Introduction: Make Your Own Dimmable LED Workshop Lighting!

Picture of Make Your Own Dimmable LED Workshop Lighting!

In this Instructable, I'll show you how to make your own extremely efficient LED lighting for your workshop!

We, Makers, Never have enough lighting on our worktable, So we need to buy lamps. But as makers, We don't buy things (And get ripped off...), We MAKE them! That's why I've decided to make my own LED lighting!

Let's get started!

Update: Please see several of the comment below. While diodes do work for this project, they aren't the best option.

Step 1: What You'll Need

Picture of What You'll Need


Prototype Perfboard PCB

8 Pieces - 12V 10W LED's

12V 2A Power Supply

12V Dimmer


Thermal Adhesive

Heatsinks (Salvaged)

9 Pieces- SR540MIT Diodes (Or equivalent)

Heat-Shrink Tubing

Clear "Duck" Masking Tape

Rocker Switch (Salvaged)



WAVE- The Ultimate Helping Hands Vise (MUST!!!)

Wire Cutters

Needle-Nose Pliers

Utility Knife


Permanent Marker

Electronic // Power Tools:

Soldering Iron

Hot Glue Gun


Why: I need more lighting!

Protection Gear Needed: A Ventilated Area

Cost (for me): <$5

Needed Skills: Soldering on a PCB, Using Diodes, Hot Gluing

Approximate Time: 2-3 Hours (It took me waaay more, But you already have instructions...)

Step 2: The Backstory & Plan

Picture of The Backstory & Plan

About a month ago, I attached the "LEDPOD" (Yes... I removed it from the tripod) to the cabinet that was over my over desk cabinet. While I did have LED strips on the cabinet, They weren't strong enough for working with small electronics or for photographing them.

I thought that I could attach my LEDPOD to the cabinet, And I did, But there were a several problems:

1. It was ugly

2. It blocked my reach for the small screwdrivers that were on my Ultimate Magnetic Pegboard (Because it was big)

3. It wasn't strong enough (Not enough Lumen)

4. The light has a green tint (Low CRI, I believe)

5. It had a noisy fan (To cool down the LED Strips)

6. It had a really bad dimmer (I used resistors to dim the LED's brightness, I didn't know 12V HF-PWM dimmers existed when I made it)

Seems like there are enough reason to replace it, Right?

So what I wanted to make had to be:

1. Thin & Small

2. Powerful (High Lumen output)

3. Have no green tint, Thus having a "clear output"

4. Won't heat up, Thus not needing a fan & a big heatsink, Which won't make any noise

5. Has a High Frequency PWM Dimmer (No vertical dash line flickers on the image)

6. A dimmer with many dimming options

7. Low cost to make

8. I'd be able to make it without a multimeter (Because my multimeter died)

My plan was to use 12V 10W Cool-White LED's (Since they're only $0.27 each!), And undervolt them so the won't heat up. I planned to use Diodes to lower the voltage.

Because I lowered the voltage, Each LED wasn't as bright, So I had to use more LED's. Even though I used more LED's, The total price was still cheaper because I didn't need to buy any big heatsinks.

After experimenting (A lot!), I decided to put 9 Schottky Diodes in series with the 8 LED's (That were soldered in parallel). This lowers the voltage to the point where the LED's give out the maximum efficiency (From my experiments). The LED's get only a bit warm, Meaning that they need a small heatsink, But still produce a lot of light

Sadly, As I wrote above, I don't have voltage measurements because my multimeter died. On the other hand, What's Inside coming soon!

Step 3: Install the Diodes on the PCB

Picture of Install the Diodes on the PCB

As I mentioned before, I decided to use 9 diodes. I placed them on the breadboard in series and soldered them.

I later the legs of the diodes with wire cutters, And then used a utility knife to score and snap the breadboard to the right size

In case you haven't seen my Instructable about it, This is the helping hands device that I used

Step 4: Glue the Heat-Sinks Together

Picture of Glue the Heat-Sinks Together

I found some nice Heat-Sinks in my box of Heat-Sinks, And decided to use them (I believe these were salvaged from a Flat-Screen TV)

I smeared some 2-Part Epoxy onto the fins of the Heat-Sink, And let it cure. Make sure to do this in a ventilated environment, As the fumes aren't particularly healthy to breath in

Step 5: Attaching the LED's to the Heat-Sink W/ Thermal Adhesive

Picture of Attaching the LED's to the Heat-Sink W/ Thermal Adhesive

I first started by planning the distance that I wanted to have between each one. I wanted to keep 1.5 cm (0.6") away from the edge of my 31cm (12") Heat-Sink. My calculations showed that I needed to keep about 1.8cm between each one (0.7").

