Ye Olde Castle Digbox

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

DRAFT - Last updated Feb 4, 2013

The “Castle DIGBox” is a castle themed street-based magazine dispenser created by Scott Janousek (@scottjanousek) for DigBoston Magazine at Artisan’s Asylum located in Somerville, Massachusetts, USA.

The DIGBox was constructed over the course of a month, as part of an instructor guided initative called “DECORATE YOUR DIGBOX”. The instructor and contact with DIG Magazine was Ecco Pierce.

The Castle DIGBox was constructed using the following fabrication mediums: metal, wood, plastic, fabric, paint, and even some basic electronics.

The goal of this project was to build the 1st DIGBox with electronics, and document the process in which the Box was created from start to fnish. This is what this document you are reading, intends to do.

In retrospect, it would have been more accurate to document the building of the Castle DIGBox was it occured, but I found it extremely time consuming to write blog posts about things I had to research.

Rather this document serves as a postmortem to the project, highlighting the areas that are important, rather than unimportant ones.

I hope this document helps other DIGBoxes, and those looking to create faux castles. Ha!


Table of Contents


The “DIGBOX” project is a collaboration between Boston Dig Magazine and Artisan’s Asylum. Boston DIG Magazine supplies magazine dispensers in disrepair and Artisan’s Asylum allows “inmates” (i.e. community members of the space) to fix them up and turn them into art projects for subequent deployment on the streets of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

There have been several previous DIG Boxes are not many of them have been officially documented to my knowledge. Here are some links from previous endeavors: here, here, here, and here.

You can also contact the following people who have done DIGBoxes previously and are willing to talk about their experiences with the project.

Design and Planning

During the 1st class, students were asked by the instructor to pick out a theme for their DIGBox. Although I didn’t have one specifically in mind, it would have helped if I had brought a list. My initial ideas consisted of doing a very electronic and expensive box were quickly shot done due to stories by box vandalism, and out right theft (i.e. the original “rawr” box). I settled on a medieval theme, and eventually upon doing a Castle. I had a list of other box ideas as I began to layout the castle, so I’m documenting some of the in the section below.

Also during the 1st class, we were asked to sketch out some of our ideas. Here are some of the scans of the plans.

The following are original sketches during the 1st day of brainstorming session.

At first, I knew I wanted to do something digital.

I was thinking about LEDs on or inside the box. How to power them. Maybe Solar? Maybe a big battery. I wasn’t thinking of the street ramficiations at this point. Where theft and vandalism might play a part.

I also considered doing an LCD screen for the front of the box, which would display the DIG Boston magazine in a virtual form. Power and longevity came into question, though.

I was thinking about a box that would record how many times it opened/closed, etc for some data visualization experiments. I was also thinking about the tools I would use in the box construction to get an idea on cost and budget.

I was thinking about a “Space Theme” at one point. Maybe even making the box talk to the internet. Again, back to powering it, and not having to worry about theft or vandalism.

At some point I started to think about a Castle DrawBridge.

From there I started asking more unrelated questions.

As you can see below, from Day 1, I had a conceptual idea of the castle theme, but further refinement and details were needed.

The sketches and plans were later turned into a more concrete design document, which had very specific tasks and items in it.

Although this document was not really used during the construction of the project as a “blueprint”, it did serve as a way to evaluate specific features, and to make educated guesses about what would work and what would not work.

Once conceptualization was complete, prep and restoration was next.

Prep and Restoration

Original DIGBoxes come into the project in various conditional states. For the November 2012 class, 3/4 boxes were in very poor condition both structurally, and astethically. The 4th box was in good condition and required little prep work since all parts on the box were in working order.

Some of the tools used during the grinding process:

Abrasive disc Wheel on the grinder.

Knot Wheel Brush on the Grinder.

Knot Wheel up close.

Changing the attachment on the Grinder.

