Intro: Edge Lit Mobile / Night Light
This instructable is about making an edge-lit mobile to hang in a childs room (or wherever for that matter). Different images can be used for any age or any occasion. For insatnce, you can make one for Halloween by etching skeletons in the acrylic and use white LED's to light it. Etch Christmas trees, a Santa Clause, a candy cane, etc. and hang it up at Christmas time. Hearts for Valentines Day, etc., etc... USE YOUR IMAGINATION!
If you have an EPILOG LASER CUTTER you can skip all the hand cutting / etching and who knows, maybe even be able to sell stuff like this on the side.
Without further ado, I present to you...
The Edge Lit Baby Mobile!
Download the attached PDF to print out the images for this instructable.
Step 1: Video - WORKING WITH ACRYLIC
I tried a few different things to no avail. I do not have anymore time to work on it so I will have to settle with a JUNK video upload... SORRY!
Step 2: SUPPLIES / TOOLS
1 - AAAx3 battery holder (Radio Shack #270-0412) - $1.99
1 - 12 inch 1x2 piece of wood
1 - 6 inch 1x2 piece of wood
6 - 3mm LED's (pulled from pack of 20 Assorted LEDs - Radio Shack #276-1622) - $2.99
6 - 100 ohm resistors (Radio Shack #271-1311 - pk/5 - need two packs) - $0.99
6 - 3 inch x 3 inch squares (cut from 0.220 inch OPTIX Acrylic Sheet - found at Lowes)
1 - 1-1/4 inch x 5 inch eye bolt
2 - 1/4 inch washer x 1-1/4 inch (diameter)
2 - 1/4 hex nut
2 - Wood screws (#6 x 1/2 inch)
1 inch nails
Super glue or Crazy glue (use "GEL")
Sticker project paper (vinyl sticker paper works best)
Wire - I used 24-gauge solid 2-conductor Intercom Wire (Radio Shack #278-0857) - $6.99
Heat-Shrink Tubing (Radio Shack # 278-1627)
Dremel or other Rotary Tool with some engraving bits
Dremel sanding drum or some sand paper
Drill (drill press recommended)
1/4 inch drill bit
3/16 inch drill bit
1/8 inch drill bit
Saw to cut acrylic (or a Cutting Knife for plastic)
Heat gun for Heat-Shrink tubing (a cigarette lighter will work)
PS> ANOTHER function I can't get to work... Adding image notes, sorry! I am sure you will figure it out. :)
Step 3: PREPERATION
1) Drill the holes for the cross bracket (see pictures)
Step 4: LED WIRE ASSEMBLY
1) Solder a resistor to the anode* (positive side) of the LED. I cut my LED leads down a bit to use less shrink wrap.
2) Place a piece of shrink wrap over the positive side of the wire. Make it long enough to cover the full length of resistor and LED lead.
3) Solder the resistor to the white wire then slide the shrink wrap down and heat shrink it.
4) Solder the black lead to the cathode (negative side) of the LED.
5) Cut a piece of shrink wrap long enough to cover the exposed wires. Slide it down the wire from the opposite end of the wire and heat shrink it.
1) It doesn't matter what color wire you connect to the positive side (anode) or negative side (cathode) of the LED, just maintain consistency for all of the LED's.
2) These 3mm LED's are VERY sensitive to heat! The LED's in the pictures with white shrink wrap were burned up during the soldering process and I had to purchase more. There are only six 3mm LED's in the 20 pack from Radio Shack so I recommend purchasing two packs and BE CAREFUL when soldering them - make it quick!
Step 5: CUT OUT ACRYLIC PIECES
1) Cut out 6 acrylic pieces (3 inch x 3 inch squares)*.
2) Cut off one corner about 1/4 inch down to make a flat for the LED hole.
3) Drill a 1/8 inch hole in the flat. Use one of the 3mm LED's to determine how deep you want the hole. A drill press is recommended but if you don't have a drill press, start with a very small drill bit to get it centered, then slowly increase the drill size to maintain a centered hole.
*Note: Several things to think about when cutting acrylic.
1) Acrylic can be nicely cut with a jigsaw, table saw or even a hacksaw. The key to getting a clean cut is to use blades with a lot of teeth. For example if using a jigsaw, use a blade with 30 teeth per inch (TPI). The same goes for a table saw - use a blade made for fine cuts with a lot of teeth. Of course the Dremel mini-tablesaw works perfectly for cutting thin sheets of acrylic such as this one, and I JUST KNOW that all of you have made one!
2) Use masking tape where you plan to cut (both sides) and CUT SLOWLY! Did I mention that the Dremel mini-tablesaw works great for cutting acrylic sheets?
3) You can purchase an acrylic cutting knife for this but I have never tried to cut 1/4 inch plexiglass with one so I can't tell you if it will work with thicker sheets like this.
Step 6: ETCH IMAGES ONTO ACRYLIC PIECES
1) Find some images that you would like to use for your acrylic pieces and size them accordingly. If you are a good artist, you can simply draw something up. For this instructable, I made a PDF file with a few images I used from Photoshop in the "custom images" brush. You can download that from the intro page.
