It Starts With a Button

The centerpiece of the project is this nifty LED-lit “massive arcade button” in the Adafruit shop, about $10. From the moment this product photo was posted, comparisons were being made to HAL 9000. The button comes in other colors too — you use the blue version to make SAL 9000 (the sister A.I. from 2010: Odyssey Two), or pick a different color and create your own unique 9000 Series character.

Doing a little homework to find actual HAL dimensions, I was surprised to see the button and bezel are within just a couple millimeters of the genuine prop — a Nikkor f/8 fisheye lens. We just need to dress it up a little, repainting the bezel from black to silver…
If you’ve installed the microswitch in back, remove that first by turning counterclockwise.

Squeeze these two tabs inward to release the button. It’s possible but a bit tricky to do with finger pressure alone, so you may want to use needle-nose pliers (gently!).
The button then slides out the front of the bezel. Don’t lose that spring!

There may be a slight oily residue on the bezel (mold release from manufacturing, I suspect). This can be cleaned with dish soap and water, but be certain it’s absolutely dry before painting!
Find a metallic-looking spray paint that’s specifically suited to bond to plastic; this saves a priming step. Hobby stores are a good source…not everything in the hardware store is plastic-ready, but I did find this suitable Rust-oleum paint there for about $4. Aluminum color, perfect!

Paint Like a Pro:

The key to a good paint job is to use several light coats rather than one thick gloppy one. Allow 10-20 minutes between each coat to allow the paint to set up a bit. Make sure the paint is well-mixed prior to starting, and periodically give a few extra shakes while working.

Hold the can about a foot away from the subject, and spray a light mist in three or four overlapping horizontal passes, starting just off one edge, working straight across and past the other edge. Yes, you’ll end up with more paint on your dropcloth than on the item, but it’s key to getting a flawless finish. Go fold laundry or something, then come back for another coat (perhaps turning the piece for a different angle). Repeat until there’s a few solid coats with no black showing through.
Avoid clogs: when done, clear the nozzle by inverting the can and spraying until just air comes out…or some newer nozzle designs work fine just wiping with a rag.

Allow the paint to dry for at least a couple hours (ideally overnight) before handling the piece. You can work ahead on other steps in the interim.
Perfect finish!

(Shown on a clean sheet of paper for contrast.)
Optional: if you want to take an extra step — let’s call it fanboy factor 10 — you can color the perimeter of the button black to better resemble the original lens. It’s not a perfect solution, but cheap and easy is the goal here.

Model paint and a steady hand is an inexpensive approach. My craft stash happened to include some black vinyl contact paper (shelf liner) from a prior project. I used the clean, factory-cut straight edge toward the front of the lens, and trimmed at the back with a hobby knife.
If you do decide on the black outer ring, you'll probably want the inside edge of the bezel to be free of paint, otherwise it rubs off when the button is pressed (as it inevitably will be). You can either sand this away (as shown here), washing and drying completely afterward, or with forethought could mask off this edge with tape before spray painting.
Once the paint is completely dry, the button can be reassembled. The spring (you still have the spring, right?) is a bit reluctant to go in straight…it may take a few attempts. Just be patient and try again.
Tally so far: $14.

This doesn’t include the extra materials for the optional black ring (sandpaper or masking tape, black model paint or contact paper) as I already had suitable items on-hand. Your tally may vary, depending on what steps you take and how you adapt this to your own supplies.
Last updated on 2015-05-04 at 04.27.56 PM Published on 2013-04-29 at 12.23.27 PM