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Makin Stuff: A Harry Potter Moving Picture Frame

A while back, I participated in the Harry Potter gift exchange on reddit. I’d participated in a few other gift exchanges previously, and they were all pretty much bummers in that I’d put a lot of time and effort into picking out what I thought would be a great gift only to have the giftee not even bother to acknowledge that they’d received it. However, I felt strongly that the Harry Potter exchange would be different, more magical, both because of the subject matter and because this time I had a plan in place for what I wanted to give. Something I’d been thinking about making ever since my trip to the Islands of Adventure. Something that you couldn’t buy anywhere. No, not friendship.  A picture frame that made it look like you were on the cover of the Daily Prophet. Just in case you’d like one, here’s how I made it!

What you’ll need:

  • A digital photo frame that supports video files, with a total width of less than 8.5 inches. I used the Micca M707Z.
  • An SD card. You won’t need a huge one unless you plan to cycle through a number of videos instead of just one.
  • Basic video editing software
  • Plywood, enough for an 8.5×11 sheet plus a few more inches for the other frame components
  • paint or wood stain
  • wood glue
  • double sided tape or mod podge or your preferred adhesive
  • x-acto knife
  • basic woodcutting tools (I used a Rockwell multi-material cutting saw)
  • photo editing software
  • printer
  • a few sheets of paper

 

All of your measurements will be based around the dimensions of your digital photo frame, so if you’ve ordered it online, you should wait until you have it in hand to get started. For example, the photo frame I bought advertises that it has a 7 inch wide screen, when in reality, it’s just over 6 inches. That makes a big difference! Once you have your screen measurements in hand, you can proceed.

I did the newspaper portion of the project first. I used photoshop, but you can use any photo editing software you have. I’m sure if you were tenacious enough, you could lay everything out in Word! Choose any number of the free Harry Potter-inspired fonts on fontspace, and plot out your “articles” in a manner that’s pleasing to you. They can be literally about anything you want: a wizard fashion show, a holiday, a special occasion, anything. It will look more like the movie newspaper if you mix fonts and include snippets of multiple stories rather than just one, but it’s really up to you. The only thing you need to work around is a rectangle of blank space exactly the size of your digital frame’s screen dimensions somewhere on the page. This rectangle also shouldn’t butt up to any of the edges: leave enough room for the frame part of your digital frame to hide so it’s not sticking out anywhere.

daily-prophet

Print out a copy to make sure you’re happy with it. Cut out the blank area with an x-acto knife and use this printout as a template with which to trace onto your plywood. Once all of your lines are traced, you can start making your cuts. When you’re finished, you should have an 8.5×11 piece of wood with a hole the size of your screen cut into it. Now while you CAN do all of the woodcutting with a dremel, here’s why I don’t recommend it:

dremel-vs-proper-tool

That one on the left? I used a Dremel and it took about a year to cut just to get it to that level of shittiness. Once I broke down and bought a proper tool, I cranked out the considerably less shitty one on the right in less than five minutes. You’re also less likely to be injured when using a tool in the way it’s intended instead of forcing a diamond bit through a sheet of plywood like I did. As with all power tools, use proper safety equipment, and read all instruction manuals before operating any tool you’re unfamiliar with!

At this point, you can paint or stain the back and sides, or you can wait until you have all of the wood components completed. It’s your choice! You don’t even have to do anything to the wood if you don’t want, but I feel like painting or staining it black allows the back and sides to recede so the focus is on the front, where it should be.

Now, you could just glue your digital photo frame to the back of this piece of wood and be almost done (and if you’d rather do that, you should definitely paint/stain first), but I wanted to make the photo frame removable for a couple of reasons: (1) so if it ever dies, it can be replaced and (2) if I decide I don’t want something Harry Potter related on display in my house anymore, I can always slide out the digital frame and use it by itself.

Here’s where my instructions get a bit dodgy if you’re using a different make/model of digital frame. My frame’s power cord and SD slots are all on one side–the left side, if you’re looking at the back. Thus, I wanted to keep that side open for easy access to the SD card. On the right side, however, I cut a small strip of wood (5.5″ long, .5″ wide) to serve as a stopper, so the digital frame has something to butt up against and keep it from sliding out of the side. I then measured the depth of the digital frame and cut two pieces of wood that would be glued together to give the digital frame a place to sit and would also hold it in place. My pieces were both 6″ long and 1.25″wide. At its deepest, my frame is just over an inch thick. My plywood was .25″ thick. By gluing the plywood together in an L shape, I was able to create a support that was just a hair over an inch think which enables me to seat the digital frame in snugly, which means it doesn’t need any support on the top of the frame to hold it in place.  Depending on the depth of your frame, yours may be different.  Use wood glue to glue the narrow strip of wood to the back side of your 8.5″x11″ piece of wood, on the opposite side of wherever your SD card inserts. Glue your two supporting pieces of wood into an L shape. Let dry.

gluing-supportsThere is literally no reason for the clamp to be in this picture. I didn’t use a clamp. Ignore the clamp, is what I’m saying.

