Friday, October 19, 2012

Ghost Ship in a Bottle

I've completed two ships since my last post so I thought it's about time to post something about one of them.  This one comes by popular demand.  The Ghost Ship in a Bottle.

 I came up the idea while on the yahoo forum.  Some one mentioned lighting a ship up with UV lights.  I decided to explore the idea.  I talked to a friend who had some UV LED's and we found that the purple tinted UV lights will not show through a dark root beer bottle but the light bouncing off of a white surface will.  So then I took it a step farther and used glow in the dark paint which lights up quiet nicely under the UV light.

I didn't get any pictures of the ship before I put her in the bottle.   The build went fast since I wasn't worried about to many details.  So assuming you've already built your ship paint it with glow in the dark paint.  I just got some acrylic paint from Walmart for two or three bucks and it works great.  I painted almost everything. The sails, the lines, the hull, the masts.  The only thing I didn't paint were the cannons and the anchor on the front.  The idea behind this was to let the light around it glow and the cannons and anchor would appear as just a silhouette creating a more dramatic look.  As you can see the anchor worked fine but with out a second LED behind the ship the cannons are out of sight.

Another part of building this ship was the holes in the sails.  I used a canvas type cloth for the sails. Pinching small sections I used scissors to cut holes and give it the well weathered ragged look.  I then just let it fray as canvass does and painted it all in glow in the dark paint.  

Now the fun part.  How to make it work.  First get yourself some UV LED's.  I just went to Radio Shack.  They were helpful in letting me know what I needed.  If you want them cheap go on eBay.  You can buy 300 for less then $5.  I don't know if some are better then others I just made sure they were Ultra Violet LED's.

Along with your LED's you will need a power source.  You will have to check the specifications of your LED's to see whats right for what you have.

You will also need a resistor.  Chances are your LED will be like mine and it won't light until it hits 3.7 volts.  Now try to find a 3.7 volt battery but don't go over the highest specification which is under 6.  Doing so will burn out your LED.  Since there was no such battery so I got a six volt battery and used a resistor to bring it down to the required maximum voltage.  Here's a tool to help you do that.

I then searched YouTube to help me figure out how to put everything together.  Here's the video I used.  It's a bit long so skip to the parts you need.  The important thing is he helps you understand how to identify the negative and positive parts of an LED and where the resistors should go.  Best place to start is the two minute 21 second mark.

Now that you've got the wiring figure out it's time to build it into the bottle.  I decided to use the cork to hold my battery and my LED in place.

Here you can see the wire that connects to positive side of that battery and completes the circuit.  It's a very crude method but it works.  Some one with more skill and means can definitely make an improvement.

 A few more shots to give you an idea of how I put it together.

My original plan was to put an LED behind the ship as well so it would be lit from two sides showing front and back.  I got it for about two seconds before I lost the connection.  I'll keep trying.  Some one suggested drilling holes in the bottle with a ceramic drill bit.  I may try that.  With or with out the other LED I think she looks great.  The light you see around the ship is white caps I painted with the glow in the dark paint.  I tried to make the sea stand out a little.

She definitely stands out in the collection.

  My wife is currently writing a short story behind the Ghost Ship in the Bottle.  Once it's finished she may post it to her writing blog.  To read her blog please go here. The Ghost Ship in a Bottle

If you do plan on building a ghost ship in a bottle I would love to know how it turns out.  Email me a picture at  Thank you for reading!  


  1. I wish I had a gif of that kid from The Incredibles. Oh, here it is on Youtube!

  2. Oh. My. God... I freakin' LOVE this! I don't do ships but this has given me the exact thing I need to make a 'ghost' in a jar! Now I need to experiment with different colours, I wonder how the uv light goes with amber or green glass? Thank you so much for sharing!

  3. Took me a while but I'm finally coming around to post comments. Thanks David that means a lot coming from you. I have always admired your work.

    Bettielee and Domonique your comments totally made my day. I'm glad to hear people enjoy what I do.

  4. Daniel thanks for posting this. I always wanted to know how to wire up a miniature L.E.D.
    Way to go ... Jeff