Introduction: Kitchen Lighting Enhancement

I have a very dark kitchen. The overhead light is behind my head when I stand at the counter. I've struggled when trying to do Instructables. Taking pictures has always been difficult in the space. The kitchen design was poorly thought out. But I'm not going to struggle any longer. Led lighting has given my counter top the light it has always needed.

Step 1: What a Deal

When I made the instructable Illuminate a Basement Apartment I opened a flat panel and found it was lit by an led strip. The light was broadcast into a piece of special plexiglass from the edges. It blew my mind that a simple led strip could look like a glowing 4x8 foot light. The idea has been mulling around in my head ever since to cut one down to fit under my cupboard. I stumbled upon what I thought was a typo on . Four 2X4 foot, edge lit panels, for $95 shipping included. WHAT! They actually sent them. I see they're no longer available. The two 0 to 10v dimmer switches are still available at $42.99 They cost almost as much as the lights. Any way, at under $25 bucks for the panel, I figured I'd give it a go. I'll use the other three panels somewhere else.

Step 2: A Drawing

Proper engineering was very important to me. I broke out the big guns, my trusty Instructables pencil, with its amazing adjustable eraser. My cupboard has a lip that will just about hide the edge of the panel once installed. Please excuse the gunk. I don't usually look under here. We'll have that covered up in no time.

Step 3: Lets Disassemble

I love taking stuff apart! The first thing I do is open the control box, one Phillips head screw and I'm in. There are two wires that have to be unhooked. One red and one blue. A small slotted screwdriver can be seen in the upper left hand corner of my last picture. This is the quick release, a little downward push and the wires pull out easily.

Step 4: Remove the Box

Two screws and a little push and the box was free.

Step 5: Thats a Lot of Screws

I closed the box and stowed it away. With the rest of the screws removed and put aside, its time to take a peek.

Step 6: Behind the Scenes

So whats inside this thing? The wires are taped down to a sheet of foam. I gently pulled them to the outside of the frame. They are soldered to the led strip. I removed the foam.

Step 7: Deeper We Go

The next layer is a thin white piece of vinyl. I'm noticing that the led is actually two strips running the length with nothing on either end. The plexiglass that radiates the light has little dots all over it. as seen in the close up.

Step 8: The Last Pieces

With the plexiglass removed, the last piece of the puzzle is an opaque diffuser panel. Its edges that meet with the led strips are, blacked out.

Step 9: How Its Wired

The two strips are wired together The red side is positive and the blue side is negative. On the other end of the red side ,a white wire connects the positive to the negative of the blue strip. I hope I don't have to require this information ,but its good to know just in case.

Step 10: Strip Removal

The led strip is much more robust than what I was expecting. It has an aluminum backing, and is taped to the frame. I cut an old plastic screw box into strips. These stopped the strip from sticking back to the frame while I pried it free. It came loose easily with a utility knife, prying not cutting. The tape remained with the light strip not the frame thank goodness.

Step 11: Cutting Aluminum

I bought a nice new blade for the table saw, It can cut plexiglass and aluminum. I want to keep it pristine for plexiglass only. So this is my second choice to cut the frame. Its kind of like a jig saw scroll saw.

Step 12: Making the Cut

With measurements made twice, I cut once. I'm not overly thrilled with this setup. The blade isn't as rigid as I'd like. Once the decision was made, there was no turning back.

Step 13: Get Connected

I've used this epoxy numerous times with great success. This was not one of those times. I was down to the last bit in each container, and the mixture was much stiffer than in the past. It took four days to set up enough to remove the clamps. In retrospect, I should have tossed it out and bought fresh. Actually I think now I would tape the joint and use hot melt glue. That way I could continue within a half hour. Oh well, live and learn.

Step 14: To Long

The led strip is now longer than the frame. When I place it to one end of the frame, the other end lines up in a bad spot, I can't cut or bend it there. I decide to mark it just past the D15 mark and bend it. The idea of cutting and trying to solder the wires back was a very fleeting thought.

Step 15: Get Bent

With a piece of paper towel protecting the electrical pathway, I gave the strip a bend. It worked like a charm. The strips fit perfectly in place. An afterthought was to check continuity before going further. Thank goodness I hadn't broken anything. The electrical path was still intact.

Step 16: Meet Diablo

This is where all the money went! I have often wished I had a decent blade for cutting plastic and aluminum, but wow $$$$$. This will make nice clean cuts in my plexiglass and diffuser panels.

Step 17: Ready Set

I didn't want to scratch the plexiglass or plastic, so I added some cardboard protection. The measurement needs to be as precise as possible. When I removed the plexiglass from the panel, it was a very tight tolerance. I assume that the light transmission into the panel requires this.

Step 18: Cut the Pieces

Here are a few videos of cutting the panels so you can see how it went.

Step 19: Black Out and Cut

I used a sharpie to blacken the edges of the diffuser, then I used it as a template to cut the vinyl and foam.

Step 20: Backup Plan

I decided against trying to cut the sheet metal backing. I had some fiberboard in the shop that fit the bill.

Step 21: Back Me Up

I marked and drilled all the holes using a brad point drill bit. Just deep enough to recess the screw heads. I dropped in the panels and screwed the back into place.

Step 22: Tape and Paint

I just realized that I didn't document drilling the 6 mounting holes. They are clearly visible on the white frame before painting. So now that you know, lets get on with the show. Frog tape is my go to tape for painting. It works great.

Step 23: One Last Touch

Due to the poor choice of saw, my corners were a bit flawed. I used a quick swipe of black silicone to hide the poor cut. No one will see it anyway, but I still wanted it covered.

Step 24: Now for the Hard Part

That was easy wasn't it. Now I have to mount and wire up the dimmer switch. All the way from the breaker panel. I have an open 15amp breaker in my panel. That's a good start. Now wire must be run. I won't bore you with all the drilling and pulling. Suffice it to say, a few hours were invested in this part of the project. Even just emptying cupboards takes time.

Step 25: Hide the Switch

I wanted the switch to be hidden but easily accessible. I chose a location above the sink. This way even with dirty or wet hands, I can just push it with the back of my hand or wrist. Any drips will land in the sink. I mounted the box then removed it to assemble all the wiring then remounted it once wired up. That's a lot of wires. Live ,return, ground in and out plus the 0to10v dimmer wires out. The switch box itself was rather large as well. I don't know if you play Tetris or not, but it would help with fitting all this into the electrical box.

Step 26: Low Voltage Wire

After doing my research, I decided to use cat5 as my low voltage wire. For the 0to10v dimmer, I used two leads for each side and for the 12v, I split the wires evenly, giving 4 to each side. I twisted and soldered them.

Step 27: Making Connections

Making connections inside the control box was much easier than wiring up the dimmer. The connectors are easy enough, you just push down on the button and slide the wire in. The box sits on top of the cupboard out of sight. Please excuse the dust and spider webs. I don't get up here often.

Step 28: Hidden Away

I drilled away at the cupboard to make room for the 12v wiring. I fed it through between the cupboard sections.

Step 29: Wow

After soldering the connections and taping them, I had the wife hold the light up, so I could pull the excess wire up between the cupboards. I then screwed the fixture into its forever home. What a job that was!

Step 30: Let There Be Light

I love it! I can even read the crossword now. I'm looking forward to my next "from the kitchen instructable" to give this a test run.

LED Strip Speed Challenge

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LED Strip Speed Challenge