Elevator Lights Without the Elevator




Introduction: Elevator Lights Without the Elevator

A few years ago all of the elevators in a local building were redone. A friend of mine saw all of the parts that were being thrown out and got permission to scrounge. We searched and found several items of interest. The best part that I took was the up/down arrows used outside the elevator on each floor.

I decided I should definitely make use of these arrows in some way. I decided to keep it simple and just wire the lights for control on a manual switch. I did just that about a year ago but encountered a few problems with my original design. I have therefore have redone it and am presenting the improved version here because I now know how it should be done.

My goals for the project were:
  • to have the lights easily relocatable,
  • to have a switch to control on/off as well as the direction of the arrow,
  • and for the lights to be safe and reliable.

This project has saved from a landfill what is now a unique and simple bit of functional decoration. I used a piece of wood too small for most applications. Also, I used an old computer power cable and many parts on hand.

This project makes use of alternating current directly from a power outlet. Alternating current can kill. If you are not comfortable working with AC then do not attempt this project. Also, tools are used in the construction of this project which can be dangerous. I make no warranties or claims as to the accuracy or completeness of these instructions. Reader assumes all risks.

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Step 1: Materials and Tools

This is a basic list of the materials and tools I used for this project. I will go into more detail on some of these in later steps.

  • Computer power adapter with female end removed
  • DPDT switch (rated for at least 15 Amps and 120 Volts)
  • 16 gauge 3 wire electrical cable
  • Box for electrical components
  • Four wire twist connectors
  • Electrical tape
  • Wood stain
  • Epoxy
  • Masking tape
  • L brackets
  • Four long bolts, eight nuts, and four washers
  • Small cord (shoelaces would work)
  • Wood for mounting lights
  • The elevator lights

Recommended Tools
  • Paint brush
  • Drill
  • Wire strippers
  • Wire cutters
  • Pliers
  • Staple gun
  • Regular screw driver
  • Router (not necessary, but nice)
  • Dremel (not nice, but useful)
  • Safety glasses and hearing protection (for use with power tools)

Step 2: Preparing the Lights

This step describes how to add L brackets to the lights for mounting them to the wood back.

Assembling the Mounts
I used an L bracket, a long bolt, and a nut to create mounts. The second picture shows how these pieces go together.

Attaching the Mounts
After assembling the mounts you should use the masking tape to hold the mounts in place. Then you should epoxy the sides and edges of the L bracket. After that has had time to set you should epoxy the bottom of the bolt to the light box so that the bolts stay straight.

Neater Epoxy
If you want the epoxy to be neater then you can use masking tape as you would in painting. Simply mask around the areas you are going to epoxy. After you apply the epoxy wait several minutes and remove the masking tape. The amount of time you should wait will vary based on what particular epoxy you use so I recommend testing on some scrap first.

Step 3: Preparing the Back

This step describes how to prepare the wood for using as a back to the elevator lights.

Wood Selection
I used a nice piece of wood from a specialty wood shop but just about any piece would have worked. The main requirement is that it be larger than the lights and thick enough to allow the cord and nuts to be sunk into its back.

Drilling Holes for the Mounts
After the mounts have been attached to the lights you should use it as a guide to drill holes for the bolts to pass through the wood. Measure the distance between the horizontal sets of bolts as well as the vertical sets. Use these measurements to create guide lines that are square with and centered on the back of the wood. Then drill the holes. After that drill larger insets around those to sink the nuts into. I didn't align my holes in this way and thus the lights are not perfectly square with the wood. I also used a dremel to make the areas for sinking the nuts but as you can see that was quite messy.

Making a Hole and Groove for the Wires
Somewhere behind where the metal light box will be drill a large hole for the wires to pass through. I choose near the center for looks and to minimize the length of wire used inside the light box. I again used a dremel to cut out an area for the wire to travel down from there but I would recommend using a router if you have one.

Cutting the Plaque Style Wall Mounts
When I redid the project I wanted a better way to mount the lights and decided to make use of a router. I used a bit called a keyholer to create insets for nails that are the same as those found on plaques. To use the bit you should mark where you want the keyholes to begins and end on the side of the wood. Using the markings as a guide, press the wood on the table mounted router and move the wood to the end of the keyhole location and then back and remove the wood. You will need to leave the router on while backing the bit out. I choose to make two keyholes to make sure it would stay level and not rotate when on the wall.

Staining the Wood
Although I did this much earlier I recommend staining after all the holes have been made. The stain you use should have directions, but usually you just paint it on with a brush.

Step 4: Assembling the Switch Box

This step tells how to prepare and assemble the switch box.

Cut a Hole in the Cover Plate
First you should cut a hole in the cover just large enough for the switch to fit through. The most effective tool for me was a high powered drill since I used a metal plate. Plastic plates should be easier and can even be cut using a knife.

Attach the Switch
Next you will want to attach the switch to the faceplate. To do this remove any nuts from the threads around the switch, pass the switch through the plate and replace the nuts on the other side. Use pliers to tighten the nuts.

Wire the Switch
Wire the switch properly. Boxes made for house wiring will have holes already for passing wires in and out of the box. You will need one end of the 3 wire cable and one end of the 3 wire computer power cable to go into the box. The actual wiring of the switch is discussed in detail in the next step.

Attach the faceplate
After the switch is wired attach the faceplate to the box using the screws that came with it.

Fill in the Wire Passage
After you are sure that the wires are connected properly and the circuit works you can fill in the hole that the wires were passed through to get them into the box. The box came with two plugs but three holes. I plugged the two holes I wasn't using for the wires with the screw in plugs. To fill in the last hole (where the wires come out) I wadded up electrical tape and stuck it in the hole all around the wires. This was just to plug it enough to stop the epoxy I then added. So now there is a thorough and strong (read permanent) seal around those wires.

