Intro: An LED Menorah Using Chibitronics Circuit Stickers
In December our hackerspace, Crash Space in Culver City, hosted an Instructables Build Night featuring Chibitronics Circuit Stickers. With Channukah around the corner, I thought an LED menorah would be a perfect project to see what I could make with the stick-on circuits.
When celebrating Channukah, the candles of the menorah are lit each night, one for the first night, two for the second, and so on until the eighth night, when they are all lit. The middle candle is lit first each night, and is used to light the other eight candles. My goal for the LED menorah was for it function like the candles, with the center always lit, and an additional LED "candle" lit each night. I also wanted to set it up so that lighting the LED's each night didn't require additional construction.
As you will see, the goals were met and turning on each additional LED was done using a pull tab, which allowed all the taping and construction to be done ahead of time.
Step 1: What You Need
First of all you will need the Circuit Stickers. These are available from Chibitronics or from sources such as Amazon or Adafruit. The starter kit has enough for one white LED menorah plus enough colored LEDs to make a second multicolor version.
For the build night we also had the special effects stickers, which can add FADE, BLINK, HEARTBEAT, and TWINKLE effects to your project. I used the TWINKLE sticker to add a flickering to the candles, but you can make your menorah just as well without it. I found that with only a couple of LEDs lit, the flickering gave a nice candle effect, but with more candles all flickering exactly the same, the effect seemed too artificial. You could always change the circuit so that only some candles flickered, or use more than one TWINKLE sticker, but I'll leave that to your imagination.
- Paper (heavy paper or card stock is better)
- Xacto knife and cutting surface (optional)
- Pencil, ruler (if you are laying out your own design)
Step 2: Prepare Your Template
Next you'll need a pattern to put your copper tape on. I started by sketching several designs, and then after I picked one I drew it out with a ruler to make sure all the spacing was even. You can draw your own pattern, or you can just print out one of the PDF's that I included. menorah.pdf is the basic template and menorah_twinkle.pdf adds a place for the TWINKLE effect sticker.
Print (or sketch) the pattern on your heavy paper or card stock. I used blue construction paper for the one I made on the Build Night, so that's what is shown in the photos. The PDF is almost the same as my hand drawn design, except that the PDF has all the candle sticks the same length.
Step 3: Start Taping
You are going to tape over all the solid lines on the template. Whenever possible you want to go from one end of a line to the other in a single, unbroken piece. If the line has to bend you can bend the tape by pushing back towards the bend point and then changing the angle of the tape. If you can't get the hang of it there is a tutorial about copper tape on the Chibitronics site which talks about bending technique. If you use more than one piece of tape to cover a single line, the pieces of tape must overlap. There cannot be any gaps in the copper over the solid black lines.
I should mention here that the candlesticks, the four 1" vertical sections on either side of the center candle, have to be added separately because they are the switches that allow you to light a new candle each night. Cut eight pieces of tape, each 1" (2.5cm) long.
When you are ready to add the candlesticks, peel back the backing tape from half of the candle and fold it down onto the backing that is still in place. Stick the adhesive copper to the top of the candlestick and press it down so the bottom of the candle with the backing sits above the branch.
Step 4: Add the LED Stickers
Place the LED stickers on the top of each candlestick, so the pointy side sits on the top line and the wide gold pad sits on the candlestick.
Step 5: Add Twinkle (optional)
If you are using the TWINKLE effect with its template, you can add the TWINKLE sticker after everything else is in place. Position the sticker so the three gold pads sit on top of the ends of the three copper strips. Press it firmly into place.
The photo of my original has the sticker at an angle. I redrew the lines in the PDF so the sticker will point directly to the left.
Step 6: Try It Out
Gently fold over the corner between the two battery circles (first picture). Try not to crease the copper too hard or fold it back and forth too many times or it will break. If that happens you can put another piece of copper tape over the broken one.
Place the battery so the flat side with the + sign sits on the circle with the + sign (picture 2).
Fold over the corner and put on the clip. (picture 3)
The center LED should light up. If so, congratulations! (picture 4)
If not, make sure that the battery is in the right place and didn't shift off the copper tape. Make sure that the battery has the + on the right circle. Make sure that there are no gaps in the copper lines. Make sure that the LED sticker top and bottom are sitting directly over the top tape and center candle tape.
You can also try rubbing any place that the copper tape overlaps using the back of your fingernail to make better contact.
Step 7: Celebrate Channukah!
Each night you light another candle by peeling off the backing under the copper tape candlestick and pressing the tape down firmly onto the angled copper tape branch. Make sure the tape overlaps, or you will have to add another piece of tape on top to make the connection. I found that sometimes the LED would not light well when I first put the tape down, but the connection would become solid after sitting for a few minutes.
For the first night, start with the candle on the far right, and then move to the left.
In the photo we have a Chabad Kindergarten class with the menorah they made (with plenty of adult guidance and help, of course!)