Introduction: Swivel Mount for LED Light Engine

Picture of Swivel Mount for LED Light Engine

This instructable briefly describes the acquisition of an LED light engine and the conversion of a ball and socket swivel mount that allows you to carefully aim the light engine in almost any direction.

Building a Light Engine Swivel Mount by. Louis M. Brill

The term light engine describes an illumination source which provides a specific, controlled light for a given application. For example, the LED lights for a traffic signal may be considered a light engine. In my work as a light artist that sculpts with light, one of my lighting requirements is having light engines that can be aimed at specific angles to fine tune the direction of the light beam within its display.

This DIY project involves acquiring a certain type of light engine, and the transformation of a ball and socket smart phone/GPS dashboard mount into a light engine mount. The end result of this project is a workable LED light engine that is attached in a fixed position, and allowing the user to be able to move the light engine to adjust the final positioning of its light beam.

There is one caveat, although the dashboard mount is very sturdy, adjusting the light beam's direction within your application should be done sparingly as excessive turning of the smart phone cradle may cause it to pop off. Putting it back on may be more difficult once the base mount is attached to your application.

Parts

LED Components

(1) Dynamic light engine kit

(1) Wired BuckPuck (350, 500,700mA) w/ Potentiometer

(1) Terminal Power Plug (2.1mm Female)

(1) 12VDC 1.0 Amp Wall Wart Power Supply

Parts you can find at your local hardware store

(1) one-inch diameter, two-inch length steel pipe coupling

(1) hose clamp

(2) cable clamp ties

(2) 3/8th metal screws (to attach cable clamps to base mount)

(1) 5/8th metal screws (to attach dashboard mount to base mount).

(2) 5/8th metal screws (to attach base mount to application).

(1) five-inch x five inch x 3/8th inch wood or HDPE stock

& (1) Garmin Dashboard Mount

Step 1: The Light Engine

Picture of The Light Engine

For certain light sculptures, my preferred light engine comes from LEDSupply's 1-up LED Dynamic light kit which includes an LED (your choice: Cree or Luxeon LEDs) and an optic to focus light, all enclosed in a billeted aluminum piece which can screw together. To power you will need a wired, dimmable BuckPuck (your choice: 350mA, 500mA or 700mA) and a proper wall wart (12VDC, 1 amp) to power the light engine.

Once an order is placed for a light engine kit, LEDSupply assembles the 1-up LED which is placed within the cylindrical aluminum housing along with your selected optic. The aluminum housing also acts as a heat sink for the LED. Extending out of the BuckPuck are 3 pairs of wires (six total). Two wires are attached to the potentiometer, two wires attach to the CREE XPG2, and the final two wires attach to a female terminal plug (plug size 5.5/2. 1mm) that is compatible with the wall wart power supply.

After the light engine is assembled and works, it should be tested within your application to answer the big questions:

  • Where is your light engine going to be placed?
  • How far will the light engine be from the wall wart connection point, and
  • How far will it be from your control panel which will have your on/off switch and your dimmer?

If the light engine is further away from where you need the dimmer and the on/off (optional) switch control points, then take extra lengths of wire and carefully solder them to the BuckPuck dimmer and terminal wire outlets. This allows those wire connections to be extended and properly attached from light engine to the control point. In some cases starting the illumination of the light engine could be just plugging in your project. In this case there would be no need for an independent on/off switch.

Step 2: LED Light Engine Mounting Base

Picture of LED Light Engine Mounting Base

Having the completed LED Kit is only the first part of creating a functional LED light engine swivel mount. It still has to be mounted on "something" to hold it in place and allow it to be aimed as needed.

The selected solution for an aiming device is to use a Garmin dashboard ball and socket mount which is normally used as a place holder for temporarily inserting your smart phone on a vehicle dashboard. This device comes in two parts: the mount, which has a suction cup attachment on its bottom, and a molded ball at its top. The second part is a cradle for holding the smart phone in place. Note that these two parts are meant to be detached if necessary during normal use.

