Introduction: Small Strobe Light

Picture of Small Strobe Light
Small strobe light using a 5W luxeon star.
Runs for over 2 hrs from a 9V battery, fits into a altoids gum tin.

A fun project that cost under $50 and takes under 2 hours.

you also get to claim bonus geek points when your electronics come with a warning like:
"WARNING! Luxeon LEDs are extremely bright! Looking directly into a into a lighted LED will cause eye damage! Use caution when working with these LEDs"

Step 1: Components

Picture of Components

The components I used:
Luxeon V star. The most powerful led available!
LED Dynamics Buck Puck, p/n 03021-D-I-1000 1A Wide range high output LED driver module
lm555 timer ic
8 pin socket for 555 ic
47µF 16V electrolytic capacitor
270 ohm variable resistor
270 ohm 1/4 watt carbon resistor (red purple brown)
9V battery snap
jumper wires
proto board with copper solder pads around each hole
heat sink from an old motherboard
two tiny nuts and bolts
Altoids gum tin

Soldering iron w/ solder
diagonal cutters
utility knife (to cut proto board)
drill with bit same diameter as your tiny bolts

Step 2: Build 555 Astable Multivibrator Circuit

Picture of Build 555 Astable Multivibrator Circuit

I recommend breadboarding the entire circuit first. It was way easier on a breadboard that trying to figure out what goes where on a tiny piece of protoboard.

Start by building the 555 astable multivibrator circuit. I used a 270 ohm fixed resistor between pin 7 and Vcc and a 270 ohm variable resistor between pins 6 and 7
This circuit uses an RC time constant (see: By changing the resistance between pins 6 and 7 or the size of the capacitor, you can control the rate of the strobe.
For the variable resistor, I used what I had handy. A 1K ohm variable will give you a greater strobe range.

Step 3: Interface the Timer to the LED Driver

Picture of Interface the Timer to the LED Driver

Next, interface your 555 timer circuit to the Buck Puck LED driver. This is easy. Just put a jumper wire from pin 3 of the 555 to the control pin of the Buck Puck.
I would wait to attach the Luxeon V to the driver yet. If you power it up, and it's not heatsinked, it can go into thermal runaway and melt itself down.

Note that the ref pin is not used.

Step 4: Prepare the Case (altoids Tin)

Picture of Prepare the Case (altoids Tin)

Next I drilled a couple of holes in my heatsink, and through the altoids tin and bolted the Luxeon star to the heatsink and to the lid of the tin.

Run the wires from the LED to the + and - on the Buck Puck, double check your circuit, and test it out!

Don't forget to snip a little hole in the side for the wires to come out.

Step 5: Put It in the Can

Picture of Put It in the Can

After you get the circuit working on a breadboard, transfer it over to a proto board. I used a dimension of 12x12 holes, with the corners rounded off to fit snug in the case. There is just enough room to fit the 9V in below it. That's it! Remember not to stare at it, or you'll go blind!

as an optional upgrade, I'm going to mount a microswitch in alongside the battery, and wire it in series so that when the lid is closed, the strobe comes on, and when you open it, it turns off.

Obviously there are more ways to skin this cat. I have been thinking about using several Luxeon III's spread out over a larger area to give a more dramatic effect. BTW, this was great inside my pumpkin.


xXThunderGodXx (author)2012-01-17

My question is if you can simply bypass the 555 circuit with a 2-way switch to have a steady on option? flip one way to strobe and the other for steady on?

12amedle (author)2012-01-16

i want to make a cheap led strobe kit. i want the lights to be bright but i just cant figure out how to make the circuit work. can some one help? please

ajinkyadixit (author)2012-01-09

can i use the simple led driver as seen the led driver instructable which consists the LM 317 voltage regulator coz i am unable to obtain the led driver buckpuck. have u any replacement or alternative for that device????

inciteman (author)2011-02-06

Why is the LED Driver Puck Buck for? Is it needed?

bowmaster (author)inciteman2011-10-27

It regulates the power to the LED, without it the LED would burn out pretty quickly. The 555 circuit is to make the LED flash.

inciteman (author)2011-02-06

By heatsinked are you referring to the Buck Puck LED Driver or the Luxeon V?

bowmaster (author)inciteman2011-10-27

The driver is connected to the altoids case, which acts as a heatsink, so he means the led itself.

jgreenskull (author)2011-02-24

im at a loss here. Alot of steps seemed to have been skimmed over or skipped completely.

bowmaster (author)jgreenskull2011-10-27

It's not that it's incomplete, it's simply not very detailed. For example, one of the steps is "Build a 555 astable multivibrator circuit". Also, the steps are somewhat self contained, just showing an electronics schematic, and trusting you to figure it out from there. It does require some prior electronics experience, and is not a beginner project.

fzoll (author)2010-11-16

How much do each of the parts cost, and is there a good website to order them?

