Introduction: LED Sound Reactive Infinity Cube End Table
Wow! Whoa! What a cool effect! -- These are some of the things you'll hear upon completing the guide. A completely mind-bending, beautiful, hypnotic, sound-reactive infinity cube.
This is a modestly advanced soldering project, it took me about 12 man hours over a weekend to build. There was some prep time, getting glass plates, ordering parts. I will include links for everything I used. There are TONS of photos, with notes.
This work of art is truly something significant to behold, hoping this is a fulfilling build for you.
If you do complete the build, I would love to see your work! If you have any ideas or questions feel free to post, have fun, be patient, and enjoy!
6x 20"x20" 3/16" Tempered Glass Plates (Local Glass Store, online shipping costs too much)
1x 20AWG Wire - https://www.amazon.com/dp/B084DM42JS
1x 3-Pin LED Wire (Under 3 feet) - https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0829NPHF3
1x Squeegee Kit (Including a Felt Squeegee)
1x Power Drill (w/ Clutch recommended), Drill Bits, and Phillips Bits
1x 8mm Hand Tap
1x Miter Saw
1x Mitre Saw Aluminum Blade - https://www.amazon.com/MASTEC-Aluminum-Ferrous-Met...
Pens and Sharpies
1x Retractable Utility Knife - https://www.amazon.com/dp/B072ZX7G4Q
Step 1: Tapping Threads for T-Slot Extrusion Bars
T-Slot Extrusion Aluminum will make the frame. It's strong, looks clean, and easy to work with.
The main downside of T-Slot bars -- is you have to tap screw threads by hand, which gets old very quickly and takes about 2-3 minutes per tap.
At the end of each bar is a very specific shape, with channels for connecting pieces together (in our case, which will hold the glass mirrors), and a center hole for tapping threads into, to join bars to a connector.
Though there are slider connectors available which don't need tapping center hole, they make dimensions far more complex and messy to manage.
Cube Connectors and Tapping
These threads allow us to use our T Slot Cube Connectors to join three bars together at right angles (like a cube!). These 3030 cube-connectors have pins that align with the channels, and a single screw hold together each bar very tightly. Please see related photos showing the cube connectors.
I am using 3030 T Slot Aluminum Extrusion bars. The standard hole size for 3030 T Slot is 8mm. The most common screw for this size is 8mm (Diameter) * 1.25mm (Thread spacing).
If you use 2020 or 4040 bar, look up the sizing diagram for your bar.
Tapping & Oil Overview
We grab our handy dandy hand-tap, tighten in a 8mm * 1.25mm tapping bit and clamp the T Slot bar between some pieces of wood, and throw it in a vice. If you don't have a vice, you can always use a C-clamp. There are fancy aluminum cutting fluids, but for these relatively small cuts, Three-in-One oil works fine, is cheap, and easy to get at any hardware store.
How to Tap by Hand
Hand Tapping means just that -- using your hands. As nice as it would be to use a cordless drill to save time, it's a great way to leave a cracked bit stuck in your workpiece. Using a hand-tap means cutting, then reversing, then cutting, repeat until done -- taking into account how much resistance the metal is giving. In general, for every 2-3 rotations of cutting, reverse one-half of a rotation to loosen up your cuttings.
Put a drop of oil in the hole, and a few drops on the bit itself. This keeps the bit sharper for longer, along with reducing the likelihood of binding.
Cut as deep as your screw is long, so a 12mm long, 8mm wide screw needs: 12mm of depth.
After a cut is complete, I take one of my 8mm screws and use a cordless wide-head phillips bit to test and clean up the cut.
Rinse and repeat for your bars. After we cut our bar stock to length (after measuring against our glass dimensions), we will need tap to cut-off the ends -- so don't lose the tap and bits like I did!
Step 2: Making Measurements With Glass in Place
We need to know the length to cut our T-slot aluminum bars to. For Extrusion 3030 and higher, there is a small indention within the cube that take the corner of each glass square in about 1/8".
