Haunt Forum banner
1 - 20 of 99 Posts

·
Banned
Joined
·
2,398 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
There are many tutorials out there for LED spotlights. I've read a lot of them and came up with these lights that are very cheap, and for the most part, very effective.. Most tutorials aren't complete. They omit just enough information that newbies can be a little intimidated. Even though there are many ways to make an LED spotlight, I decided to post a complete tutorial so that you have a good place to start from.

Our MnT group did a test using spots with 3 of the cheapo 5mm Leds and compared them to the single 10mm Led spotlights. The 3 Cheapo LED design was far superior for overall color saturation and intersting patterns. In this Tutorial I will eventually show you banks of 3, 6, 9, and 12. Since some colors from Asia Engineer vary in intensity, you might want info on constructing a stronger multi-LED Light.

With that Said, New LED's are being introduced almost daily. I'm going to continue to experiment with some of the "uber bright" LED's that I'm beginning to see out there. I'm also still looking for an affordable UV LED that is in the 365nm- 385nm range. They are available, but kind of costly. My goal is to eventually replace 110 bulbs entirely for my haunt, as well as some all season outdoor lighting. Feel free to use whatever LED's suit you.

You can see the origins of this project, ask questions, and make comments about this tutorial here until I get the entire tutorial finished and edited.

This tutorial will come in segments since it will take a lot of time to gather all of the documentation necessary. USE THIS FIRST POST to start collecting bottle caps. You will need 2 per light fixture. It took me a long time to gather enough caps since I don't drink soda. I began looking for bottled water with the caps I needed, and even hit the recycycling yard, (till they told me I couldn't take any caps), and scavanged the neighborhood on recycling day.

The standard disclaimers apply. "I am not responsible etc". In other words, proceed at your own risk. This system is very SAFE but there's always someone that could touch thier tongue to a frozen flagpole when a "double dog dare" comes into play. Use common sense as you will be working with electricity and various tools. I also reserve the right to make mistakes or omissions and correct them at a later date. I'll do my best to be thorough.

=========================================================

LED Spotlights part 1: PARTS AND TOOL LIST

To build these ultra cheap (Less than 75 cents apiece with mounts) LED spotlights you will need these materials:

MATERIALS:

-1" thin wall PVC pipe. Be careful to get thinwall and not the thicker sched 40 stuff (Home Depot or Lowes) 10' makes about 29 spotlights
-Old style 2 Litre bottle caps (manufacturers are beginning to change thier cap designs but these are still readily available)
-Super Glue (Cheap dollar store stuff actually works best)
-#8 X 2" bolts (Home Depot) 1 per fixture
-#8 Wing nuts (Home Depot) 1 per fixture
-# 8 washers (Home Depot) 1 per fixture
-Ceiling hangers (Home depot) 1 per fixture
-Wood for platforms (Can be scrap, but must be at least 3/4" thick and about 3" wide. NOT Plywood)
-Flat Black or Dark spray paint
-Hot Glue sticks
-LED's and free Resistors from Asia Engineer. You must special order your free resistors since the values are different than standard.
UPDATE: The resitor values below are the Closest available values available from Asia engineer that I found on thier site. The calculator says that these values are at the lower limit of acceptabe but the did just fine for mine.
100 Ohm resistors for White, blue, green and pink. (Free) These are also at the low end of what's acceptable, but they didn't have a closer match. Mine work fine at this value.
360 Ohm for Reds, and Ambers. Also at the lower limit, but they work fine for mine.

To help insure you get the correct resistors, At the bottom of the order page there is a space for a note. Specify the resistors you want for EACH COLOR that you order. Once you complete your order, Back up the request by sending another note to "Giorgio" through E-bays "Contact this seller" with the same information. REQUEST CONFIRMATION of your resistor values. Eg- "Please send 100 Ohm resistors for Whites. Please send 360 Ohm resistors for Reds. PLEASE CONFIRM RESISTOR ORDER", Etc. Remember you are ordering a product from Asia and thier english is a little limited, so use simple language, Be concise, and use common words.
They will respond and ship usually within 12 hours.
-Copper weather strip nails (#17 X 3/4"- not show in picture below)from Home Depot for the vampire connectors. -
Alternate connection system.
Joe (Hpropman) has an alternative method of connecting these lights together. See pics here. HP's RCA Connection system
-Finish Grade Plywood for Vampire connectors (Scraps if possible)
-Landscape wire (16-2 14-2 or 12-2) Home Depot
-Scavanged computer power supply with on-off button (heavy duty toggle switch if no on-off button exists)
-12V Wall wart for LED testing.
-Telephone wire (radio shack) or light guage speaker wire for pigtails.
-Solder
-Dollar store Hair ties (to secure vampire connectors)

