Introduction: Professional Mountings for Your Programmable LED Strips

About: Always working on 10 different projects!

Want to create a beautiful, finished-looking mount for your Arduino-controlled LED strip?  See how we built a mounting system that  turns our corporate corner coworking space into a rave-box at night.

Here's what you need:

- Programmable LED Strip and Arduino controller, as well as the appropriate power supply and miscellaneous hardware.  

- Pliers for cutting the strip to the desired lengths
- 1x2 lengths of poplar (or other harder wood)
- Table Saw with a stacked dado set  (or a Wood Router) 
- Sandpaper
- Wood glue and/or staples
- Sugru or similar putty for attaching the strips to the wood

Step 1: Acquire, Solder and Program Your LED Strip

First, get your RGB LED strip.  We bought 2 5-meter reels for each side of our window.  If you get it in bulk, you not only pay less, but you can cut the strip to suit.

For the front of the shop, we used an  LPD8806 5 Meter strip:

The LPD8806 is an analog-type LED strip with built-in controllers for each pair of LED's.  That means that you can load up a programming library into your Arduino IDE, and start setting each LED individually. 

Adafruit has a nice tutorial for programming your strip (plus a list of all the parts you need).

Once you get the basic software going, you can add interesting patterns and other things with your Arduino.

At this step, you should also measure your windows and cut the LED strip into the number of sections you'll need.  Assume at least an inch on either end for the cord (so cut the strip slightly smaller than your window, than slightly bigger).

Solder each end of the cut strip to a connector so you can attach them end to end.  Make sure you have enough wire between each strip so that it can fit around the window frame.

Step 2: Choose Your Wood, Cut Your Dado

For this part, it really helps to have a table saw.  A table saw will make it much easier for you to cut your dado (the slot in the wood where your LED strip will sit).

There's a special tool called a "stacked Dado set" that you can use to create just the right width slot by combining two sawblades and one or more dado blades.  The blades are designed so that you can put them side by side, and they won't get their teeth stuck together.

Here's a great YouTube video that describes this:

Step 3: Make Some Shims

The shims help to position the LED strips so that the light shines in the right direction.  In our case, we want the lights to point slightly inward so that they reflect and diffuse off the silvery blinds that give our space some privacy.

The shims were cut from one of the spare lengths of wood.  We combined several in each dado since it wasn't all that practical to make them the same length as each strip.

We chose an angle of about 22 degrees.

You could probably make the shims from a strip of cardborad scored and folded at the right angle, but we had extra wood and a tablesaw.

Step 4: Sanding

To get that nice professional looking finish (and make sure all the shims fit in their grooves) there was a LOT of sanding.

For this part, we used a sanding belt wrapped around a block whose tip fit inside our 1/2 inch dado. Sand down the dado as well as the shims.

Step 5: Assembly and Painting

Once you're done sanding, you can assemble the pieces.  You'll need to trim the shims where they overhand.  We used a hacksaw for this.

We used glue to attach the shim into the groove (dado), and staples to hold down the shim while we waited for the glue to dry.

Step 6: Painting and Testing

After the glue is mostly dry, you can paint your strips.  You can use a spraypaint, or just a small can of flat black latex paint.  Make sure you do at least two coats so it's nice and dark.  You can use whatever color you want, to match your decor.

Step 7: Finishing and Installation

You can use glue, double-sided tape, or Surgru to hold the LED strip in its appropriate groove.  This helps if you ever want to move your LED strip and its mount to somewhere interesting, like Maker Faire.

A black wire wrap from Radio Shack completest the assembly.  Aesthetically, we could use a silver or white one instead.

And...  That's it!  you can now enjoy your mounted LED strip, in a professional-looking frame that fits right in with a shiny office building.  The extra step of making this frame changes your LED project from a hack into decor, plus it has the added bonus of making the LED strip more portable. 

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