Instructables

Rubik's Cube Lantern

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Picture of Rubik's Cube Lantern
Hi, this is Scott with Elemental LED. I am an LED enthusiast and woodworker. I was browsing through the Elemental LED web page, and I was checking out the Flexible LED Strip Lights: Solid Colors when I was inspired to make a Rubik's cube lantern. Elemental LED has a variety of colors of strip light available, and it so happens that they have every color for each side of a Rubik's cube! I placed an order with Elemental, went to the hardware store to pick up a few items and hit the garage to construct the lantern. I hope you enjoy this post and feel inspired by this cutting edge LED technology.  

Elemental LED Materials List:

2 ft.  Flexible LED Strip Lights: Solid Colors in red, blue, green, amber, warm white and neutral white
12V Adapter - 12W
LED Adapter Splice Cable - female
12V Inline On/Off Switch
16 ft, Two-Strand Lamp Wire - 18/2 AWG, clear
Wire Nut Connector Pair

Additional Materials:
.5" X 2' X 4' - MDF sheet
1" X 3" X 6' - Pine board
qty: 4 - .125" x 9" x 9" frosted acrylic sheets (from TAP Plastics)
Rosin Core Solder
sm. can - Oil Based Glossy Black Paint
sm. box, black - 2" phillips head wood screws
qty: 12 - 1" ,#8 phillips head machine screws/bolts
qty: 12 - .5" nylon washers
sm. box - 18 gauge 1.25" brad nails
sm. box - 18/2 AWG wire staples
8' length of brass chain

TOTAL TIME OF PROJECT: 18 hours

Tools Needed:

(No safety information will be provided in this Instructable. Review your owners manual for each of your tools before proceeding with this project)

Safety glasses
Paint brush
Drill
Drill bits
Hammer
Table Saw
Mitre Saw
Jig Saw
Square
Soldering Iron
Screwdriver
Clamps
Wire Trimmers/Strippers
Pneumatic Finish Nail Gun
Air Compressor
 
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Step 1: Overview

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Basic Overview: This lamp will contain an outer cube made of a wood/mdf frame and an inner cube made of mdf that the light strips will adhere to. These two cubes will be connected by 4 wood spacers.

Step 1: On a table saw, rip the 1" X 3" X 6'  pine board (actual size is .75" x .2.75" x 6')  into 3 strips at .75" each. This will give you 3 strips of .75" x .75" x 6'. 


Step 2:

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Use the a mitre saw to cut the .75" x .75" x 6' strips into eight 9" pieces, four 10.5" pieces, and six 2.5" pieces (you will only use four of these six 2.5" pieces, I cut the 2 extra just for backup).

Step 3:

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Go back to the table saw and take the .5" x 2' x 4' piece of mdf and rip two 4' lengths to 9" in width. With your mitre gauge on your table saw, cross cut six 9' x 9' squares from the 9" x 4' lengths. 

Step 4:

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Rip the remaining 4' piece of mdf down to 4" wide.

Step 5:

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On the mitre saw, cut two 4" sections off of the 4"x48" piece of mdf to create two 4"x4" squares. Then, go back to the table saw to rip the remaining ~40"x4" piece of mdf to a width of 3". Take this piece back to the mitre saw and cut off two 4" pieces to create two 3"x4" squares. Then on the mitre saw cut two more squares to 3"x3". Now you are done with your wood saws. The picture of step 5 displays all of the pieces that you have created.

Step 6:

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Step 6.2.jpg
Pic 1: Take one of your 6 total pieces of 9"x9" mdf. With a pencil, clearly mark grid lines that will be cut out with a jig saw. These sheets  will be the side pieces of the lamp. Mark your grid lines by measuring three 2.5" sections across each edge with .75" gaps. Connect the markings at opposite ends to make your grid.

Pic 2: At this time, you will also want to mark your holes to be drilled in the side piece. You will mark three total holes: two on opposite corners of the inside square of the side piece and one hole that is centered on the inside square (4.5": from each outer side, see second picture in this step). Make sure your hole markings are centered in the middle of the .75" grid. Please note:  All of the 6 total sides will need the two holes on the opposite corners of the inside square. Only four total sides will need the centered hole on the one side of the inside square. The corner holes will be pilot holes for the screws that will bolt down the acrylic side panel. The centered hole will be the pilot hole for the screw that will connect the side piece to the wood spacer. Drill and counter sink the marked holes before continuing to the next step. Counter sink to accommodate the screw head on the outer side. Counter sink slightly on the inside side as well. 

