Intro: Easy Instant Portable Lighting for Craft Shows
Here in Sacramento we have an art-walk event each month called Second Saturday. Unfortunately a couple of the larger venues for an artist to set up and sell their goods have gone by the wayside (***If anyone in Sac has room for a vendor I'd love to hear about it!!!***) but when I was vending at the Midtown Bazaar I was in need of booth lighting. I took a look at what some of the other vendors were using (Power-Packs) but really did NOT want to spend $200+ on one that didn't 'scream' when they were under a load. I've been next to vendors who were using the cheaper ones and they had to unplug just to hear their customers. I think the noise actually drove shoppers away. Besides, I prefer to make my own! And I've noticed my homemade lighting lasts longer as well.
I found a couple tutorials but they were confusing or sounded like way too much work. So I made my own.
You will need:
* 1 Deep-Cycle Marine Battery - these are meant to be run down and recharged repeatedly. Auto batteries will work but not as well and not as long so you're wasting your time and money. WallyWorld has these for less than $100 if you can turn in another battery (any type) and avoid the core charge.
* 1 Pair small auto headlights. It doesn't matter what type car they fit. I paid about $18 for a set of 2 new ones. You may find them cheaper or free.
* Wire. Take a look at the wiring coming off the headlights and use the same gauge. I used one package each of black and white because my booth is decorated in those colors. I needed enough wire to run them from the battery to each side of my 10x10 canopy I use for shows so I used 20 feet of each color for each light.
* Wire cutter/crimper
* Wire connectors that will fit the connectors on the headlights.
* Small battery clamps
I spent a grand total of $120 and I bought everything new except the wire tool. (If we hadn't moved 5 times in the past 8 years I could have spent far less - I know I have a boat battery SOMEwhere!)
The battery will be your biggest expense so if you have a boat battery or know someone who does, just borrow it. You won't be doing anything to it but hooking it up. Make sure the battery is fully charged before using. And I'm not sure why, but my sweet hubby told me to NEVER set a battery directly on concrete. I guess it ruins it. I'd love an explanation but I have other things to do than sit around googling the answers to all my questions. Besides I'm certain one of you folks already knows and would love to share what you know!
Remember - DEEP-CYCLE Marine Battery - not an auto battery. I started looking into wheelchair/scooter batteries because they are smaller (and lighter) but went with what I knew would work.
I cut the wire so I had equal lengths of each color for both lights. To keep things neat I tied both sets of wire together near the battery end and coil them separately. Using the female connector that mated with the male connectors on the lights, I stripped the ends of the wire and crimped the connectors on. I used these connectors to I could disconnect them easily. I could have hardwired them but want to keep things portable and easily stored.
Use one strand of each color to connect each headlight - black to black and white to white.
Connect the battery clamps by twisting both black wires together and crimping them on the black (negative) clamp and both white wires on the red (positive) clamp.
As with all wiring, be certain there is no bare metal showing at any of your connections. You want to light up your booth - NOT your booth frame! And you certainly don't want to electrocute anyone.
I hook up the lights and zip-tie them to my booth frame then I run the wires along the frame and zip-tie them as needed to make them tidy. I set the battery on a piece of scrap wood, attach the red clamp to the positive side of the battery and the black clamp to the negative side. I always arrange to have the battery hidden under a display table so the drapery covers everything. I usually connect the clamps only when it's dark enough to be necessary, no need to run the battery down if you don't need to.
I used these lights for shows for about a year and did not notice much if any dimming after 5 hours of use. I recharge the battery with a trickle charger the day before a show.
Understand that these will light up your booth enough that you may need to attach shades to prevent your neighboring vendors from complaining. I sell Naughty Bits jewelry (and other things) which are made using just the *best* parts of recycled romance novels so my shoppers need to be able to read book-sized print and these lights make all the Sterling silver findings on that jewelry really sparkle too. The light also brings out the depth and color of the recycled record bowls I paint. (You can find my work at oddartist.com)
The battery weights about 40 or 50 pounds which I don't have an issue with so long as I can drive up to my booth to unload my display. If you can't carry that weight or if you have to hike a bit with it (think camping/BBQ) you may want a hand-truck or something to tote it with.