Intro: Cheap Alternative for EL Wire!
Howdy there! El wire is way cool, but the problem is I have never had any of it, or even seen it in real life. I live in the jungle, and am an extreme cheap skate when it comes to buying things. To order something and have it sent here would be expensive and take "forever" for a young inventor excited about a project. Thus, I resorted to my brains to come up with something similar. I knew from pictures and reading that EL wire is an amazing flexible tubing that mysteriously glows. Well, I was sure I could come up with something similar - and cheaper.
EL wire is amazing, but as is the case with a lot of amazing stuff, it can be a "pretty penny". That is the case with EL wire. Its a little too expensive for a jungle boy like me. Eight feet of quality El wire for 20 dollars! I could make something cheaper than that! And I did.
How about instead of 20 dollars for a eight foot piece, I could make it for less for five dollars. How about less than 2 dollars. How about $1.68 for a eight foot section. Here is how I did it.
Now, first of all, my simple El wire solution is not exactly like El wire. It has some benefits and some disadvantages.
Cheap (really cheap)
Easy to make
Doesn't have to have a complicated and inconvenient power converter to run it.
It has good battery life
Isn't quite as flexible and easy to shape as real El wire.
Doesn't quite have that soft glowing look that El wire has.
In my circumstances, I decided to take the disadvantages and save a chunk of money and do it my self. Let's get busy!
I am not responsible in any way for injury or hurt you may obtain from making or using this product.
Note: electophobia beat me to it back in 2008! I had no idea somebody had posted an instructables on this until I was ready to make mine. He was the first to post it on instructables - https://www.instructables.com/id/LED-Glowsticks/ - Mine is similar.
Step 1: Round Up a Few Supplies
(1) LEDs - this is the important part and the most costly part. I got mine from http://ledshoppe.com/led5mm.htm They were the best deal to me, but you could find them for really cheap on Ebay. I bought 100 at a time for a single led price of around 7 cents. (Just to get a picture of how hard it is to get parts where I live, it took me about six months to get them. Country sent them back as suspicious articles and everything. :)
(2) Resisters for your leds
(3) Straws - clear plastic ones. Mine were about eight inches long.
(4) Wire - thin
Tools: Glue gun (optional), soldering iron,
Step 2: Soldering the First Led.
Alright, the first thing to do is to wire up an led. It is very simple. First of all, a one inch piece of a larger wire is striped from a piece of wire and slid over the + end of the led. A small insulated wire long enough to reach the length of your straw is soldered to the positive end of the led (the longer side of the led is the +). Next, another small wire (or in my case a small strand of wire) is soldiered to the negative side of the led.
Step 3: Adding the Magic Straw
Now it's time for the straw. Length doesn't really matter. The shorter the straw the brighter the effect. I have made them five inches long or joined two together and made them over a foot. It is up to you on the length. Once you have the straw ready, a little hot glue (or any glue) is smeared on the led with the wire and inserted into the straw. Next, the second led without anything on is glued in the straw the same way. Be sure to line up the sides of the leds the same.
Step 4: Wiring in the Secound LED and Resistor
As you can see from the pictures this step is very simple too. Basically we are soldering the negative wire from the first led to the negative terminal of the second led. The + wire is also soldiered to the + terminal of the second led. Another important step is to solder a wire to the negative terminal to bring in - power.
My habit is to run my led's in parallel. If you are doing that it is good to add a resistor to the + terminal of one of the leds. I generally use whatever appropriate resistor I have on hand. In this case I am using a 100ohm resistor. The resistor is very important or else you will blow your leds.
If you are running your leds in series you will have to do a little different wiring. In that case positive goes to negative.
Step 5: Testing and Expanding!
Now you have a small section of a functioning light strip. The only thing left is testing it! It is tested by hooking the negative wire up and the resistor to the + power supply. The nice thing about this alternative EL wire is the fact that it accepts a wide range of voltages. I usually run my LEDs at six volts, but 3.5v to 12v would also work. For voltages over 6v, I would recommend using a 5v regulator such as this: http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2062599
If you want a long strip of lights like those on my bike, it is necessary to hook up multiple leds sections. This is done by soldiering the led sections together on the - and + terminals. It probably would be necessary to remove the resistors in that case.
Step 6: Done!
Now you have a EL wire substitute for a fraction of the cost.! Have fun with it and be creative. As you can see it is extremely simple. I have a habit of writing too much. Although this project is simple, the results can be simply amazing.
P.s An instructables completely about the bike is coming!
Runner Up in the
Make It Glow Contest