Introduction: LED Star Ornaments

Picture of LED Star Ornaments
This instructable is about making stars shine brightly. A while ago, it was also about making Christmas trees without cutting down trees. These LED Christmas trees have an Instructable of their own now. They're still in the videoclip, though.

If you can solder a little, you can make LED stars. The stars can be made 6 to 10 cm wide and use a 9 Volt battery as a pedestal.
If you want to easily change batteries, take a look at step 5. The star can be mounted on a 9 Volt battery clip...

No video playing? Have a look at it here...

So get your soldering iron, grab your LEDs, find some batteries and kick off the christmas decorating season.

If you're uncertain about your soldering skills: Start with making the star. It's easy. You can do it. Really. Trust me.

Still in doubt whether you should make the star or not? Here's the one decisive reason you were waiting for:
The first three Makers who post a picture of their self-made star in the comments get a 3 months Pro Membership gift code from me.
An additional one year Pro Membership gift code goes to the maker of the funniest / loveliest / greatest picture that involves a LED star :-)

december 17th: 
lmijacevic gets the first of three 3 Months Pro Membership codes!

Step 1: Stuff and Tools

Picture of Stuff and Tools
For a christmas LED star you need:
  • 5 red leds, with a 5mm or 10 mm dome: up to you. The LEDs must be red to shine properly on a 9 Volt battery. I used LEDs with opaque domes as well as clear. Use what you think looks best.
  • 9 Volt battery.
  • 10 cm of sturdy solid copperwire.
If you want a *blinking* LED star, you'll need different types of LEDs:
  • 1 blinking LED, 5 mm dome, red. I bought this one, it works on anything from 3 to 12 Volts.
  • 4 "Low current" LEDs, 5 mm clear dome, red. These are LEDs that light up at very small currents. I bought these.  

All parts for the star can easily be ordered at RadioShack, Mouser (if you live in he US), or Farnell or Conrad (Euro's, Aussies, rest of the world).
If you're new to electronics: buy a assortment of LEDs like this one.

The star costs about €1,60 / US $2,- if you can get a carbon-zinc battery for under €1,-
A blinking star costs about €2,90

Tools and other stuff needed:
  • For a template: 5mm plywood or something similar.
  • Soldering iron and solder
  • Pliers or pincers
  • Polymer clay or a third hand to fix parts for soldering
  • Multimeter for debugging

Step 2: The Layout

Picture of The Layout

Christmas LED Star:
The circuit for the LED star is not very complicated. As a matter of fact, it is pretty easy: Five LEDs connected head to tail in one circuit.

The switch in the circuit is not a physical part of the star: The star lights up (the circuit is closed) by planting a wire into the plus-connector of the battery.

You say it's easy, so nothing can go wrong?
Uuuuhhhmmm... well, you could make a mistake with connecting the LEDs "head-to-tail". Have a look at this I'ble (step 2 is about LEDs) if you're not sure about LEDs having heads and tails...

Step 3: Make the LED Star

Picture of Make the LED Star
To make soldering the LEDs as easy as possible, I made a template out of plywood. It's a circle with marks for the five leds.
  • Place the LEDs on the template.
  • Bend the LEDs leads in an angle so that adjacent leads cross each other. 
  • Fix the leads on the template with sticky tape.
  • Solder the crossing leads (five times).
  • Cut away protruding leads with small pliers.

Now you have a closed star.
  • Cut away your least succesfull soldered joint.
  • Now you have a star with a gap.

Test it:
Connect the ends of the star to the battery's poles. Mind the polarity of LEDs and battery! If the LEDs light up: Hooray. If not:
  • Most likely, you connected at least one of the LEDs head-to-head instead of head to tail.
  • If you lined up the LEDs correctly and it is STILL not working (this happened to me...): One of the LEDs might be broken. Check each led individually with a multimeter or a 3V coin cell or, if you have it, a 3V power supply.

Solder a sturdy, solid copper wire (about 4 cm / 1.5") to the minus-side of the LED string. See picture 3 in this step.

Step 4: Finish Up

Picture of Finish Up
Almost done! The final step is to solder a piece of solid wire to the battery's minus-pole.

This is a little tricky to solder:
  • Take a piece of wire as long as the wire you just soldered to the star's minus-side.
  • Lay down the battery and place the wire into the battery's biggest connector (noted with a minus-sign).
  • To solder the wire onto the connector, make sure both wire and connector are well heated before adding solder.

Make sure wire and battery are fixed. Use tape, a third hand or small objects to make sure battery and wire are properly lined up and can't slide away.

Finally, solder the other end of the wire to the LED star's plus-side.

And you're done :-D

Liked it? Continue making a tree. It takes a bit more work / patience, but is well worth it! If you can make the star, you can make the tree!

Step 5: Adding a Battery Clip...

Picture of Adding a Battery Clip...
To be able to change the battery a it more easily, I mounted the star on the innards of a 9 Volt battery clip. Instead of solid wire, I used two 60 Ohm resistors. The resistors limit the current through the LEDs, which increases battery life and lengthens the LEDs lives. The copper wires are more rigid than the resistors, so this version is a bit more fragile than the previous.

