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Add your own voice to make these boxes a personal Valentine.

Add your own voice to make these boxes a personal Valentine.

Sure, you could take your loved one out on the town, give her flowers, chocolates or jewelry, but what does that really say about you?

Put a bit of yourself into this year’s Valentine’s Day gift. This project is easy to moderate in difficulty, and doesn’t cost much. The value is the personalized audio message of love, and the care and time you took into making a custom gift for the one you care about.

But maybe make some reservations at a nice restaurant too. Just in case.

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Steps

Step #1: Mark the position for the switch

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  • Place the lid of the box upside down on the table, and figure out where roughly where everything will fit.
  • The switch will go near the middle. Mark the spot with a pencil.
  • The size of the cutout should be just wide enough for the switch, and about half the length of the switch.

Step #2: Cut a hole for the switch

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  • Use a sharp razor or hobby knife to score repeatedly along the lines you want to cut. Do this from the inside of the box lid. (Repeated scoring can be fun, but let's try to be tasteful. It's Valentine's Day.)
  • Try to get the corners etched deep enough so you can see them from the top side of the box.
  • Then you can score from the top (gently!) until the cut out can be removed.

Step #3: Test fit the switch

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  • Insert the switch to test the fit. It should fit so that it can lie flat against the inside of the lid.
  • Hold the switch in place and flip the lid over. Try to actuate the switch. If it won't audibly click on, you need to bend a kink into the lever, like you see in the 3rd picture. (A good Valentine's Day gift should have a little kink.)
  • Don't worry, I show you how to do this in the next step.

Step #4: Bend the switch lever (if needed)

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  • You will probably have to bend the switch lever so that it can actuate through the box lid.
  • Use a pair of needle nose pliers to grab the lever just past the actuating button, as shown in the 1st picture. Be sure the pliers are perpendicular to the lever, so it bends evenly.
  • Carefully bend the lever upwards to nearly 90 degrees. Avoid putting stress on the lever where it attaches to the body of the switch.
  • Now make a second bend downwards, about parallel to the body of the switch, as shown in the 3rd picture.

Step #5: Paint the box (optional)

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  • This would be a good time to paint the box if you are going to. It will be hard to paint after you start attaching parts.
  • I chose to add a glossy clear coat after the paint dried. (I want this gift to last a long time, like a good marriage.)
  • Since this needed to dry for 24 hours, the rest of the pictures in this project are of another box, which was not painted.

Step #6: Attach the switch with hot glue

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  • Use a dab of hot glue where the switch contacts the inside of the box lid, and hold the switch in place while it dries.
  • Add hot glue all the way around the switch to hold it firmly in place. (Being held firmly is something everyone should get to feel on Valentine's Day.)

Step #7: Remove the playback button from the recording module

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  • The recording module I used has a grey playback switch, which we will have to remove.
  • Flip the module over, and carefully bend back the three metal tabs that hold the button in place.
  • Then it is easy to remove the grey button.

Step #8: Prepare the button wires

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  • Unfortunately, there are no through-hole connections to solder for the switch. So we are going to have to get creative.
  • Cut two pieces of stranded 22 gauge wire, and then strip about 1/4 in. off both ends of each wire. Twist all the wire ends, and tin them with solder.
  • Push one end of each wire through the back in the holes where the button clips were. It may be a tight fit, but get the wire in there as far as you can.

Step #9: Solder the wires to the button contacts

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  • Bend one wire end over and position it carefully so that it only touches one side of the metal button contact. Carefully solder it in place. Use a multimeter to test that the wire is connected to only one side of the button contact.
  • Now bend the other wire end over so that it touches the other side of the metal button contact. Carefully solder it in place. Once again test with a multimeter that the wire is connected to only one side of the button contact.
  • Temporarily attach a 9V battery to the recorder module. Then carefully touch the two free ends of the wires together, and verify that the red playback LED lights. If you recorded anything to the module, you should hear it playing back now.

Step #10: Stress relief and more soldering

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  • Add some hot glue to the underside of the module where the new wires go through. This will act as a stress relief. (It's Valentine's Day; we shouldn't be stressing ourselves.)
  • Connect the free ends of the two wires to the switch contacts. Be sure to use the contacts labeled "C" (for common) and "NO" (for normally open). Solder in place.

Step #11: Test fit and start attaching stuff

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  • Place all the components in the inside of the box lid. Be sure you leave a little room around the edges, so the box can close properly. I failed to do this and glued the speaker too close to the edge. Then I had to add hot glue all the way around the inside of the lid so that the box lid was held up evenly all the way around. You have been warned.
  • Carefully hot glue around the outer edge of the speaker and set it in place on the inside of the lid until it dries.
  • Hot glue down the module board, the record button (Be sure you can reach it!) and the microphone.

Step #12: Add the battery and glue down wires

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  • Use some double sided foam tape to attach the 9V battery.
  • Use a few dabs of hot glue to hold down any loose wires. Don't glue down the wires to the battery, so it will be easier to change the battery later.

Step #13: Attach a decoration over the switch lever

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  • Carefully remove any labels from the back of the decoration, so you will get a good surface for the glue.
  • Use a drop of hot glue to attach the decoration to the switch lever. Be careful that the hot glue doesn't drip down and impede the motion of the lever.

Step #14: Looking good, now sound good

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  • Now your heart box should look pretty nice. Time to add the personal touch.
  • Use the record button of the voice module to record your personal Valentine's wish for your honey.

Andrew Terranova

Andrew Terranova is an electrical engineer, writer and an electronics and robotics hobbyist. He is an active member of the Let's Make Robots community, and handles public relations for the site. Andrew has created and curated robotics exhibits for the Children's Museum of Somerset County, NJ and taught robotics classes for the Kaleidoscope Learning Center in Blairstown, NJ and for a public primary school. Andrew is always looking for ways to engage makers and educators.


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