To measure, I screwed together three full lengths of T-Slot aluminum bar into one cube connector so it would strand upright, inserted a single pane of glass, and used by aluminum carpenters square (ruler) to measure the distance to cut.
For my 20" pane of glass, once indented and slotted into the cube connector (both sides), needed T-Slot bars with a length of 19.7". Please see photos for reference.
Step 3: Cutting Bars, Initial Layout
Nonferrous Miter Blade
This one requires a miter saw. I highly recommend getting a blade meant for cutting aluminum (anything that says "for nonferrous metal"). The higher the TPI (teeth per inch) the cleaner the cut.
The photos I have are when I used a grinding wheel, which required removing metal burrs. Aluminum cutting blades will not require much removal of burrs. I used a flat-head screwdriver to pry them off.
Cutting from Ends
I highly recommend using a sharpie to mark your cuts. A carpenter square will help you ensure your end point (0 on the corner of the carpenter square) is flush with the end of the bar.
Because you have already the ends of your bar, you can cut the length nearer the middle. In my case with 1 meter bars, I only needed 19.7" from each end. That let me tap threads on each end, then cut 20" from each end -- two more taps on the recently cut pieces, and I've got two completed bars -- woohoo!
As you cut your first few parts, use some cube connectors and begin to assemble them. The first shape will be a square -- the base upon which everything else stands! Just pop the screws in through the holes on the cube-connectors and tighten them down.
Power Drill - Phillips Bit with Clutch Set to 1
Because it will take a significant amount of screwing phillips screws, I highly recommend using a power drill with the clutch dialed down to the minimum. This way it says your hands the trouble, and prevents tightening too hard against the metal. If your drill doesn't have a clutch, just go each when initially threading a screw.
Step 4: Assembling the Frame
Once again, as always, please reference the photos for assembly.
Everything connects at right angles with the corner connectors, so it's pretty straight forward.
If you can get a full plate of glass to fit into a single face/side, your measurements are likely on point! Keep assembling, make sure you can crank out a cube. Recommend only putting 5 of the 6 glass plates in, the last one is very difficult (explained at the end).
The frame needs something to sit upon. I highly recommend using something like a 20"x20"x3/4" piece of wood or MDF to mount to. By putting some screws and a large washer through the holes of the bottom corner connectors, the frame can be mounted to a base.
Underneath this base, I installed 4x 3" casters to roll it around on.
The SP107 LED controlled is mounted to the underside of the wood (elevated by the casters), and a hole drilled through the boards for the wire to run through.
Step 5: DIY Two-Way Mirrors
This is a truly a test of patience. You can buy your own two-way mirrors (oddly enough, also called one way mirrors), but at 5x the cost. For anything larger than a 12" face, I highly recommend applying your own film. It's prone to scratching, fragile, and unwieldy, but with patience and time you can knock out six plates.
I would two one plate at a time, and take a 10m break between them, it can be physically demanding getting everything perfect.
Cut Mirror Film to Rough Size
Take your mirror film, unroll it a bit, and cut out a square a little larger than the glass plate you will be coating.
You want the glass to be perfectly clean. And by perfect, I mean, absolutely zero dust.
I highly recommend using lint-free cloths (shop towels from AutoZone work great!), and a foam-based glass cleaner, I used "Sprayway Glass Cleaner"
Spray on the foam, wipe-wipe-wipe to perfect.
Spraying Glass with Semi-Soapy Water
From there, use a spray bottle to spray water (with a small amount of Dawn dish soap mixed in, to make it less viscous), and completely coat the glass, more is better.
Applying the Film
Remove the protective layer from the mirror film, and apply on one face.
The easiest way to do this, is to take two pieces of scotch tape, apply them at 45-degree angles on a corner on opposite sides, and peel them away from each other (see photo).
Slowly -- and I mean slowly, use your plastic, semi-hard squeegee, and push the film along the glass while squeezing out any water you can. I generally apply from one corner, towards the opposite, slowly laying down the film with one hand, and using the squeegee along the length of the "crease" (where the film meets the glass) back and forth to push out the water.
