A few years ago all of the elevators in a local building were redone. A friend of mine saw all of the parts that were being thrown out and got permission to scrounge. We searched and found several items of interest. The best part that I took was the up/down arrows used outside the elevator on each floor.
I decided I should definitely make use of these arrows in some way. I decided to keep it simple and just wire the lights for control on a manual switch. I did just that about a year ago but encountered a few problems with my original design. I have therefore have redone it and am presenting the improved version here because I now know how it should be done.
My goals for the project were:
- to have the lights easily relocatable,
- to have a switch to control on/off as well as the direction of the arrow,
- and for the lights to be safe and reliable.
This project has saved from a landfill what is now a unique and simple bit of functional decoration. I used a piece of wood too small for most applications. Also, I used an old computer power cable and many parts on hand.
This project makes use of alternating current directly from a power outlet. Alternating current can kill. If you are not comfortable working with AC then do not attempt this project. Also, tools are used in the construction of this project which can be dangerous. I make no warranties or claims as to the accuracy or completeness of these instructions. Reader assumes all risks.
Step 1: Materials and Tools
- Computer power adapter with female end removed
- DPDT switch (rated for at least 15 Amps and 120 Volts)
- 16 gauge 3 wire electrical cable
- Box for electrical components
- Four wire twist connectors
- Electrical tape
- Wood stain
- Masking tape
- L brackets
- Four long bolts, eight nuts, and four washers
- Small cord (shoelaces would work)
- Wood for mounting lights
- The elevator lights
- Paint brush
- Wire strippers
- Wire cutters
- Staple gun
- Regular screw driver
- Router (not necessary, but nice)
- Dremel (not nice, but useful)
- Safety glasses and hearing protection (for use with power tools)
Step 2: Preparing the Lights
Assembling the Mounts
I used an L bracket, a long bolt, and a nut to create mounts. The second picture shows how these pieces go together.
Attaching the Mounts
After assembling the mounts you should use the masking tape to hold the mounts in place. Then you should epoxy the sides and edges of the L bracket. After that has had time to set you should epoxy the bottom of the bolt to the light box so that the bolts stay straight.
If you want the epoxy to be neater then you can use masking tape as you would in painting. Simply mask around the areas you are going to epoxy. After you apply the epoxy wait several minutes and remove the masking tape. The amount of time you should wait will vary based on what particular epoxy you use so I recommend testing on some scrap first.
Step 3: Preparing the Back
I used a nice piece of wood from a specialty wood shop but just about any piece would have worked. The main requirement is that it be larger than the lights and thick enough to allow the cord and nuts to be sunk into its back.
Drilling Holes for the Mounts
After the mounts have been attached to the lights you should use it as a guide to drill holes for the bolts to pass through the wood. Measure the distance between the horizontal sets of bolts as well as the vertical sets. Use these measurements to create guide lines that are square with and centered on the back of the wood. Then drill the holes. After that drill larger insets around those to sink the nuts into. I didn't align my holes in this way and thus the lights are not perfectly square with the wood. I also used a dremel to make the areas for sinking the nuts but as you can see that was quite messy.
Making a Hole and Groove for the Wires
Somewhere behind where the metal light box will be drill a large hole for the wires to pass through. I choose near the center for looks and to minimize the length of wire used inside the light box. I again used a dremel to cut out an area for the wire to travel down from there but I would recommend using a router if you have one.
Cutting the Plaque Style Wall Mounts
When I redid the project I wanted a better way to mount the lights and decided to make use of a router. I used a bit called a keyholer to create insets for nails that are the same as those found on plaques. To use the bit you should mark where you want the keyholes to begins and end on the side of the wood. Using the markings as a guide, press the wood on the table mounted router and move the wood to the end of the keyhole location and then back and remove the wood. You will need to leave the router on while backing the bit out. I choose to make two keyholes to make sure it would stay level and not rotate when on the wall.
Staining the Wood
Although I did this much earlier I recommend staining after all the holes have been made. The stain you use should have directions, but usually you just paint it on with a brush.
