Easy Way to Solder EL Wire!




I'm working on my first EL wire project and I read lots of guides on how to solder the EL wire, all of them warning about cutting through the very thin radial wires that run outside of the phosphorous layer.

I tried a few times and it can be tricky, but I think I have a much easier way of doing it.

I'm not going to go into much detail about how the wire works or about the various layers that make up EL wire - I'm sure you will have read this elsewhere.

A couple of things that I found made this process easier (other than the usual EL wire tools) are:
 - Solder flux pen - helps the solder take to the wire and copper tape
 - Old computer CPU heatsink - by moving some of the fins closer together, it makes a perfect clamp for holding both wires while soldering, much better than croc clips because it doesn't damage the wire
 - Sharp craft knife - I use a knife to cut through the EL wire outer coloured coating (but not for the clear inner coating)

Step 1: Cutting the Outer Coating

I need my solder joints to be as small as possible for my project, so I only cut of 7mm off the outer coating, but you can cut more if you want to.

Measure what you need to cut and gently roll the EL wire with the blade, using just enough pressure to cut through the outer coloured coating.  If you cut slightly into the inner coating, this isn't a problem, so long as you don't go completely though both.

Step 2: 'Cutting' Through the Inner Coating

The trickiest part for most people is stripping the inner clear coating off the EL wire without cutting the thin wires that run down the outside of the phosphorous core.   The first picture here shows those two wires under the clear coating.

To make this easier, I don't cut the coating, but melt it with the soldering iron!

Run the soldering iron around the inner coating where you want it cut it off.  The soldering iron will quickly 'cut' through the coating and will be done in under a second.  This does not appear to do any damage to the wires or phosphorous core and if far easier than using wire cutters.

Gently pull off the end of the coating and you should be left with something like I have in the third picture.

Remember, each time you do this, clean the soldering iron on a tip cleaner to get any plastic off the tip!

Step 3: Soldering the Thin Wire to the Copper Tape

This step is just the same as everyone else - cut off a thin strip of copper tape to wrap around the inner coating and solder the thin wires to.

I cut strips approximately 2mm x 7mm in size - it has worked well for all of my 2.3mm EL wire

Stick the copper strip to what remains of the inner coating and roll it round with your fingers.  Then bend the two thin wires back onto the copper tape using the knife.  By pushing wires into the corner of the copper tape and outer coating using the knife, you should trim the wire to the perfect length.

Clamp the EL wire between two fins of the heatsink (or whatever you use as a clamp) and apply a drop of flux to the tape.  Solder the thin wires to the copper tape and this step is done!

Step 4: Strip the Inner Core

Using the knife, strip approximately 2-3mm of phosphorous from the end of the copper core.

To clean the last bits of phosphorous off, either keep scraping the knife over the wire or use some fine emery cloth.

You should have something like the second picture above,

Step 5: Soldering on the Electrical Wire

If you are using twin wire, part the wires and cut one slightly shorter so that they line up with the two copper contacts on your EL wire.  Strip back 2mm of coating (wire strippers work fine for this!!).  It's always a good idea to 'tin' the electrical wire before trying to solder it to the EL wire.

This step is where the heatsink is really useful!  The heatsink that I am using (AMD stock heatsink) has a gap in the middle that is perfect for soldering.  Wedge the EL wire in one side and the electrical wire in the other so that the EL wire core lines up with the shorter wire.

Solder them together and flip it over to solder the other wire.

Step 6: Finishing Off the Wire

My project requires my wires to be on the outside of a jacket that might get a little wet in use.  To make the wires more waterproof, and to generally make a stronger join, I fill the heatshrink with shavings of glue from a heat gun.

Cut a length of heatshrink slightly longer than the join that you have made.  Using your knife, cut some slivers of glue off a glue stick approximately the same length as the heatshrink.  Feed the heatshrink over the end of the EL wire and down to the join.  Just before you have covered the join, push the glue strips down the heatshrink and pull it completely over the join.