Once your L shape has dried, use more wood glue to glue it in place on the back of your large sheet of wood. Let dry.

back-side-support-wood

Once all of the wood glue on the back of your frame has completely dried, try sliding in your digital frame. It should fit snugly. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to figure out what went wrong–this may involve swearing. Once it does fit snugly, cut one more piece of wood to serve as your stand. Mine’s 2.25″ wide by 5.25″ long–yours may be different. Just cut something long enough that when propped at an angle, it will be able to keep the frame upright of its own accord. Once you’ve got that piece, glue it liberally into place and let it dry.

gluing-the-stand

If you haven’t painted or stained the back and all of the various bits of wood, now is the time to do so. Let dry completely. If you used stain, you may want to lightly sand any drips or spots that you may have gotten on the front of the wood, as otherwise, it can show through your paper.

Once it’s fully dry, you can affix your “daily prophet” to the front. Either use the one you printed off as a template if it’s not damaged, or print a fresh one. I used double sided tape to attach mine to prevent any ink bleeding from getting the paper damp, but you can use whatever you like. I didn’t want to mod podge the front to seal it, again, as I was concerned about bleeding ink and also because I wanted it to have the matte look of a newspaper. If you’d prefer yours to be sealed or shiny, by all means, go for it.

After your frame is done, all that’s left to do is to follow the instructions on photojojo to make your moving picture, and you’re done! Tell your friends, or let them think they’re going crazy when they think they see a picture wink at them the next time they’re over at your place. Either way, have fun and enjoy having just a bit more magic in your everyday life!

harry-potter-moving-picture-frame

 I’m confused, this one says “wizard” and the one up top says “wizards”. Good catch! I made one for myself as well, the one above is the one I mailed out on the exchange. And he LOVED it.

 

Harry Potter and all his friends went straight to hell for practicing witchcraft. Yaaaay!

IMG_2249

On our second day at Universal Studios, we visited the Islands of Adventure so we could check out the Harry Potter and Jurassic Park areas. Like another large theme park chain in the area, Universal is good about spreading out the things you want to see so that you have to pay for multiple visits, filling up the rest of their space with stinkers like Barney Town and Old Timey Comic Land From The Time When People Still Read Newspapers.  Joke’s on you, Universal, if we can have fun at a cranberry museum, we can have fun anywhere, and if you don’t have a ride, we’ll MAKE a ride.   Continue reading

The British Library, the Occult, and a Walk to Ye Old Cheshire Cheese

St. Pancras station

The Meeting Place, by Paul Day

I’ve read several critiques of this piece but not one of them bothered to mention the butt-sniffing so I’m not certain they even really looked at it.

Newton by Eduardo Paolozzi

Our day began at the British Library, where we luckily scored walk-up tickets to the new-at-the-time-and-now-gone Harry Potter exhibit. There were no photos allowed in the exhibit itself and my intention at the time was to sketch a little impression of each room for a more in-depth post but as you can see, that didn’t happen. It’s for the best, though–while a cruddy sketch would have helped to show the larger, Harry Potter specific themes of each room (the floating books and interactive cauldrons and talking herbology pots, there were separate rooms for eight different courses taught at Hogwarts), the true treasures were, of course, books and scrolls, and these cannot adequately be captured via cruddy sketch. 

The books were astounding. Even if I didn’t give a single shit about Harry Potter (which is obviously not the case), I would’ve loved this collection– fifteenth century lavish illustrations of plants and their uses, scrolls of alchemical theories, sixteenth century books on mythical creatures… I can only imagine how wonderful it must be to have full access to the books and see what other masterpieces hide inside. This feeling was compounded after we exited the Harry Potter exhibit and made our way to the Sir John Ritblat Gallery, “Treasures of the British Library”, which contained the most beautiful, ornate books I have ever seen. Books bound in fine leather, jeweled books, hand gilded books, one of the four remaining copies of the Magna Carta. Like, a first first edition of the Magna Carta if you know what I mean.

Aside from displays such as these, there’s no wandering about, getting lost in the stacks in the British Library as a tourist–in order to read materials, you must first have a reader pass, answer inquiries about what precisely you wish to read, and then best the head librarian in hand to hand combat. It’s furthermore my understanding that current head librarian, Roland Francis Kester “Roly” Keating, though slight of frame with salt and pepper hair and a kindly face, has gone undefeated in 2018*, soundly kicking the asses of scores of scholars unworthy to stand in the shadow of the sole manuscript copy of the poem Beowulf.

