Instructables

(Almost) Idiot-Proof LED Hanukkah/Chanukah Menorah

Picture of (Almost) Idiot-Proof LED Hanukkah/Chanukah Menorah
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Hanukkah is the festival of lights. The illumination from a Hanukkah menorah (hanukkiya, if you want to be accurate) sheds a peaceful glow, meant to be displayed to the world, preferably in your front window.

However, in my place at least, sticking a burning candelabra in your front window is just asking to set the house on fire.

That’s where LEDs come in.

There are all kinds of beautiful, expensive electric menorahs for sale, but it’s a lot more fun to make your own LED menorah.

Now, if you are a technical wizard, Instructables offers other pro-level light-up menorah instructions. Go for it if you like! In my case, with the most rudimentary electronics knowledge and no desire to do a crash course in electronics for this project, I decided to make my own (almost) idiot-proof version.
 
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Step 1: The Backstory

It all started during the Schoochamaroo Challenge: Bling contest, when I was shopping for bling at AC Moore. I came across this string of LED lights with a battery pack, already assembled, and I thought it might be good as an embellishment for my candle-powered carousel.

When I opened the package, though, I discovered there were eight lights. Bingo! With Hanukkah coming up, I thought I’d have a go at making my own LED menorah, which I have always wanted but could never afford the ones I liked. All I’d need to do would be to integrate an additional LED, add a switch, and apply a structure to the candelabra.

Easier said than done.

On another shopping trip, I stopped in at the local Radio Shack. It was a painful experience. You know what it’s like if you’ve tried to do something like this before. They were displaying a cool project flyer for a light-up holiday card, and I thought I could get some ideas from it for my hanukkiya. So I took the flyer and started shopping for parts.

They had not one single part from the project in stock.

After gently berating the sales clerk for offering a project with none of the parts for it in stock, I left with a couple of different packages of LEDs and no switch. Their stock of switches was especially tiny, but I thought I might be able to reuse one from a project that had dead-ended a couple of years ago. And no, there are no other electronics supply places near me that I know of.
Eleezen2 years ago
its so funny you know....Its a very nice idea of decorating the LED as menorah models and the white basic color is perfect to give an ice like view to the < a href=
"http://www.hanukkahsale.com/">hannukah decoration .
Eleezen2 years ago
its so funny you know....Its a very nice idea of decorating the LED as menorah models and the white basic color is perfect to give an ice like view to the < a href=
"http://www.hanukkahsale.com/">hannukah decoration .
Chrystalkay2 years ago
Question/Sugestion:
I am assumeing the lights can be connected to wire long enough to go from top to where the base starts...yes? Don't you think it would be better to use heat shrink around the wires? It would be more compact than electrical tape, I would think.
The lights would be made seperatly with just the wires sticking out from the end instead of connected while trying to shape the 'candles'.
This way, the "candles could be shaped by rolling the plastic on saran wrap before they harden all the way. That would make a smoother, straighter candle. Then the wires could be attached to the base battery connections, and the flat wrap-around pieces added once the candles were fully setup.
Would this work? I am trying to visualize this without trying it.

This idea has cool adaptations that are filling my head. Thank you for making the Ible!
Phil B2 years ago
When you test an LED with battery power there is always the possibility your battery is big enough to send enough current through the LED that the LED will be destroyed. If and when you buy your new digital multi-meter, you may want to buy one with an LED check setting. Look for the symbol for a diode on the dial, which is (very crudely) -->|--. Attach the meter's probes twice, once in each direction. One reading will be considerably higher on a working LED. Note where the red probe is on that test. That is the positive terminal of the LED. Also, the meter is configured to send only a very low current through the LED in order to protect it during testing. If you plan to do a lot with LEDs, the diode check feature is worthwhile. (PS If the diode check shows no readings or two identical readings, the LED is defective.)
susanrm (author)  Phil B2 years ago
Thanks. With 8 other LEDs drawing power at the same time from the batteries, I highly doubt an overload blew the LED, especially when a second LED with the same specs worked perfectly fine. That's a great suggestion on the multimeter. Thank you!
Phil B susanrm2 years ago
Another problem with semi-conductors, like LEDs, is that they are also very sensitive to static electricity. People who open up computers to work on them always ground themselves in some way to neutralize any charges on themselves. That can be as simple as rolling up shirtsleeves and resting forearms on the bare metal case while working inside so that any differences in static charges between the person and the computer are equalized. For things like LEDs there are anti-static mats and wrist straps. A static discharge so slight you do not feel any shock or see any spark is still strong enough to kill a semi-conductor device. There is always the possibility that is what happened to your defective LED. It may have been static on you, or on someone who handled it at the factory.
susanrm (author)  Phil B2 years ago
Yes, I've done quite a lot of work on computers, laptops, etc. and have always grounded myself. Never knew that was an issue with LEDs, and I'm surprised there is no warning on them if you are correct. There are warnings on other sensitive components, like RAM.
Phil B susanrm2 years ago
I really have not done much with LEDs. I did destroy a couple of field effect transistors for no good reason other than static. Semi-conductors are sensitive and LEDs are semi-conductors. I did an Internet search for LEDs and static electricity. I did not find any direct warnings about static and handling LEDs, but did find a couple of things that suggested LEDs can be affected by static. Maybe someone else will chime in with more information.
sunshiine2 years ago
This is an interesting instructable. I love the effect. Thanks for sharing Susan!
Have a nice day!
Sunshiine
susanrm (author)  sunshiine2 years ago
Thanks, Sunshiine! I tried to make it so simple that someone with almost no electronics knowledge would be able to make one.
Phil B2 years ago
Congratulations on your project. Thank you for posting it. LEDs are semi-conductors, and semi-conductors are very sensitive to the heat of the soldering iron during soldering. A heat sink is usually suggested. You can make an impromptu heat sink by placing a rubber band across the two handles of a thin nose pliers to keep it normally closed. Pry the jaws open and allow it to clamp onto one of the wires coming out of your LED midway between the LED and where you will solder. When finished, move the pliers to the other wire from the LED and solder it. It appears you did well, anyway. (I looked for an indication you had used a heat sink, but did not notice any.)
susanrm (author)  Phil B2 years ago
Good tip. I've soldered LEDs several times at Maker Faire events, and nobody ever suggested a heat sink.