Introduction: L.E.D. Backlit Mirror Memorial
Step 1: Artwork
After gathering my materials, my 1st step is the artwork. I am presently using CorelDraw X4 to create vector drawings that I can send to my Graphtec CE5000 vinyl cutter which instead of printing the image it cuts the vinyl. I have a ton of royalty free clip art, vector and line art that I have purchased as well as original artwork I have created myself at my disposal for these memorials.
While it is possible to etch, engrave or sand blast either side of a mirror I blast the back, mirrored side to allow the light to shine through. This requires my artwork to be a mirrored image when I send it to the vinyl cutter. In the example memorial in this tutorial you can see the wording is mirrored in the above pics.
The cutter takes about 5 minutes to cut the vinyl.
It is still possible to create this vinyl artwork without a vinyl plotter/cutter by desk jet printing directly to the vinyl and using an exacto knife to manually cut. It may take longer but not everyone has a vinyl cutter.
Once cut, the weeding process begins. Weeding is the act of removing vinyl. Any vinyl removed will let the sand blasting remove the mirrored backing allowing light to shine through. In the black and white pic above, anything black gets weeded out. In the orange and white pictures you can see the vinyl that has been removed in various stages as well as my weeding tool which is simply a dental pick.
Step 2: Transfering Vinyl
After the weeding has been completed you must transfer the vinyl from the paper backing to a transfer tape. Simply stretch the transfer tape over the entire vinyl image and squeegee it flat removing any and all bubbles. I prefer to then flip it over so the paper backing is facing up. Carefully pull the paper back leaving the vinyl adhered to the transfer tape. If the vinyl doesn't stick, especially small detailed areas or the center of a letter, press the paper backing back down over the vinyl/ transfer tape at a sharper angle while applying pressure to the area with your fingertip, this helps the vinyl to pull away from the paper.
Step 3: Applying to Mirror
Align the mirror, back facing the vinyl, so that it is centered to the vinyl. press into place and again, squeegee the vinyl/transfer tape flat removing all bubbles. Once the vinyl is adhered to the mirror backing, remove the transfer tape by slowly pulling one corner up and off until fully removed. Save the transfer tape to reuse it as a filler tape when taping up the edges and opposite side of the mirror.
Apply the used transfer tape to the glass side of the mirror and use masking tape around all the edges essentially enclosing the entire rest of the mirror. At this point the only exposed surface should be the weeded out portion of the vinyl with the mirror backing exposed.
Step 4: Blasting Mirror
Step 5: Modding the Frame
The frame now needs to be modified to house the circuit board used to control the color changing as well as the remote control receiver eye.
First I remove the circuit board from it's plastic housing.
Center the circuit board to the frame's inside edge and give an additional 1.5" on both sides of the board and mark the frame. On this frame I set the circuit board in as far as possible to allow for the backing material (that I will put on in the final steps of the build) room for adhesion.
Make sure no part of the circuit board touches the mirror backing as it may scratch it.
Apply masking tape to the sides of the frame to keep it from being scratched during the routing process.
Set the router depth so it is the same depth as the frame ledge.
Essentially you are routing out a 4"x1/2" notch out of the bottom, inside of the frame to give room for the circuit board and associated wiring and power plug.
After routing the notch, find the center of the frame and drill a 1/4" hole up from the bottom of the frame into the notch. This hole is for the remote control ir receiver eye.
Now would be a good time to put the mirror into the frame. Make sure the mirror is clean and free of finger prints especially around the edges since it will be glued in place in the frame and it will be impossible to clean those edges later.
Place the eye though the hole with the bulge of the eye facing the front of the frame. Try to keep the eye up inside the frame as much as possible, basically leave 1/2 of the bulge of the eye up inside the frame.
Break out the hot glue gun and glue the eye in place.
Step 6: Putting It Together
Take the spool of LEDs and arrange the strip to the inside lip of the frame and cut. These LED strips are set up in 3 LED segments and can be cut every 3 LEDs. It is clearly marked where it can be cut by locating the 4 circular soldering pads.
Plug in and pre-heat the soldering iron.
Cut the connector cable at about 1" out from the circuit board. NOTE* DO NOT CUT THE RECEIVER EYE CABLE.
Strip back or remove the outer insulation to reveal the 4 wires inside and strip the ends of the wires. Tin, or apply a small amount of solder to the ends of the wires.
Melt a small amount of solder to the tip of the soldering iron and hold it to one of the copper soldering pad of the LED strip. After about 3 seconds the solder will adhere to the pad, let cool a few seconds and repeat until all 4 pads have a ball of solder attached to it. One pad will be labeled 12v. This is where the black wire will be soldered. It can also can be located back at the circuit board as vcc. Solder the black, red, green and then blue wires to the strip.
At this point I always plug in the power supply to make sure everything is in good working order. Cycle through each individual color on the remote control. Obviously the red button should turn the LEDs red, green to green, and blue to blue. If any 2 colors do not match, ie, red turns on green and green turns on red you must re-solder the wires to match. This unfortunately happens quite often. But it only takes a minute to fix.
At this point I usually glue a piece of scrap paper backing left over from the vinyl to the circuit board. This protects the mirror backing from being scratched.
Place the circuit board in the center of the notch carefully folding the receiver eye wires and hot glue it all into place.
Remove the sticky backing paper from the LED strip and press the strip around the edge of the inside of the frame. Hot glue the strip in place by applying a small amount glue in between each LED or about every inch.
Step 7: Plug It
This next step may seem unnecessary and adds an additional $1.25 to the project but I think it works out just fine. The female plug socket soldered to the circuit board can be very difficult to remove from the board without damaging the board due to the amount of heat you have to apply in order to unsolder it. I have destroyed 2 boards in the past by trying to remove it, so I came up with this solution.
Instead of removing the female plug and soldering the female pigtail plug directly to the board, I plug in a male adapter that has screw terminals that the female pigtail is wired to. Hot glue the adapter plug to the female plug as well as a generous amount of glue connecting the adapter to the frame.
The adapter plug is labeled + and -, the pig tail plug has a solid black wire and a wire with a white stripe. The white stripe is the + wire. Wire up the plug accordingly and plug in power supply to test. If all is well remove the pigtail again so the foam backing can be applied.
Step 8: Putting the Backing On
Using 1/2 inch foam board allows the circuit board to be concealed. Cut the board an 1/8 inch smaller than the outside frame diameter. So when you center the back board to the frame it is only a 1/16th inch smaller on each side.
Measure and mark the area of the backing where the circuit board and wiring are to allow the the backing to sit flush on the frame. Cut and remove the paper layer and about half of the foam. This is a custom fit so continue to remove foam until the foam board sits flush on the frame.
Next poke a hole in the foam board centered in the rectangular notch you just made for covering the circuit board. I use a small screw driver or a 1/8th inch drill bit.
Feed the female plug pigtail wires through this hole and connect the wires to the plug adapter, + to the white striped wire. Apply a dab of hot glue to the wires at the terminal strip.
Plug in the power supply and test out one last time.
Apply double sided tape to the back of the frame so that it will be just inside the diameter of the foam backing. Pull the extra wire from the pigtail plug through the back foam board and center the board to the frame and press gently in place. If the backing looks centered press firmly to fully adhere it all together.
Applying vinyl to the back foam board is somewhat optional but it does add a touch of professionalism.
Apply 1" wider than the frame all the way around. Trim the edges to your liking.