I applied* the Thermal Adhesive onto the back of each LED, And the clamped it down tightly, With transformers that is... :)

Note: Place all of the LED's in the same direction: +to+ and -to-, This will make the soldering process (Next step) way easier

*Here is a great video that shows how to apply Thermal Paste/Adhesive

Step 6: Solder the LED's Together in Parallel

Picture of Solder the LED's Together in Parallel

First, I started by pre-tinning all of the contacts on the LED's

Next, I removed the outer sheathing from some fairly thick wires

Lastly, I soldered all of the LED's in parallel, This is pretty easy to solder

Step 7: Attaching the Heat-Sinks to My Over-Table Cabinet

Picture of Attaching the Heat-Sinks to My Over-Table Cabinet

I used a tripod to hold and align it perfectly to the place that I wanted. This way is easier than holding it in place

I used Clear "Duck" Masking Tape to attach it to the cabinet, Make sure to remove all of the air bubbles while applying the Tape. For the back, I used blue Painter's Tape, Since it was easier to apply and is hidden from sight

Step 8: Solder the Power Supply to the Dimmer

Picture of Solder the Power Supply to the Dimmer

I first started by chopping off the Power Supply's connector, And removing the insulating sheathing from the wires

After that I soldered the + of the Power Supply to the + of the Dimmer's input. Same goes with the negative side. I finished it off by insulating the wires with shrink tubing

Step 9: More Soldering...

Picture of More Soldering...

First, I started by soldering the + of the Dimmer's output to the to one of the Diodes +

Next, I soldered a grey "jumper wire" to the - of one of the Diodes (aka the "Output")

I finished by soldering the - of the Dimmer's output to the - of the LED's, And the grey jumper wire to the + side of the LED's

This is a bit hard to explain, But hopefully the pictures help :)

Step 10: Adding a Switch

Picture of Adding a Switch

I kind of failed at not doing this earlier, But I forgot to add the switch. Oopsie :)

I had to cut the middle of the positive input of the dimmer, Tin the wire, And solder the switch. As shown in the pictures

Step 11: Gluing the Electronics to the Cabinet (And You're DONE!)

Picture of Gluing the Electronics to the Cabinet (And You're DONE!)

To tidy everything up, I hot glued the Dimmer and the Switch to the cabinet, And tucked the Diodes' PCB behind one of the wires.

No more mess!

(Oh, And by the way, You're DONE!)

Don't forget to Follow me on Instructables, I have over 60 Instructables that I'm sure you'd like!

And Votes... Are always appreciated :) Thanks!

Want some example pictures? Here you go!


asimobot (author)2016-11-27

I like the project, I am just wondering do you need to use the heatsink?

Yonatan24 (author)asimobot2016-11-27

Yes. If you don't use a heatsink, the LED will overheat, which might cause it to overheat.

WannaDuino (author)2016-10-06

and try to put the pcb boxed in or somthing, before somthing happens. so that you dont have exposure of any copper or metal.

WannaDuino (author)WannaDuino2016-10-07


is nice

Also in that IBLE you still you have problems with the DIMMERS i saw eeh, nice things to do forums for.

if you need help, ask.

Yonatan24 (author)WannaDuino2016-10-07

Awesome! I forgot that you were one of the members that commented!

I don't need any help with the dimmer. I'm waiting for a different one to arrive from eBay :)

Yonatan24 (author)WannaDuino2016-10-07

I don't think that's necessary. Everything was pretty small, and fairly organized...

WannaDuino (author)2016-10-06

you know its 80 WATTS on 12V

and not very cost effective.

(but you say you pult the voltage down" to what? so WHATS THE WATTS haha

but eeeh who am i to judge. its nice and cooooool

Yonatan24 (author)WannaDuino2016-10-07

Thanks. I don't use this anymore. I've turned it into something else.

I don't remember all of the details, but if you're looking for more information, see some of the older comments that I posted...

WannaDuino (author)Yonatan242016-10-07

its 60WATTS

you say there you had 12V on 5A thats ( P=IxU= I=5a x U=12V=P60Watt

P= Power (watts)

I= Current (Amps)

U= Electricity (Voltage)

so if you know 2 of the 3, then you always can come to the outcome of the 3th

but then you also must know the ( Ohms Law ) for even more helping to come to all answers

WannaDuino (author)WannaDuino2016-10-07

but stil i am confused,

you say VOLTAGE resistors not CURRENT, to bring the voltage down.

but its stil 12V

but you have less current.

opleace explain better for everybody if possible.