Step 5: Wiring and Assembly

This step describes the way I wired the circuit (as well as some alternatives) and the assembly of the pieces.

Do not have the wires connected to a power source when wiring.

The Wires and the Switch
I used a computer cable to run from the wall to the switch box. I simply cut of the female end and attached it to the switch. I used some standard 16 gauge house wiring to go from the switch to the light. A fourth wire going from the switch box to the light would have been useful for a ground. The DPDT switch came from Home Depot. (This is important because most DPDT switches are not rated high enough to use for this. Make sure that the rating is for at least 15 Amps and at least 120 Volts.)

Wiring tips
Here are some tips for those unfamiliar to the world of electrical wiring.
  • Strip all the ends of the wires before beginning wiring to save time.
  • Twist the individual stranded wires first. This will make it easier to put in the switch or to twist two wires together.
  • Use electrical tape to cover over any exposed wires to prevent shorting.
  • Use a screw driver to make sure that the wires are tightly secured to the switch.

Wiring the Switch Box
The first part to wire is the switch box. Wire the black two wires together using a twist connector. Attach the white cord from the wall to a center of the DPDT switch. Wire the white to the lights to one side of the switch and the green to the other side. Wire the green from the wall to the green screw in the box. Note that it is very important that you make sure to wire the green from the wall to the box and the green from the switch to the light. Green is usually used for ground and thus the green wire from the switch to the light should be marked another color if possible.

Wiring the Lights
Take the loose 3 wire cord end and put it through the hole in the back of the wood and then attach the wires (using the twist connectors) as follows:
  • Green to red
  • White to brown
  • Black to black

Assemble the parts
Place the metal light housing on the wooden back and close the switch box. Before you tighten the bolts and screws plug it in and make sure that up is up and down is down and that everything works without problem. If all is well then unplug, tighten the nuts and screws and test again.

Better wiring
For more safety a fourth wire from could be added from the switch box to the lights to use as a ground. Also, the black wire could have been attached to the other side of the DPDT switch.

Two Light Switches Instead
If you cannot find a properly rated DPDT light switch you could use two regular light switches like you would use for a wall switch. Simply wire one for up and one for down. This will require splitting the white wire from the wall to go to both switches. You can do this by using two pieces of white wire and attaching both to the white wire from the wall using a twist connector.

Finishing Touches
Finally, on the back of the mount I used a staple gun to attach small cloth cords to hold the wire down. Also on the back of the mount I used a dremel with cutting blade to cut off the ends of the bolts that stuck out too far. If there are scratches or rust on the metal you can use steel wool to buff them out. You can also polish both the steel and plastic parts using a mildly abrasive paste (make sure to test on a small area first).

Step 6: Conclusion

General Application
I have been rather specific in my instructions and it is unlikely that you will ever want to exactly duplicate my results. I hope, however, that you can find use of my techniques, ideas and thought processes in your future projects.

Concluding Remarks
That should do it. You can now enjoy a reused, simple up/down arrow. Use it to indicate your mood, or whether or not you are accepting visitors, or for anything else or nothing at all. I hope you enjoy this and if you have any feedback please feel free to drop a comment or personal message.

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    23 Discussions


    10 years ago on Step 6

    Perhaps there is a way to rig it so that the wiring between the pieces is not showing. Maybe some kind of wireless connection between the two parts?


    Reply 10 years ago on Step 6

    Erm... It is impossible to get electricity to flow through the air wirelessly to illuminate a sign! This is not like using WiFi to transmit the image to the arrows.


    Reply 10 years ago on Step 6

    I meant for switching the arrow, not the power. An internal power supply like a battery would be relatively easy. A wireless switch may be more difficult.


    Reply 10 years ago on Step 6

    i think you could do that with a remote control car, by replacing the motor or the steering with the lights


    Reply 10 years ago on Step 6

    i no at harbor freight tools they have this sweet power outlet that you can switch on or off with a remote control like for a car if you wired that up somehow then you could maybe use it, im thinking about using it for another project and im gonna post an instructible up for it so if something you can see what it looks like gutted out


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Those are only on off though. For this project you need a double throw switch, which I haven't seen in those. (Or any normal wall switch, for that matter.) You could use two normal switches, but that seems like a hassle, especially given the cost and the fact that you have to deal with making the switches be mutually exclusive. So for all that, I would rather have made my own controller and hooked it up to a computer. But I just wanted that done so I could work on something new.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    you should put this above a door and make the door look like an elevator's door and change the switch to look like a real elevator's switch then watch the people get fustrated when the elevator never comes.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Dress a room up like an elevator, put this outside, have the doors open automatically, then somehow add sound effects and flicker the lights.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    you could hook this up to switches on the doors to the stairs so when the bottom door opens, it shows up, and when the top door opens, it shows down. love to see it implemented like this.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I hadn't thought of that; but I think up/down arrows for stairs would make a great joke.


    You could wire it to a computer and use it to display something like your current Google Analytics (ie, if site traffic is up, show the up arrow).


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I wanted to, but stopped when I realized I'd be out about $100 for a micro-controller and two solid state relays. If you have a simpler way to implement that I would be interested to here more.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Freeduino (arduino clone) kits are only $28 shipped


    11 years ago on Introduction

    it would be neat to have a sign above and a sign bellow the arrow light to indicate something like "do not disturb" and "visitors welcome" or something like that...then if you don't want people in your room/office just point the arrow to that sign..