First step to the DIGBox project is to restore the box. This comes in several parts. Fixing & Repairing holes. Fixing broken parts. This also entails striping the boxes of paint. 3/4 boxes that came major rust and paint flaking problems. Although there are multiple methods of getting the old paint off, a chemical process before metal grinding is recommended.


Yes, there were rusted holes in some DIG Boxes as you can see from the photo below.

Some of these holes expose the interior to elements from outside and need to be patched with bondo or metal rework.

Some of the boxes needed metal straighted. Usually a hammer worked. ;)

Here is rust on the interior of one box.

Here you can see the extent of damage with corrision on the box.

Here’s a pic of a relatively pristine box that came in to be worked on.

Here’s the top of a box that had been eaten away by the elements on the top of it.

Getting the paint off metal can be done with a stripping gel, which is applied carefully with proper protection. Proper protection will depend on the striping agent used, but will usually require a good set of chemical protective glass, full eye protection in the form of chemical googles, as well as long sleeved clothes and long pants. Stripping gels are not fun to get onto your body (i.e. they cause irriration and a slow burn), so avoid at all costs.

Metal Restoration

Here’s the top of the Castle DIG Box after grinding up close.

And here it is again.

The door on the Castle DIGBox needed to be hammered out. It was bent.

There was a big hole at the bottom of the Castle DIGBox. I used bondo to fill it in. It was covered with vacuform plastic, later.

Another hole on the bottom of the Castle DIGBox. Again, bondo was used to fill it.

Another hole on the bottom side of the DIGBox. Filled with bondo, later.

Here’s another shot of the hole.

No shortage of stickers on the Castle DIGBox. Some were ground off, while others on the acrylic needed to be peeled off after an agent was used.

Some minor preferation on the box that got filled with bondo.

Striping gel was applied to 3 of the 4 boxes to remove paint. It was applied generously to each box in the chemical room, with proper ventilation turned on and no one present during application process without a proper chemical mask. The gel was applied with a normal brush and let to do it’s dirty work over the course of a few hours to a day. One dried, the paint was removed to almost as much as 50 to 60% of a DIGBox. Removed paint was disposed off using a flat metal chisel, a wire brush, and some paper towels. Once most of the paint was removed, each box was then ready for metal prep.

The gel is applied, and it starts working within minutes.

After a few hours, it’s possible to scrap off large pieces of paint using a chisel and a wire brush.

Here’s the box in the chemical room were the paint strippper was applied. Notice how no one was around. I planned that. The stuff is kind of nasty even if it smells like citris.

Top of the box after chiseling away paint peeled from the chemical process.

Another pic of the top, clear of the orange paint.

Each box was taken to the metal workshop from the paint process room. Once there, a grinding wheel was attached with a brush knot attachment. This was used to strip off the remaining paint from the DIGBoxes. This was done when no one was around, since grinding paint off metal aerosols, and it was not determined by what kind of previous paint was used on the boxes. A respirator was used during the grinding process to minimize the particulants in the air. Exteriors of the boxes were ground done to metal, while the interiors were left to the judgement of each DIGBOX arts.

The final boxes after grinding looked like this.

Each DIGBox then became the responsbility of the indivdual participants doing a box. This included the Wall-E box, Fridge Box, Astroturf box in additional to the Castle DigBox.

There was still restoration to be done on some boxes. All metal welding work was done by Ecco and individual DIGBox participants, so I don’t have notes on what was done to each box.

In terms of the Casle DigBox, there was no welding done. The holes in the box were just bonded to fill them up, and then the vacuform plastic hide all the imperfections. Boxes that will need a good paint job will require the proper welding of holes, and further grinding to remove imperfections on the box and restore them to proper condition.

Here is the Castle DIGBox, from the front.

First side.

From the other side.



After restoration, the Castle DIG Box was ready to be constructed. Next step was painting.


The Castle DIGBox has several layers of paint. Most of the spray paint used was Rustoleum Painter’s Touch spray paint sourced from Home Depot. Flat Black, Flat Red, Primer Gray, and Satin Gray were all used on various pieces of the DIGBox.