TOOLS
Safety glasses
Mitre saw (preferably power)
Drill press (preferred), or hand drill.
Drill bits 3/16", 13/64' 1/4"
Soldering iron
***** (wire clippers)
Fine needle nose plyers
Fine 45 degree needle nose plyers (optional)
Regular plyers
Wire strippers
Multi Meter (not necessary but helpful)
Vice
Smooth face hammer
Helping hands soldering station (make one cheap here) Thanks to Hpropman
Sandpaper or a belt sander
Hot Glue gun
Patience and time

These are the type of bottle caps you need. If you have any doubt, buy the thin-wall 1" PVC first, and cut a small sample of it and keep it in your pocket. Wen you find a bottle cap at work or on recycling day, and it fits snugly into your sample piece than your good to go. These are specific sized and shaped caps and ONLY these and similar will work in this design. ALWAYS test fit untill you become familiar with these types of caps. Strangely, you will soon be able to Identify different caps from different distributors....


This is the hardware that you'll need. Ceiling hangers on the left and the others items are easy to read. All were bought at Home Depot.


This is the wire I used to wire the LEDS in the fixtures (to create the pigtails from the LED's to the main line). Any double stranded wire will do, Light guage speaker wire, Lamp chord wire, anything light guage. The wire in this picture isn't braided, but it has held up well to date. Solid wire won't hold up to constant adjustment as well as braided wire, but for most of us we only adjust sour lights a few times during the season so this wire should be fine. It works for me since it's SOO Cheap. Yes there are 4 wires inside. I'll show you how to effectively remove them from thier sheathing.


Here's two tubs of materials in the process of constructing the main bodies of the lights. I tend to "production-line" the things that I need to make a lot of. Here's a hint, make a lot more than you think. Once I realized how to blend the colors for different effects, I wanted a lot more lights. It wasn't to make everything brighter, but to bring more life to the scenes I had createed. You ALWAYS need more lights for that SPECIAL effect.


Here's a picture of the ceiling hangers and some base's that I precut and drilled/ Your base wood should be approximately 3"X 4" and 3/4" thick (Min). Some use 2X4' scrap and that works too, albiet not as inconspicuous.


This should be enough to get you started. It takes a week or two to get your LED's and probably longer to gather all the caps you will need (2 per fixture). If you have any question at this point than please feel free to ask. There are some other pics in my "LED Lighting post" which is in the atmosphere section here. Some of you can create them by just viewing that post alone, but a complete tutorial is yet to come. So be patient and enjoy.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
2,398 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
B-LEDS Constructing the Housing and mounts

You can start construction on your Light bodies while you wait for your LED order to arrive. READ EACH SECTION COMPLETELY before you start. It will familiarized you with the process and make construction easier.

Before I get started, the length of your tubing has a purpose and makes a big difference in how you can use your lights. The longer the tube, the deeper you can recess your bottle caps containing the LED's. This is important for one reason, "light pollution" within your own haunt. In most cases you don't want your TOTers to see the actual LED's inside the tube. Since I do a wide variety of lighting (Uplighting, Cross lighting, side lighting, and down lighting), it's easier to control "Source pollution" (lights in your eyes) when the lights are deeper in the tubing. Sometimes you WILL want to intentionally shine a light into someones eyes, but most of the time You don't. So I have created 2 standard sizes, 4" and 5". Longer than 5" doesn't really do too much more to control the light, and shorter tubes might cause interferance with the LED's and the back of the fixture and the adjuster bolt. With that said and you are skilled at soldering, you could go as short as 3" if you want.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

START CONSTRUCTION OF YOUR HOUSING

First, you'll want to set up a way to make MANY cuts on your miter saw at a specific length by creating a Jig or "Stop" on your Mitre saw at 4"

Note the block of wood clamped down on the saw. This is my "STOP", to make it easy to cut a LOT of pipes at exactly the same length. Clean the saw table periodically to insure consistant (Length) cuts. Cut as many tubes as you'll need and then cut more at 5" if you want the longer lights.


NOTE: WEAR SAFTEY GLASSES!! ---A power miter saw is by far the best way to do this. You must cut gently or you can shatter your tubes especially in cold weather. With a decent blade, it leaves almost no burs, and your cuts will be perfectly square. If you are cutting them by hand, or a jigsaw, you MUST Clean up ALL of the burs with sandpaper to leave a very smooth inside edge so the caps can be inserted properly. They are a tight fit and this could cause you some serious headaches later, if not done.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Once you have all your tubes cut to length, grab your bottle caps. Take One per tube and press it in (See pictures), and then press it all the way to the bottom using a nice flat surface and a wooden dowl. This creates the back of the light fixture. Remember you will eventually need a second bottle cap so plan on 2 per fixture.