Using a heat gun, gently heat the heatshrink until it shrinks over the join.  Remember, the heat gun can melt the EL wire coating so be gentle with it.  Also, don't rush this step, you want the glue to melt before the heatshrink shrinks!  If this has worked well, you should see some glue get squeezed out of the ends.  Before it fully sets, you can tidy this up.

If you have a gluegun, you can try putting some glue straight onto the join and then pull the heatshrink over the top.  It's easier than cutting the shavings, but difficult to get a thin enough layer of glue so the heatshrink will fit over.

Step 7: All Done!

I hope this has helped.

Good luck with your EL wire projects!!



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    22 Discussions

    The above one I made last year. I made dance suits of el wire.Only problem is that wire cuts at joints. I tried to solder two multistrand wires in between them. Well can you tell me how to solder two el wires more easy way?

    number 1 usher

    5 years ago on Step 7

    FANTASTIC instruct ! it took me over an hr. to do 2 splices the old way.

    PS; where did you get the copper foil?

    1 reply
    Blueluxnumber 1 usher

    Reply 5 years ago on Step 7

    Copper foil came with my EL wire, but you can find it on eBay from EL wire sellers.
    Let me know if this method helps. Good luck with your project.


    6 years ago on Step 7

    Amazing job!!! VERY well done.. i was thinking of doing these mineature joints and evrywhere they use up so much of the el wire its crazy:P


    6 years ago on Introduction

    What fantastic photographs as well! Highly detailed! Well done.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Wow. This should be a model for what Instructables should be like.

    Clear pictures, showing more than one angle for each step. Each step showing a single step in the process. Explanation as to why you should do it this way, but also exploring other options. And finally showing the completed project as photographed--not another one that they made up ahead of time.

    100% nailed it.

    2 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    100% agreed! Your comment says everything that my tired mind couldn't put into words tonight! The Ible is a great example of what an Ible should be!


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Agreed, again! I've voted this a 5 star instructible based on my concurrence with SpokeHedz comments. This is well done.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice instructable. 5*

    The idea with hot glue shavings inside the heat shrink is very clever.

    I used to work on El ribbons.
    Most of the time, i had to repair the inverters after the FET's smoked away.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Although I have never handled EL wire before, I HAVE handled plenty of heat-shrink and plenty of hot-glue, and am getting better with soldering now that I have learned the secret ways of the Flux Fairy. I've never thought of using both the hot glue and the heat shrink together, that is such a great idea!

    You ible is very well put-together and based solely on it, I think I could confidently handle soldering wires to EL wire (especially if I started with heavier stuff first..). Your pictures are well done (Would you mind telling us what you used? Cellphone with home-made macro lens?)

    Thank you for taking the time to post this Ible.

    Mike, from "DC".

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks Mike,

    The photos were taken on a HTC Mozart with a cheap 10x eye loupe in front of the camera lens for the close up pics.

    For example: http://www.amazon.com/3PC-EYE-LOUPE-3X-10X/dp/B000XGGF0U/ref=sr_1_12?ie=UTF8&qid=1337332126&sr=8-12


    7 years ago on Introduction

    why apply hot glue while hot, give it a shave first! great idea for such delicate work.
    is the finished project going to be an instructable?

    thanks so much

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for all the positive feedback!
    Not sure that I will make an instructable out of the final project - it's overly complicated and I wish I could start it again.
    I promise to do one for the next EL wire project - by then I will have learn from my mistakes!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    You have made it all so simple. The website I have looked at to purchase some El wire made it sound like they had some difficult method or special tools to solder it. A well written, and high quality instructable.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Really nicely done - some great tips there and not just for EL wire!


    7 years ago on Step 5

    Love your use of a old socket A or 378 heatsync as your helping hands!


    7 years ago on Step 6

    You can get heat shrink tubing with hot glue inside it.
    Another alternative would be squirting silicone sealer on before sliding the tubing on. Another layer of tubing over all with a stiff "batten" to prevent flex would also help. EL wire is very fragile if exposed to any movement.