Step 7:

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Drill pilot holes that will allow your jig saw to a starting point for cutting the inside sections. I used a 3/8" bit. 

Step 8:

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Cut all sections on each side panel with your jig saw to create the side pieces. File/sand edges to prepare for painting. (pic taken prior to countersinking of holes)

Step 9:

Paint all pine edge pieces and mdf side pieces with black oil based paint. No need to paint the 2.5"  wood spacer pieces, nor the ~4" smaller mdf squares. I applied 2 coats of paint. 

Step 10:

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Step 16.2.jpg
Create a diagram that displays each side of the outer cube. Each side should include lighting color, acrylic hole location, orientation of pine edge strips, and the color of lighting on each adjacent side. This will help you when putting the whole thing together at the end. It will also help you mark up your inner light cube. Your lantern will have 18/2 lamp wire that will run to the outside of the project to the power adapter. On your diagram, select a panel and mark the location in the very corner of one acrylic sheet where you will want this wire to pass through. This wire will need to leave the project on a side adjacent to one of the wooden spacers (more notes on this later). You will need to pass the wire through the corner of one of the two sides that will be constructed individually with all four pine edge pieces. Pic 2 on this step is a sneak peak of what this corner hole will look like.

NOTE: Don't copy the diagram from the picture exactly. I ended up erasing and redrawing certain details. However, this is the type of diagram template that you will want to create.

Step 11:

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Step 16.2.jpg
Take your acrylic panels and mark the same locations that were marked on the 9"x9" mdf sides. Drill a 1/16" pilot hole, then drill that hole with a 1/8" bit. Make sure you are using PVC approved bits. Drill slowly to prevent cracking. Finish each hole by using a countersink on each hole to gradually auger the hole to 1/4" wide. You will want to drill a little bit with the countersink on one side, flip the acrylic sheet over, and drill a little more with the countersink. Repeat this until the hole is 1/4" wide. Per your diagram, carefully drill a hole in the far corner on one panel for the 18/2 wire to pass though. 

My acrylic sheets were custom cut at a TAP Plastics retail store. These sheets came with a protective paper (see photo). I recommend keeping this paper on the sheets for ease of marking and protection.

Step 12:

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Step 11.1.jpg
Grab some of the 1" #8 machine screws. Take a painted mdf side and start each screw in each of the corner holes (not the centered hole, this will take a wood screw later) by hand with a screwdriver. Carefully drive the machine screw until is gently sets in the countersunk pocket in the mdf side. Either use your screwdriver or carefully use your drill for this.

Take your drilled acrylic sheets and place them on the back of each painted mdf side, lining them up with the corresponding holes  on the mdf side, so your 1" machine screws are sticking through. Make sure that the sides of the acrylic are flush to the sides of the mdf. Take a nylon washer and a metal nut and, with minimal force, hand tighten the nuts. Don't overtighten! You could crack your acrylic panel. 

Step 13:

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Take your six smaller mdf squares and clamp together a 4"x4" cube without tacking it together yet. Transcribe your markings on to each relative side from your hand drawn diagrams. At this time you will need to figure out where to mount the four 2.5" wood spacers to your mdf inner cube sides. Cross reference the appropriate sides/locations on your diagram. Pre drill the appropriate location in each side. Pre drill the appropriate locations on both sides of each of your spacer blocks. Screw the spacer blocks to their respective mdf inner cube side with 2" black wood screws. Take a pneumatic nail gun and tack together your cube with 1.25" brad nails. 

Step 14:

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You will now wire the inner cube with your Flexible LED Strip Lights.

First, have a look at your reference markings on each side. You will wire each side to the next, connecting all six sides to form a continuous circuit. Figure out which side you would prefer start your circuit on. This is where you will connect the 18/2 lamp wire that will run to the outside of the lantern and ultimately connect to your power adapter. You will want to make sure that this start point is as close as possible to one of the wood spacers. When you are completely done with all of the wiring, you will tack the 18/2 wire to the wood spacer a couple times. That way, if the completed lamp is accidentally picked up by the wire, the wire tacked securely to the wood spacer will bear the stress, instead of all your wiring getting ripped from the inner cube.

