ben gabel


I have a solid grounding in physics including electrical theory and can carry out both mains and low-voltage installations.

A childhood hobby of electronics , experimenting with early speech synthesisers and power control circuits, later developed into me starting Cambridge Light & Power Ltd in the 1990’s , installing one of the first grid-connected solar power systems in the UK, and then installing solar and wind power in Spain and Wales.
A couple of years ago I discovered Arduinos and did a few new electronic projects .

wiring looms for puppetry

In 2021 I designed and installed the lighting and wiring looms for the set of orangutan puppets by Thingumajig Theatr.
Design and placement of the lights was crucial as these were stand-alone puppets running from limited-capacity lightweight battery packs, so they had to be well-lit without using too much power.
It was a demanding brief; they were specified to survive hundreds of performances without any maintenance – cables had to be carefully routed around armature joints and consideration given to strain relief and flexion at every point.

Gait-synchronising top hat

This was a sudden inspiration when I got an Arduino – why not make a a hat that glows and pulses in time to one’s dancing and adapts to speed or rhythm changes! Large sudden movements (like a jump) trigger a switch to a different lighting program (e.g chase vs fade) and the leds are disguised with hand-applied silicone diffusers to give a more steampunk effect. Runs from Li-ion battery built into the hat and rechargeable from USB.

How it works: A six-axis gyro-accelerometer allows the hat to sense the wearer’s movements , and using cues primarily from acceleration in the z-axis, establishes a clock pulse that continuously re-adjusts and synchronises with the persons step.  This is then used to drive decorative light effects with addressable RGB leds in time with their movement.

Motion-driven Firesword

A stage-safe sword that lights with flickering flame, in proportion to its movement!
The fire  changes colour according to the points of the compass , to avoid getting lost in the woods.

Materials:  base Larp-sword (purchased) in cellular foam and fibreglass, modified with hilt of EVA foam, faux-fur, inset RGB adressable leds, arduino, LiPo battery, USB power converter, code for fire simulation and motion sensing by Ben.

How it works: Developing some of the ideas from the hat project, this is motion-aware using similar hardware, but checking for motion in all three axes, and running a cellular fire simulation along the blade. Motion of the sword puts energy into the simulation in the form of higher-energy sparks which then migrate heat in both directions. Faux-fur acts as a diffuser to disguise the leds and blend the flame cells.

Finally a magnetometer output is used to set the base colour palette for the fire simulation, so if one is lost in the woods the sword will indicate the points of the compass by flickering different primary colours if you hold it with the blade held horizontal. Green fire indicates it is pointing north.

wiring looms for lanterns

I designed and installed a large number of bespoke wiring looms for the LED lighting and controllers for Newbury Lantern Trail.

Good low-voltage wiring looks far less exciting than other projects, but it’s just as important. Correctly calculated wires, fuses and bulb sizes minimise line losses,  while making sure that the loom is safe and the batteries last the duration of the show.

Solar Power installation

Power shed design and construction by me.  Roofed in traditional style using bamboo, plaster, and reclaimed antique tiles.
24V DC at 200 amps requires proper engineering and fuses.