Before the vacumform was attached, a coat of automotive gray primer was shot at the box. This initial coat of spray was rust preventive. Only one application was done, but it was done all around the box (even the bottom!).

Here are some close ups of the paint in various areas of box, including where bondo was applied to fill the holes.

Although the original intent of the Castle DIGBox was to cover it with mock stone, it felt like it needed a good set of primer anyways. Besides protecting it from elements underneath, I felt it was a good way to experiment with some primer on bare metal and get a feel for how other, exposed parts of the castle would react to the spray paint used (e.g. the very top of the Castle DIGBox).

Vacuform Fitting

Early in the design and planning phases, it was decided that vacuform plastic would be the best candidate to survive the elements and abuse of the outdoor public street environment. In retrospect, properly treated foam would have also been suitable for this project. However, at that time, I did not have the required experience to know 100% if it would work.

The vacuform plastic that was used on the Castle DIGBox was sourced from XXX, in one long sheet. It was not cheap. You can look it up. I bought in bulk, so I got more than I needed for this one project. I’m hoping to do another companion, follow
up project using the remaainder of Stone themed Vacuform.


The next step after attaching the vacumform, was to tackle the Bondo for the edges of the castle.

The edges of the DIG Box were bonded to try to attempt the creases between the plastic sheets.

Here’s a front view of the bondo work.

Here’s from the other side.

Here is with the mock version 1 drawbridge.

Here is the front, closer.

Here is the top turret bondo’ed.

Bondo from afar.

Bondo after gray primer is applied to the top and sides.

Bondo and paint, up close.

Bondo and paint, with matte black shot inside the box.

Matte Black paint on the inside.

Here are some close ups of the bondo work.

Top Less Castle

Once the vacuform was attached and primed, the castle box was essentially headless. Here are some pics of
what the box looked like during this stage.

Here is the box with vacuform plastic attached.

Here it is from another angle.

Another another viewpoint.

Here I am mocking the draw drawbridge with cardboard to figure out how the door will work.

From another angle.

And another.

From here, it was possible to mock up the castle with props to figure out the direction of the top of the castle
and prep things for construction.

Mocking up the Castle

Here, we’re testing the top tower to see what height it should be and also the flag pole to see if it’s feasible,
and how tall it should be. I used a plastic straw and some painters tape for the flag pole and flag.

From another angle.

The mock shield emblems were originally going to be out of fabric. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a good way to attach them without someone
pulling them off of the box. They were abandoned. In the mockup, I just draw some stuff on paper and attached with
painters tape. I DID keep the windows on the top tower. They were later fabricated out of thin wood which was hit with
some black paint, and then nailed into the top tower.

Next up was contructing the top turret.

Top Turret

To give the castle some depth, a top turret was planned earlier from the design documentation, and then attached
to the castle.

Here is the construction of the top turret from start to finish.

The first step was to cut some 2x4’s into manageable pieces. I had the assistance of X, during this process, since I wasn’t tested on the woodshop tools yet.

The dimensions of the top were around 16.5” square for this particular digbox.

Next step was to cut notches in each of the four pieces of wood to give the rise and fall of the turrets.

Here is how the notches looked up close.

The sides were later screwed with 2 long wood screws using a power drill. I also dabbed some wood glue on the edges before

The top posts were about a couple inches long.

Here’s how it looked coming together.

Once it was cut, I hit it with some gray primer just for the sake of making it look nice and treating it with something
protective. I placed it on the top to get an idea of how it might look.

I later secured this top piece to the bottom of the DIG Box by pre-drilling holes from the top of the metal box, then
screwing wood screws into the bottom of the wood. I forget how many I used … it was a lot but nothing too crazy. More than
four but less than 10 screws.

Here you can see a faux flag and pole, plus the windows. All made out of plastic, paper, and painters tape. It gave a good indication
of how it might look.

From another angle.

Top Tower

The top tower is constructed of two solid square like pieces of wood that were scavenged from the wood pile at Artisan’s Asylum.

