DMX512 Controlled LED Light Tube

Introduction: DMX512 Controlled LED Light Tube

I wanted to build some futuristic/science fictions style light pylons/tube for a spaceship bridge set I am building.   The light pylons were to fit in the front corners of the bridge to help fill the space to each side of the main screen which meant they needed to be 6 ft tall.  Also,the lights needed to be easy to transport, easy to build, tough, and preferably not too expensive.  One additional requirement was that the lights be controllable through a DMX512 interface to provide different colors and flashing patterns.  DMX512 is a common stage lighting control and can be found built into many standard lights used for theater and DJ setups.

With the DMX requirement a simple solution for the light source was a Venue Thinpar64 10mm LED Lightweight Par Light. This low profile DMX intelligent LED PAR Can is designed for portability and convenience in mind. It is lightweight and super compact with the LEDs providing strong light and good color control.  Also, right after Christmas Guitar Center was selling them for $99 this year.  You could also use a different light source depending on your needs and budget but I would watch out using any non-LED source as the heat generated could melt the plastic bucket.

Once the light source was chosen the next step was to find a way to make the tall circular pylon and to give a more diffuse effect to the light.  The solution came in the form of two 5-gallon buckets and a transluctent light panel.  This is where the real instructable begins.  I will tell you how you can build a pair of these slick futuristic looking light tubes in just an hour or two with just a few tools.

Tools Required:
    Handsaw, Jigsaw, Circular Saw, Table Saw, or  Bandsaw
    Wood Rasp or 80 grit sand paper (optional)
    Power Drill or Drill Press
    Heavy Duty Scissors
    Pop Rivet Gun
    2" Hole Saw
   1/8" Drill bit
    Medium sized Phillips Screwdriver or Screwdriver bit
    Felt tip marker
    Tape measure or ruler
     4ft long straight edge of some type

Materials Required:                                                            Price: (as of time of writing)
      4 - Five Gallon Bucket                                                       $2.78 ea
      1 - 2' (24") long 1x4 pine board                                         $2.56 ea
      3 - 24" x 48" Cracked Ice White Light Panel                     $9.76 ea
    50 - 1/8" X 1/8" Pop Rivets                                                  $4.48 per 100
    16 - 3/4" Drywall Screws                                                     $5.58 per 75
      2 - 10'L x 3/4"W Black Rubber Foam Weather Strip         $3.98 ea

As you can see from the materials list everything for the pylon, except the light source, is readily available from you local Lowes.  You could probably also find the same or similar materials at a Home Depot or local hardware/building supply store.  You can use any standard five (5) gallon bucket  or light panel that suits you giving a easy customization to the project.  The only requirement is that they be of the same size as those I have listed. 

The total cost in materials including the lights is less than $275 so the price is not too bad.  If you already have a light source on hand you can build the tubes for less that $75.

Step I.  Wood Preparation
1.  Cut 16 1" wide X 2" long strips from the 1 X 4 using a saw of some type.
2.  Clean up the edges using a rasp or sandpaper (optional)

Step II.  Bucket Preparation

1.  Remove the handle from each of the buckets.
2.  Using the power drill and 2" hole saw drill a hole near the bottom on the side of two of the buckets.  These are now your bottom buckets.
3. Using your tape measure mark four lines 1" down from the top of each bucket.  Space the lines 90 degrees apart around the bucket. (See picture)
4.  Attach a 1" X 2" wood strip aligned with each mark on the buckets using a 3/4" Drywall screw.  The 2" side of the strip should run parallel to the bucket wall.
5.  Run the adhesive backed weather stripping around the top of each bucket.  The weather stripping should rest on top of the wood supports.

Step III.  Panel Preparation

1.  Remove the labels from the panels. This is much easier while the panels flat.
2.  Take one of the panels and cut it into two equal peices (~12" wide) using the heavy duty scissors.
3.  Take one of the half-panels and mark a line 3/4" from each of the long edges of the panel
3.  Take the second of the half-panels and mark a line 3/4" from each of the long edges of the panel

Step IV.  Tube Creation

1.  Overlap the half-panel and one of the full panels using the lines as a guide.  Use the pinch clamps to hold the panels in place.
2.  Using the drill and the 1/8" drill bit, drill a hole 4" from the top edge of the panel centered in the overlap area of the panels.  Use the Pop Rivet Gun to place a 1/8" X 1/8" pop rivet in the hole.  Repeat this step every 4" down the overlap area of the panels.
3.  Remove the pinch clamps and place pop rivet 3/4" from the top and bottom edges of the panel centered in the overlap area.
4.  Using the bungie cord roll the panel into a circle (tube) with the edges overlapping the amount shown by the remaining line on the half-panel.  Fix bungie cord into place and use the pinch clamps to hold the top in place.
5.  Following the procedure in steps 2 & 3 place pop rivets in the panel overlap to fix the tube into a circle.

6. Repeat steps 1 through 5 using the second full panel and half-panel. 

Step V. Assembly

This part is simple.
1.  Place the bottom bucket on the floor. 
2.  Place the light source in the bottom bucket, routing the power cord and control wires out the hole you drilled.
3.  Take a finished tube and insert it into the top of the bucket so that it rests inside the weather stripping.  It may be necessary to trim the thickness of the weather stripping to get a good fit.  You want it of fit snugly.
4.  Turn a top bucket upside down and place it on top of the tube so that the wooden supports rests on the tube edge and the tube edge is inserted into the weather stripping.  Again you may need to trim the weather stripping to get a snug fit.
5.  Repeat the steps for the second set of parts.

Step VI.  Use your pylons
Plug in the power cord.  Connect the DMX control lines and enjoy your glowing, flashing light tubes.  You can use them to enhance your room, apartement, party, or even as I did your spaceship set.

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