I Saw the Sign

If you’ve wandered into our temporary Edge Studio over the last couple of weeks, the first thing you will have seen is this:

At a first glance it might look like any old sign but if you look closely you’ll notice a few differences. It is in fact a moss graffiti, solar-powered LED sign!

“Wow!” (I hear you say).

“How do you create moss graffiti and how does that fantastic colour-changing, solar-powered LED light work?”

They are two very good questions and I will reveal all of my secrets so that you may too create your very own moss graffiti solar-powered LED sign (MGSPLEDS).

Moss Graffiti

I’m the first to admit I am no moss graffiti expert (although I’m happy to say I have met a couple of you lately) and while my failures currently outweigh my successes this is the best recipe that I have come up with so far:

Moss Graffiti Recipe 2.0

  • A few handfuls of moss
  • Half a tub (100g) of natural yoghurt
  • About half a cup of a good yeasty beer (I choose Guinness- great for moss graffiti..not for drinking IMHO!)
  • A teaspoon of brown sugar
  • Two tablespoons of corn syrup (alson known as glucose syrup)
  • I also crushed up a bit of fertilizer (Ozmocote) to give it a little extra grunt

Here’s how it all goes together

Wash as much of the dirt and rocks and stuff away from the back of the moss.

Add the yoghurt

Add the the moss

Test the beer

Add the remaining beer

Add the sugar

Crush some fertilizer and add to the mix (be sure to SERIOUSLY clean your mortal and pestle after this- fertilizer and stomachs don’t mix).

Mix it all together in a blender. Be careful with the corn syrup. Its there to bind everything together however if you use too much (as I have) you’ll end up in a sticky situation (literally). Store it sealed in the fridge until you’re ready to apply it. It should keep for a few days at least.

Making the Sign

Making the sign was trickier than you might think.

Bunnings on a week day is always a treat.

MDF (or custom wood as its also known) is a composite material and is really absorbant, so I had to give it three coats of paint to seal the surface. To transfer the Edge logo to the MDF backing board, I put together a big printed paper version of the Edge logo, stuck it on to the MDF and then traced over it with a ball-point pen, pressing down really hard to leave an imprint of the logo below.

The imprint becomes the outline of where to paint. I then traced over the imprint with a lead pencil to make the outline more visible. Its handy to have an architecture degree at this stage for the set square work, but not essential!

After this I applied the moss graffiti mixture very carefully over the logo. I actually found that using a kitchen butter knife for the fine detail and getting the edges and corners right really helped.

Its also good to do a few coats and try an build up some depth to the mixture so it has a better chance of taking off.

The LED solar-powered light

Connecting the LED colour-changing solar-powered light required a collaborative effort. Mainly because I have only ever soldered guitar parts and tend to get +’s and -’s mixed up. So, thanks to fellow-Cat Colleen and geek in residence Clinton we managed to hook up our solar panel (12V panel max 1.26 W) to a single LED RGB colour changing light.

We mounted the sign to a temporary wall in the new Edge Studio and the solar panel on the adjacent face of the wall with access to sunlight through the glass. Mounting the sign and lining it up with the light took a bit of dodgy gaffer tape engineering but it eventually came together nicely.

The moss part of the sign has been regularly sprayed (twice a day) with a few water concoctions; one with rice water (left over water from boiled rice) and another with Seasol.

Sadly the sign has been up for a few weeks now and the moss has not been entirely forthcoming. We have a theory that the very dry indoor, air-conditioned environment has prevented the moss mixture from retaining the moisture required to propagate. We’ve since transplanted some real growing moss from the gardens outside and it seems to be holding up pretty well.

Also, the LED light and solar panel have been taken down temporarily as we try to pimp up the LED with a super bright Arduino-programmable alternative courtesy of Markus from NICTA. We’re also trying to hook up a battery so that the solar panel can charge it during the day and the light can run at night.

That’s the story of the sign. Come down to the Edge studio and check it out. I’m sure it will find a place when we’re back in the main building soon. I’ll leave you with a time lapse video I did of the drawing and moss painting phase of the sign:


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