Instructables
Picture of Edge Lit Mobile / Night Light
This instructable is about making an edge-lit mobile to hang in a childs room (or wherever for that matter).  Different images can be used for any age or any occasion.  For insatnce, you can make one for Halloween by etching skeletons in the acrylic and use white LED's to light it.  Etch Christmas trees, a Santa Clause, a candy cane, etc. and hang it up at Christmas time.  Hearts for Valentines Day, etc., etc...  USE YOUR IMAGINATION!

If you have an EPILOG LASER CUTTER you can skip all the hand cutting / etching and who knows, maybe even be able to sell stuff like this on the side.     

Anyhoo...

Without further ado, I present to you...

The Edge Lit Baby Mobile!

Download the attached PDF to print out the images for this instructable.

 
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Step 1: Video - WORKING WITH ACRYLIC

Forgive the horrible green screen pixelation in the beginning. It does not do this in the regular video and is only happening in the upload but It clears up soon after.

I tried a few different things to no avail. I do not have anymore time to work on it so I will have to settle with a JUNK video upload... SORRY!

Step 2: SUPPLIES / TOOLS

MATERIAL SUPPLY
1 - AAAx3 battery holder (Radio Shack #270-0412) - $1.99
1 - 12 inch 1x2 piece of wood
1 - 6 inch 1x2 piece of wood
6 - 3mm LED's (pulled from pack of 20 Assorted LEDs - Radio Shack #276-1622) - $2.99
6 - 100 ohm resistors (Radio Shack #271-1311 - pk/5 - need two packs) - $0.99
6 - 3 inch x 3 inch squares (cut from 0.220 inch OPTIX Acrylic Sheet - found at Lowes)
1 - 1-1/4 inch x 5 inch eye bolt
2 - 1/4 inch washer x 1-1/4 inch (diameter)
2 - 1/4 hex nut
2 - Wood screws (#6 x 1/2 inch)
1 inch nails
Super glue or Crazy glue (use "GEL")
Solder
Sticker project paper (vinyl sticker paper works best)
Wire - I used 24-gauge solid 2-conductor Intercom Wire (Radio Shack #278-0857) - $6.99
Heat-Shrink Tubing (Radio Shack # 278-1627)
Paint (optional)

TOOLS
Dremel or other Rotary Tool with some engraving bits
Dremel sanding drum or some sand paper
Soldering iron
Wire snippers
Wire strippers
Small hammer
Drill (drill press recommended)
1/4 inch drill bit
3/16 inch drill bit
1/8 inch drill bit
Saw to cut acrylic (or a Cutting Knife for plastic)
Heat gun for Heat-Shrink tubing (a cigarette lighter will work)

PS> ANOTHER function I can't get to work... Adding image notes, sorry!  I am sure you will figure it out.  :)
 

Step 3: PREPERATION

Picture of PREPERATION
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1) Drill the holes for the cross bracket (see pictures)

Step 4: LED WIRE ASSEMBLY

1) Solder a resistor to the anode* (positive side) of the LED. I cut my LED leads down a bit to use less shrink wrap.
2) Place a piece of shrink wrap over the positive side of the wire. Make it long enough to cover the full length of resistor and LED lead.
3) Solder the resistor to the white wire then slide the shrink wrap down and heat shrink it.
4) Solder the black lead to the cathode (negative side) of the LED.
5) Cut a piece of shrink wrap long enough to cover the exposed wires. Slide it down the wire from the opposite end of the wire and heat shrink it.

*Notes:
1) It doesn't matter what color wire you connect to the positive side (anode) or negative side (cathode) of the LED, just maintain consistency for all of the LED's.

2) These 3mm LED's are VERY sensitive to heat!  The LED's in the pictures with white shrink wrap were burned up during the soldering process and I had to purchase more. There are only six 3mm LED's in the 20 pack from Radio Shack so I recommend purchasing two packs and BE CAREFUL when soldering them - make it quick!

Step 5: CUT OUT ACRYLIC PIECES

Picture of CUT OUT ACRYLIC PIECES
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1) Cut out 6 acrylic pieces (3 inch x 3 inch squares)*.
2) Cut off one corner about 1/4 inch down to make a flat for the LED hole.
3) Drill a 1/8 inch hole in the flat. Use one of the 3mm LED's to determine how deep you want the hole. A drill press is recommended but if you don't have a drill press, start with a very small drill bit to get it centered, then slowly increase the drill size to maintain a centered hole.

*Note: Several things to think about when cutting acrylic.