A recycled hinge from the Precision Metal workshop screw bin was used to attach the two pieces of wood, vertically. Then it was coated with bondo generously, and sanded with a power sander (my own). Yes, I used a respirator while sanding the bondo, and you should too! Once sanded, I hit the top of the tower with some gray primer, same kind as the rest of the box.

I later sanded the top, but I don’t think I have a good photo of that. I’ll look and post if I do. I used my power sander, and wore
a good respirator rated for chemicals and particulates. I also had plenty of ventilation and no one around me. Aerosoling Bondo is terrible and dangerous. You don’t want to inhale that crap.

At some point, I felt like the top tower needed turrets, so I fabricated them.

I used a different method than the lower, larger turrets. I found some pieces of wood in the Asylum wood scrap bin, and screwed them into the top of the tower.

Here’s from a distance.

Once that was done, I bondo’ed the turrets using the same procedure as the larger turrets on the box.

Finally, I covered the wood pieces covered in bondo with the stone gray primer I had been using.

Here’s another shot.

During this process, I was careful to cover up the finished flag pole and with some painters tape and a plastic bag.

I then also power sanded the bondo on the very top, tiny turrets. Sorry, I don’t have pics. Look at other shots for how it looks.

Flag Pole

There’s a flag pole on the Castle Box. I made it out of a thick wood dowel, cut to size (about 9”?).

The top is an ornament I found on the CRUFT shelf at Artisan’s Asylum. It’s probably from a curtain rod. It’s wood. I sanded it down, then sprayed it with some gold paint.

It’s attached to the wood dowel with some epoxy and wood glue.

The main pole sits in a drilled hole in the top of the tower. I used a power drill for that. It’s secured with a ton of epoxy and wood glue.

Griffin 3-D Prints

On the top of the tower are some Griffin Symbols attached to the Tower windows.

I took the graphic into illustrator and simplified it a bit, then exported it. I reimported into 123Design and extruded to give it some depth. I then exported to .stl. I used netfabb to clean the .stl up and make sure it printed ok on my MakerBot r2.

These were originally going to be out of wood, but I opted to use my 3-D printer, since the laser cutter was out of comission.

Here’s the final object next to the paint stencil.

Door Fabrication (version 1)

When I started out the DIGBox project, I had very grandoise plans about having a real drawbridge on the box. One that worked exactly like a real medieval one.

I was planning something like this; a door done in wood that was shaped like a Castle DrawBridge.

During the course of the project I had to make sacfirices to make sure that the door fit the restrictions imposed
by the legal team at DIG Magazine, was safe, and viable in terms of door longeivity.

When I started out, I did not run my original idea to the DIG Magazine folks, but I did create a really sweet looking castle drawbridge.

I made it out of the small, old, planks recycled from the Artisan’s Asylum wood scrap bin. I had some assitance cutting the wood at that time, since I hadn’t been trained on the woodshop tools quite yet. The wood planks were held together with wood glue, and then two wood braces were nailed into the door to give it some backing.

Here’s the door face on.

Here’s wood grain up close.

Here’s the wood glue drying in clamps as the planks set together over night (Yes, that’s a Processing book holding the whole thing down).

Here’s the door mounted inside the castle from a downward view.

Frontview of the castle door before handle and braces were added.

I finished off the door using an anique door handled sourced from homedepot that is normally used for a Garage Door. The result was a really awesome looking drawbridge.

Door up close.

Final Door for version 1 which was scrapped.

However, in the end, DIGMagazine would not accept the door because the hole in the door would be too small to see the magazine cover, and because they did not want to have the DIG Magazine paper mounted on the exterior of the box, in a plastic box attached to the entire Castle.

Here’s the door up, close.

From another angle.

Here are a bunch of photos from various distances of the box with the 1st castle door.


Another Photo.

Photo, yadda.

Yep, Photo.

Here’s the castle with some mock tower and flag and the version 1 door.

From another angle.

Here’s one of the options that get shot down. Mounting the DIG Magazine in a plastic container below the door.

