Another Idea for Under Cabinet Lighting




This is my take on making your own under cabinet lighting, also known as kitchen task lights.

I made the task lights from C6 mini LED Christmas lights, bought on "after holiday" special.

I will be using acrylic strips cut from scraps left over from another job to mount the LEDs.

In case anyone is wondering, I am renovating the kitchen as money allows. And since this is a working kitchen, there is bound to be a few things sitting on the counter. Yes, those are custom built cabinets, that I made. To see more of them, check out our website.

Total cost for this project comes in at around $3 per unit, not including the build time. The most expensive part of the system is the $15 universal adapter bought from wallyworld.

Anyway, on with the show.

My first instructable, so have fun with the rating wars for good or bad!

I'll try to answer any questions anyone might have about this or the cabinets. When the weather warms a bit, I will try to put together another instructable showing how I build the cabinetry.

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Step 1: Harvesting the LEDs

This is an example of the type of lights I am making the task lights with.

On these, the teardrop jewel is just pressed into the lamp base, easy to pull apart.

The leads are then bent straight, and the LED removed from the base.

Step 2: Preparing the Acrylic

There are two ways to go on this one, you can bend the acrylic like I did, or you can plan for stand-offs, to give the light some room away from the cabinet bottom.

I cut the acrylic with my skilsaw, but there are many methods available for this, use your favorite search engine to find a method you like.

My strips are approximately 1-1/4 inch wide, you can use whatever width is suitable for your application.

I bent my strips to give a bit of room for the leads from the components. A word of warning here, acrylic gets somewhat more brittle after heating and forming, so make a few extras. You might break one or two while performing the next step.

I won't go into how I heated the acrylic strips, the method I used was inherently dangerous. I would suggest using stand-offs made from short lengths of plastic tubing.

Step 3: Drilling the Acrylic

Now comes the drilling. Find a drill bit that gives a snug fit to the LED, you will be using a friction fit to hold the LEDs in place.

Drill your holes in whatever pattern you need for the area you will be lighting.

I didn't worry about accuracy on hole placement, close enough is good enough.

Next, I drilled holes for the resistor leads.

A good source for small drill bits is a torch cleaning drill set, procured through a welding supply house, or auto parts store like NAPA. I don't think places like Pep boys, O'reilly's, Auto Zone, etc would have this.

Step 4: Stuffing the Components

Now we get to the meat of the matter. Adding in the components.

I am powering my lights with a 12V source, so I used an online calculator to figure the correct resistor value for the LEDs. Yes, I could have figured it out using Ohms Law, I was being lazy.

My LEDs have a Vf of 3.5V for the white and most of the colored, and Vf of 2.6 for the remainder of the colors. I cheated a bit, and reduced the required current in the calculators to compensate for the different Vf. Works fine.

I didn't have the proper value resistors on hand, so I figured up a series-parallel set for the required resistance.

I places all the white LEDs next, making sure of the anode/cathode positioning. Next, I added the colored LEDs. Without the colors, the light output was too white.

Next I bent the leads together, and soldered. Be careful with this step, you can easily overheat the LEDs.

Step 5: Wiring It All Together

Wiring it all up.

I used 24awg bell wire I had on hand to wire up the sets. Red for positive, White for negative.

Yes, I hooked it all up as a parallel circuit. Before anyone shoots me for it, in this case it works well with the power I'm supplying to the setup.

Step 6: All Done, Checking It Out.

OK, time to apply power.

I am using a universal adapter from wallyworld to power the task lighting, set for 12V 1300mA max. Total draw as currently installed is 460 mA. As I get more upper cabinets built and installed, I will be extending the low voltage wiring and adding a second low voltage circuit when the first one nears 900mA draw. I have been running the setup as currently installed for almost a month, with no failures yet.

I have installed a mains switch controlling a single outlet in the basement under the kitchen. The adapter plugs into this, with the low voltage wiring brought up through the wall to the underside of the cabinets.

For all you purists out there, I know I risk having to replace burnt LEDs wiring it up as I have. It works. No LED sees more than 16mA. With all of this, the light level on the countertop is very good.

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    10 Discussions

    kansas kate

    10 years ago on Step 6

    Hey Charlie, Very cool! I have the same problem of needing the strings of lights broken up and not a lot of $$$. Your wife is lucky and you must be a patient soul. Great, detailed write up and pictures. Thank you!


    10 years ago on Step 6

    Ok, this really has nothing to do with the lights. It has to do with the emory cloth. I have a soldering iron that I cannot seem to get tinned. Where did you get the emory cloth and is there a certain grit I should look for? I love the instructable, by the way. Thank you for sharing. :)

    3 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Step 6

    Pardon my jumping in, but while emory cloth (sandpaper) will remove the corrosion from a soldering tip, it's also very hard on the plating which should be there.

    Two old technician's tricks (from an old technician) might be helpful. First, pick up a "sal ammoniac block" from an electronics parts store, stained glass supply shop, or plumbing supply place. Rubbing a hot corroded soldering tip on sal ammoniac removes the corrosion and restores the tip so it'll take a nice tinning again. Sal ammoniac blocks are harmless and very cheap, and one will probably last most people a lifetime. Second, instead of tinning your soldering tip with the solder you normally use, tin it with solder which has a higher melting temperature, such as silver solder with a high silver content. You might need a torch to get the tip hot enough for the high temperature solder to "take," but once it's tinned with that, the tinning will last *much* longer than when done with your lower-temperature "regular" solder. The best policy is to buy a new tip for your iron, pre-tin that with high-temp silver solder, and then use the sal ammoniac block to wipe off the tip while you're soldering.


    Reply 10 years ago on Step 6

    Thank you for that, I will have to see if it's available in my local area. Truthfully, I had never heard of that technique for keeping an iron in good condition.


    Reply 10 years ago on Step 6

    The emory cloth comes from plumbing supply store, you can get it at most well stocked hardware stores and home improvement centers (menards, home depot, etc) buyable in 30 ft rolls or some places will sell by the foot. As for grit, any grit 120 or above will work. Option: purchase a 5 pack of wet/dry sandpaper with medium, fine and extra fine grits.


    10 years ago on Step 6

    Not to take away from your instructable but you could do the same thing with LED rope light and save yourself a lot of hassle. I did it with my kitchen and the results look the same and they are waterproof.

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I did think about that, and you are right, for some situations that would work. However,there would be one problem for me. The shape and layout of our kitchen dictates that the uppers be broken up, not in one contiguous line. The rope lights I have check on are all one set length, which would force me into either cutting them into smaller strips, or doubling them under some areas making the light output splotchy, at best. I also looked into the cuttable premade strips, but found them to be rather pricey. As it is, I have only a few $$ and a few hours time invested in this. Much less than what it would have cost me otherwise. The final kicker is that my wife likes what I've done, and to me that is the most important part. I was only trying to share what I did for our custom built kitchen, with this instructable.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I got the same coffee cup myself. Always filled too. Must be a job thing or something. Nice Idea and detail. How many of these are you putting up in the kitchen?

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    As far as the cup goes, let me put it this way: there is no such thing as ex- military, at least not in my family. I am proud of my service, even though it was between wars. There will be one under each section of uppers, scaled to fit the area. Am thinking about embedding more single LEDs elsewhere in the woodwork for accent lighting. If I can figure out a cheap way to make my own screw base bulbs, I would love to replace all the incandescent bulbs in the house.