Picture of USB powered LED christmas tree
For the holidays, I wanted to give a couple of my friends something cool, by that time I had taught myself simple circuit theory and was infatuated with LEDs.

SO, I ordered the LEDs two weeks from Christmas, thinking this would be ample time for shipping and production. (I bought 200 LEDs for a cheap $12 on e-bay from sureelectronics) Unfortunately, it takes two weeks to ship from Hong Kong, and I got the LEDs on Christmas day. Now it's a bit late, as Christmas was about 5 days ago, but they are nice little presents for the future. And plus, I still might give them to a few people this year ;-)

This is my first Instructable and I hope you like it.

Step 1: Gather Materials

Picture of Gather Materials
You'll need:
Thick Copper Wire
19 LEDs (you can use multiple colors, I used green, blue, red, and white)
Red: 2.7 v @ 13mA
Green: 3.2 v @ 10 mA
Blue: 3.2 v @ 10 mA
White: 3.2v @ 10 mA
390 ohm X 4
330 ohm X 2
aluminum sheet
green wire
USB cable
wood (preferably circular, 1 inch diameter)
two peanut butter jar caps
cotton balls (optional)
shiny cloth (preferable)
hot glue

Soldering Iron
Tin Snips
Propane Torch
Diagonal cutters
wire stripper (if you want, I use teeth)
dremel tool
Chop saw
drill bits
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SterLuMan5 years ago
nice looking... just when you connect it to a pc does anything happen on the pc screen?
trunkar5 years ago
Hey. Nice i love this tree..here somes pics, I created yesterday.. nice instructions  GREAT!! sorry about my english ....
sparky98985 years ago
why do you need a separate resistor for the white LED if its the same voltage as the blue and green?
T3h_Muffinator (author)  sparky98985 years ago
So each color LED draws different amount of current at different voltage levels.  If you were to try putting a while LED in parallel with a green LED, the white LED wouldn't ever 'clamp', or turn on - even though the specs say that both of them operate at ~3.5 volts.  This is just due to the material properties of the elements that the diode is composed of to produce that color light.

Hope that helps, and sorry for posting so late.
Stormrage5 years ago
It's a good idea and i was looking for something to make for friends. But I found useful how u wire the USB cable. So I decided to make a ball out of leds soo i can use it even when its not xmas time :) thx dude cool instructable
please post pics, i want to see how it turned out. it sounds really interesting!
Zack i will as soon as i make it... workin on it its bit tough rly... ill maybe make some instructable for it dunno yet
punkhead585 years ago
I agree with the foot safety goggles, I've burned my feet with hot solder many times before.
me too lol. it didn't burn my foot, but my new pair of shoes now look real funny with the burn spot on them
sladek5 years ago
Thanks for the inspiration.
I put together this, it's not as tidy as yours, but it's powered from 2 AA batteries.

T3h_Muffinator (author)  sladek5 years ago
WHOA!  Awesome work!

Perhaps you have the right idea -> Not using a particularly thick piece of metal for the 'trunk.'  I sort of like the tilted rings, too.  It's got a 'firework tree' sort of feel to it.
TekgodCMS5 years ago
This is a nice instructable, but if i could make a suggestion. Please learn how to use your digitial camera, or build a light box to put your pics subjects in. Your pics are really not all that helpful in determining the position of the electronics. Drawn pics would have been a lot better for the quality.
T3h_Muffinator (author)  TekgodCMS5 years ago
Yeah, sorry about that.  I learned how to use my camera after I posted my first (see the rest of my i'bles).  I want to re-take the pictures, eventually. 
Noodle937 years ago
Muff, how did you power all the led's with 5v's from the USB and have it so bright?
T3h_Muffinator (author)  Noodle937 years ago
Most LEDs require only 3V to "clamp" or attain full brightness, so 5V is plenty. I used a resistor to drop 5V down to 3V, and from there it really just depends on the current. I gave each LED at least 10mA, which is what my spec sheets said my LEDs needed to clamp. Anyhow, if you're having trouble with your LEDs - let me know!
If you wanted to be really pedantic you could have used a complex regulator so that the current went up as voltage went down, unless resistors do this already (correct me if im wrong, but dont they use up extra energy as heat?)

You are right, resistors throw away the extra energy has heat.
Ah right thank you :)

usb ports have between 500mA and 1.5mA at least mine do lol and my leds need 20mA to clamp so its more than enough
cooldude3756 years ago
i am trying using chrismas lights instead and i can get from 8 to 12 lights working depending on the color. after that i get a box on my computer that says there is a SURGE IN THE PORT HUB. i thought that lights only take the power that you give them so you would think they would just dim down right?
If I am not mistaken, a USB port will give as much power as a device asks for. I am assuming that your Christmas lights would be 12V, so they would try and draw that much, causing the USB port to trip over it's 5V limit.
USB is 5 volts at 500mA
T3h_Muffinator (author)  qwertyboy5 years ago
A common misconception - It's actually 5V @ 100mA by default.  You need to 'ask' (as in actually talk to the port) to get the full 500mA, which is the maximum current that the port will source.
wow. i had no idea USB was that polite lol. thanks for the heads up. also, just as an adition, the USB standard says that pins adjacent to each other must be able to short for 24 hours without hurting anything


oh, i see. thanks for clearing that up.
Doddity5 years ago
this is brilliant lol i might make something like this in the near future as i just got into this sorta thing =)
 nice work
T3h_Muffinator (author)  Doddity5 years ago
Thanks a lot!
led2357 years ago
this is neat. If you want some LEDs, then Visit www.goldmine-elec.com Electronic Goldmine great prices, I buy from them all the time, Priority Mail cost about $7.00, but It comes fast!!! You won't be in this situation where you get them when you needed them earlier. No Offense to any1 NICE PROJECT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
T3h_Muffinator (author)  led2357 years ago
Thanks =)

I'm not in need of any LEDs, anymore. I've got about 15,000-17,000 of them (in various colors) in my basement. I get mine from Select Technology 'cause they're just awesome! They've got amazing prices, and super-fast shipping.

Thanks again!
how do u find them?????
T3h_Muffinator (author)  locofocos7 years ago
I found them in a very large cardboard box, located in my uncle's Electronic Distribution company! (SelectTtechnology or username UMO88 on e-bay)
I got mine for .7 cents each from Hong Kong on ebay!!!!
you can find LEDs in the LEDs section on the left hand side on www.goldmine-elec.com
T3h_Muffinator (author)  led2357 years ago
I think e-bay has much better prices.....
what LEDs? i found white Leds for as little as .59 cents and are 12,000 mcd!
i would love it if you could possibly take BETTER pictures. because i want to do this. but you didnt exsplain the resisters very well, and i need to see the pictures to tell
srhadaham6 years ago
boxes in boxes can't be read, step 8 last pictures
this is amazing. i will make this as soon as i have some free time. yay band *a wee bit of sarcasm* yea great idea thnx
i dont understand all that resistor stuff so i would have just put a usb cable attached to all of the leds
T3h_Muffinator (author)  ShampooRobot6 years ago
Had you done that, and all of your LEDs were in parallel, you wouldn't have any LEDs left. USB supplies 100mA @ 5V, whereas LEDs individually sink ~20mA @ 3-4V. 5V would have killed your LEDs, almost instantaneously.
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