In a finished fixture, the back cap should look like this, and fit flush to the back before drilling the holes for the mounts.(See below). The Ceiling hanger allows the light to be adjusted left to right.


Do this to ALL of your tubes at once, It really speeds up the process to production-line them.

Now your ready to drill your mount holes and a 3rd hole for the wire to escape the tubing. Using a 3/16" drill bit, pick a spot about 1/4" from the back of the tube where your first bottle cap was installed. Drill one hole ALL THE WAY THROUGH your tube and cap (Creates 2 aligned holes for your bolt). Then turn the tube 90 degrees and drill ONE more hole for the wires exit hole (Don't drill all the way through to the far side of the tubing on this one). When complete you'll have 3 holes that look like this:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,326 Posts
Greg I use that 3rd hole as a water drain hole and I drill a forth hole in the cap from the rear above the bolt for the wire. Just another way of doing it. I course that is assuming that you keep your lights on the ground. you mount yours all over the place at all kinds of angles.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
2,398 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
Mounting Methods

In this section we will take a look at different ways of mounting your fixtures while maintaining adjustability.

Here are a few different methods of mounting your lights. The black one (finished) has a larger platform (approx 4" X 3") for mounting on the ground or screwing into trees or other wooden structures. The one with the smaller platform (unpainted) is primarily for zip-tying to structures like tents, inside props/coffins, or other areas. Both can still be fastened with screws to just about anything since the extra holes are predrilled in the bases. You can also use these holes for weed-mat staples to anchor your lights to the ground. The 3rd one can be clamped to poles or the top of scene panels or just about anywhere. I used Cheapo dollar store clothespin clamps (6 for $1). If you want to spend more money you can buy the small construction clamps which home depot recently had on sale for $1 each.


With these three setups you should be able to put your lights just about anywhere.

For this tutorial I will stick with the standard mounting plate (approx 4" X3")
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Grab some scrap wood. The only requirement is that it is at least 3/4" thick. You can use 1"x 4" pine or oak, and you can also use 2X4's but I prefer something closer to 1" thick. I'd stay away from plywood as delamination will become an issue over time unless very well painted. Set up your "Stop" on your Miter saw and cut a whole bunch of mounting plates approx 3" X 4". Wider if you want to add multiple lights on a single piece of wood like the ones shown here MULTIPLE SPOTLIGHTS.

You will have to experiment with a drill bit and the ceiling hangers to find a nice fit. You want the ceiling hanger to fit snugly into the hole but not so tight that you can't adjust it left and right (Using plyers). I used a 13/64" bit but depending on the type of wood you use you will have to experiment to achieve a nice snug, but adjustable fit. You'll end up with this. Note that the hanger is offset from the center so that the light tube will end up being more or less centered centered Left to right.


Once you figure out what drill bit works best for the hangers, You can then drill all of the Hanger holes without testing them. Once that is done, switch the drill bit to something a little larger. You want holes that are small enough to retain deck screws and large enough to fit a meduim zip tie through. I think I used a 1/4" bit for these holes. If they are too big for your screws you can always add a washer or drill smaller holes. When your done they should look like this.


Now you can use your #8 hardware (machine bolt, washer and wingnut) to assemble your light system. In the picture below, notice two things.
1) In this position the extra "Wire" hole in the tube should be facing downward to allow the wires to exit as well as shed any moisture that might get in the fixture.
2) The only washer I used was here (See pic) Simply add the #8 wingnut and you're ready for painting. If you feel the need to add a second washer between the tube and hanger feel free to do so. I didn't feel it was necessary. I liked the extra friction without it to hold the light in place when adjusting.


Here is my first batch of fixtures freshly painted, including the bolt, washer and wingnut.


Next part is the pigtail and connector assembly, comming soon.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,326 Posts
You can get all the wood you need for free by picking up a few pallets with 3/4 ot thicker boards. you can rip them apart with crow bars or just cut them out with a circular saw cutting parallel to the 2 x 4s that the boards are nailed to. This will normally get you two pieces 12-15 inches plus any overhang on the outside of the 2x4 if there is any. that should give you 5 to 6 bases per board times the number of boards salvaged from the pallet.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
2,398 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Vampire Clips and pigtails- part A

In this section we will construct the wire and the vampire connectors to attach your lights to a power source in a convenient manner. There is a LOT of buzz and controversey about more convenient ways to connect your lights. This is just the method that I prefer. I will link to any and every source I can find in the future but for now, this method works exceptionally well. With that said I can envision using a combination of connection methods for various applications.

