Introduction: LED-illuminated Seashell Engagement Ring Box

I made the most important decision in my life: to ask my girlfriend to marry me.

As my girl is perfect, I found the perfect engagement ring for her with the perfect size to fit her ring finger and added the perfect stone so that it would make her shine. What was also very important was the way I was going to propose her.

As she really likes seashells, I came up with the idea to build a custom LED-illuminated ring box made of two seashells.

I set the following requirements for the ring box:

  • be compact enough to fit in the small decorative box my girl would really love;
  • be big enough to comfortably fit the ring with its stone, the LED and the battery, and have enough room to work without the need of any magnification;
  • be powered by a small enough battery - I chose two CR2016 lithium coin cell batteries in series for 6V as they provide the necessary voltage for the LED I used (and that is what I had at hand :) );
  • turn the LED off when the shell is closed in order to save energy;
  • turn the LED on when the shell opens to illuminate the ring and its stone.

It took me about 20-25 hours of work to get the box ready including the preparation and conceptual design. If I had this Instructable at hand, it would probably take me half as much or even less. :)

I started seeking some ideas from videos and images throughout the Internet. As I found that nothing like this was already documented, I prepared the necessary materials and tools and started work.

The hardest task was to make the box without my girl finding this out - she was on a leave from work and staying at home. Hence, I had to work when she was away (very rarely!) or at nights (true love deserves sacrifice, doesn't it? :) ).

Nevertheless, I managed to complete it just on time for the proposal day. In this Instructable, I will share with you detailed information and photos regarding the process of making the ring box.

If you make it to the end of it, you will also discover how my girl reacted and whether I heard the desired "YES!". :)

Step 1: Sourcing the Materials and Preparing the Tools

In this step, I will describe the required materials and tools for completing the project. I will first provide a short list, and will describe the details afterwards.

For making the ring box, I needed the following materials:

  • the ring which would fit in;
  • a couple of seashells;
  • a battery;
  • a LED;
  • some thin copper wire;
  • a battery holder - I used some masking tape;
  • double-sided tape;
  • hinges to hold the shells together;
  • some foam to hold the ring and to fill any gaps when the shells are closed;
  • (optional) some paint or nail polish if you would like to create a good finish on the outer side of the shells;
  • (optional) some fabric if you would like to create a smooth and soft finish on the inner side of the box and to cover the battery, the wires and ring holder;
  • some glue for the wires, the battery and the fabric.

I also needed the following tools:

  • a soldering iron;
  • a hot glue gun;
  • test wires with alligator clips - they help when testing the prototype;
  • hobby knife;
  • scissors;
  • small pliers, and wire strippers and cutters;
  • screwdrivers with fine tips and tweezers might prove useful if the shells are small;
  • some alcohol and ear buds with kitchen paper or towels to clean the seashells and any unneeded paint or polish;
  • sandpaper and a file to shape the seashells if needed.

Here are some details regarding the materials and tools:

  1. The ring. If you don't have it at hand, the approximate size of the actual ring (or any rings she wears occasionally) will suffice. I chose a beautiful white gold and aquamarine ring as shown above.
  2. The seashells. Here you can get creative and choose various sizes, forms and colors. I decided to have shells of similar sizes so that they would close relatively tight. They are white in color with some brownish tint on the edges. A photo is attached above for a reference.
  3. The battery. At first I thought about a small lithium polymer battery (e.g. from a tiny MP3 player or a small radio-controlled model/toy), but I did not find any that tiny. There is a photo above for a reference of the size of the Li-Po battery from a micro MP3 player and the seashell.
    Then I went for a couple of lithium coin cell batteries - in my case, CR2016. These would supply around 6V and have a capacity of around 60-90 mAh. Mine lasted the whole preparation and throughout the precious moment of proposal! If we assume a current draw for the LED of around 3mA, then this set should last for at least 20 hours! One of the cells I used was actually used for a while in my car's key fob, but that's what I had at hand. You can also get creative and use watch button cell batteries or other types of batteries.
  4. The LED. I used one 5mm 4-Pin RGB common cathode clear LED. I used only the blue and green colors, but made tests with an additional 3mm white LED beforehand. Make sure to tune the LED color to the ring, the stone and the inner side of the ring box (fabric). As I used coin cell batteries, no resistors were needed due to the high internal resistance of the cells.
  5. The Wire. You would need around 50 cm (~20") of thin copper wire. I used single-core wire from a solid core UTP network cable, but at the hinges ("brushes") it was a tad brittle. I managed to break both brushes during the tests due to flexing too much, so there I would probably use softer wire with more threads/cores. Occasionally you may need heat shrink or insulation tubing which was already stripped from the wire.
  6. The glue. I used mostly thin CA (cyanoacrylate) glue, known also as super glue, and hot glue. You may need an activator for the CA glue to cure faster. I found that using a CA glue applicator is quite handy for pouring small amounts of CA glue onto the right places (see the photos above). For the fabric for inner covering, you may want to use some rubber-like glue, such as shoe glue or hobby glue.