The pictures take you through the surgery of the clip, it's pretty straightforward I think:
  • Cut away the soft plastic casing with a sharp knife.
  • Desolder the wires from the connectors.
  • Solder a 60 Ohm resistor to the small connector.
  • Solder the other side of the resistor to the stars' minus-lead.
  • Solder another 60 Ohm connector to the stars plus-lead.

Mount the battery-clip-with-star carefully on a battery. Now you're done. Again :-)


masynmachien (author)2012-12-08

Hi Ynze,

I'm going to make some, but can you tell me how long the Conrad Zinc Carbon batteries typically last on a tree?

ynze (author)masynmachien2012-12-14

I just checked: Zin-carbon batteries capacity is about 400 mAh, alkaline batteries do a little better: 565 mAh. With a 120 Ohm resistor, a star should last about 5-6 hours on a zinc carbon battery. I feel a need to mount the stars on a 9 Volt battery clip...

ynze (author)masynmachien2012-12-08

Consider making *blinking* stars :-) The video is in the intro, the LED-specs are in step 1...

ynze (author)masynmachien2012-12-08

Uuuuhhhmmmm, many hours, esp when you add a 120 Ohm resistor. The trees I made still work on the original battery. Could you post a pic of the finished trees?


MoonDocker (author)2013-11-27

Great Idea! I made up a bunch of these to hand out for Christmas. I found out that if the 9 volt battery is not up to full charge it will only light up 3 or 4 LEDs. I also had a few LEDs that were more than 2 volts and you could not light 5 up with a 9 volt battery.
Thanks for the idea.

mischka (author)2013-05-21

Yesterday I made one with my 6yo nephew. Really cool project for kids to learn soldering!

pjuica (author)2013-03-08


robochick (author)2013-02-14

Incredibly adorable!

daboys (author)2013-01-02

Don't you need to have resistors before the leds?

ynze (author)daboys2013-01-02

It'a not necessary when you stick to 5 red leds. I left them out to keep the making of The stars as easy as possible. You can add a 120 Ohm resistor to spare battery live and protect the LEDs. I did that in the final step...

DoctorLazar (author)2012-12-17

I managed to make this two somehow, I think they're pretty but strangely they work good only on 15V power supply. I don't know why... Not much...Top LED on the tree is changing color from red to blue. used blinking LED in other tree. Yellow and blue LEDs aswell.
I used old univrsal laptop charger for supplying.
My camera is bad,sorry for that.
Thank's a lot for this :D

ynze (author)DoctorLazar2012-12-17

I like the tree A LOT! I think your circuit is a little different than mine, looking at your pictures I think you connected all the leds in series (in the same "loop"). For the star, that works fine. To power the tree with a 9V battery, you need to make two groups of three leds in series. Like the circuit in step 2 over here:

Anyway, your 3 month pro-membership is well deserved! Great job, thanks for posting!

ynze (author)ynze2012-12-17

Here's the christmas tree circuit...

DoctorLazar (author)ynze2012-12-17

It's working great now, thank you! I just have to ask, you will it work if I replace red LED with blinking LED, will the whole tree blink?

ynze (author)DoctorLazar2012-12-17

Your tree: Yes :-)
My tree: no :-(

Give it a try!

DoctorLazar (author)ynze2012-12-18

I tried... Didn't work :-/

ynze (author)DoctorLazar2012-12-18

No light at all? Or blinking faintly?

emilyvanleemput (author)2012-12-15

I'm going to make these :D

ynze (author)emilyvanleemput2012-12-15

Oh please do! And post a picture when you're done, pleeeeeaaaaaasssssseeee??? :-)

wa7jos (author)2012-12-13

Carefully disassemble a dead 9V battery (everybody has plenty of those, right?) and salvage the connector.
Solder the LED's to that (instead of directly to the battery).
That gives you a way to turn it off, and to replace the battery when discharged.

ynze (author)wa7jos2012-12-14

I used a battery clip. It's in step 5.

ynze (author)wa7jos2012-12-13

...but how to connect the salvaged connectors to the battery?

wa7jos (author)ynze2012-12-13

A battery clip is just the mirror image of the battery top. A salvaged battery top snaps right onto a battery.

ynze (author)wa7jos2012-12-13

Owwwwwwwwwwwwww, I overlooked that. I considered hacking a batteryclip, but this is the no-budget solution :-)


masynmachien (author)2012-12-14

Here's my first build. Because I was planning to use these as Christmas decoration at work I needed them to last at least a week. While looking for parts on the Conrad site I saw a terribly kitschy USB bowered miniature Christmas decoration and thought: That's it! I'm going to use USB-ports of the many computers available at work. I made trees with pairs of green LEDs in series an three of those pairs in parallel to make a tree (see the schematic). I started with a red LED on top, with a resitor in series. Then I replaced it with a colour changing LED. Those LEDs can be powered on 5V directly, but I kept the resistor to trim the brightness down, matching the brightness better with the green LEDs. The USB connector is made with a piece of stripboard. I added a fast 500mA fuse to reassure our IT-department, as rumors go that the USB short circuit protection on PC's isn't very reliable. Where leads that should not contact come close to each other I added a drop of hot melt glue as a insulating spacer.

ynze (author)masynmachien2012-12-14

Coooooooooooooooool! Thanks for the post! The color changing LED is a nice treat!