Although I fully endorse other connection methods, I like my vampire connection system for these reasons,

1) Not only is it fast and reliable, it is extremely flexible. Other systems rely on junction boxes, various plugs, prefabricated cables or tons of wire nuts. If you have maxed out your junctions in a particular area, and need 2 or more extra lights, you will need to add even more junction boxes and cables. With my landscape wire concept, you just grab the extra lights, Connect them and secure them, and your off and running. No extra cables, No extra junctions.
2) You can also run extremely long distances with no noticable drop in lighting. Although the most expensive part of my system (including the lights) is the landscape wire, you will probably NEVER exceed the capacity of the main wire. I ran several 250' "main lines" this past year and they worked great.
3) Cost- For small yards with less than 50 lights, a junction system would probably work very well and might even be cheaper. But for a larger yard and LOTS of lights, I believe that the landscape wire connection system will win for affordability. Buy the landscape wire once and connect most if not all of your lights to it. I plan on having approx 175 lights this year (100 more than last year) and I don't need to buy any new main wire.

The weakest part of my concept is the finished grade plywood that I use to hold the vampire connectors. I have noticed after 1 season (6 weeks) of outdoor use, that the plywood showed some signs of delamination. BUT, I didn't properly paint them or otherwise protect them. In the future I will be experimenting with different polymers (plastics) instead of plywood. For now I have resorted to "Laminating" the tiny plywood "holders" with Hot Glue to protect the solder joint, plywood and wire. To protect the copper vampire tips, a small dab of di-electric grease works VERY well. Feel free to experiment with materials to make this concept better, but the flexibility and reliability of this system is undeniable. Time will tell how durable it is.
UPDATE:I pulled my old lights out of storage to check and update them. I realized that the connectors that had signs of delamination were the first batch I ever did. I set them up in early march last year, and left them outdoors until after halloween (8 months). The ones that were only out for 6 weeks seemed to be fine since they were painted properly. Every Light from last year still worked perfectly. If you don't want to entirely coat them with hot glue, just add an extra coat or two of paint to the connector blocks that you'll be building next in this tutorial. I'd still cover the top of the nails and some of the pigtail wire with Hot glue though for corrosion protection.

On to the construction:

Get some scrap 1/2" finish grade plywood. Finish grade plywood is usually a little more dense and sometimes has extra layers inside. It holds the copper tacks nicely. You are aiming for pieces that are approx 1-1/4" long and about 5/8" wide. Like this:


If you can find a piece that is about 1' X 1' (approx) you can easily mass produce these using a power miter saw. First make sure you have at least one square corner (Make a waste cut if Necessary to square it up), Then make many cuts approx 5/8" apart but you will want to want to leave a section uncut to hold everything together for your second set of cuts. Like This:


Now set your "Stop" to 1-1/4" (1.25"). Turn the plywood 90 degrees and cut your tiny blocks off. Make sure to leave the section that is still connected attached like this:
.
WEAR SAFTEY GLASSES!!! as the parts are likely to fly around if you don't cut them carefully.

Now paint them all. I just set all of them on a large piece of cardboard and painted them all at once which still leaves one side unpainted. I'd do at least two coats before letting them dry and turning them over to paint the remaining side.

While your waiting for your paint to dry, Grab your pigtail wire. Any light guage wire will work for this part including speaker wire, or anything smaller than 20 guage, If you choose to use the telephone wire I used, you will need to extract the 4 wires inside the Sheath. I first cut my telephone wire into 30" sections (or longer if you wish), leaving the insulating sheath intact for now. Grab a cut piece and stretch it firmly and let go. You will see the interior wires begin to come out one end as the sheath begins to relax. Using needle nose plyers, remove them from the sheath all at once by holding the wire and sheath as straight as possible. If you are careful you will notice that the bundle of wires is slightly twisted in pairs of two wires. You can carefully separate them leaving the pairs still slightly twisted together.




Now strip approx 3/8" of sheathing off of ONE END of your small wires in preparation for soldering them to your copper weather strip nails. Try to leave them them twisted together in thier original pairs. I leave the other end alone for now as it makes it easier to snake the wires into the light fixtures later on. WARM up that soldering Iron for the next step.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
2,398 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
Vampire Clips and pigtails- part B

Now that your wires and blocks are prepared, You will need your copper coated weatherstrip Nails and Soldering iron. I chose the copper coated nails because they are SUPER CHEAP, and easy to solder to. Since they are soo cheap and easy to solder to.
I've only seen these at Home depot.


