. Plexi scratches WAY too easily for me to let that be exposed to my kids. I screwed both pieces together from the back, so I can get back into the doors should the LED's ever start to fail.
After more "oops" moments than I care to recall, the doors were basically done and looking great. I just had to hang them. That was when the frustration REALLY started. It seems that hanging double doors that must match EXACTLY is quite a task for one man by himself. I won't tell you how many times I had to tweak the door placement.
If you know me, you know I tend to over-do my hobbies a bit. Having these doors wasn't enough for me. They had to be able to open automatically by voice command, and light up when it was dark. The lighting part was easy. I have used X10 control in my house for many years and all I needed was a couple of appliance modules and a motion/light sensor to automate the lights coming on.
For the automatic opening part, that was a bit trickier. I made yet another trip to Lowes and purchased a "door closer". Not the exact one I linked, but close enough that you should get the idea. Instead of mounting the housing to the door and the arm to the casing, I mounted the housing to the wall inside the closet and attached the arm (after immobilizing the elbow joint) to a piece of aluminum that I attached to the door with some angle iron. I took the below pictures before the great cleanup began...
SO, whenever you close the door, you are opening the closer. The closer is always pushing against the door, trying to "close" it (which is actually opening it). My theory was that I could mount an electric strike on one door and a regular door knob (sans knob) to the other. This way the door would stay closed until I supplied power to the strike (via an X10 universal module), which would free the closer to open the door.
Turns out, electric strikes (or at least affordable ones) don't work when you are applying pressure to the door to be opened. It's called "pre-load" and I learned all about it after the doors would never open. GRRR!!!
My next thought was to use a solenoid to trip a standard screen door latch. To be honest, I wasn't confident it would work, but it turns out I was wrong. It works great. I used a simple push-type solenoid mounted to some scrap wood. When you apply 12v to the solenoid, it pops the latch just enough to release the catch. Then the closer opens the door!
Then all I had to do was use my day-job skills to write a custom voice recognition app that would utilize the X10 signal to cause the door to open and VOILA! The Doors of Moria at long last! One final picture to get some perspective on where it fits in the room, and a link to the AVS Forum message where I can answer any questions you may have:
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