Step 4: Assembling the Switch Box
Cut a Hole in the Cover Plate
First you should cut a hole in the cover just large enough for the switch to fit through. The most effective tool for me was a high powered drill since I used a metal plate. Plastic plates should be easier and can even be cut using a knife.
Attach the Switch
Next you will want to attach the switch to the faceplate. To do this remove any nuts from the threads around the switch, pass the switch through the plate and replace the nuts on the other side. Use pliers to tighten the nuts.
Wire the Switch
Wire the switch properly. Boxes made for house wiring will have holes already for passing wires in and out of the box. You will need one end of the 3 wire cable and one end of the 3 wire computer power cable to go into the box. The actual wiring of the switch is discussed in detail in the next step.
Attach the faceplate
After the switch is wired attach the faceplate to the box using the screws that came with it.
Fill in the Wire Passage
After you are sure that the wires are connected properly and the circuit works you can fill in the hole that the wires were passed through to get them into the box. The box came with two plugs but three holes. I plugged the two holes I wasn't using for the wires with the screw in plugs. To fill in the last hole (where the wires come out) I wadded up electrical tape and stuck it in the hole all around the wires. This was just to plug it enough to stop the epoxy I then added. So now there is a thorough and strong (read permanent) seal around those wires.
Step 5: Wiring and Assembly
Do not have the wires connected to a power source when wiring.
The Wires and the Switch
I used a computer cable to run from the wall to the switch box. I simply cut of the female end and attached it to the switch. I used some standard 16 gauge house wiring to go from the switch to the light. A fourth wire going from the switch box to the light would have been useful for a ground. The DPDT switch came from Home Depot. (This is important because most DPDT switches are not rated high enough to use for this. Make sure that the rating is for at least 15 Amps and at least 120 Volts.)
Here are some tips for those unfamiliar to the world of electrical wiring.
- Strip all the ends of the wires before beginning wiring to save time.
- Twist the individual stranded wires first. This will make it easier to put in the switch or to twist two wires together.
- Use electrical tape to cover over any exposed wires to prevent shorting.
- Use a screw driver to make sure that the wires are tightly secured to the switch.
The first part to wire is the switch box. Wire the black two wires together using a twist connector. Attach the white cord from the wall to a center of the DPDT switch. Wire the white to the lights to one side of the switch and the green to the other side. Wire the green from the wall to the green screw in the box. Note that it is very important that you make sure to wire the green from the wall to the box and the green from the switch to the light. Green is usually used for ground and thus the green wire from the switch to the light should be marked another color if possible.
Wiring the Lights
Take the loose 3 wire cord end and put it through the hole in the back of the wood and then attach the wires (using the twist connectors) as follows:
- Green to red
- White to brown
- Black to black
Place the metal light housing on the wooden back and close the switch box. Before you tighten the bolts and screws plug it in and make sure that up is up and down is down and that everything works without problem. If all is well then unplug, tighten the nuts and screws and test again.
For more safety a fourth wire from could be added from the switch box to the lights to use as a ground. Also, the black wire could have been attached to the other side of the DPDT switch.
Two Light Switches Instead
If you cannot find a properly rated DPDT light switch you could use two regular light switches like you would use for a wall switch. Simply wire one for up and one for down. This will require splitting the white wire from the wall to go to both switches. You can do this by using two pieces of white wire and attaching both to the white wire from the wall using a twist connector.
Finally, on the back of the mount I used a staple gun to attach small cloth cords to hold the wire down. Also on the back of the mount I used a dremel with cutting blade to cut off the ends of the bolts that stuck out too far. If there are scratches or rust on the metal you can use steel wool to buff them out. You can also polish both the steel and plastic parts using a mildly abrasive paste (make sure to test on a small area first).
Step 6: Conclusion
I have been rather specific in my instructions and it is unlikely that you will ever want to exactly duplicate my results. I hope, however, that you can find use of my techniques, ideas and thought processes in your future projects.
That should do it. You can now enjoy a reused, simple up/down arrow. Use it to indicate your mood, or whether or not you are accepting visitors, or for anything else or nothing at all. I hope you enjoy this and if you have any feedback please feel free to drop a comment or personal message.