First, grab a section (one pair) of your "Prepped" wires and carefully wrap the exposed wires around the nails 1.5- 2 times. Use your plyers to force the wire up to the head of the nail being careful to keep the wire as high and tight, and neat as possible. Using a set of "helping hands", solder the wire to the nail as HIGH as possible (Tucked just under the head of the nail). Since the Nail has a LOT more mass than your wire, you will need to hold your soldering iron on the assembly for a little longer than you might think. If you have a strong soldering iron or Gun than you will need less time to properly heat the assembly and avoid a cold solder joint. If necessary, trim any excess wire off of your assembly. When your done it should look like this (Note the home made "helping hands").


Again, I tend to do things in an assembly line process. I did all of my soldering in once session, but you can do a few than install them in the blocks as I'm about to describe.

Use a Vise if you have one, open the jaws slightly to allow the nail tips to pass through the blocks, Place a block on the open jaws of the vise and VERY CAREFULLY and slowly, hammer the nails into the blocks using a smooth face hammer. For your first few, I would make some marks in pencil on the blocks. After you do 10 or so you can just "Eyeball" the spacing. The spacing you are seeking is about 1/4". Angle the wire slightly away from the center of your block as they sometimes twist as you hammer them down. They could touch in some extreme cases causing a short. Start 1 nail first but don't hammer it all the way down. Then start the second nail at your 1/4" spacing. If you don't drive them in too deep, you can adjust them Now before you hammer them all the way down. CHECK from two angles that you are Plumb (Straight up and down), adjust if necessary, then slowly hammer the two nails down (you could do them separately if you want). Be sure to seat them nicely (I usually hit them once or twice extra to get them all the way down and flush).


From experiance, you WILL mess this up a few times until you get the hang of it. If the nails "Drift" as you hammer them in, they might still be fine. You can adjust the tips a little bit with a pair of Plyers afterwards. If they drift "Wide" of each other, that's better than if they drift to close. You DO not want to cause a "short" with nails that are too close to effectively puncture your main landscape wire. Carefully inspect your nail head too. They can be VERY close. As long as they CLEARLY do not touch each other you will be fine. INSPECT each piece carefully before returning them to your "Completed pile". Once you get the hang of it you will only mess up a few. I did about 90 of them and only discarded 2-3.

Notice the spacing as it relates to the landscape wire. These last two pics are from last year. All of my new blocks are properly painted before this process.


If you mess a few up, just cut the wire off and start over using the remainder of your wire and a new block and nails. This process takes some patience and practice, but you WILL get the hang of it as you move through the process. It actually goes pretty quick once you get the hang of it.

If you LED's haven't come in yet you can do this next part first, I prefer to do it after the lights are fully assembled.

Warm up your hot glue gun. If you are confident that you have a nice heavy paint job on your blocks, you can now hot glue the entire top of these blocks including some of the pigtail wire. I'm now covering the entire block EXCEPT the nails tips in Hot glue, but it's mess and a PIA. In the picture you can see that I added some extra twists in the wire, and bent the wires like this before hot gluing. This is due to how you will be securing the vampire clips to your main wire in the future.
I'm not really sure that encasing the clip in hot glue is entirely necessary, but here's what it looks like when it's done.

UPDATE! I spent two hours at Lowes looking at different sealing techniques and different materials. I ended up buying some "Tool handle dip" but it's expensive ($10) compared to other parts of this build. As I was driving home feeling guilty about this purchase, I came up with some other Ideas. I tried a few different things with HOT Glue including melting some in an old tin cup and dipping them in and then Dunking them in ICE water. It worked OK but wasted WAY too much Hot glue and REALLY Stunk up the house (airing out now). Which brought me back to just using the hot glue gun. I'll be returning the "tool dip" unused.

VOILA!!!! The Key to coating the clips in hot glue is applying the glue in consistant small swirls while keeping the tip of the gun "in" the glue as you swirl it around. Then quickly dip it in some cool water. This gave me VERY Nice coverage and a fairly nice finished appearance. It took about 3-4 tries before I got the hang of it.

I started between the two nail tips and just covered each side being careful not to let the glue sag. I used the side of the glue gun tip to smooth out each side. This would thin out and even up the coverage. I finished by coating the wires to about 1" from the block. Once I was confidant that I had the entire block covered, I just dipped it in a small bucket of cool water to stop the glue from sagging. Since it was still a little warm I could use my fingers to "press" out any overt bumps with my fingers without the glue sticking to, or burning my fingers. Once I got the hang of it I didn't even need to do that.

Also, I discovered that getting a little glue on the nails isn't a big deal. I just used my fingernails to pluck off any excess glue from the very tip of the nails. As long as the nail tips extend at least 1/8" and are clean, they'll work fine. Mine did. Although you can just paint them, I think this "full coating" process will prolong the life of the clips dramatically.