  7. The hinges. I used some CA hinges (suitable to use with CA glue), which are commonly used in RC airplane models. I bought mine and the CA glue I used here. You may use fabric, tape, hot glue or other types of hinges. Be creative!

Step 2: Testing the LED, Battery and Ring Box Layout

Now that you have all the tools and materials needed for the box, let's test how they work together.

Start by powering the LED from the batteries with the help of the test leads. I used a Li-Po battery from an RC airplane to perform the tests. You could also use some other kind of a DC power supply, such as the USB port of a computer or a bench power supply.
In case you have many types of LEDs, try to find the most appropriate combination color-wise. Mine turned out to be the blue and green out of a RGB LED pointing at the stone, and a 3mm white LED to accent the white gold. Later in the process I decided to keep only the RGB LED as the white one seemed too bright and made the blue-green light look faint.

After you have made sure that you have chosen the right LEDs, it might be wise to measure the voltage drop across them and the current flowing through them. This is relatively easy if you have a multimeter. If you don't and use coin cell batteries, just make sure that they can power the LEDs and they in turn provide the light you wanted.

Then, test the LED and ring placement in the seashells. I placed the LED on the top of the upper shell and the ring in the back of the lower shell. This way, the LED illuminated the ring and its stone beautifully.

Step 3: Hinging the Box

As mentioned earlier, I used some CA hinges, but you may use fabric, tape, hot glue or other types of hinges.

I started by cutting the hinges with scissors to appropriate narrow rectangles to length in order to fit the shells. I then aligned the shells against each other and put one of the hinges next to the joint so that it covers nicely both shells. You may want to clean the inner side of the shells with alcohol first to make sure any dirt or sand is removed.
Then, I poured some thin CA glue onto one side of the hinge so that it sticks to one of the shells. I had to press the hinge with a small screwdriver so that it fits tightly on the shell. I used CA glue activator to speed the curing process.
I did the same for the other side of the hinge. Afterwards I opened and closed the box carefully to ensure that it was aligned correctly.

I did the same with the second hinge. You may need to use wider hinges or more of them if the shells are larger, and vice versa.

I trimmed the excess hinges with scissors.

Step 4: Electrics: Adding the Battery, Wires, Brushes and LED

Now that the box is hinged, it is time to fill it with the electrics.

I started with making a slim battery holder by creating two spirals from solid copper wire. These will make contact with the battery terminals. I sticked them to small pieces of masking tape. This way, the holder will be actually taped to the coin cell so that it is fixed firmly and electrical contact is guaranteed while having a really compact and thin holder.

Then I bent a piece of wire in an _/\_/\_ (M) shape. This would be the base for the "brushes".
The "brushes" turn the LED off when the box is closed in order to save energy and turn the LED on when the box opens to illuminate the ring and its stone. The brushes are depicted on the electrical schematic as the switch S1.
I taped the M-shaped base to the bottom shell to hold it while testing. I glued the battery holder with hot glue to the upper shell. Then fixed one of its wires with hot glue (this will be the first brush) and added another wire, which should serve as the second brush. This way, when the two brushes make contact with the base, the circuit closes and the LED lights up. Hence, the two brushes should make contact with the base only when the shell is opening or is fully opened.

I added the battery and tested if the LED would light up when the brushes are in contact. Mind the polarity of the LED. If everything works correctly, you may glue the base with thin CA and fix the brushes with hot glue or CA if necessary. Later on we will trim the ends of the brushes.

Afterwards, I soldered the LED pins to the wires and trimmed them accordingly. Do not cut the pins too short as you may need to do some re-soldering later. In my case all was fine, so I trimmed the LED terminals really short at the end.

I slid some of the stripped wire insulation on the brushes so that they would contact only when opening and nearly fully opened and not when closed or opened just a little. You can use shrink tubing, too. I bent the brushes to a |_| shape and trimmed the ends. In the end, I left one of the brushes only L-shaped instead of |_|-shaped and that worked well. I did this to prevent the LED from accidentally being lit while the box is closed but there is any vibration.

You may want to apply some nail polish or CA glue on the area of the base where you would not like to have electrical contact, i.e., to serve as electrical insulation. This will prevent the LED from accidentally being lit while the box is closed due to any vibration.