1) Acrylic can be nicely cut with a jigsaw, table saw or even a hacksaw. The key to getting a clean cut is to use blades with a lot of teeth. For example if using a jigsaw, use a blade with 30 teeth per inch (TPI). The same goes for a table saw - use a blade made for fine cuts with a lot of teeth. Of course the Dremel mini-tablesaw works perfectly for cutting thin sheets of acrylic such as this one, and I JUST KNOW that all of you have made one!

2) Use masking tape where you plan to cut (both sides) and CUT SLOWLY! Did I mention that the Dremel mini-tablesaw works great for cutting acrylic sheets?

3) You can purchase an acrylic cutting knife for this but I have never tried to cut 1/4 inch plexiglass with one so I can't tell you if it will work with thicker sheets like this.

Step 6: ETCH IMAGES ONTO ACRYLIC PIECES

1) Find some images that you would like to use for your acrylic pieces and size them accordingly. If you are a good artist, you can simply draw something up. For this instructable, I made a PDF file with a few images I used from Photoshop in the "custom images" brush.  You can download that from the intro page.

2) Print the images on some sticker paper (vinyl is best) then cut them out. Peel off the back and place them on the acrylic pieces. Always leave the protective coating on the opposite side of the acrylic piece until you are completely finished. This minimizes scratches.

3) Using an exacto knife, cut out all the black area of the image. For this instructable I chose to make images with outlines*. Of course if you have a REALLY COOL Epilog Laser cutter... you can throw out the exacto. Actually you can throw out this entire process and let the laser cutter do the work for you! Hopefully my next instructable will be showing you just how to do that. Yeah baby!

4) Back to reality... Using a rotary tool with an engraving bit, etch along all the areas where you cut out the image. If you don't have a rotary tool scratching the surface with the exacto knife will also work. You can even sand blast the image if you have a sand blaster (I sandblast a lot of the things I do). The deeper you can etch into the acrylic, the better the image will show when lit up.

5) Peel off the paper and see your creation! If needed you can go back and touch up areas you may have missed.

6) Sand the edges of the acrylic to a frosty white so when it lights up you get a nice box around your animal (or what ever image you choose).

*Note: Get creative. Inverse the image or, if you have a scroll saw, you can cut the acrylic pieces in the shape of the images and drill holes for the eyes, etc. (see image of Robot). The fun of doing things like this is making it your own. Don't limit yourself to just following these instructions. Have fun with it.

Step 7: ASSEMBLY

It doesn't matter which is the top or bottom bracket, I just chose to put the smaller bracket on the bottom. Also, I painted the wood to give it a clean look. If you have a shop or like woodworking, maybe you can create something really slick.

1) Place two nails on the sides of each hole. These will be used as wire wraps to keep the wires neat and tidy. Screw a nut on the eye bolt all the way down and slide one of the washers on. Place the wood so the nails are facing the same direction as the eye of the eye bolt (this is “up”). Slide on the other washer and screw the second nut on, then tighten it up. In the pictures you'll notice I used a wing nut (for convenience).

2) Thread one of the LED wire assemblies through a hole from the bottom side of the cross bracket. Determine what length you would like it to be and cut it on the other side of the hole. Strip a small amount off the two wires and wrap them around the nails. This will hold the wire in place.

3) Do this for the rest of the LED wire assemblies and be sure to keep all the positives on one side and all the negatives on the other. Make each one of them different lengths. Hold the unit up and take the time to look closely at how long each wire is going to be and that the colors are separated nicely.

4) Once all the LED's are at the desired length and wire wrapped, connect all the positives together and all the negatives together by following the same wire wrap method. When finished, connect the battery supply and make sure everything is connected correctly and the LED's light up. Wire wrapping the nails will give good electrical contact so you don't need to solder it to check it.

5) Once you see that everything is working, go ahead and solder it all up. Remember that the nails are pretty big heat sinks so be patient and let the iron do it's job. It will require a little extra solder but they will solder nicely. Unlike the LED's, you won't have to worry about these overheating.

Step 8: BATTERY SUPPLY INSTALLATION

Picture of BATTERY SUPPLY INSTALLATION
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The Radio Shack battery holder I used (in the material list) has two small holes to mount it with. Two #6 x 1/2 wood screws work well for this. The wood I used is very soft so I did not need to pre-drill holes for the screws. If you are using a hard wood, you may need to drill small holes to keep the wood from splitting.

1) Place the battery holder against the top bracket and screw it into place. Solder the red wire to any of the positive connections and the black wire to any of the negative connections. Put the batteries in and double check that everything is still working.