Reattaching the cradle to the mount is done by press fitting one part to the other, which means you have to carefully push very hard against the cradle to get the ball and socket connection to snap together. It’s a good idea to disassemble and reassemble the two parts several times to get comfortable with attaching the parts together. This design feature allows for the cradle and the base to be separated in order for you to modify the base, and later, to reattach it to the cradle. Also experiment with its turning radius to make sure it works for your application.

Getting a Garmin Dashboard Mount of Your Choice.

To find an appropriate Garmin distributor, Google search 'Garmin dashboard mount.' Note that there are many styles, sizes and price points for these devices. My preference is the least expensive, ($5.00 - $15.00, depending on who you get it from), and these units feature a cradle that is perfectly sized for attaching the LED light engine.

Once you've received your Garmin dashboard mount, and have become familiar with how it works, it is time to begin its modification. This is divided into seven steps which includes:

Transforming the Dashboard Mount

  1. Removing some unessential parts on the dashboard mount,
  2. Drilling of a hole within the dashboard mount,
  3. Getting wood or HDPE material for base mount
  4. Creating a mounting base for your dashboard mount

Adding the Light Engine To The Smartphone Cradle

  1. final assembly of light engine to dashboard mount
  2. attaching light engine to dashboard cradle
  3. turn on and test light engine

Step 3: Removing the Suction Component of Dashboard Mount

Picture of Removing the Suction Component of Dashboard Mount

You should see that the dashboard base has a suction cup with self-adhesive backing attached to its bottom. In its normal use, you place the dashboard base where you want it, and engage the suction device by pushing on its lever to hold it firmly in place on the vehicle dashboard. In our use of this device as a LED light engine mount, you do NOT need the attached suction cup, and will remove it from the base of the dashboard mount.

To do so this requires a small vise, needle nose pliers, a hammer, and a finishing nail.

  1. Separate the cradle from the dashboard base.
  2. Place the dashboard base sideways in the vise to hold in place. (make sure the small metal pin is facing you)
  3. The suction cup is attached against the dashboard mount by a small metal pin.
  4. Take the finishing nail and carefully place it over the pin and with hammer gently tap the nail against the pin to push the pin out from the dashboard base. Once enough of the pin has emerged from the base, take the needle nose pliers and carefully remove the pin from the base.
  5. At this point the following items will be separated from the base, the suction cup, the pin, the lever activating the suction cup, and a small spring. Disregard all these items - they not relevant to our use.

Step 4: Drilling a Hole in the Mount

Picture of Drilling a Hole in the Mount

Next, you'll want to drill a hole in the bottom of the base - to do so requires a drill, and a proper drill bit to match selected screw size

  1. Place the base upside down on the vise
  2. The inside bottom of the base has a reinforcing grid. Select a point towards the middle and drill a hole through the mount. (To guide you in this task, I've identified a potential drill spot with a white dot in the picture)

Step 5: Getting HDPE or Wood Material for Base Mount

Wood is easy to get. HDPE may take a little work to acquire. HDPE is a white, extruded plastic material that comes in many sizes and thicknesses. It can be obtained at local plastics store or online. Whether you use wood or HDPE, the piece should be 4" x 4" x 3/8" thick.

  1. Mark a series of five x' on equal pieces of small masking tape segments.
  2. Use each small masking tape segment with its x mark to indicate where on your base mount you will drill holes and drill the mount into place.

Step 6: Creating a Mounting Base for Dashboard Mount

Picture of Creating a Mounting Base for Dashboard Mount

Once you've attached the LED light engine to the dashboard mount you'll need to position it within your application and lock it in place. To easily connect the light engine/dashboard mount to your application, a small bottom base is required that a) you can attach the dashboard mount to, and b) attach the base with your dashboard mount to your application. Once you have the bottom base, prepare to drill five holes into it.

to do so requires a drill, a screwdriver, a small piece of HDPE plastic or wood and several wood or metal screws (length of screws is determined by the thickness of material you're drilling into)