Step 5: Coloring and Polishing the Box

In this step, we will assure that the box looks attractive on the outside. For this, we will need some paint or nail polish.

My sister borrowed me some nail polish in different colors. I applied a few strips of each color to a spare set of seashells I had acquired for testing purposes. It would be nice if the colors of the spare shells and the shells in the actual box match.

After the polish had dried, I could compare how each of the colors looked like and made the decision to use a polish which gives a pearly gold-violet tint to the shell.
In case you would like to trim some parts of the shells, now is the time. You can use sandpaper or a small file.
I cleaned the shells on the outside with alcohol and applied one layer of the nail polish. I applied some on the outer side of the hinges, too. I let it dry and enjoyed the nice looking finish.

Make sure that you choose a color which not only gives a nice-looking finish of the shells, but also your girl likes. ;-)

Step 6: Preparing a Ring Holder and Arranging the Inner Layout

In this step, our goal is to prepare a simple ring holder and arrange the inner layout so that it presents the ring in the best light possible.

For the purpose I used two types of foam - one really soft and one a bit harder, but still soft.

First, I started by cutting with scissors a round piece of the harder foam with the size of the ring. If you would cover the inside of the box with fabric, the ring should fit snug, but not too tight on this piece of foam.
I liked how this simple holder turned out, but the foam was not thick enough and the ring would easily fall out. Hence, I cut a second piece with the same shape and dimensions and sticked them together with double-sided tape.

In order to protect the ring throughout this process, you may wish to create a dummy ring out of wire - I did so and the green ring you see has approximately the same dimensions as the real ring, but is much less expensive if I glued or dropped it accidentally.

I laid double-sided tape on the inside of the lower shell and sticked the ring holder to test fit the ring. When closing the box tightly, the LED would touch the stone so I decided to fill the gaps in the edges of the box with softer foam. I cut two long pieces and taped them with double-sided tape to the shell. Now the box would close softer and the ring would be better protected. As a side measure, you could just turn the ring so that the stone does not touch the LED.

Step 7: Covering the Box on the Inside

In this step, our goal is to make the box look great on the inside and highlight the colors and forms of the ring.

First, we will try to find the best material and color to suit the ring. In my case, I tried a few types and colors of fabric. In the end, I had do decide between red velvet and white shiny fabric with flowers on it. It was a tough decision, but I went with the white fabric to highlight the white gold and faint blue color of the aquamarine stone. In addition, the red would make the green-blue light look faint.

Next, I prepared a cutout from paper with the form and dimensions of the inner side of the box to see which part of the fabric to cut. Please note that this was not really necessary and afterwards I just cut a bigger piece so that I can work with it easily.

I ironed the fabric as it had many wrinkles. I started to slowly apply the fabric from one end of the lower shell to the other, making a nice curve around the ring holder so that the ring could be slid all the way down.
When I finished with the lower shell, I applied double-sided tape to the inner part of the upper shell and sticked the fabric there, leaving enough space around the hinges and the brushes. Note that if you need to do any changes in the electrics (e.g., replace a battery), now is the time to do it.

I cut a smaller piece of fabric to cover part of the LED and its pins, and then one piece for the backside of the hinges.

Once I was happy with the result, I cut away the unnecessary fabric and trimmed the remaining with scissors. Where needed, I glued down the fabric with hot glue.

Step 8: Testing the Ring Box

If you followed the Instructable till this step, it is finally time to test the newly-crafted ring box. It should open and close freely, and when it is open, the LED should beautifully illuminate the ring and its stone. While the box is closed, the LED should be off.

I decided to wrap the box I made with a thin and silky fabric so that it looks better and could not accidentally open while waiting to be shown to Her. You can check the videos and photos above for the end result of my efforts. Yours could look similar, but feel encouraged to share your creations! :-)

Step 9: Surprise Your Girl and Hear the Desired "YES!"

Sincere congratulations if you followed up until now!

Be creative to come up with a nice and beautiful packaging of your shiny new custom illuminated ring box and with the way you propose to your Bride-to-be! I am sure that she will be really glad to receive such a box created with so much effort.

Maybe you wonder what happened in my case? I came up with a really sweet way to propose, tailored to my girl and her liking.

I am really happy to say that She loved the proposal and was very pleasantly surprised by the box! She could not resist and barely managed to wait until I finished my proposal, when she excitedly said "YES, of course I will marry you!"!

I am really happy that I took the route to build this box and the end result is better than I had imagined. I hope you have the same luck as me and keep up the great work!

Best wishes!

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Homemade Gifts Contest 2017

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Homemade Gifts Contest 2017