Introduction: Working Tickle Belt From SpongeBob SquarePants!
Man Ray's Tickle belt, as seen in episode 17 of The Adventures of Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy, is one of the iconic items found within the SpongeBob Squarepants TV show. It was this belt that allowed SpongeBob and Patrick to tickle the evil Man Ray into submission - and ultimately turned him good!
In this Instructable, I will show you how to make your very own DNA-tickling belt that actually shakes, vibrates, and tickles! This project is also an excellent introduction to basic circuits involving motors, batteries, and switches while also featuring other interesting techniques and skills to get the job done!
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For this project, you will need the following:
- A 3D printer or access to one - (you can also commission pieces to be 3D printed and shipped to you here)
- PLA Filament (any color)
- 2 Vibration Motors
- 1 Slide Switch
- 1 AA battery holder
- Royal Blue Vinyl Fabric - or you could also use blue spray paint instead.
- Yellow Spray Paint - or you can use gold metalic spray paint if you want it to look more like real metal
- Black Acrylic
- 0.25" Thick Hobby Board
- Sewing Machine or Two-Part Epoxy or your choice of permanent adhesive
- Common Household Stapler
- Soldering Iron w/ Solder
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Step 1: Reference Photos
The props that you make are only as good as the reference photos that you choose. There are two variants of the tickle belt according to the available reference photos. For copyright purposes, I can't show you what these reference photos are, but if you Google "Tickle Belt SpongeBob" you will see what I am talking about.
First, there is a belt with a buckle and a shiny strip of fabric. This version appears in scenes where there is little detail. The second version, which is the one that I referenced, has small rectangles that wrap around the entire belt. This version of the belt appears in the closeups of Man Ray.
Either one you pick will look great!
Step 2: Design Files / 3D Printing
My goal for this design is simplicity and functionality. It has a small cavity in the center to hold the motors and the electronics in place. Also, there are some threads added so that the back can be easily removed if there is an issue with the electronics, or if a battery needs to be replaced. Fusion 360 has some excellent and easy-to-use features to implement 3D printed threads into your designs. Give it a shot on your next project!
*Tip* When slicing the STL files, be sure to avoid adding supports to the threads. Otherwise, you might spend a significant amount of time cleaning out the threads so that the two pieces will finally fit together. This will save you some time!
3D print the pieces.
Remove the support material and sharp edges using some pliers and a piece of sand paper.
Once the pieces have been printed, it might be a good idea to check and see if the back half can screw on to the front (It is better to know this now than later). If it doesn't fit, check your printer settings/accuracy and try again. I accounted for tolerances in the initial design so it should be good to go!
Step 3: Painting
Take the 3D printed parts and spray paint the exterior of each piece yellow. I find that 2-3 coats is sufficient but feel free to add more if needed. Wait for the yellow paint to dry completely. Then, with the black acrylic paint, fill in the "key hole" to make it actually seem like there is a hole. No need to paint the interior of the belt buckle.
Step 4: The Secret to the Tickle / Securing the Motors.
In order to create the tickling effect for the belt, I purchased 2 vibration DC motors. These motors are no different than a normal DC motor with the exception of added weights to the end of the shaft. When the motor shaft rotates, the weighted end causes the motor to vibrate. The two motors will be used to simulate the tickling you see in the show.
The design has a little bit of tolerance so that the motors can be easily inserted and removed if something were to happen to them (for example, if they burn out or an electrical connection pops loose). To make sure that the motors are secure within their designated housing, place a small piece of foam or rubber between the motor and the top of the housing as shown. In order to check if the motor is sufficiently secure, attach the leads of the motor to a battery. If you can hear an obnoxious rattling sound, than it is still too loose. If you only hear the hum of the motor shaft rotating then you have done it correctly.
With the two motors secured within the housing, it is time to wire the circuit together.
Step 5: Circuit Diagram / Wiring
The circuit for this project is very simple. There is a battery supply, two motors, and a switch. I have attached a circuit diagram outlining how to wire all of these components together. I have also included images of what the circuit actually looks like when it is soldered together. The key element to point out is that the small sliding switch will be located on the outside of the belt buckle in a specific spot which will be addressed in a later step.
I also glued down the battery housing and the wires so that they would not impede the path of the motor shaft and won't rattle when the motors were activated.
Step 6: Cutting the Wood Rectangles
I cut the wood for the belt panels using a table saw. The dimensions of the wood rectangles are 1.8" wide x 2.4" long. The dimensions were selected specifically so when they are eventually wrapped in fabric, they will fit in the small cavities on the side of the belt. The amount of wood you cut will depend on your waist size. However, I decided to cut 25 just to account for any mistakes I might make or in case I needed more for any other reason. Once you are done cutting each of the pieces, use a scrap of sand paper to sand down the edges. When the edges are smoothed out, it is time to wrap the pieces in the fabric.
Step 7: Making the Belt Strap
For this step, I went to my local fabric store and got some blue vinyl. I thought this would look much better and a lot cleaner than simply painting the wood pieces.
First, measure your waist and determine how much fabric you will need. For example, my waist measured to be about 34", so I cut two strips fabric at 2.5" wide and 45" long. (I made it much larger so that the belt could be adjustable for other people who also want to wear it. But, you could make it 35" for example, if it is just going to be you wearing it)
Then, with the two grayish/white interior colors facing each other, I sewed the pieces together. I put the seam about 1/8" in from the edge on each side and trimmed off the excess so there would be a straight and clean edge. This made the belt strap about 2.25" wide.
