Introduction: How to Make an EL Wire Hula Hoop
Runner Up in the
EL wire contest
I've been wanting to make something with EL wire for a long time and I've wanted some sort of glowing hoop for a while so this seemed to be the perfect opportunity to do both!
Step 1: Collect Materials
Finding the materials for this project was quite a hunt. To power EL wire, or electro luminescent wire you need a driver. There are some small drivers out there, but I needed to find one that could power enough feet of wire and be small enough to fit inside a tube with a 1 inch outer diameter.
-a length of polyethylene irrigation tubing with an outer diameter of 1 inch for the hoop. I think I used about 9 feet. I use PSI 100 weight
-a connector for the tube
-heat shrink tubing
-soldering iron and solder
-black gaffer tape
-hand held power drill
-wire cutters and wire strippers
-RC-2KN 12 Volt 2000hz driver for 3-15' of wire (It searched everywhere to find the smallest, most powerful driver I could find and I found the one I used here)
-8 single AA battery holders and batteries
-2 15 foot lengths of EL wire. If you make a bigger or smaller hoop you might need less or more. It comes in different thicknesses, I think mine was just general purpose. Don't get too thin or delicate wire, or it will break when you use it.
A voltmeter was also very helpful for this project
Step 2: Cutting Tube and Soldering the El Wire and Battery Cases
Cut the tubing for your hoop and use the heat gun to heat one of the ends so you can out the connector in one side. Don't close the hoop yet though!
There are other really good instructables about how to solder EL wire so I won't go over that here but it can be found here: https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Solder-EL-Electroluminescent-Wire/
I wanted to distribute the weight of 8 AA batteries around the hoop to the circuit is literally a circle. Solder the EL wire to the driver and solder the 8 battery holders together in series with enough wire in between each one so that they will be about evenly spaced around the hoop. Don't solder the driver to complete the circuit yet! Make sure your circuit is working either with a voltmeter or by using the driver with the EL wire to close the circuit. A voltmeter is way easier.
Step 3: Drill Holes for the EL Wire
Since all of your circuit will be inside the tube of the hoop, you need to drill holes to thread the EL wire to the outside so you can later wrap it around the hoop. Using a hand held drill, make two holes big enough for the EL wire to fit through (but not too big!) on the inside of the hoop about 1 inch apart. Drill on the side of the hoop with the connector already in, but make sure you don't drill through the connector.
Thread a stiff wire through the hole from the outside of the hoop to the opening and tape the wire to the tip of the EL wire and pull it through the hole so the EL wire is on the outside of the hoop and the driver is on the inside. Repeat or the other wire.
Step 4: Put the Circuit Inside the Hoop!
This part took me a few tries to get right, but be patient. I used electrical tape to tape the batteries into the holders, just to be safe, but they seemed pretty secure. Use a long, larger gauge wire threaded through the tube to pull the circuit into the hoop. As you pull it though, wrap the circuit in bubble wrap to keep it from rattling around inside the tubing.
Make sure your soldered connection points are VERY secure before this step. I had to redo this part three times because my connections kept breaking or coming loose.
Step 5: Attach EL Wire, Driver and Switch
Once you have the circuit threaded through the tube, solder the driver leads to complete the circuit. Make sure you are connecting positive to positive and ground to ground (I always make positive red and ground black, just to be sure). This should be obvious since when you have the correct wires soldered together, your wire will be glowing.
It was important for me to make an easy way to turn the wire on and off without taking the entire hoop apart so I added a switch.
Use the drill to make a hole and file it out to make it big enough for the switch. Make a hook out of stiff wire and pull the positive wire though. Some switches are different, but for mine, I cut and striped the two ends and connected one to the middle lead and one to a side lead, making sure they don't touch. Heat shrink can be helpful here. Check and make sure your switch it working and then tape it down securely with the black gaffer tape.
Step 6: Close Hoop and Wrap and Seccure Wire
Close the hoop by heating the end of the tube with a heat gun and connecting it with the connector (or do what I did and just have really strong friends). Tape over the seam.
Decide How you want to wrap your wire. The possibilities are pretty much up to you. I opted for a crisscross patterns where the wires wrap in opposite directions and forms Xs on the hoop. Secure the ends with black gaffer tape and tape every few feet along the inside. Depending on how tightly you wrap it you may need more or less tape.
Step 7: Enjoy Your Hoop!
Now go have fun! Because of the batteries, this hoop may be heavier than hoops that you're used to, so be careful and start slow at first. It's a great workout, lots of fun, and it looks awesome!
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