As I said, this may be overkill but it works REALLY Well and should add several useful years to this part. Here's the new pic.


Feel free to experiment with other materials instead of plywood. The whole Idea is to make them effective, reliable and CHEAP. If anyone improves on the idea or has other suggestions to make them better or cheaper than feel free to post alternative solutions HERE. I will incorporate any improvements that look promising in this main tutorial. Mine did work flawlessly in thier first year of operation without one single failure (before they were painted or sealed). We'll see how they perform in the following years. There is always room for improvements.

Now on to the LED assembly.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,326 Posts
Greg what if you pre drill the nail hole with a hole about half to 3/4 the diameter of the nails using the drill press. that should eliminate drifting and wire alignment issues. you can make a jig for the drill press to line up the holes for the correct spacing. Also what about those plastic boards that they use for decks these days. that would eliminate the painting and the sealing of the blocks.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
2,398 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
Cap preparation and LED installation

Your LED Order just came in. Use a Multi-meter to check the value of your resistors to insure they are correct.

For testing you LED's as you build them (You will want to do this) you can use a 12V wall wart. Cut the fitting off, separate the wires a little, then strip them. Then, make make a tester like this.

Be careful to keep the area clean of extra wires or tools while using this thing. Metallic objects can short the wall wart out if they bridge the contacts, not to mention spark a bit. I prefer to hack an ATX computer power supply for the power source especially during halloween.. If you cause a short using a computer Power supply, it is "fault protected" and will just click off. More on that later. The wall wart was quick, cheap and easy. You can also use this to test other 12V Items (motors) as long as they don't exceed the amps of your wall wart or computer power supply.

Hpropman made an even simpler LED testor Here using a 9V batery and a resistor.

When creating groupings of 3 LED on a 12V pwer supply, your resistors should have close to these values:
Reds and Ambers should be in the 390 ohm range
Blues, Greens, Pinks, and Whites should be in the 120 ohm range.

Note: At the time this tutorial was being written, Asia Engineer was closed for vacation and thier site wasn't available. I was unable to provide exact available resistors values. Order the next highest value resistor to the ones listed above, if the exact values aren't listed. I used this LED CACULATOR to get my values. I will update this later.

It's Later:

The general rule is to find the next highest value for what an LED calculator would reccomend.

Reds and ambers 360ohm resistors from Asia Engineer (Closest I could find to 390ohm but still within the acceptable range, barely. Mine work fine with these)

Whites, greens, blues, and pinks- 100 ohm resistors from Asia Engineer. (still within the acceptable range, but barely)


Here is a picture of the LED patterns and schematics I used in my latest build. The patterns are all considered "in series". The purest example of series is the grouping of only 3. Once you add multiple groupings of 3 you are still hooking the LED's in series but in a modified pattern considered a "Series/paralell array. The LED's themselves are still wired in series, but connecting multiple groupings of them makes the groupings Paralell. If this confuses you, don't worry, it won't affect your ability to make your lights.


First, a little bit about the LED's from Asia Engineer. The brightness varies greatlly between different colors. That is why I started building more than 3 LED's into some of my fixtures. Although there are brighter LED's available elsewhere, these are more than adequate and SUPER CHEAP (approx 8 cents per LED)

Blue and whites are by far the brightest and would probably be OK with just 3 LED's

Green is the next brightest. about 2/3rds the light of the Blues and Whites. Still OK with just 3 LED's

Red and Ambers are about 1/2 the light output of the Blues and Whites.

Pinks are by far the weakest color. Probably 1/3rd the light of the whites and blues.

So far, Asia Engineer doesn't supply yellows which is a dissapointment. I found Yellow's Here

Groupings of 3 will be just fine for most applications. I built the stronger lights to throw more light a longer distance. If you are unsure, than make stronger reds, ambers, and pinks and even some whites. Experiment and make your own decisions.

Back to the Build.
There are several different methods of securing and soldering your LED's and resistors. After making 175 lights, I believe this method to be the fastest, but not necessarily the most compact.

Grab your 1" caps and Drill out holes in a 3, hole pattern (shown below) using a 3/16 drill bit. I would start with just 3 LED's untill you get the hang of building and testing your lights. Test the Fit your LED's (Should be perfect or just a little bit snug) before you drill a lot of them. Once you have a batch drilled, Clean up any burs and then lightly sand the top of the bottle caps. It will GREATLY help the super glue adhere when you get to that step.

Pick ONE COLOR ONLY for each segment of your build since they all look the same (Clear). You don't want to get them mixed up and install the wrong resistors or have multiple colors within one fixture. I would start with 5-10 fixtures of one color. Now, one cap at a time at a time, place the LED's in the cap Like this,

Pay close attention to the orientation. Each LED has a LONG leg (+) and a short leg (-).