Even if you manage to defeat Roly, there is no browsing of the 25 million book archive, as only books you have a specific need for are delivered from a storeroom to a reading room for your on-site perusal. I’m not complaining, it makes sense to keep the grubby hands of the masses off of your national treasures, speaking as someone who once found a slice of cheese that had been used to mark someone’s place in a library book. But as a browser and a looky-loo, I do have to say that I wouldn’t have minded a peek at a storeroom. I had to satisfy that urge by wandering through both gift shops, and ultimately left with a slim volume on the nature of an aspect of the English language.

From the British Library, we began to walk in the direction of Ye Old Cheshire Cheese to meet one of my friends, who, incidentally, works in the library field. En route, I was pretty taken with this hotel’s mint green scalloped spires. Fun fact: the boxy chain hotel next to a grody strip mall in my town with an Expedia review of “I checked in and I saw a few bugs on the wall so I just killed them and was like whatever” has a higher nightly rate than this lovely one that’s kitty corner across a park from the British Museum, and this sleepy Seattle suburb has nowhere near 8 million items of historical significance. That’s even taking into account that our library is the place of the aforementioned cheese slice incident, but they haven’t even bothered to properly display this relic for future generations to appreciate. 

A shy block and a half from the British Museum lies the Atlantis bookshop, an independent shop stocked to the rafters with books on magic and the occult. Fun fact: every book you buy from an occult bookshop can and should properly be referred to as a “tome”. Just please refrain from sprinkling extra ‘k’s into your spelling of magic, that privilege and responsibility is reserved for 9th level warlocks and renaissance fair vendors. When first we arrived, there was a sign on the door informing us the owner had stepped away to make some tea and that felt like the most British thing that had happened the entire trip. Once she returned, Jason and I both found some really interesting books–my favorite was an ethnobotanical look at the oldest yuletide traditions and how they were transformed into the symbols we use today. Spoiler: the image of Santa Claus is deeply tied to magic mushrooms

Heavily laden with bags of tomes, we continued our walk to Ye Old Cheshire Cheese:

I love a good fancy gate.

This is basically what I want my backyard to look like.

Samuel Johnson by Percy Fitzgerald, 1910

We went inside to see if we could witness any justice being dispensed but alas they’d all sodded off to powder their wigs already. 

You know why I took this photo. You know.

There’s been a pub at this location since 1538. It’s been Ye Old Cheshire Cheese since 1667, rebuilt on site after the great fire of 1666 tore through a huge swath of London. Since then, it’s been a popular haunt of a number of writers, including Charles Dickens and Mark Twain. It does have a funky appeal with its short ceilings and narrow staircases that rather give one the impression that they are sneaking off to do something a bit illicit. Not like, secret underground street fights illicit, more like you’re going to a party that you heard about from a friend’s friend’s friend and they said that they heard from a cousin’s neighbor that there was, like, a mummy there and nobody knows if it’s a real mummy or not but you’re pretty sure you want to look at it.

Jason and I arrived early, winding deep into the cellars to grab a table and wait for my friend and her partner. While we waited, we had a pint, looked at our new witchy bookstomes, and chatted. After they arrived, we had some more pints, and witnessed the baffling concoction that passes as “nachos” at Ye Old Cheshire Cheese (I blacked it out from my memory but I’m pretty sure the salsa was just ketchup or maybe there were pickles in it? The other food was fine.). That night I also learned that it takes me only two pints to slide right into a faux British accent and not even know I’m doing it.  Jason told me that I’d done it later and I was horrified because I’ve heard my fake British accent sober and it’s terrible. They were both absolutely lovely people and were kind enough not to mention or take visible offense to my slight Madonna turn. This is just like in junior high when I sat next to the new girl who’d just moved to the area from Georgia at lunch and fifteen minutes and a Little Debbie later I uttered my first y’all with a twang.

We drank and chatted, and on our way out, we took a double decker bus back to King’s Cross, which is where Jason and I had started the day. This was my only bus ride because while I got the hang of the tube easily enough (there are maps everywhere, what’s not to get?), I feel like I have to have some sense of where I’m going when I’m on a bus lest I get off at an entirely wrong place and get so lost that I have no choice but to settle wherever I wind up. I feel like the biggest country bumpkin in the world to be excited about riding a bus, but they’re so damn iconic y’all. Cheerio!

 

 

 

*This may or may not be true, there’s no way to check it without library access and foolishly I didn’t bone up on my mixed martial arts skills before visiting.