The PKE Meter Project
November 16, 2008
The goal of this project is to construct a replica of the PKE meter as seen in the Ghostbusters films. The original prop was built from an Iona shoe polisher. While these polishers are no longer made, you can usually find them online and in pretty good condition. However, a significant amount of modifications need to be done to convert the polisher into a PKE meter. I was lucky enough to find a great fiberglass kit with the majority of the modifications already completed. As you can see, the kit consists of two primary pieces; the front face and the rear face. It also includes four pieces which are to be used to construct the wings. This will be my first time working with fiberglass, so it should be interesting.
November 23, 2008
The PKE meter wouldn’t be much without a good set of electronics. I picked these up from the resident expert in custom prop electronics, Hyperdyne Labs. These electronics are especially nice because they include a dual-mode display screen. Research has shown that there were multiple versions of the prop used as the PKE meter. These versions differed in that the sequencing LEDs in the main display were oriented in different directions. One version had the LEDs sequencing top-left to bottom-right, while the other version went from bottom-left to top-right. The display board for these electronics can sequence in either direction as dictated by a simple input switch. The electronics kit also features:
- dual-mode display screen with sequencing LEDs
- variable frequency sound effects that increase/decrease with wing position
- driver circuit for wing LEDs with adjustable frequency
- servo driver circuit to move wings up and down
Dremel Gives You Wings!
November 28, 2008
I figured I’d tackle the electronics portion first since they’ll need to be fitted into the kit. The electronics come up with a single printed wire board that can be separated into two boards used to connect the LEDs that will go in the wings of the PKE. Using a cutting wheel and my trusty Dremel, I separated the two wing boards. I then used the grinding wheel to smooth all the edges. Be very careful not to hit any of the traces while cutting or grinding, otherwise you run the risk of breaking the electrical connection, which could prevent the LEDs from getting power later on. In the event you do cut any of the traces (as I did), you can solder a spare piece of wire down to bridge the gap in the trace. Afterwards, I rinsed the boards off with some water to remove any particulates which could prevent the solder from properly adhering to the boards when I attach the LEDs, which will be my next step…
More Electronics Work
January 3, 2009
Here you can see the LEDs have been attached to the wings. I soldered them on and cleaned up the boards with some isopropyl alcohol to remove any residual flux from the solder. I was going to wire up the ribbon cables to attach the wings to the main circuit board, but I figured I should wait until I have all the components in place in the body kit so I’ll know how long to cut the wires.
I also picked up two micro-servos, which will be used to move the wings up and down. I went with the Cirrus CS-101 micro-servo, which I purchased from The Hobby People. The wiring harness for these servos is slightly different than that of those called out in the instruction manual for the electronics, so I’ll need to figure out which wire is which…
Lastly, I gave the body components a bath is some warm soapy water to remove any residual contaminents from the molding process.
More Body Work
February 8, 2009
Thanks to my friend, Jim, over at Hyperdyne Labs, I was able to get the pin-out information for the servos. For anyone who may be using these servos, the pins are:
- Brown = ground
- Red = positive
- Orange = control
I did some body work and trimmed all the excess fiberglass away from the two body halves and drilled out the holes for the LEDs using my Dremel. I also trimmed the wings as well, so all the main components are ready to go!
Dry-Fitting Some Parts
June 9, 2010
After almost a year-long hiatus from my workbench, I’m getting back to building my prop kits. I’m resuming the PKE meter I started last year. I got back to work by dry-fitting some of the greeblies for the top panel, including the slider switch which will be used to change the sequencing mode of the display LEDs, and the display screen itself.
I also fit the LEDs into their respective sockets on the front panel. Some slight filing, and they fit pretty snugly.
Getting Ready for Some Buttons
June 15, 2010
So my next step was to prep the front panel for the buttons that will control the servos. There are actually two sets of buttons – one on the lower portion of the front panel, and another on the top of the handle. To make controlling the servos easier, I decided to make the ones on the handle functional, while the ones on the panel will be purely aesthetic.
I paid a visit to my local hobby shop and picked up some 1/16″ x 3/16″ strip styrene, which should fit in the recesses for the buttons quite nicely. I used the strip styrene to perform a dry fit. A little bit of filing, and I was in good shape.
Since the top buttons won’t actually be doing anything, I made sure they fit a little tighter than the ones on the handle, which will need to be pressed in order to move the wings up and down.
January 1, 2011
As you can probably tell by my lack of progress with this project, I’ve been struggling to find both the time and motivation to finish it. Lucky for me, I found a fairly good solution. Mattel Toys has teamed together with MattyCollector.com to release a replica of the PKE meter!
This piece was part of an exclusive release through Matty Collector, who’s recently come out with some great Ghostbuster items, but this is their first prop replica.
Overall, I’m very satisfied with it. It has a dual-mode display screen, sequencing LEDs, sound effects, and moving wings, which is exactly what I was after. The electronics are not as functional as the replica I was building, but it works for me…and you can’t beat it for sixty bucks!
Unfortunately, I’ve decided to cancel this build so that I can focus on some of the other kits I have piled up next to my workbench. My apologies to anyone who may have been following along, but stay tuned for some other prop/model builds!