In hindsight, it might have been hard for people to know that the magazine was inside the box.

In the end, a second version of the door was constructed.

Door v2

The second door fabricated for the Castle DIGBox was a more simple design.

Originally, I was planning on using heavier planks to cover the door.

I mocked it up, to evaluate whether it would work, or not. However, this proved to be too heavy. I didn’t want to drill holes into the door, and glue/epoxy would probably not last long in the elements. The counterweight system also would have required about x2 the weight, making it kind of a safety issue for the open/close mechanism.

I settled on using wood veener with adhensive instead. It was light, but gave a “wood” feel, and I could color it with Java colored wood stain.

The original door was door was used. First the door was restored by grinding down the metal and getting the orange paint off it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the wire knot brush, so I had to use a flat disc (i.e. it took longer to do).

Then, it was hit with a black spray paint.

Next, the front of the door was afixed with wood veener adhensive sourced from Rockler in Cambridge. It was a white oak adhesive veener that was cut to fit around the door frame, leaving the clear acyrlic in place, so that the magazine was in full view of passerby’s.

Once the door was fixed into place for testing, the chains were mocked up to see how the door would work opening and closing. This an early mock test of the chains.

Later, more mounts were screwed into the box to keep the chains apart more.

Here’s the interior of the second door closer to the deploy of the box. I’ve enclosed it with burlap, but hadn’t hot glued it quite yet since I didn’t have the new acrylic in hand to replace the old one.

Here is the final door with the “FREE” logo, portcullis, and burlap inside.

There is a shelf on the second door where the magazine can sit against the acyrlic plate.

Counterweight system

With the Castle DIGBox, the torsion spring was missing. Although I requested a replacement part, it was never received. Because of this, the door needed a new mechanism to close it. Luckily because of the theme of the box, it was decided that a counterweight system should be put in place. It works by keeping weight on the door to keep it closed until the weights inside are pulled. It’s very similar to the way a real drawbridge would work.

The weights are fishing lead weights stuffed in some canvas bags. Paracord is currently attached to the weights and wire wraps around the canvas bags to prevent them from opening. The canvas bags hide the weights. the Paracord runs through two sets of eyeholes mounted on the underside of the top of the box. These are screwed into the base of the tower, and glued. The eye holes are not completely ring, and have notches so the the line for the drawbridge can be feed through them.

The opposite ends of paracord attach to screws on the door, and are epoxyed into place. The chain and paracord at the ends of the line are intertwined giving the system more longevitiy and strength when opening and closing the door.

The finally system looks something like this.

Portcullis Test

The second version of the drawbridge door features a simple mock Portcullis.

It is not functional. The reason for making it non-functional is obvious. People need to get DIG magazines out of the box as easily as possible. Although I did think about doing a portcullis that actually raised and fell, I choose not to implement it for safety and practical concerns.

The currentl portcullis on the Castle DIGBox is made from large popsciple sticks which are stained with some Java wood stain. They are held together with some wood glue.

Why did I do it in wood? It needed to be something people wouldn’t want to steal, and wanted it in wood to match the wood veneer on the door. I did model this mock portcullis in Rhino 3-D, but decided not to deploy with it. It’s on thingiverse for download, if you ever need a portcullis. Ha.

Castle Interior

One of the standout features of the Castle Box is that fact that interior of the box is also decorated.

Prior to lining it with burlap, it was shot with a flat black. This was actually a pretty cool effect. If you take a look at the “Lights Test” section. However, for the best result, I thought it might be best to make the castle interior a little more intricate, and do some fake, cheapo “tapesties”.

The interior of the Castle DIGBox is lined with burlap.

It’s attached with LOTS of 3M super strength tact spray adhesive. Each piece of burlap was cut to line the inside. It’s beige in color and was sourced from Joanne’s Fabric store chain.

The actual Griffin stencils were downloaded from the internet and simplified in illustrator. Then, the graphic was printed on normal paper. The paper was cut out manually, and then traced onto cardboard before being cut into a stencil.

