Now I love candles, and there were plenty. I made sure of that! There was enough light for general chit-chat and it was very atmospheric, but it wasn't really enough. I had seen various commercial patio umbrella light offerings in the garden centres and supermarkets, but none of them seemed worth what they were asking for them.
I knew I could do better, brighter... cheaper? Probably not to be honest, but more flexible? More satisfing? Definitely.
So now I'm done rambling, let's make some LED Jar Lights!
Step 1: Prerequisites
You need to know how to solder electronic components. That is a whole other topic that I'm not going to go into here.
You also need to know how to splice wires together, specifically, an inline splice. Those are the best kind and once you've done it a coupe of times, it's easy and quick. Not to mention strong and convenient.
There are many videos and tutorials on the net about how to solder and splice wires. I'd suggest that you search this site and YouTube/Vimeo for more information on that.
- Soldering Iron. I have a 40 watt "pencil" type iron with a fine point tip.
- Solder. I used ∅0.7mm lead-free solder.
- Helping Hands. You know, those weighted base thingies with crocodile clips on it. If you don't have one, get one. It will make your life so much easier, you'll see why.
A note on solder: I've seen a number of places online where people have been complaining about lead free solder. They say it makes for unreliable joints and have all recommended "60/40" solder, meaning 60% tin and 40% lead.
Personally, I've had better results using lead free solder comprised of Tin, Copper and Silver than I have with the "good old" Tin and Lead stuff. So my recommendation is to get a roll of ∅0.7mm lead-free solder with silver. I find there is a massive difference between using ∅1mm and ∅0.7mm solder. For me it just makes it that little bit easier and gives me greater control over the amount of solder going into the joint, and lead-free because we've only got one planet.
- Jars. The ones I got were labeled "cosmetic jars", they're ∅25mm and 30mm tall. They turned out to be the perfect size.
- LEDs. The technique I use here somewhat relies on the package type of the Superflux Piranha LED. So get plenty of those or similar.
- Resistors. Anything between 100Ω and 150Ω is fine for Warm White Superflux Piranha LEDs. I used 100Ω.
- Single core wire. If there's insulation, you'll want to remove it, just to make things less fiddly.
- Multi core wire. This will power the whole string. I used 7/0.2mm.
- DC Sockets. I used standard 2.1mm "barrel" type panel-mount sockets.
- DC Plugs. Just need to compliment the sockets.
- Heat-shrink tubing. Magical stuff. I used 3:1 shrink ratio. ∅3mm unshrunk.
Each individual light will require:
- 1x Jar
- 1x DC Socket
- 1x DC Plug
- 3x Resistors
- 9x LEDs
You'll need one extra DC Plug for the end of the light string to plug into your 12vdc power source.
As for the length of the multicore wire, I allowed ≈10 metres from the first light to the end plug for the power supply. It's more than enough for me to get from the power supply to the patio umbrella. Anything more than that would just be a nightmare to untangle!
I was unable to find multicore wire where there were two insulated strands fused together, like they use on commercial strings of lights. Instead I used a drill to twist two seperate lengths together tightly.