Introduction: How to Solder EL (Electroluminescent) Wire
EL Wire (electroluminescent wire) is a flexible, easy to work with, low power consumption light source that you can use to light up just about anything from skirts to sculptures. The wire is made from two different sets of wires that are coated with phosphor and plastic that light up when you hook it up to an EL wire driver or sequencer.
This Instructable is a collaboration between leonardo ismael (aka Oscar - Instructables' newest intern) and noahw that was made possible by the good folks over at Cool Neon. In addition to the step-by-step instructions that are in this Instructable, you can also check out the easily printable/portable .pdf directions that are attached to this step.
Step 1: Prep the End of the EL Wire
In order to make your El wire light up you will need a driver or sequencer of some sort to power it. No need to be afraid of these terms - the drivers and sequencers just delver power to the wire similar to how a power brick delivers power to your laptop. You can buy a driver or sequencer from the same place you get your EL wire. You will also need either a harness or some kind of connecting wires to attach the EL wire to the driver or sequencer. Assuming you have these components, you're ready to start putting the EL wire together.
Some wire may have its' ends already stripped and prepared for you. If your wire has already had its' ends prepped then just skip this step.
First you will start with the bare EL wire pictured below. There are lots of different pictures in each step so click on each of the images below and follow along with the numbered steps.
Now grab a wire cutter and strip off the colored PVC sleeve around half an inch from the end of the wire. Make sure that you do not cut all the way in, just strip off the colored PVC covering.
Now you will see a thinner clear PVC sleeve covering the core wire.
Cut the clear PVC sleeve off, but be very careful not to cut too deep because two very small and fragile wires called angel wires are right underneath it.
Now that you have both sleeves off, you will notice that there is phosphor coating on the thicker center wire. This is not a skin so do not cut it off. Instead, carefully scratch or sand it off with some sandpaper or a razor blade.
Step 2: Knowing Your Wires
Now that the end of the wire is prepared you can see everything a bit more clearly. This is how your wire should look after step 1, so if your wire matches the wire in the picture, read on.
Step 3: Soldering the Angel Wire
Now, slip a piece of heat shrink tubing over the end of your EL wire and push it back a few inches form the tip.
Next, wrap your copper tape around the colored PVC sleeve.
Your wire should now have the tape wrapped around the PVC. Next, pull the angel wires back and solder onto the copper tape. Make sure you melt the solder against the hot copper tape, not by simply pushing it onto the tip of the hot soldering iron. Make sure you hold the angel wires down with the tip of the solder as the liquid solder dries so that the wires stay fused to the copper tape.
Now your wire should look like this. If your wire matches what's in the picture, then go on to the next step.
Step 4: Prep the Battery Pack Wire
The wire that connects the EL wire to the driver or controllers has a white harness on one side of it and two different length wire ends on the other.
Now you will have to cut the insulation off of the tips of the wire that connects the EL wire to the driver. Strip about 1/4" from each of the wires.
Your wire should now look like this.
Step 5: Attach the Battery Pack to the EL Wire
Now you have to twist the core wire from the EL wire with the shorter wire from the black driver wire. It is best to move the longer wire out of the way by bending it back.
Now, you will need to solder the connecting wires for the driver to the inner core wire of the EL wire cable. Make sure the solder wicks into the wires for a firm hold.
You do not want your longer wire to touch any of the wires you just connected, so you can use a piece of the heat shrink tubing or some electrical tape to cover the other wires.
Picture 4 and 5:
Now you have to solder the longer lead from the battery pack wire to the copper tape.
Isolate these wires with another small piece of heat shrink tubing. We used a heat gun to shrink the tubing down but you can use any source of heat such as a lighter or even a strong hair dryer.
Step 6: Shrink the Tubing
Now you can slide the piece of heat shrink tubing that you slipped over the wire a few steps back over the entire area that you were just joining the wires in. Use a heat gun or a hair dryer to blow hot air over the tubing - this will shrink the tubing. The tubes will become a little warm and gooey, but once it cools down, they will be as hard as plastic.
Step 7: Let It Shine!
Now just plug the harness on the battery back into the harness coming from the EL wire and turn on your driver or sequencer.
The El wire should light up and you should be good to go for many hours of El wire fun!
Post pictures of your projects that you make with EL wire in the comments. If you need supplies you might want to check out the awesome folks at Cool Neon which is located just 10 minutes from Instructables HQ in Oakland, CA.