The stencil was stuck to the sides of the walls using painted tape, and then spray painted with red spray paint.

The back also has a sprayed icon but is a bit obscured by the counterweight system (oops).

The final result seen from afar, looks like this:

A stencil was added to the bottom where the DIG magazines rest. It says “Here be Dragons” with a dragon icon. The same method as the walls was used.

Here’s the final piece inside the box.

Painting Logos

There’s a good amount of painting that happened on the Castle DIGBox in addition to the vacumform plastic mock stone.

There are 4 main logos needed for DIG boxes.

We’ll cover each here.

First we’ll start with the “DIG” logo.

I was planning on using the laser cutter to do all the stencils, since it would have been quicker. But due to time and budget, I just opted to do them by handle, by tracing in paper and cardboard, and cutting with scissors and an exacto knife.

Here are the materials and stencils during the process.

Here’s the stencil.

I tried to do the very small at first, but failed. The overspray made the letters too fuzzy because the painters tape
wasn’t tight enough on the plastic. Might be easier with transferable adhesive, but I had none at the time.

Because of the three dimenson nature of the vacumform plastic, it was a bit tricky getting things to line up correctly.

Here’s the “DIG” stencil in cardboard.

Here I’ve used some painter’s tape and applied the cardboard stencil to the DIGBox.

As you can see, I’m going to use the cardboard as a stencil and spray around the logo to give a “burned-in” feel, rather than a precise letter by letter design.

Here are the stencils on the box.

Another one, showing the positioning of each letter using painters tape.

Here are various shots of the “DIG” logo after it was masked onto the box with black paint.

Another one.

Again, closer.

Here are the “DIG” and “” logos before the final trace gray paint.

Here’s the final Paint Job on the Castle with the “DIG” and “” logos, after I traced over the letters with a gray paint.

From the other side.

Moss Experimentation

During the build process, once the vacumform was attached, I was thinking it might be a good idea to “age” the exterior
of the DIGBox castle by trying to attach moss to it. Bad idea?! Maybe.

Live and Learn. Although my original idea was to actually GROW real moss on the castle by sprinkling it with moss, I didn’t think it would be viable in Winter conditions. So I opted to try to glue it to castle using tact spray. It DID attach, but it just didn’t look very good. I ended up removing it with a towel and spray painting over it. This is one of the mistakes I made during the construction process. I had no idea if it would look nice, and unfortunately it did not.

Here’s a pic of the messy ordeal.

Here’s one after the mockup.

… and from a different angle.

Maybe it would look cool after some proper weathering outside? Hmmm.

Here are some close ups of the moss application. Yeah, it didn’t look so nice and ruined the theme. Maybe I could have
done it differently. I didn’t have time to ping someone with experience with moss within the crafts realm.

From far away.

Close up of the tower.

Close up of the moss test along the edges of the Castle.

Another close up shot. Here I was finished testing the crystal light, and possibly a way to hinge the version 1 door.

In the end the moss was just messy and didn’t add anything to the Castle. It was removed and spray painted over with gray primer. Some of it still exists on the Castle, but you have to look for it.

Easter Eggs

There are at least three electronic “easter eggs” deployed with the Castle DIGBox.

The 1st one is actually not even an easter egg, but it could be … say, if the streets are too noisy and you miss it on your 1st door open. The other two are not obvious and take some time to find on the box.

Trumpet FanFare Door Chime

The Audible Trumpet Fanfare Door Chime. Upon opening the door, if the LIPO battery is charged, then trumpet fanfare will play within the inside of the castle. Depending on street level noise you may or may not hear it. There is no amplificiation of the sound at this point in time.

USB Dead Drop

There’s a USB stick on the box. Look around, and you’ll spot it. Once you have it, you can plug in a laptop and copy files to/from the box It’s a cold war era style secret dead drop. Have fun!