For patterns of only 3, I place 1 LED on the far side of the cap, with the long lead to the left, twist the cap 120 degrees and then install your second LED EXACTLY the same way. Then twist another 120 degrees, and add the 3rd LED the SAME WAY. After all 3 are installed with proper orientation, I then Glue the LED's to the cap using your cheapo superglue and set aside to let the glue set up. You only need a SMALL amount of glue to do this. More glue won't hold better but will take a lot longer to dry. It will also make more glue vapor which can "Cloud" the lens of your LED's. You'll want good glue coverage, just don't over do it.

Start another cap. By the time you do 5-10 of them your first one will be dry enough to start working with it.


On to onnecting your resistors and soldering your LED's.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
2,398 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Wiring your LED's

Now that Glue is dry, it's time to wire you LED's together. There are a TON of different ways to do this. Some methods are more compact and some are neater, but this is the fastest method that I have found.

First bend one long(+) lead and one short (-) from two adjacent LED's slightly together like this.


Then twist them together Like this.

Don't twist them down tight or you could damage the LED's. Do this to ONE more pair so you have two pair connected. You should have 1 long and one short lead left on SEPARATE LED's Solder the twisted leads to the botom of the twists. then clip them so they look like This:


I usually wire my resistor to the short (-) lead that is leftover. make sure you have the correct resistor for the color lights you are currently building. To connect the resistor, I bend the short lead down over the side of the cap and hold the resistor with my thumb like this:


Twist the short (-) LED lead and the resistor Lead together leaving the other (+) lead alone for now. After twisting about 4-5 times to make a secure mechanical connection then solder them together. I usually leave a little but of space between the resistor so I can bend it straight afterwards without damaging it. Clip the excess off leaving about 1/8th" before straightening everything out. It should look like this.


Continued in the next post.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
2,398 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
Wiring your LED's part 2

Now straighten up your resistor assembly, I usually take the 1/8th" soldered part and bend it down to bring the resistor virtical. This keeps that joint away from the resistor for easier Hot Gluing later on. It should Look like this:


Now take your pigtail wire, and your finished light fixtures and snake the unstripped ends through the remaining hole of your light tubes untill they appear at the top. Pull enough through to strip the wire ends. Be carefull to not damage the insulation on the phone wire. Now strip the wire ends to about 3/8ths". Solder your negative wire (Black or green) if you are using the phone wire) to the remaining resistor lead using a similar technique as before. I use my thumb to old the wire against the cap while twisting.




Now Twist and solder your positive wire and lead together and it'll look like this.


Since humidity is ever present in outdoor environments, I suggest hot gluing all of the exposed wiring inside the tube. Cover everything EXCEPT the resistor. The Resistor dissapates heat and covering the resistor could cause it to fail. Also, make sure you don't get any glue on the sides of the cap otherwise you could prohibit insertion. If you do get some glue in a bad place, let it cool and snip it off with *****.


Let the Hot glue set up for a few minutes and your ready to insert your lights.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
2,398 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
Inserting the cap.

I always test my lights now before I insert them. They are difficult to remove (but it can be done). It's easier to fix anything that you might have done wrong at this point. Once your LED's test "Good" you can insert the caps in your fixtures.

First press the cap in to get started. the turn the whole thing upside down and press it untill the cap is flush with the the top of your tube. I do this because the caps have a slight ridge in them just before they get flush. This helps reduce the friction of pressing the caps in and possibly damaging the lights you works so hard on. Make sure your Pigtails don't bunch up in the tube behind the lights.




Now I use something small enough to fit between the LED's yet blunt enough that it won't puncture the cap to press the lights to the desired depth. For my purposes, the back of a pair of plyers worked well when using banks of 3 and 6. The Butt end of these plyers just happen to fit between the LED's. When doing banks of 9, a slightly different technique must be used to press them all the way in. NEVER Push direcly on the LED's since it takes considerable pressure to press the caps down.
I usually press them halfway, or a little more for a good starting point.


Now do a final test to make sure they work


Your ALMOST Done.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
2,398 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
Finishing Up

Now the final few steps.

I grab the Vampire connector and hold it up high letting the fixture hang by the wires (this will be the ONLY time there will be stress on your solder joints). I then give the fixture a few spins to give the wires a nice neat twisted appearance.

Then I place the mount on a table and angle the fixture to it's most extreme backward position. Notice that the wire hole is now at the top.


I then wrap the wire around the Ceiling hanger one time as a "pullout restraint".


Reset your light to a more normal position, Test one last time, and YOUR DONE with the actual fixtures.