Yonatan24 (author)WannaDuino2016-10-07

Exactly. Other members have pointed out that I had done this incorrectly.

Sorry, but I don't remember all of the info. If you're looking for a cool LED project, I recommend checking out my new Instructable on How to Make an Articulating 70W Spectrum-Balanced LED Panel :)

RalphB32 (author)2016-09-29

good idea but a bit messy, you could have tidied it up a bit like putting the electronics into a box.

Yonatan24 (author)RalphB322016-09-29

Not sure about "messy", everything is pretty small.

Or should I say was? I've turned this into something else now... :)

Mjtrinihobby (author)2016-05-24

impressive build and neat!

Yonatan24 (author)Mjtrinihobby2016-09-29


(For some reason, I didn't get notified of your comment...)

BunceyTheInbred (author)2016-05-19

I know the pain of a dead multimeter when you need to get something done. It's like having a limb chopped off.

Great project as well! Exactly what I needed for inspiration and direction.

Almost :)

Thanks! I don't know if you saw any of the other comments, But you should (recommended) use a "Step-Down DC-DC Converter" instead of the Diodes. You can buy one for a little over a $1 on eBay.

Thanks for the update.
At first when I glanced over the project I wondered why you chose the diodes and thought it was maybe because you are likely to have them lying around.
Hope you produce more cool and handy stuff.


Glad you liked it!

jbkkap made it! (author)2016-05-10

Really easy and fun to make, works great. Have it hanging over my work are, lights up immediate are fantastic. Thanks!!

Yonatan24 (author)jbkkap2016-05-11

Awesome! Glad you like it!

Just a thought, If you saw any of the other comments, But you should (recommended) use a "Step-Down DC-DC Converter" instead of the Diodes. You can buy one for a little over a $1 on eBay. I see that you have an oscilloscope, So I'm pretty sure you're one of the people that can never have enough Diodes. Hopefully...

I also saw that you have a Magnetic Tool Holder, ANd TOOOONS of ESD Tweezers. Nice!

blackICE19240 made it! (author)2016-05-08

finally did it, I couldn't find the ideal aluminium profile, so I used some brackets instead which so far seem to be perfectly adequate but the day after I glued the led to the brackets I found the perfect aluminium angle at a garage sale ? anyway this seems to work and the brackets stop me being blinded by the bare lights.

Yonatan24 (author)blackICE192402016-05-08


How many LED's did you use in total? That looks extremely bright!

Do you have any problems with heat? If they heat up too much, You can always glue Heat-Sinks onto the brackets...

I've sent you the FREE PRO Membership, Let me know when you receive the code

blackICE19240 (author)Yonatan242016-05-09

I used 16 in the end instead of 20 because the brackets came in packs of 16 :) I have absolutely no trouble with heat from the leds now, even using 12v they remain cool however I seem to have damaged the dimmer (or its just rubbish) so if i use them on 12v it gets EXTREMELY hot so I will replace that soon. I also need to find a more suitable transformer, when I do i will come back and say how many amps you need for this many leds.

Thanks for the membership !!

Yonatan24 (author)blackICE192402016-05-10

Oh... No wonder...

These dimmers are rated for 12AMPS maximum! If you have so many LED's, I would recommend dimming them manually-- By turning on different switches. I think a 16+ AMP rated dimmer would be pretty expensive.

For example:

Switch #1: Turns on 1 LED

Switch #2: Turns on 5 LED's

Switch #3: Turns on 10 LED's

Switch #4: Turns on all 16 LED's

You can also split them in half: 8 Powered by one dimmer, & The other 8 powered by a different dimmer.

I also recommend using waaaaaaay thicker wire. A higher gauge wire will waste less power on itself (It's resistance)

I can't remember if I've asked you before, But what Power Supply are you using? You should use a 20+ AMP Power Supply to power them

blackICE19240 (author)Yonatan242016-05-10

Thats what is strange, the transformer im using is rated at half an amp max, though it still seems to handle it perfectly well on 12v (because of reduced current draw) and if the psu is only supplying half an amp the dimmer should have no trouble, also the dimmer only really gets hot on 12v. On 9v the dimmer only gets warm.