Step 8: Wrapping the Wood in Fabric OR Spray Painting Wood
I love this project for a variety of reasons, but one of them is that this project incorporates so many skills from electronics and 3D printing, to sewing and upholstery techniques. If you're thinking "I can't do that - I've never upholstered anything in my life!!" let me assure you I thought the same thing when I started this project. With a little practice, you will get good at it!
*NOTE* If you would prefer to just spray paint the wood rather than cutting all of the fabric out, then you may skip this step all together and do that instead!
*ALSO* If you are more of a visual learner (like I am) here is the video I used to learn how to do this.
First, cut out around 12-20 squares of fabric at 3.5" wide x 3.8" long. (The amount of fabric you cut out will depend on your waist size)
Next, place the wood square on top of the fabric located in the center. I made some marks for you to see approximately where this needs to be.
Then staple the four edges down. When doing this, be sure to pull as tight as possible so we get tight edges as opposed to loose/bubbled edges.
Now you will notice some excess fabric sticking up due to the stapling of the four edges. In order to get this fabric to lay flat you will need to:
Make a cut in the middle of the seam to make two distinct flaps.
Then, cut parallel to the surface of the wood leaving about 1/4" to be folded later.
And then square off the tops leaving about 1/4" to be folded later on as well.
When you have cut the edges according to the directions above, grab each flap and stretch the fabric over the corner of the wood piece. With the stretched fabric being held with one hand, carefully staple the stretched fabric down with the other hand.
If you are using a standard household stapler/staples (like I did), there is no need to fear staples penetrating through the wood. Nevertheless, be careful when stapling!
When you are done, it should look very similar to the completed example. Then you just have to repeat this step (12-20 times) depending on your waist size. Maybe watch some Spongebob while you pass the time? :D
Step 9: Attaching Two Fabric Wrapped Wood Pieces to the Lock
On the sides of the lock piece, there are two rectangular openings that will fit the fabric-wrapped wood. Carefully insert these two pieces into both sides of the main lock piece. On the left side, be sure that the switch fits in between the wood piece and the lock piece itself. This is so that you can turn on the belt without having to open it up every time. To make sure it is extra secure, I glued the pieces in place so that there is no chance of it moving later on.
Step 10: Attach the Belt Strap to the Belt Buckle / Staple on the Fabric Wrapped Wood Pieces
First, I cut the strap in half. One piece will be for the left side of the belt and the other will be on the right. Staple the strap to the pieces that were attached to the buckle in the previous step. Make sure that the staples sink in perfectly. Otherwise, if the staples are sticking out slightly, they will come undone easily.
With the two pieces of the strap secured to the belt, it is now time to secure the fabric wrapped pieces to the strap. When doing this, I made sure that each fabric wrapped piece was touching the next so that the gap between them is minimal when worn. To secure the pieces to the belt, I stapled a octagonal pattern on the back of each piece so that each part of the fabric wrapped pieces were fully supported. This way the pieces have the lowest probability of falling off. *DO NOT* attach the fabric wrapped pieces all the way around the belt even if you have enough extra pieces to do so. You will need some additional space to include velcro or the adjustment method I use in the next step.
As an alternative to staples, you can use some epoxy glue or some fabric glue to secure the pieces to the belt. I tried this method but found it to take a very long time and it was rather messy. The staples on the other hand are quick, robust and easy to use!
Step 11: Attaching the "D" Rings OR Attaching the Velcro
Whatever method you choose for this next step will work just fine. I opted to use "D-shaped" rings salvaged from an old belts to create the tension I needed. The use of the two "D" rings will generally cause less strain than constantly pulling on velcro and will allow for multiple people of different sizes to wear the belt. However, if you will be the only one wearing the belt, velcro will work as well.
The tightening works by sliding in the exposed portion of the strap into the center of both rings. Then, the strap is fed through the center of the two rings and pulled in the opposite direction.
To secure the "D" rings to the belt, place the flat portion of the two rings on top of the belt. Then loop the excess of the belt strap through the rings and sew the rings into place. Allow the rings a little room to move. You can then trim the excess of the belt strap and secure the flaps with two or three staples.
On the other side, just leave a bit of exposed fabric so that the belt can be adjusted.
* If you want to do the velcro instead, I have attached an image demonstrating how that would be done. Put simply, you would just have to attach some permanent velcro to both the inside and outside of the belt making sure the two overlap. To maintain the aesthetic of the belt, be sure to cover any exposed velcro with additional fabric wrapped pieces.
Step 12: Glue the Switch Into Place
With all of the difficult parts of the project completed, it is time to glue the switch into place with a little bit of hot glue. This will prevent the switch from snagging on clothes or getting lost if a solder joint breaks off at some point.
When the switch is finally secured to the belt you are officially done with this project! Congratulations!
Step 13: Tickle Time!
Now that everything is wired and assembled, put on the belt and switch on the tickling! If you have someone who is being evil, slap this belt on them and tickle their DNA - it will be sure to turn them good..... hopefully.
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I hope you had fun learning how to make The Tickle Belt from SpongeBob! If you have any questions, feel free to ask! I will see you on the next one!
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