For the connection process I will address how to hack a computer power supply Later. There are a TON of tutorials on you tube of how to do this.

Take your landscape wire and connect it to your power source using wire-nuts. On most computer power supplies the yellow wires are the 12V positive, and the black wires are the ground (negative). Take one of the clips that have at least 1 yellow and one black wire and cut it off. Strip One yellow and one black wire. Using wire nuts connect your landscape wire to the two stripped leads. Tape up any other leftover wires to prevent accidental grounding.
On Landscape wire, pay attention to which wire is attached to the Yellow and which is attached to the Black. Landscape wire always has a ridge on once side that you can feel with your fingers. Sometimes it also has writing on once side. Just take note as to which one you connected to your yellow wire as that will always be your positve wire throughout your entire system. Even if you make "Branches" on your main wires KEEP the polarity consistant and it will save a lot of time and headaches later on.

I use Dollar store "Hair Ties" to secure my lights to to the main wire. If you can find Black ones, they are a little more discreet. I also leave multiple loops of main wire in sections where I think I might want to pull the wire to add some other lights. My main wires meander in and out and around my whole haunt with a few extra branches going to more remote areas. I will do a sample drawing of a typical application soon.

To attach your lights you will need a small piece of wood for something to press down on, and your hair ties. Once you are satisfied that your main lines are close to where you want them, Turn on your power supply. Start Close to your power supply and match the positive part of the vampire clip with the positive part of your landscape wire. make sure the nails are centered on the individual wires. and Press down untill the light comes on. If it doesn't come on then turn the vampire clip the the other way in case you had your ploarity reversed, Once it lights, Press it in a little harder using your scrap of wood. You don't want to press it all the way through. In fact once it lights just give it a little extra squeeze to make good contact, then using the hair tie secure it like this.

Note that I started by hooking the hair tie it to one side of the block, wrapped it around the wires and then continued around a second time and attached it to the other side of the vampire clip. This connection is Surprisingly good. I usually give it one extra "squeeze" for good measure just to insure contact.


Once your first light is on, Aim it at you as you attach more lights. You always want to see at least ONE light on as you attach a new light. If they go Out??? you created a temporary short. Just remove the connector you were working on, restart your power supply, and reattach that vampire clip that caused the short. THIS HAPPENS ALL THE TIME while installing professional landscape lights. It's normal and safe as long as your using a computer power supply as your source of power.

In future posts I will be addressing computer power supply hacking, effective use of your landscape wire, 6, and 9 LED lights, and any other questions that come up. There are already a lot of threads out there on effective use of lighting.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
168 Posts
Hi all,

I have a quick question on this thread. I'm just barely gathering parts for the project, and noticed that these all run off the 12V line on the PC supply. I had thought ahead of time that they'd be running off the 5V line, as that's a closer voltage to the LED's I've always used in the past.

Forgive me if this was already answered in the tutorial (I could've missed it), but I'm curious why we go with the higher voltage line? Do these LED's want more juice? On my PC power supply, I have more 5V to play with than 12V. (Though I'm certain my 12V supply won't even come close to maxing out via the LED's.)

Thanks for the great tutorial, btw. Excellent info!

Dave
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
888 Posts
Hi all,

I have a quick question on this thread. I'm just barely gathering parts for the project, and noticed that these all run off the 12V line on the PC supply. I had thought ahead of time that they'd be running off the 5V line, as that's a closer voltage to the LED's I've always used in the past.

Forgive me if this was already answered in the tutorial (I could've missed it), but I'm curious why we go with the higher voltage line? Do these LED's want more juice? On my PC power supply, I have more 5V to play with than 12V. (Though I'm certain my 12V supply won't even come close to maxing out via the LED's.)

Thanks for the great tutorial, btw. Excellent info!

Dave
Mainly because a lot of us have animated props that run off of 12v DC. This allows us to get by with just one power source running throughout the haunt. Plus, there are a lot of automotive LED lighting solutions hitting the market that are already setup for 12v.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
168 Posts
Thanks Jaybo, that makes sense, as I have a bunch of 12V stuff myself I was planning to run off the 12V line anyway. Just seems a shame to waste all that 5V amperage. But, having not used the PC power supplies before this year, I can see where running only one power line would be a whole lot easier.

Dave
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,520 Posts
There is some advantage to using the 5V output in that there is less difference in the supply voltage and the forward voltage of the LEDs. Much less energy is dissipated as heat, and smaller, lower wattage resistors can be used. Not really a big deal in most cases, but if you're running 100's of LEDs (or high brightness 1 or 3 watt LEDs) it can add up.
 
1 - 20 of 99 Posts
Top