Anyway, ill work it all out from here, thank you for your help

Yonatan24 (author)blackICE192402016-05-10

Oh, So you're still using that one... Maybe there's some kind of frequency problem, Voltage spikes, Or Diodes/Capacitor problem on the rectifier of the power supply.

You might want to submit that question in the Questions Forum if you're interested in knowing why this happens, It sound pretty interesting

Yonatan24 (author)2016-03-13

Do you want a FREE PRO Membership?

I'm giving a FREE 3-Months PRO Membership to the first member that makes an LED desk light like the one I made!

What you have to do to be able to receive the free membership:

1. Follow me on Instructables

2. Reply to this message with pictures of the end result (And any explanations, If you want)

3. Nothing! I will PM you the free code!

Come-on, Let's make something!

Yonatan24 (author)Yonatan242016-05-08

UPDATE: I've already given the FREE PRO Membership away. Meanwhile, You can check out some of my other projects-- I have more giveaways too!

cts_casemod made it! (author)Yonatan242016-03-18

Here's some of my work with LED's. Ideally using a small computer CPU heatsink with a 100W model works wonders. These are easy to obtain, cheap and have an integrated fan (you might need a DC-DC converter to power the fan from 30V the led takes) The LED can work well into the 60-70W at low temperatures. Fan is only needed for 10W+ output power and the result is a very compact unit. A lens can be added if ligh is to be directed to a particular spot, rather than acting as a flood light.

Yonatan24 (author)cts_casemod2016-03-22


I have several CPU Heat-Sinks with fans, I'll have to try that!

Did you add a dimmer onto it? It would be pretty blinding when on full power...

cts_casemod (author)Yonatan242016-03-23

The idea is to make them compact, to fit inside standard light fixtures.
As a general rule of thumb I have adjustable drivers, with exception for the plants (50W)

On my desk I have a different setup. An adjustable 5-30W driver with the 100W led installed directly on this:

The body is aluminium so it serves both as diffuser and heatsink. Its good for up to 30W, so gives a decent light and looks super good

Lee Wilkerson (author)Yonatan242016-03-15

Okay, nice 'able, but I couldn't help but notice that you have 80 watts worth of LEDs and only 24 watts of power supply. I believe you could get away with many less LEDs if you operated them to full brightness.

Also, if you directly rectified the AC, you could wire your LEDs in series making it much more efficient (use load balancing resistors in parallel with each LED). One other note on efficiency: lower wattage LEDs are much more efficient, so use more LEDs and less power/less heat sink.

Yonatan24 (author)Lee Wilkerson2016-03-16

The way I powered them made them less than 80 Watts. That was a mistake. I now removed the diodes, And I'm join to join them with my other power supply (Look at picture 3 in Step #9, I'm connecting the input of the dimmer to the the LED strips, Which deliver 12V at 5A max.)

I won't be using them at full power anyway: 80W is too much for me now, I like powering them at 2/7 brightness (Of the dimmer), This way I have tons of light, And not a lot of heat.

By the way, These LED's are listed as 10 Watts, But are actually 12W. I have an explanation about that in another Instructable (Step #11)

ac-dc (author)Lee Wilkerson2016-03-15

Ideally yes he could use fewer LEDs but another issue is each heatsink piece can't handle 10W, so either a heatsink switch is needed or to run all LEDs on each sink at about 4W cumulative total.

What do you mean by directly rectified AC? You mean take 120VAC and convert to 160-something VDC and run the LEDs direct from that with only current limiting resistors? If so that is a bad idea. It exposes high voltage in this open design and makes it far less tolerant of power surges, and with fewer LEDs, the load balancing resistors would be pretty inefficient.

One other note on efficiency: Lower wattage LEDs are not much if any more efficient. If using generics you have the same dies just arranged in different parallel or series and the lower the wattage the lower the forward voltage which becomes less and less efficient as it goes towards a lower and lower % of 120VAC input, PLUS that keeps increasing current which at low voltage also progressively decreases circuit loss.

The more efficient design would be to use 4 x Cree XM-L LEDs in series with a 14.4VDC laptop power adapter, or ideally, proper higher wattage drivers designed for the series/parallel arrangement of LEDs used, NOT using voltage regulation, NOT using diode voltage dropping, and NOT using resistor current limiting.

TristanM5 (author)2016-04-21

Hi I am a student from a school in the RGV and we are making a solar powered car that will go to Minnesota. This will be great for the drivers compartment nice job Yonatan24

Yonatan24 (author)TristanM52016-04-23

Texas to Minnesota? That's crazy!

