Introduction: EL Wire: Daisy Chaining Different Colors

I've been interested in trying out some EL Wire for a long time, so I finally caved in and ordered a "20 Foot Grab Bag" from thatscoolwire.com. Along with it, I made sure to order an inverter that would power about 20-25 feet of wire.

While I patiently waited for my order to arrive, it became apparently clear that I had neglected to order any "connecters" which just about every EL Wire Instructable, or other info guide covers how to attach those, but not wire EL wire to El wire. It wasn't until I delved further (almost the last step) into Pyrotect's EL Wire Instructable, that I found out it was even possible to solder both different colors, and different sizes together.

I didn't particularly like the method he used, so after reading about a few more techniques I collected the info and comprised it into my own.

Here it is.

Step 1: Materials and Parts

The main difference between the materials in the method Pyrotect mentions, and mine, is Copper Tape. You won't need any for mine, and with the rising price of copper lately, that should save you quite a bit of money. Probably enough to pick up a second "Grab Bag".
  • Here are the materials you'll need:
  • Soldering Iron + Solder
  • Wire Stripper
  • Heat Shrink Tubing (I used 1/4 inch)
  • X-Acto Knife
  • Electrical Tape (optional)
  • Lighter (semi-optional)
  • Kleenex (semi-optional)
On a side note, I was extremely satisfied with the "20 Foot Grab Bag" that I ordered from thatscoolwire.com. They probably gave me somewhere around 30-40 feet of wire, some of every size, and a few of them included connectors which I could hook up to my inverter (otherwise I would have had to hard wire it to the inverter, and it wouldn't be (dis)connectable). It was a really good way to learn, and get a feel for the differences between the sized wires, and it was just a fun overall learning experience.

Step 2: Know Your Wire

I started out this little project not knowing much about EL Wire. I really wanted to learn how it worked, and thankfully it's pretty easy to understand. We'll start out with the components that make up each piece of wire, which vary in diameters between 1mm and 5mm.

Color Cover - This is the outermost layer of the EL Wire, and is a vinyl plastic that determines the color in which the wire will glow.

Clear Case - A protective layer that separates the Color Cover from the Corona Wires and the Phosphor coating.

Corona (Angel) Wires - Along with the Copper wire on the inner core, these carry high voltage, high frequency power to make the phosphor glow. If these make contact with the bare copper, it will cause a short, and your wire won't work while they're contacting.

Phosphor - This coating on the Copper core is what makes EL Wire glow.

Copper - Similar to the Corona Wires, the Copper carries a high voltage, high frequency power, to make the Phosphor coating glow.

Step 3: Daisy Chaining Method

The method for daisy chaining, as seen in Pyrotect's Instructable involves connecting the wires in a straight line (end to end), and once soldered, leaves large black (unlit) gaps where the heat shrink tubing was used. Keeping the Corona Wires, and Copper Core from making contact is also much more difficult, and requires pre-feeding two different size of heat shrink tubing, and also involves the use of copper tape.

With this method, the end result is a seamless transition between colors, and is much easier to solder. It's easy to keep the Corona Wires and Copper Core separate, and only requires one size of heat shrink tubing, plus you don't need any copper tape.

Step 4: Prep the Wire: Part 1

The first step to prepping the wire is to strip off the outer Color Cover. This should be pretty easy to do with wire strippers (even cheap ones), and is probably the easiest part of the EL Wire to get apart.

You'll want to take off about 1 to 1.5 inches of the Color Cover.

Step 5: Prep the Wire: Part 2

This next step is probably the hardest. This is where you need to remove the Clear Case, however the Corona Wires are incredibly fragile, and if pinched, will likely break off with this step, and you'll have to start all over at Prepping the Wire: Part 1.

There are a few ways you can go about taking off the Clear Case without harming the Corona Wires.

1. Use a good wire cutter and practice - it takes some practice to be able to remove the Clear Case without harming the Corona Wires. If you can, dedicate about a foot length of scrap wire to just practicing. I found myself starting with this method, but after messing up a few ends tried method two, and found it to be easier (since I have a crappy wire stripper).

2. Melt/Burn it off - this should be done outside, or in a spot with good ventilation. DO NOT BREATHE IN THE FUMES. They are most  likely harmful, and will cause some sort of cancer in the state of California.

Use a flame/lighter - This is the method I prefer. The goal here is to heat up the Clear Case using the tip of the flame, and rotating the wire so it melts evenly. Once heated thoroughly, have your Kleenex ready, and use it to pull of the case (which should separate easily from the Corona Wires and Phosphor).

Use a soldering iron - I haven't personally tried this method, but it works in the same way to the method mentioned above. Heat it evenly, then use a Kleenex to remove the melted layer.

Remove the same amount of Clear Case, as you did for the Color Cover.

Step 6: Prep the Wire: Part 3

For the first part of this step you'll need to bend the exposed Corona Wires back, away from the tip of the wire, and towards the side with the Color Cover still on it. Next, you'll need to get out an X-Acto knife and scrape off about half of the exposed phosphor, to expose the copper.

That's all you need to do to prep the end of a wire. Just repeat the process for each additional wire ends you need to solder together into the daisy chain.

Step 7: Twist and Solder

Once you have two wire ends ready, plug in your soldering iron and go find your solder.

With the ends of both wires in hand, twist together the exposed copper. Do the same for the Corona wires. Solder the copper ends together, and then do the same for the Corona Wires. Be sure to give them a tug, to test their strength.

I didn't do this for the first few connections, but I started wrapping Electrical Tape around the end of the Color Case and the Corona Wires before I moved onto covering things up with Heat Shrink Tubing.

Step 8: Heat Shrink

Cut off an appropriately sized piece of Heat Shrink Tubing to cover up the exposed copper and also the Corona Wires.

If you have a heat gun, go ahead an use that to shrink the Tubing down to size, but if you're like me and don't own one, there's another way.

Hopefully you've left your soldering iron plugged in. You can use the side of your soldering iron, and run it along the Heat Shrink Tubing evenly, making sure not to melt any spots.

Step 9: Continue...

It may not look like such a clean (seamless) transition from where we are now, but all it takes is a bend in the right direction.

From there, you can keep going. I extended my length of wire to about 21 feet, using 9 or so connections of this type. I feel like this should open up some new options for people, because the only way I've really seen it discussed on this site, is running different colored (and sized) wires in parallel, rather than in series.

I ended up winding the wire around my Drum Kit, and using the sound activated inverter, it lights up according to what I play. Pretty cool, right? I just don't know if I'll use it at a show, since the inverter lets out a high pitched noise, which seems to interfere with amplifiers and such. I'll have to do some more testing...


Comments

author
gdgarced made it!(author)2013-05-22

Thank you for sharing this. I have been looking to do this and I just happen to find this instructable.

author
waldosan made it!(author)2012-03-30

but only in the state of california will it give you cancer, if you live in upstate new york or anywhere else you'll be fine...

author
Alimaria made it!(author)2012-03-20

Beautiful =D

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Bio: The name's Alex. I'm currently majoring in Graphic Design at Cal Poly Pomona. When I'm not busy with schoolwork I like to ... More »
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