  1. the diameter of the bottom of the dashboard mount is two inches across. The mounting base should be slightly larger than that. Using either HDPE (a very durable plastic material) or a piece of small plywood, cut the work piece to approximately four-inch x four inches (or larger if preferred).
  2. Take the dashboard mount, and place it directly in the center of the bottom mount. Place the handdrill with attached bit (drill bit determined by selected screw size) through the hole of the dashboard mount, and drill through bottom base.
  3. Drill two additional holes upon which nylon cable clamps will be screwed in place. These cable clamps will be threaded with a wire tie to firmly hold the BuckPuck in place on the base mount. The separation points between the cable clamps should be a little bit wider than the width of the BuckPuck. Screw cable clamps in place.
  4. Select a screw length that will be long enough to go through dashboard mount and firmly attach dashboard mount to bottom base. The screw should NOT pierce the bottom of the mounting base. If the screw is too long (meaning you can't find the right size), take a workable length, and use a nut as a shim to take up x-tra length. This may take a little experimenting with to get the screw to properly attach dashboard mount into bottom mount.
  5. Once the dashboard mount is attached to the base mount, now is the time to attach base mount to cradle. Press fit the cradle to base mount. (This is very delicate, as you have to push very hard to insert the ball on the dashboard mount into the socket on the cradle).

Step 7: Final Assembly of Light Engine to Dashboard Mount

First, determine where your light engine will be located in your application, then set up and attach the cradle to base mount. Once base mount and cradle are attached in place, carefully attach the base mount to application mount.

To do so requires light engine base mount and your application which should be ready to receive base mount for attachment.

  1. Once you know where to mount your light engine, remember your previously drilled holes into the dashboard mount (HDPE or wood base). Use those holes to mark corresponding holes onto your now determined light engine application location. Take handdrill and drill holes into your application.
  2. Line up the base mount with the previously drilled holes, and screw base mount to your application.

Step 8: Attaching the Light Engine to the Dashboard Cradle

Picture of Attaching the Light Engine to the Dashboard Cradle

The light engine is permanently attached to the smartphone cradle, as is its BuckPuck accessory. This involves getting a small steel pipe, attaching it to the cradle, and then inserting the LED aluminum cylinder within the steel pipe.

To do so requires a two-inch steel pipe connection, several properly sized wire ties, a hose cable clamp, an empty soda can and metal tin snips.


  1. To provide additional protection to your LED Supply light engine, the LED Supply cylindrical aluminum housing tube is placed inside of slightly larger steel or copper pipe of a similar length. This is done to provide a secondary heat sink and to provide protection for the LED light engine cylinder.
  2. Take the steel pipe and place it so steel pipe is on one side of the cradle, then take a properly sized hose clamp and attach it so hose clamp encircles the cradle and the steel coupling pipe. Carefully tighten the hose clamp until the steel coupling pipe is firmly attached to the dashboard cradle.
  3. Once the steel pipe is in place, insert the cylindrical LED light engine aluminum housing into the steel pipe. The aluminum housing will probably be a bit loose. To tighten it up, we will create a shim by taking an aluminum soda can and with metal snips cut out a small rectangular strip and put a slight bend in it. Once created, take the aluminum rectangular cut out and wedge it between the aluminum cylinder and the steel pipe. Once done, this should hold the aluminum cylinder firmly in place within the steel pipe.
  4. Extending from the steel coupling pipe will be two wires which are attached to the BuckPuck. Now there is the matter of giving the BuckPuck a permanent home. Take the BuckPuck and place it carefully between the previously attached cable clamps and install in place with a properly sized wire tie.
  5. Refer to below photograph as to how BuckPuck is attached to base mount.
  6. The two other sets of wire include the dimmer pot, and the red and black wires. Connect the red and black wires to the terminal connecter that the wall wart attaches to. Dimmer wires can be left alone or extended to whatever length is desired.

Step 9: Turn On, Tune in and Test the Light Engine

The dashboard mount is now attached to your application, the light engine is installed, wired up, and plugged into power. Now it's time to turn on the light engine. Align the light beam as preferred within your application.

  • If during your build up of light engine stand, questions arise about described procedures, feel free to contact author (louismbrill@gmail.com)
  • If you've successfully completed this project and are happy with the results, send your pictures to LEDSupply. They'd love to see your application of the light engine mount.

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