By the way, I would recommend using "Step-Down DC-DC Converter" instead of the Diodes. You can buy one for a little over a $1 on eBay

Looking to see that car!

TristanM5 (author)Yonatan242016-04-26

Send an email and you will see right now we have a life sized mock car but the construction for the real one is already under way

TristanM5 (author)Yonatan242016-04-26

Send me your email and i will show you man we have pics and information on the car it would be great to get recomendations for the car
competition is in july
The Harmonics are the only team in the rio grande valley

GautierA (author)2016-04-08

Working on this version, I will detailed later, waiting for the Led and diodes. The heat sink cost me 1.2 UDS a piece, I could have negotiate ;) . I will see if I can glue the heat sinks on the aluminium tubes with liquid metal glue, if not with standard epoxy. I will try to integrate the PCB and the dimmer in a small box.

Yonatan24 (author)GautierA2016-04-08

Nononono! I don't know if you saw any of the other comments, But you should (recommended) use a "Step-Down DC-DC Converter" instead of the Diodes. You can buy one for a little over a $1 on eBay

Looking forward to see it!

GautierA (author)Yonatan242016-04-08

Thanks Yonatan
So what I really need is something like this
(guess, I am pretty dumb on electricity)

Yonatan24 (author)GautierA2016-04-09

You need a 12V power supply, And one of these:

GautierA (author)Yonatan242016-04-11

Hi Yonatan,

Sorry but I am at the maximum confusing stage of my learning process.

8 x 10 watts = 80 Watts = 80/12 = 6.6A but you wrote you are using a 2 amps power supply. How is it possible? The link you attached points to a 5A, still not enough.

Why should I use a step down power supply? I can find 240v AC to 12v DC LED driver (designed to prevent thermal overrun) with dimmer some even with remote control.

Hoping you get a good laugh to my ignorance, I better look like a idiot one time than staying an idiot all my life. ;)

Yonatan24 (author)GautierA2016-04-11

If you lower the voltage of each LED, It takes less current. That's how it is possible

Yes, You can use the driver. You just need a big Heat-Sink

blackICE19240 (author)2016-04-02

Before I make this will a 2 amp power supply be able to power 20 of these LEDs? On ebay it says they require 1.05 amps for them to work but this can't be the case as the author is using a 2 amp transformer and it is powering 8 of them leaving them 0.25 amps a piece but will the same transformer rated a 2 amps be able to power 20 of them leaving them 0.1 amps each?

Sorry if i've got that wrong, i haven't even finished secondary school yet so my knowledge of circuits is limited to my physics lessons

Yonatan24 (author)blackICE192402016-04-03

First, I don't know if you've seen some of the other comments, But everyone told me that I shouldn't have used diodes. I should have used "DC-DC Step-Down Converters", You should use them, They cost ~$1 on eBay.

I have to say, I'm not sure. If you put connect 20 of these LED's in series, I think it will just burn out the power supply. If you use a "Constant Current" source, I think it will work like that.

I am not powering then at full brightness, And that way making each one take less current.

Don't worry, I haven't finished High School too, I'm 13. I can't really help you, But if I were you, I would post this on Instructables' Question & Answer Forum,Here is the link. (Click Ask a question, It's located in the top right corner)

blackICE19240 (author)Yonatan242016-04-03

I did see the comments about the diodes but unfortunately after i ordered them, not that it really matters as they only cost £1 and theres nothing wrong with spare parts if i ever need them. I had a look for a DC-DC Step-Down Converter but they were mostly usb or over £10 here so i dont think i will bother with one, instead ill just experiment with some resistors to stop them getting as hot.

When everything comes ill just try it and see what happens, if it doesnt work or the power supply is ruined ill try using a 12v 5a laptop power supply instead which should provide enough current to make them work properly.

Thanks for the link but I doubt ill ask any question until ive tried it with what ive got.

Yonatan24 (author)blackICE192402016-04-04

Yes, Diodes are very useful. I ordered these diodes for a project that I wanted to make, But then didn't. If I didn't order them, I would have to wait over a month for them to ship and arrive from eBay...

Really Here are links:

Great, Let me know if you have any more questions!

About This Instructable




Bio: 15 year old, sick with a deadly disease called DIY-itis!
More by Yonatan24:60+ Unusual Uses for Workshop Tools & Materials! the Ultimate Collection!Workshop Tips, Tricks, & Hacks to Save You Time & Money!My Top Instructables of 2017 - Yonatan24
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