NFC tags

There are 4 NFC tags hidden on the Castle DIGBox. I won’t say where they are, except they are on
the OUTSIDE of the box, and NOT in the interior of the box with the newspapers. If you have an Android device that supports NFC, then try to find and read them. There are four. Once you get one, it should be obvious where the others are. The NFC tags will load up some URLs.

Have fun!

Goto the electronics section, next to learn more about the low level details.


The original plans for electronics in the box were grandoise, so they were scaled back to meet street conditions, where possible theft and vandalism may be present and unavoidable.

Currently, there are three electronic features on the Box which make up the 3 “Easter Eggs” (i.e. secret features) of the Castle DIGBox.

Door Chime Easter Egg

The first easter egg is the door chime. Upon opening the door (i.e. drawbridge), the user is greeted with trumpet fanfare that is played from the bottom of the DIGBox.

How does it work? Easy. There’s a simple switch on the door. It’s what they call a “reed” switch, or a magnetic switch. They use them on doors for security. Here I’m using a tiny one. The reed switch completes a circuit to a small audio board powered by a LIPO battery.

When the door is opened, the circuit is closed and the sounds cycle and play through the speaker. When the door is closed, the magnetic seal is in place and the circuit is off, so no power is drawn. In this respect, the # of plays with the box before it loses power is potentially hundreds of opens and closes of the door.

Here’s early wiring to prototype the circuit (I was using a LED to test connectivity instead of an repeatively annoying sound):

Testing an early prototype inside the box.

The switch mechanism is a magnetic reed switch mounted to the frame of the DIG box and the inside of the doorway.

The switch is activated when the magnetic lock between the door and the doorway is broken (i.e. it’s triggered when open).

Here’s a better picture with lighted conditions. I hadn’t covered over the switch with burlap yet.

The magnetic piece sits on the door. It’s covered by hotglue, epoxy and burlap now.

The audio is actually played through a fairly decent tweeter mounted and secured down below the metal grate in the DIG Box.

It’s contained within a Trader Joes coffee can and wrapped with burlap.

Here’s the speaker before it went into the box.

Here I’m soldering connections and assemblying the container.

I used a lot of solder. It wasn’t easty to snake all the wiring inside the box and I was afraid I was going to break it. I also hotglued the connections (I think. I hope!).

Here, I’m using painters tape to make the wire more manageable.

More wire.

And MORE wire.

Here is the can covered by burlap and hotglued shut. A piece of yarn and some safety pins keep it secured at the bottom in the corner of the Castle DIGBox.

The actual audio is stored and played on a SPARKFUN Audio MP3 player breakout hooked up to a LIPO battery.

Here’s the board hooked up to a LIPO for testing.

There’s a very small 64MB microSD in the bottom of the castle box will the sounds loaded. This card is secured by epoxy into the device to prevent tampering and theft.

A close up of the circuit and board mounted on a protoboard from AdaFruit.

Another shot of the electronics connections.

Testing out the electronics inside the box and seeing if it’s audible.

Testing out various speakers with the electronics. The tweeter worked the best, but the smaller speakers were cool because they had magnets and I could just stick them to the side of the box for testing!

The circuit diagram for the Castle Door Chime looks like this. 90% of the connections are hot glued in place, and the breakout is soldered onto a protoboard from Adafruit.

The wiring to the speaker and door is secured in sectioned off painters blue tape which made it more managable getting it in the box. The wires are all tucked away behind burlap underneath the metal grate.

There’s a lock on the metal grate so it is difficult to get at the electronics components.

The electronics for the door chime are actually contained in a wooden box.

I got it off the CRUFT shelf at Artisan’s Asylum. I drilled some holes for the wiring, and it’s sealed with a rubberband and some hot glue.

Here’s a closer shot of the container.

Here’s the electronics in the container all hooked up and ready to be put underneath and secured into the box.

