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EL Wire Cube Sculpture

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Picture of EL Wire Cube Sculpture
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Materials:

7x7x3/4" steel plate
10' of 3/4" square steel tubing
5 colors of el wire, each color is a single strand approximately 8ft, each color forms a "band" of parallel strands, 10 strands wide, each strand is 2.2mm thick
EL Wire splitter 5-output
12 VDC EL Wire inverter capable of lighting 27-40 ft
12 VDC Wall transformer

Tools:

More than you're likely to have lying around the house. I do all my work at TechShop in San Francisco

manual mill/cnc tormach
bandsaw
drill & tap
weldor
angle grinder
powder coater
soldering iron
 
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Step 1: 3D Model

Picture of 3D Model
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Design the location of the wires in a 3D modeling program (or just use my design). You don't need the cube to be structurally accurate for this part (ie: made up of hollow bars, etc), you're just trying to figure out the spacing and placement of the wires so that none of the color bands collide with the others.

Step 2: Facing and Milling

Picture of Facing and Milling
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I used hot rolled steel which is cheaper than cold rolled, but requires more finishing. My plate arrived covered in limescale and rust. I first faced it on a manual mill.

Then I hollowed out a pocket in the bottom of the plate using a CNC tormach, cause I was tired of milling manually :) . I left raised corners in the pocket, recessed from the bottom surface of the cube just enough to rest an acrylic plate on the corners and have it sit flush with the bottom of the cube. Then I drilled and tapped holes in the raised corners so that I could later screw the acrylic plate into place. That plate will end up holding all the wiring in the pocket.
(Note: a similar resulting shape could probably be achieved by welding a thin steel plate onto a welded square made from the tubing, but I'm not a very experienced welder and I optimized design for the cleanest looking cube.)
nerd74731 year ago
are you planning on giving this to a museum?
mzhang31 year ago
What amazing craft .there is nothing you can not do about it .... the only limitation is your imagination . here http://www.i-unique.com is your inspiration source !
nerd74731 year ago
1 word: epic!!!!
kuorus1 year ago
Nice project! I love that kind of stuff for my desk.
I just have a question. Since EL needs AC, couldn't just plug 220VAC from wall directly to the EL wire? I mean, you are converting 220VAC to 12VDC just to invert it again. Maybe 220VAC is too much, but using a voltage regulator could do the trick.
great idea! would like to see it in the dark...
gtoal2 years ago
I like it! A riff on the string and nail art from the 70's. Would be very easy to do in 2D (but does EL wire allow for sharp bends? Or do you have to work it with smooth curves like neon?)
nicole.allard (author)  gtoal1 year ago
Smooth curves. Kinking the wire causes it to short. Even the stitches on the bottom of my cube were a little too sharp. Caused a lot of shorts.
gtoal gtoal2 years ago
Since I can't edit the link in my comment I'll have to post a followup; I googled it and string art is properly called "Symmography" - here's a better link: http://www.alinasadventuresinhomemaking.com/2012/02/a-symmography-tutorial.html
sd2kool4u2 years ago
how much money did this cost all around
nicole.allard (author)  sd2kool4u1 year ago
I think it was around $100.
trainbike2 years ago
hi nice project i hope to do it sometime soon but may i ask you were you got your supplies like the 5-way splitter thx.
nicole.allard (author)  trainbike2 years ago
My initial EL wire supplies were ordred from thatscoolwire.com.
I ordered: I was very pleased with everything that I received, except that one color of the wire (Purple) did not glow as bright as the others (Power Green, Dark Blue, Orange, Red). That's just an unfortunate issue when working with EL wire is that different colors will glow with different intensities.

That's when I found a nearby place called Fun House Productions in Oakland. They mostly distribute through their website, but I was able to go into their office and see all the colors of wire that they sold so that I could be sure that the wire I chose would match my 4 other colors in brightness. While I was there I bought a toggle switch and extension wire that they recommended in answer to my questions regarding a power switch. They were able to answer my questions and ensured that I didn't attach a switch the wrong section of wire and blow my inverter.

If you live in the Bay Area I highly recommend going to Fun House Productions in person as they're incredibly helpful and it helps to see what you're buying in person. If not, either site should ship similar quality products.
thx
longwinters2 years ago
It seems like it might be a little structurally unsound, are you sure you used strong enough materials?
Of course I'm kidding and I sent you one of my scarce patches to prove it.

I think one of the highest compliments you can give a person here is:
"that gives me an idea!" And yours did.

A lights low or off pic would be nice, as Awesome said.
nicole.allard (author)  longwinters2 years ago
If only I could weld aluminum :(
But alas, until I master that skill, I'm stuck building 30lb indestructible sculptures.

Can't wait to see your idea come to fruition.

As for the much requested low lights pic, it will have to wait until I visit my cube in Canada, prolly around Christmastime. The recipient of the cube isn't much a photographer.
I'm glad you saw the humor in my comment, sometimes peope can take what I say the wrong way, having spent a year fabricating communication domes for remote Alaskan villages I can tell you aluminum is not as difficult as some make it seam, sorry seem, anything over 3/16 is a breeze, the problem is it does not look pretty while doing it, after welding steel, alu seems like spitting molten metal with a squirt gun, but pretty soon the joints start to look like you know what your doing.

I remember one day my boss thought he could weld better than me, I'd been welding for months by then, he couldn't strike an arc, so I set the current for him, then he couln't keep a bead, so I set the gas and feed speed for him, then he kept sticking the wire so I set up the right tip for him, by then he figured out if I wasn't doing it his way, it was for a reason, still makes me smile.

If you have access to a wire feed welder I would encourage you to try a few practice welds, if nothing else it's alot easier to grind down a lumpy alu weld.
Top notch! You should take a picture with the lights off.
kretzlord2 years ago
this is absolutely amazing!!!! It makes inside the box seem pretty cool...
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