You will notice that I did not use an ON/OFF switch for this project. With an open battery holder it is easy enough to simply remove and replace one of the batteries to turn it on and off.

Step 9: ATTACH THE IMAGES

Picture of ATTACH THE IMAGES
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When I took the photographs for this instructable I thought that acrylic adhesive would work best to glue the LED's inside the holes of the acrylic pieces. I was wrong and the adhesive does not bond well to LED's, so use Super Glue or Crazy Glue "Gel" to glue the LED's.

1) Fill the hole of the 3 inch x 3 inch acrylic piece 1/2 way up with Crazy Glue GEL.

2) Set the LED inside the hole and twist it a little to insure a good bond. BE CAREFUL! If any glue gets on the acrylic it will ruin the nice glassy finish.

3) Don't be impatient! Make sure the glue has time to set up. Finish the rest of the pieces. Let them sit for an hour or so before trying to pick it up. You can however, turn it on and get an idea of what it's going to look like.

Step 10: ENJOY

Now hang it up and enjoy a fun little night light in the baby room.

WARNING... Do NOT hang this thing above a baby! Place it in the corner of the room or somewhere close by, but never directly over a child. I make no guarantees as to the quality of "your" workmanship.

It works great as a night light and will light a dark room quite nicely.

The photos do not represent the true vibrant colors of the mobile. I used the auto color and auto contrast in Photoshop for the images. I was lazy and did not take time to do proper color correction so the reds look pink and yellow looks orange. The actual mobile looks nicer in person.
jelte12347 months ago

Hi,

Would it also work if you would place the led's on top, and epoxy some thin translucent (thick fishing wire?) onto the led and onto the plexi? if it would, it would look even better, I think.

sdudley (author)  jelte12347 months ago

Hmmm... this would make a good experimaent. However, I would probably just buy actual fiber optic cable. Fiber optic cable is cheap:

http://www.ebay.com/bhp/fiber-optic-light-cable

Thanks for the tip... I just might try it out!

hms10183 years ago
SWEEEET!
Can you show how you did the Monster one?
sdudley (author)  hms10183 years ago
That was my very first try and I used an old scratched up piece of plexiglass.  It turned out ok so I decided to keep making other things.  
The inspiration for me to make edge-lit signs came from the mini-fridge (hopefully that is not what you are referring to - I didn't do that). 

For the little Monster logo, along with the other signs, I used surface mount LED's.  I suppose I could recreate it and take pictures along the way for an instructable. 

The SMD's are pretty challenging to work with on the edge of the acrylic because I connect them with a very thin wire and power it with a CR20302 battery.  You can see this in the pictures of the blue pentagon sign at the end of the video.

There are LED strips you can buy but they are exepensive and I have yet to find any that work on less than 12 volts.

So, back to your original question... I will do my best to put together an instructable for a little desktop sign (such as the Monster logo) but it may have to wait awhile.  There are too many other contests I want to upload instructables for and the projects I have in mind do not include edge-lit LED stuff.  Sorry!
hms1018 sdudley3 years ago
i was actually trying to figure out how You did the edges on on it. You have some really nice pieces on here. Good Luck on the contest!
sdudley (author)  hms10183 years ago
I simply used the Dremel sander to dig into the edges and give it a raw look.  

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By sdudley1 at 2011-03-21 Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
By sdudley1 at 2011-03-21
Do you know how far in a single peice of plexiglass one LED light will show? Just curious.
Mrballeng3 years ago
This is great. I was just thinking about doing this the other day. Thank you.
sdudley (author)  Mrballeng3 years ago
Thanks.

I might make another one myself. I was thinking of making one for Halloween using white LED's and etching some skeleton figures in different poses.

Ariexis3 years ago
You can buy LEDs for cheap by the hundreds on ebay
IronCrow3 years ago
I love the 2 position jig you have made for your Dremel! You wouldn't happen to have those plans handy would you?
sdudley (author)  IronCrow3 years ago
Sure would...

The instructable can be found here:

http://www.instructables.com/id/Mini-Tablesaw-Router-Shaper-for-Dremel-rotary-/

Enjoy!
ognat423 years ago
Great video. I have been thinking about a project like for a while now. I have a question about your bender. Looks like a DIY. Do you mind sharing plans? Instructions?

Thank you,
Sam
sdudley (author)  ognat423 years ago
Thanks.

I got the plans from this instructable here:

http://www.instructables.com/id/Poor-man-s-200-dollar-plastic-heat-strip-for-penni/

However, I was lucky because I had purchased a new toaster over and the one I was replacing worked fine - it was just getting nasty and not something I cared to cook food in anymore.