flashlight_nut3777 (author)2010-09-22

is there a reason why you did not take advantage of the 5V REF supply integrated into the buckpuck?
Was it because of the current threshold being too low to adequately feed the 555?
Would the LMC555 work better due to lower current consumption?

thanks :)

oz93666 (author)2010-02-10

yes.... with the 330 Ohm resistor the led will not draw much current or be too bright and the 555 is protected from step 2 the 555 is connected to the driver with no resistor and the driver feeds the led with no resistor needed...but if you don't remove the original resistor and led no damage will occur...

oz93666 (author)2010-02-10

nice project but....not  'the most powerful led available' , 100w leds have been around for quite awhile ( search ebay...'led 100w')....and now in many colours  

josdavlar (author)2009-09-15

i think your 555 schematic in the instructable is fudged up. it shows a diode, not on the parts list, a 4.7K resistor (wasn't that supposed to be a cap?) and the value for your pot is marked incorrectly (100K or 1K?). I'm bailing on your schematic, and trying toddj's next.

toddj (author)2009-07-12

The buck puck has a maximum strobe rate of 50us. if i wanted to use this for stop motion video, and trigger it off of sensor how would i advance / delay the ttl pulse for fine adjustment? Thanks!

toddj (author)toddj2009-07-12

Like this?

Ed65 (author)2009-07-03

I want to build this circuit but there are a couple of things I don't see explained on the schematics. In step 2 the completed 555 astable circuit shows an LED connected between pin 3 and pin 5 etc. of the 555 IC. What happens to this LED when the astable circuit is connected to the Buck Puck? Is it eliminated along with the 330 Ohm resistor? Thanks, Ed65

imakethings (author)2009-04-23

what if lds are connected directly to the battery?

conrad2468 (author)imakethings2009-06-18

depending on the kind they would either shine bright or burn out.....

geeklord (author)2008-12-29

And, is the control pin kinda like the base on a transistor, a sort of switch?

geeklord (author)2008-12-29

whats the difference between a boost and a buck driver?

dark-sigma (author)2008-08-16

Hey, guys this is a nice simple circuit so i decided to make it. My problem is that the light just stays constant. There are no solder bridges or short circuits and i have replaced the 555 timer. Any ideas?

BWilliams (author)2008-04-19

Using this exact circuit with the 1A controller, what is the flash rate on the LED? Thanks.

phatso (author)2006-11-16

With the 555 circuit shown, you're not getting anywhere near the full drive the LED is capable of handling - about 20ma, or what a garden-variety LED will take. Ya should try adding a driver transistor and a MUCH lower resistor value than 330 ohms. By the way, many 555 versions won't work with this circuit. If anybody has problems, try reconnecting the resistor-LED string between the positive supply and pin 3, with the anode connected to +6V (LED diagram "pointing" away from 6V). By the way, this circuit will work up to 30 volts altho the resistor may get hot.

incawarrior (author)phatso2008-02-03

I just read your post as I was wondering if this could be used in an automotive application. 12V vs the full 30V I guess it can handle it. Thanks,

bshockme (author)phatso2007-02-12

It has 9 volts running into the buckpuck, hence full power to the led, (if the battery will flow enough amperage),.

vitocorlione (author)2007-08-01


charlie R (author)2007-07-28

I found it. I just had trouble figuring out how to enlarge the schematic on the 555 so I could read it. sorry. cr

charlie R (author)2007-07-26

I did not see where the capcitor is being connected? Can someone help?

The Lightning Stalker (author)2007-07-21

You can eliminate the buck puck and get higher light output if you have the 555 switch a transistor to dump a capacitor directly into the luxeon. LEDs can handle much higher currents and voltages if they're short pulses. Just don't blow your luxeon. If you want a real xenon strobe, has one. It can be made small, but needs to plug in though.

zedomax (author)2006-11-03

cool, can u make a larger version too?

JordanZed (author)zedomax2006-11-04

No that would be called a "big strobe light" This is the "small strobe light"

StepsoftheSun (author)JordanZed2007-05-10


studmuffin3dawg2 (author)2007-04-26

that would be sweet to mix that and the altoids belt buckle and make a strobe lite altoid belt buckle!! i am defiantly doin that!

John Culbertson (author)2007-03-22

This is a great instructable I am defiantly going to build it, but how long does the battery last?

westfw (author)2006-11-03

You'll rapidly approach the point at which a 9V battery just won't put out enough current. (have you measured how much the circuit actually puts through the LED? I'd be impressed if it manages the full 5W!)

John Culbertson (author)westfw2007-03-22

I agree I don't think the battery will last long at all with 1amp being pulled from it even with the light strobing.

John Culbertson (author)2007-03-22

find a basic electronics book and it will explain it in great detail.

uCHobby (author)2006-12-16

The 3021 part (white square) is an switching constant current LCD driver module that is nearly ideal for driving LEDs. The 555 is just providing the strobe pulse. If the 9V battery can hack it, this should drive the LED at max power and do so with maximum efficiency or battery life. Take a look at the driver modules at the link below.

uC Hobby

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