USB Dead Drop

There’s a USB Dead Drop on the back of the Castle Box. It’s painted gray but it’s on the top turret in a corner. Users can plug into the USB with their laptops and copy files to/from the Castle Box, secret agent style. You never know what you’re going to find on that drive, so be careful. It may be something innocent like rainbow or unicorn pics, or it may be something less savory. I’m not responsible for what’s on there. It was deployed with a clean slate behinds the rules and guidelines for proper dead drop USB use. :)


There are NFC tags hidden in the top tower. You’ll need to get your android or windows phone device pretty close to read them. Each side of the tower has a different tag and url. They are write protected tags. Currently the tags are not programmed, but will be soon enough. I will be tracking the hits online. The sticker tags were not rated for outdoor usage, so we’ll see how long they last out in the environment.

Tag Stand was used to program and source the NFC.

Here’s the writer hooked up via USB to program the tags.

Unveiling Event

Here are some pics just prior to the unveiling event in late January 2012, at Artisan’s Asylum.

The Castle DIGBox was approximately 98% done at this moment in time.

The only remaining items were to insert the new acrylic plate in the door, burlap the inside of the door, hook up and epoxy the drawbridge chains & rope, add the 3-D printed Griffin logos to the top turrets, and paint the flag with the DIG logo.

OK, that’s a lot, but hey, it was nearly done. ;) Here are some pics from the event.

Front View.

One side.

The other side.

The backside.

At Town Hall.


Here is a pic of the box, 99% complete, state. The only thing remaining at this stage was the new acrylic for the door (i.e. drawbridge) and the Artisan’s Asylum sticker adhered to the front of the box.

Final Touches

Some of the last remaining touches to the Castle DIGBox, were adding the new arcylic glass to the box, adding the “FREE” logo on the front of the door in red, medieval font.

The new arcylic glass was suppoed to be laser etching with a griffin, but I did not have a chance to do it.

The “FREE” logo was painted on by hand and then outlined with a black felt marker (see below for added features).

Burlap was added to the front door as the new arylic was screwed into place.


During the creation of the Castle DIGBox, I did experiment with things that did not make it into the final box. One such item was a the outdoor LED solar powered crystal. This component was donated by Peter Montague.

Although the effect of the light was very cool, I could not find a way to place it on or in the box without it getting either stolen or broken from vandalism.

Crystal fades into blue.

The LED changes to red. Ooooo.

Here are some close ups of the crystal inside the box, while it was still spray painted black, and the burlap had not been addded. It gives the box a more “evil” feel.

Light Test #1.

Light Test #2.

Light Test #3.

I have plans to use the LED crystal ball in another project. Perhaps a staff where it the headpiece ….

Some Lessons Learned (the hard way)

Here are some take aways after constructing my first DIGBox. A lot of wisdom can be gathered if you ask around to fellow DIGBoxers who have gone through the process of making one. Here are my tips and maybe even some tricks.


I’ve started a F.requently A.sked Q.uestions section for DIGBoxers who want specific questions answered.

I will do my best to answer your queries in a timely manner. However, your best bet to get things answered is to ask someone in person about their DIGBox, or talk to your DIGBox instructor.

Q: Why did you choose vacuform plastic over foam, concrete, or other mediums for the outside of the box?

A: I considered foam, but had no experience weather proofing or making it vandal proof at the time. I did not know the properties of foam until I took Bob’s class at Artisan’s. Foam would have been a good choice for the project. Inexpensive and with proper treatment, weather resistant and somewhat vandal proof. Concrete would have been a terrible choice. I moved the box around A LOT while working on it. Making the exterior out of concerete would have made it a real pain to move around.

Q: How long did it take you to build the Castle Box?

A: From November into December. January was final touches. I don’t have total hours spent, but it was more than what’s alloated for the class by far. The complexity of the Castle DIGBox is deep covering a lot of mediums and features.

Q: What happens if the Castle DIGBox is stolen?

A: All I can say, is … I planned for it.

Q: Is there a secret door on the Castle?

A: Not really. There’s a false bottom underneath the magazines though. ;)

Q: Is there hot burning oil?

A: Nope. Too dangerous. Plus it’s not historically accurate. Oil was expensive, you see. ;)

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