After spending a drunken weekend sitting in a caravan awning in damp field with some mates and occasionally thinking to myself "It's a bit dark in here" , I decided to build something to act as a general purpose low-voltage LED light to make the awning a little bit brighter when the sun goes down.
This is cheap as chips to make, and could be customisable to meet your needs, but the aim was to pull together something using cheap or recovered parts from old / dismantled projects that could run off a 12V DC leisure battery, and in theory the lights could be daisy chained for more brightness or to light up a larger space.
Apologies for the varied quality of the photographs, but hopefully they'll illustrate the intent if nothing else.
Equipment - What you'll need
- Some sort of plastic tube - I used 20mm pipe and is available at about £1 per 2 meter length in the UK, but second hand pipe would work fine
- LED lighting with a self adhesive backing - you can pick these up on ebay for around £1 if you're prepared to wait for post from China, or if you have any offcuts lying round they'll work fine as well
- cable, screw terminals & a 12V connector - what you use will depend on many factors: available outlets etc
- silicone sealant
Tools - what you'll need
- Some form of cutting tool for the pipe - I used a small rotary cutter / Dremell tool
- Soldering iron & solder
- screwdrivers / wirecutters etc
Step 1: Preparing the Pipe
First off - take your pipe and decide what length of striplight you want to make, I went with a 1 meter length. Be aware that the longer the length of final product, the greater the current required by the lights, so size your cables and connectors appropriately.
Then mark on the pipe the area you want to cut out of the pipe - you're looking to cut the pipe roughly in two, but leaving a short length at either end to help give the pipe a bit of rigidity, and also give you something to secure some bungee cord or velcro to, to be able to tie the whole thing to a suitable place (for example an awning pole).
Once you're happy with your marking, use a rotary tool to carefully cut off the excess plastic, then clean any plastic dust or residue off the pipe, and it's time to start work on the electrical side of things
Step 2: Connectors & the LEDs
Exactly how you do this is up to you, but I started off by preparing each "end" of the led strip:
The "input" was a length of cable from a 12V cigarette lighter plug, through to a terminal block, so the simplest way to attach this to the LED strip was via the pre-soldered wires on the strip
The outlet is a 2-pole "Aviation plug", to which I soldered a short length of cable
I then fed the LED strip into the half-cut plastic pipe and slightly "out" of the outlet end, so I could solder on the aviation plug wires - the beauty of the LED strips is that power runs down the length of the strip, with the LEDs effectively in parallel; so it's easy to daisy chain them together without running long wires down the length of the pipe to act as "outlet power" to the next striplight in the chain (each short section of LED strip had + and - points to solder a wire onto). Once I'd soldered up the outlet socket to the strip, I pulled the excess strip back into the body of the pipe, and removed the backing from the strip and applied it to the inside of the pipe so the self adhesive backing stuck to the pipe (hopefully this makes more sense in the pictures)
at the "input end" of the pipe, I fed the terminal block and wire out through the other end (with the terminal block cunningly hidden inside the section of tube at that end), and ensured the entire length of led was securely stuck to the inside of the pipe
Step 3: Sealing It All Up
As a final step, I used some silicone sealant and pumped it into the holes at either end. This will act as something to keep any damp out of the terminals, and also serve to hold the wires in place. You could probably use some form of hot glue or other adhesive - I just used what I had lying round
Let the silicone go off and you're all done
So that's it: simple but remarkably bright for something from spare parts. Now I've done one and it's working I'll probably do a few more to daisy-chain together, but hope this proves interesting or food for thought