It's more of an art than a science, and it's ok to re-do a plate, I had to redo three plates after making a scratch with my squeegee or letting dust get under the film. It's generally better to re-clean and cut a fresh piece of mirror film.
With time and patience, you'll have a mirror, take a razor blade and cut along the edges of the glass plate to size. Recommend protecting it from dust as much as possible, i.e. don't leave it out in a dusty garage.
Protecting the Edges
Fortunately, we have about a 1/4" inset/overlap when the plate is inserted into the T-Slot bars.
Later, once assembled, the glass will rattle very hard against the metal frame. In addition, the mirror film is fragile at the ends, and difficult to cut perfectly.
I took some Gaffer tape (you can also use Duct Tape), tore it in half (Gaffer tape tears in straight lines), and apply along the length of each plate. This effectively provides a damper against vibrations, and protects the edges of the glass and mirror film. Apply a protective tape to each edge of every plate.
Step 6: The Hard Part -- Assembly and Soldering
This is going to take some time, and some parts of assembly, there is no going back. Photos will be very helpful. Be careful not to let your soldering iron, or excess solder, land on any mirror film as it will melt the plastic film.
Assemble the base frame (the bottom part of the cube), slide in your first glass plate, film side facing in. Throughout assembly, mirror film should *always* face inwards, leaving glass facing externally (for cleaning/dusting). We are going to built the entire frame, except for the top-most (horizontal) face.
There is a weak adhesive that should come with your LED strips, this will apply them to the bars initially.
There are three wires: 5V (Red: positive), D0 (Green:data), GND (Black:Negative). There is going to be a LOT of soldering. I highly recommend using a fine-point soldering iron with an adjustable temperature.
In the end, there is only a single logical piece of LED ribbon, one start, one end. We have to jump the wire to different edges, to keep from overlapping another edge.
I highly recommend pre-tinning the wire-stripped ends of each quick connector and LED pad. You can connect them end-to-end using the 3-pin LED Wire as spares, or snipping off pieces of JSM quick-connectors.
Order of Installation
Mine was a very difficult order of install, there is probably a better way to do it. If you can find a better way to wire it up, I'd love to learn from your ideas :-).
I only have an initial outline of my wiring diagram, but it's pretty close. In the edge on the final bar (Edge #24), I had to add an extension cable of 3-pin wire to make the gap. The wire eventually ended up sandwiched between the glass and the channel of the T-Slot bar.
As you make progress, I highly recommend testing the patterns of your LEDs through your controlled. It's easy to make a weak solder joint or accidentally bump a wire loose.
Using the LEDchord app (with the SP107E controller), you will need to set a maximum number of LEDs. Make sure it is higher than the total number you are using, otherwise it will stop at a specific point -- no further signal will be sent.
For my example, in LED Chord, I use: 32 Segments, 24 Pixels/Seg, Total: 768 LEDs: GRB WS2811. My setup has around 600 LEDs, so it is higher than the minimum needed.
As you make progress, and more mirrors are installed, it will look more and more brilliant..
You've got your LED ribbons installed, you've already seen some of the beauty contained within the chamber.
The top glass plate is not yet inserted, but everything else is ready to go.
Do a final wipedown of dust using lint-free clothes. Once this chamber is sealed, it's not fun to open it up again.
To get the final plate of glass in requires some trickery. Removethe corner connectors on the "open" end of the the top frame. There should only be a single "bar" missing, that will be rotated into place once the final glass plate is inserted.
With the frame semi-loose, but sturdy enough for you to carefully guide the plate in, slowly push the horizontal bars towards the center to hold the glass plate. We only have 1/4" of slack on both sides to work with, so be careful and go slow. Once it's stable enough, insert the cube connectors on the corners., Connect the quick-disconnect to the final bar. Test, ensure it all lights up. Now rotate the final bar in, tighten down the corner connectors, and your cube should be done. Everything should light up, be controllable, and nicely done!
Hoping that is helpful, informative, and brightens up your life. Thank you so much for reading, hoping your year is a life-giving one.