It’s fun to see favorite old toys displayed or used in new ways. Old game boards can be upcycled into spiral bound notebook covers. Toy catalogs are laminated to make wallets. I wanted to come up with a new way to display a vintage Japanese robot toy and put him to work, too. Here’s a three-in-one design for a “Show ‘N’ Glow” toy display stand with a reading lamp combined with comic book storage in the back!
Transforming a Transformer
The Shogun Warriors were a popular line of Japanese robot toys imported by Mattel in the mid-1970s. Based on a kid’s cartoon show in Japan, they featured characters like Raydeen, who transformed into a birdlike spaceship. The imported toys’ wild designs seemed very exotic, with Japanese labels and markings. Standing 2 feet tall, the Shogun Warriors bristled with launching rockets and spring-loaded punching fists.
Today, these 40-year-old toys command collector prices on eBay. I wanted to make sure I didn’t compromise the toy’s value by modifying it, but I did do one upgrade. Shogun Warrior fans can buy new labels to replace the long-ago-faded originals. With fresh, unfaded labels Raydeen is now ready for his close up!
Tip: Repainting or modifying a very valuable old toy can be a costly mistake. Check first! And before you use a solvent or cleaner, test it first in an inconspicuous place on your vintage treasure.
I also hacked a camping headlamp and made a plastic collar for it that fit snugly onto Raydeen’s adjustable fist-shooting arm. That way Raydeen becomes an aimable reading lamp without any permanent modifications.
The display stand is a simple two-part design. The base is made from thermoformed ¼” white acrylic with holes drilled to provide storage for the robot parts. The comic book rack is clear ⅛” acrylic, thermoformed into a U-shape. The two parts are joined together with nuts and bolts with PVC tubing sleeve spacers.
I added a laminated full-size copy of the cover of Shogun Warrior comic #1 to the back of the comic storage.
This particular headlamp makes a great reading light with three brightness settings — and flashing red danger lights!
Raise Raydeen’s arm to aim the reading lamp.
Make It Your Own
This concept could work with almost any favorite action figure or toy, new or old. Adapt this basic design to create your own Show ‘N’ Glow. An old Star Wars AT-AT could find new life as a reading lamp with some bright LEDs mounted on the chin guns. A roof-mounted searchlight on a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles van would make a swell night light. You get the idea … Your project will dictate the actual dimensions and details, but here are some construction tips:
- While you’re at the plastic store, get some special drill bits made for drilling in plastic. They have a steeper 60° point and specially ground flutes that won’t grab or crack the plastic.
- Make a quick full-size sketch layout of the mounting details for your toy. I wanted square holes to accept the small wheels on the bottom of the robot’s feet, as well as storage for the extra bird missiles and punching fist. I used a piece of ¼” foamcore board to check the sizes and locations of the holes and the amount of bend for the back and front “legs” of the stand.
- If your acrylic sheet has a protective film, mark the locations and sizes of holes in soft pencil on the film, then cut and drill away. Later, be sure to remove the film before heat bending.
- To make square holes, first drill out the center, then finish with small hand files. (If you have access to a laser cutter, this project is a natural!)
- Use a strip heater to make your bends. Mark the bottom side of the acrylic in pencil to keep track of which side is which. The heated side is always the outside radius of the bend, where the plastic has to stretch and bend the most.
For more on making and using a strip heater see makezine.com/projects/toy-inventors-notebook-bend-a-battery-box.