I followed his instructions but I didn't have to go through the trouble of wiring up a dimmer, etc. I just used the front panel of the oven which still works great! 

Hope that helps. Good luck.
ognat42 sdudley3 years ago
Thank for taking the time to reply. I will look it up. I just happen to have an old toaster over sitting around. Wasn't sure what to do with it but now its destiny is known. :)

Thanks again,
Sam
Great vid! Good tips about the acrylic methods. There *are* cyanoacrylates that are formulated NOT to leave a white residue on the plastics. Search for 'non fogging' cyano glues. I use them at work all the time. Interesting note: this is the method used by CSI to discover hidden fingerprints... leave a dish of cyanoacrylate open in a room and it will leave that white powdery substance on the surface you are checking for prints! Again, thanks for the tips, I will have to rty this.
sdudley (author)  stringstretcher3 years ago
Hey thank you for the tip!

I'll check out the cyno glues. Do you think they work well as an adheasive for bonding the LED's to the acrylic? As I noted in my instructable, that's where I have a problem. I also work a lot with surface mount LED's and have used super glue for that. It works well but I'd rather have them bond clear.
http://tds.loctite.com/tds5/docs/NEW-CA460-EN.PDF

This is the stuff you want. It is made to be used on plastics, so yes it should be fine for your needs. 'Low blooming' means no white coloring. I use this product commercially in production. Good stuff. Jim
sdudley (author)  stringstretcher3 years ago
The data sheet (when speaking of different substrates) doesn't say anything about acrylic or plexiglass, only PVC or ABS plastic so I would not have thought to use it.

It also mentions it is good for porous materials and elastomers which makes it very interesting and probably quite useful for a few of my other projects.

Instructables is a good place to learn!

Thanks. :)
marcintosh3 years ago
Thanks for this. I can't wait to try this out.

IF for some unknown reason you don't win an EPILOG LASER CUTTER, you might like to try using a Laminate cutter/router.  

Dremel also makes a nice router attachment too.  If you decide to go with a Dremel you could use a router bit that has the same contour as one of the grinder stones they offer.

I gotta go now and do some uh, work, with acrylic, and led's so.   .   .   uh thanks!!      8-D
sdudley (author)  marcintosh3 years ago
Hmmm... good idea. I wonder how well that Dremel "TRIO" works for this?

Maybe it's time I try it out!

Thanks. :)
VERRRY NICE !! Another "clear-coat" for glass-clear" edges + casting resin. An item I use often for many craft "things". Easy to work with / moldable / etc. Like transparant fiberglass. Ever try fiber optics cast into resin and LED's ?? Limited only be imagination.
arty3 years ago
A heatsink will stop you burning up LED's. For convenience, use the alligator clip of your "third-hand" as a heat sink. Resistors need protection, too, so you might stabilize the work with one alligator gripping each side of the joint. Since you are "lap-jointing" them, I'll bet a paperclip would serve to align the work while heat-protecting both components (with or without the third-hand).

If you are damaging electronics, you are either using too much heat or holding it too long. Try using a lower wattage iron. Try pre-tinning the parts. Also try to speed up the work by bending hooks into the wire ends; this makes the physical bond independent of the electrical bond (solder) - which is good practice anyway - and can speed the work by separating the "alignment task" from the "soldering task." Soldering doesn't take long enough to damage the work; it is the reheating to re-align... IMHO.

Nice Instructable. Thank you.
sdudley (author)  arty3 years ago
Awesome tips! Thank you.
djnorm_983 years ago
Looks great! Have you thought about keeping the LEDs in the top and using fiber to light the squares? Maybe I'll have to try it out and make my own ible... ;)
sdudley (author)  djnorm_983 years ago
I did not. Interesting thought though. I would love to see it if you make something.

That's the beauty of this kind of stuff... it can be done a million times over and you can still never run out of ideas!

There are a thousand different ideas I have and want to do, I just don't have the time.

ngachit3 years ago
so cute!! i like it...thank for your share...
ChrysN3 years ago
That looks really good, nicely done!
Such a good video - very entertaining!
kelseymh3 years ago
That's an amazing project. The end result picture is gorgeous, and you provided excellent details for someone else to reproduce it. Thanks!
sdudley (author)  kelseymh3 years ago
Thank you for the comment. Unfotunately the photos really don't show how nice it turned out. I was actually quite surprized. It really lights up the room nicely with all the lights off. It would be great in the corner of a childs room, especially one who might be a little bit scared of the dark (like me)! :)