2) Print the images on some sticker paper (vinyl is best) then cut them out. Peel off the back and place them on the acrylic pieces. Always leave the protective coating on the opposite side of the acrylic piece until you are completely finished. This minimizes scratches.
3) Using an exacto knife, cut out all the black area of the image. For this instructable I chose to make images with outlines*. Of course if you have a REALLY COOL Epilog Laser cutter... you can throw out the exacto. Actually you can throw out this entire process and let the laser cutter do the work for you! Hopefully my next instructable will be showing you just how to do that. Yeah baby!
4) Back to reality... Using a rotary tool with an engraving bit, etch along all the areas where you cut out the image. If you don't have a rotary tool scratching the surface with the exacto knife will also work. You can even sand blast the image if you have a sand blaster (I sandblast a lot of the things I do). The deeper you can etch into the acrylic, the better the image will show when lit up.
5) Peel off the paper and see your creation! If needed you can go back and touch up areas you may have missed.
6) Sand the edges of the acrylic to a frosty white so when it lights up you get a nice box around your animal (or what ever image you choose).
*Note: Get creative. Inverse the image or, if you have a scroll saw, you can cut the acrylic pieces in the shape of the images and drill holes for the eyes, etc. (see image of Robot). The fun of doing things like this is making it your own. Don't limit yourself to just following these instructions. Have fun with it.
Step 7: ASSEMBLY
It doesn't matter which is the top or bottom bracket, I just chose to put the smaller bracket on the bottom. Also, I painted the wood to give it a clean look. If you have a shop or like woodworking, maybe you can create something really slick.
1) Place two nails on the sides of each hole. These will be used as wire wraps to keep the wires neat and tidy. Screw a nut on the eye bolt all the way down and slide one of the washers on. Place the wood so the nails are facing the same direction as the eye of the eye bolt (this is “up”). Slide on the other washer and screw the second nut on, then tighten it up. In the pictures you'll notice I used a wing nut (for convenience).
2) Thread one of the LED wire assemblies through a hole from the bottom side of the cross bracket. Determine what length you would like it to be and cut it on the other side of the hole. Strip a small amount off the two wires and wrap them around the nails. This will hold the wire in place.
3) Do this for the rest of the LED wire assemblies and be sure to keep all the positives on one side and all the negatives on the other. Make each one of them different lengths. Hold the unit up and take the time to look closely at how long each wire is going to be and that the colors are separated nicely.
4) Once all the LED's are at the desired length and wire wrapped, connect all the positives together and all the negatives together by following the same wire wrap method. When finished, connect the battery supply and make sure everything is connected correctly and the LED's light up. Wire wrapping the nails will give good electrical contact so you don't need to solder it to check it.
5) Once you see that everything is working, go ahead and solder it all up. Remember that the nails are pretty big heat sinks so be patient and let the iron do it's job. It will require a little extra solder but they will solder nicely. Unlike the LED's, you won't have to worry about these overheating.
Step 8: BATTERY SUPPLY INSTALLATION
The Radio Shack battery holder I used (in the material list) has two small holes to mount it with. Two #6 x 1/2 wood screws work well for this. The wood I used is very soft so I did not need to pre-drill holes for the screws. If you are using a hard wood, you may need to drill small holes to keep the wood from splitting.
1) Place the battery holder against the top bracket and screw it into place. Solder the red wire to any of the positive connections and the black wire to any of the negative connections. Put the batteries in and double check that everything is still working.
You will notice that I did not use an ON/OFF switch for this project. With an open battery holder it is easy enough to simply remove and replace one of the batteries to turn it on and off.
Step 9: ATTACH THE IMAGES
When I took the photographs for this instructable I thought that acrylic adhesive would work best to glue the LED's inside the holes of the acrylic pieces. I was wrong and the adhesive does not bond well to LED's, so use Super Glue or Crazy Glue "Gel" to glue the LED's.
1) Fill the hole of the 3 inch x 3 inch acrylic piece 1/2 way up with Crazy Glue GEL.
2) Set the LED inside the hole and twist it a little to insure a good bond. BE CAREFUL! If any glue gets on the acrylic it will ruin the nice glassy finish.
3) Don't be impatient! Make sure the glue has time to set up. Finish the rest of the pieces. Let them sit for an hour or so before trying to pick it up. You can however, turn it on and get an idea of what it's going to look like.
Step 10: ENJOY
Now hang it up and enjoy a fun little night light in the baby room.
WARNING... Do NOT hang this thing above a baby! Place it in the corner of the room or somewhere close by, but never directly over a child. I make no guarantees as to the quality of "your" workmanship.
It works great as a night light and will light a dark room quite nicely.
The photos do not represent the true vibrant colors of the mobile. I used the auto color and auto contrast in Photoshop for the images. I was lazy and did not take time to do proper color correction so the reds look pink and yellow looks orange. The actual mobile looks nicer in person.