You just got yourself a 3 month pro-membership :-)

wobbler (author)2012-12-14

Great idea and I really like how the wires make the shape, no messing about with circuit boards. Although these obviously work, I would always put a current limiting resistor in to a circuit like this. I'd suggest 47-220ohms should be ok. This will limit the current and they should therefore run for longer, but its main function is to stop your LEDs getting burnt out by too high a current. However, these 9v batteries have a relatively high internal resistance so the cells themselves act as current limiters, esp. on old batteries. Iif you replaced the battery with a 9v PSU though, it could be dodgy. I noticed you mentioned a 120ohm resistor in one of your replies, which is a good idea.
Merry Christmas! *<||;o)>

karlpinturr (author)2012-12-03

Very nice indeed! Borrowing an idea from the Evil Mad Scientists site (, replacing one of the star's LED's with a flickering LED should make the whole thing flash - though you'd obviously have to keep an eye on voltages,

And I'm not sure quite how you might fit one into the tree - you'd probably only want the top 'star' LED flashing, I assume, so you might end up needing resistors...

Personally, I find it almost impossible no to leave a soldering iron on too long, and wouldn't want to overheat a battery, so I'd open up an old 'snap connector' and solder the copper wire to THAT.

ynze (author)karlpinturr2012-12-03

Oww, that blinking LED is a nice idea! Worth a try...

janw (author)ynze2012-12-05

Great project Ynze. I once did build a Valentines Heart with 1 blinking led in the middel. It's a great way to make the whole thing blink.

ynze (author)janw2012-12-05

Thanks! Today, I bought myself two blinking LEDs! It's pakjesavond, you know :-)

janw (author)ynze2012-12-05

Wow, I bet that that was the most expensive present ever :)

ynze (author)janw2012-12-13

...but boy, did I have FUN with that blinking LED, for just 95 cents :-)

janw (author)ynze2012-12-14

That's not cheap for a blinking LED. I pay only 0.33 for a blue one and that is the most expensive that they have. For only 0.21 you hasve one that flashes alternating between blue and red.

Have a look at

ynze (author)karlpinturr2012-12-08

IT WORKS!! One blinking LED in series with 4 low current LEDs do the Christmas Star Trick! Despite of specs that very clearly indicate that it's "impossible" :-)

I made a video, it's in the intro...

karlpinturr (author)ynze2012-12-09

Glad to help - it looks good.

One thing I'm not clear on - why did you go for 'low current' LED's? I've looked again at the EvilMadScientist page, and can't find any such reference. Is it jus to prolong battery life?

ynze (author)karlpinturr2012-12-09

The problem is the voltage drop of the LEDs. The battery provides 9 Volts, and the leds are in series. So the battery's voltage will be -sort of- equally divided over the LEDs in the circuit. The blinking LED has, according to the specs, a voltage drop of 3V. The low current LEDs have a voltage drop of 1.8 V...

So, in theory, the star *shouldn't work* : 4 x 1.8 Volts (low current leds) + 3 Volt (blinking LED) = 10.2 Volts. That's about 1 Volt higher than the 9 Volt available :-s

I decided, against the odds, to give it a try anyway. To have some chance for success, I bought low current LEDs (with the lowest voltage-drop) I could get.

... and, to my surprise, it worked!

killbox (author)ynze2012-12-13

yah, most blinking led's will work down to just about 2v, they just get dimmer.

karlpinturr (author)ynze2012-12-09

Ah! Thanks for that.

I assume it works because all the voltages are, essentially, 'nominal' - that is, the battery can't give exactly 9 volts, so is manufctured to give a little more, and the LED's can be overdriven by an amount before you shorten their lives considerably - and everything just happens to match up...

racoontnn (author)2012-12-13

Wonderful, amazingly simple and effective!

ynze (author)racoontnn2012-12-13


awoodcarver (author)2012-12-13

Very neat my wife loves the star and the tree , a few years ago she found some at the local $.1 store and over the years they have fallen apart ,,,,time to reuse the LEDS and the blinking ones they had in a gummy candy at 3 for a buck into trees and stars
I do like the template very good idea

ynze (author)awoodcarver2012-12-13

Thanks! Please post a pic when you made them.


breumer (author)2012-12-13

Awesome! I,m going to make these with the girls ! Thanks

ynze (author)breumer2012-12-13

Cool, have fun! Stay tuned, I'm working on an update since so many people seem to like this...

Orngrimm (author)2012-12-11

Ah... Nice one!
Especially i like the "bare" 9V-Blocks and how they are used as part of the estetics.

iOskr (author)2012-12-10

Looks great. Good work.

FabiojapaXD (author)2012-12-10

That's so awesome!

ynze (author)FabiojapaXD2012-12-10

Thanks! Glad you like it.


mischka (author)2012-12-06

Very nice! Like!

About This Instructable




Bio: Also have a look at member Monster-Marit. She Rocks (I'm a bit prejudiced, though :-))
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