Since you picked up 2 feet of each respective color of Flexible LED Strip Lights, you will need to cut each two foot strip in to four 4" sections. Cut only where you see the scissor icons on the strip light.  

Draw a continuous line on your inner mdf cube that indicates where you will adhere your Flexible LED Strip Lights (the strip has an adhesive backing). Make sure to think about your starting point based on the notes above.

Step 15:

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You will want to solder all of your wires to your strip light with 18/2 lamp wire. Solder one cube side of the Flexible LED Strip Lights: Solid Colors at a time. This is a total of four pieces of 4" strip at a time. Because you will need to space each strip evenly along each side, first cut your lamp wire into the appropriate sized lengths. Take your first four 4" sections and solder them together. Don't remove the adhesive backing paper yet. After you have a whole side worth of strip soldered together, consider the lamp wire orientation needed to continue on to the next side along your marked path. Don't forget to consider how you will get around each wooden spacer (the connections around the spacers need a little extra attention). Continue all around your cube. After all of your pieces are soldered together, you can remove the adhesive backing paper and mount the strip light to the inner cube!

Step 16:

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Based on your diagram, take your 6 mdf sides that are screwed to your 6 acrylic sheets and tack the appropriate pine edge pieces to each side with your pneumatic nail gun and 1.25 " 18 gauge brad nails. Solder your long length of 18/2 lamp wire to the start of your light strip run. Take two 18/2 lamp wire tacks and carefully hammer them at two points along the nearest wooden spacer to guide the wire toward the exit hole that you have drilled in one of your acrylic sides. Make sure that these tacks are tapped down nice and tight around the wire into the wood spacer: tight enough that you can confidently pick the inner cube up by the lamp wire without ripping the entire run of strip light from the inner cube.

Take the acrylic side with all four pine edges: the side with all four pine edges that doesn't have the corner hole for the 18/2 lamp wire to escape from. Take a 2" black wood screw and screw the first side piece (through the "centered" hole on the side) into the wooden spacer: the spacer on the opposite side of the spacer with the wire tacks (see photo). 

Step 17:

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Run the entire length of the long 18/2 lamp wire out of the acrylic hole in the designated side piece. Take a 2" black wood screw and screw the second side piece (through the "centered" hole on the side) into the wooden spacer that has the 18/2 lamp wire tacks (see pic 2 in this step).

Step 18:

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Before continuing to tack all of the outer sides together. Cut 12 identically sized cardboard partitions and tape them together inside of the outer cube. These will block the light from blending together from side to side. 

Step 19:

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After your partitions are in place, continue tacking in your remaining sides while referring to your diagram. For hanging purposes, I took a brass chain and cut 3 short lengths that I screwed 2.5" from the corner that the 18/2 wire escaped from. I connected these 3 short lengths to a long length of chain. I then split the 2 strands of the 18/2 wire and ran the individual strands back and forth through the length of the chain. I used wire nuts to attached the two wires to the LED adapter splice cable , 12V inline on/off switch , and 12V adapter (12W). Plug in it in and YOU'RE DONE! I hope you enjoy your new LED Rubik's Cube Lantern!
that is cool! elemental LED is me jess my real name is jessy but my name is jess do i know why that is a no.1 jessy there!
Elemental LED (author)  jessyho8620132 years ago
Thank you! Thinking of making one too?
ur welcome elemental led
EEGeek2 years ago
Very cool. Gonna have to build one for the kids' room!

For those with limited table saw experience, I highly recommend using a wider board to rip the 3/4" strips. The second pass on the 1x3 will tricky. Better to start with a 1x6 for such thin strips. (yes, you have some waste, but all 10 fingers)
Elemental LED (author)  EEGeek2 years ago
Awesome - send us photos when you do! And thanks for the alternative tips.
Cool! It looks like a rubiks touch.
Elemental LED (author)  freakyqwerty2 years ago
Absolutely! Now to figure out how to make it interactive too...
This is excellent. :D
Elemental LED (author)  jessyratfink2 years ago
Why thank you, Jessy :)