In this guide you will learn not only how to make rustic wooden LED panels of different shapes but also how to design a whole low-voltage lighting system with fancy touch buttons mounted on walnut wood wall supports to switch on and to dim the LED panels.
This illumination system was made in a one-bedroom flat but can be adapted to any house.
Let's go on with order pointing out the steps of this project:
- Electronic components
- Wood and mechanical parts
- 3D design of the LED panels
- 3D design of the touch buttons and the wooden wall supports
- Electric plant design of the LED lighting system
- Building the wooden LED panels
- Building the touch buttons
- Wiring and testing
Disclosure: I am not responsible for any damage that could happen to you or to your property if you follow this project.
- You should not modify your house electrical system unless you are a qualified electrician or engineer. If you don't know about electricity and you want to follow this tutorial, before you must seek advice from an electrician or an electrical or electronic engineer.
- Working with 24V is safe but in order to connect power supplies and to pull the cables of the electrical system there is also 230V to deal with, which is dangerous. Make sure you use power supplies that are certified for lighting as they will have a protection mode in case of overheating and short-circuit. We don't want your house to catch fire.
- Protect your circuits with electronic resin or insulating spray and make sure you keep them airy.
- Cutting wood with a circular saw is dangerous, be careful while doing so. Don't loose any of your finger.
- Aluminum cutting with industrial shears is a job that must be done by an expert.
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Step 1: Electronic Components
LEDs and control drivers:
- 3 Lighting control units Systema
- 7 Capacitive sensors Systema
Systema technology is the heart of this lighting system and the thing that allows all the magic to happen. You can connect several sensors and lamps on a 2 wire bus coming from the control unit. Once one sensor is touched, the control unit will switch on and off all the lamps on that bus. It will also dim them if you keep your finger on the capacitive area. Looking at the schematics everything will become clearer. There is a presentation about this technology attached.
- 1 24V 60W LED certified power supply
- 2 x 0.75 wires (the length depends on how far the lamps and touch buttons are located form each other)
- 1 x 0.2 wire (or AWG 24) black, red, green wire
- electric connectors and terminals
Step 2: Wood and Mechanical Parts
For the LED panels:
- anodized aluminum sheet (2mm thick)
- poplar wood batten (section of 6x2cm or similar)
- poplar wood strips (section of 2x2cm or similar)
- lampshader sheet or fabric, cream or yellow in color (e.g. I used the potato sack color). The lampshader should be the one with a PVC layer.
- rectangular powerful magnets with a hole in the middle
- commercial L brackets
- steel strips 1mm thick with holes
- screws for wood
For the touch buttons:
- Walnut wood batten to be handworked to obtain 2 double button wooden supports and 3 single button wooden supports
- CNC milled brass label with ON/OFF symbol
- 7 3D printed cases for the touch buttons
- 7 CNC milled PVC opal plastic covers to diffuse light
- 7 3D printed cases with lids for sensors
Step 3: 3D Design of the LED Panels
I have decided to design the panels following 4 basic geometrical shapes:
- a square and a trapezoid to illuminate the kitchen and living room
- a pentagon to illuminate the bathroom
- an hexagon to illuminate the bedroom
Follow these steps.
- I have only designed in details the square shape because it is the simplest way to clearly see all the different parts of a LED panel.
- I had to figure out a way to access the LEDs in case of future checks and repairs and also to physically connect the panel to the wire coming from the ceiling, I decided to use powerful magnets on the inner frame that would attach to the L brackets on the outer frame.
- you will need a CNC laser, CNC milling machine or industrial shears to cut the base of each panels in the different shapes. I recommend you ask a local company with this kind of machinery if you don't dispose of any of them. The raw material used is anodized aluminum 2mm thick. You will find the dimensions and sketches I used attached.
- I have also attached a .dwg where I tried to figure out the dimensions of the wood battens to be used to assemble the outer frame and the wood strips for the inner removable frame of each LED panel.
ATTENTION! The aluminum base will work as LED heatsink, so make sure you don't make it in the wrong material (e.g. wood).
Step 4: 3D Design of Touch Buttons and Wood Supports
Designing the 3D buttons has been quite challenging because I was aiming to make the buttons to be as stylish as possible so I gave them a stadium shape, but I also had to think about making a smooth and functional wall support for them.
I had to design:
- touch buttons
- wall supports
Designing the touch buttons
I wanted the touch buttons to be backlit so I designed a plastic stadium-shaped case and a small opal plastic diffuser as cover. I designed a lowering to place the sensor brass area with an on/off logo on top of the plastic cover, this is the area that the user touches to switch on the light. I have attached the assembly binary file .x_b that you can open with your favorite 3D design software.
Designing the wall supports
I had to think about the size of the typical supports for the usual electrical boxes found in houses.
On some occasions I was supposed to switch on two lights from the same spot (e.g the kitchen and the bedroom) so I designed:
- double buttons wood supports (to switch on two rooms)
- single button wood supports (to switch on a room)
You can find all the drawings with the dimensions attached.
Step 5: Electric Plant Design of the Lighting System
I hope the electrical schematics will make everything crystal clear.
Remember that Systema works in a way that if the user touches any of the touch sensors connected to the 24V 2 wires bus all the 24V LED lights on that bus will switch on and if the user touches down a sensor for some time they will dim all the lights on the bus.
As you can see also the backlight of each touch button is connected to their bus so if the user will touch a sensor also the other sensors will lighten up, and they will dim together with the lamps as the user touches down the sensor they are interacting with. So the user has a feedback on each button on the bus to see how much they have changed the intensity of the wooden LED panel. Cool, isn't it?
As you can see the capacitive area of each sensor has been connected to the brass label with the on/off logo, that is actually the place that the user has to touch for all the magic to happen.
As you can see from the electrical plant design I have surrounded in dashed lines all the wall supports. Single button supports only have one touch button (e.g. in the bedroom there are three), some other supports have two touch buttons, one button that switches on a room and another one the other room (e.g. there is a wall support holding both a touch button for the kitchen and one for the bedroom).
Step 6: Building the Panels
1. To build the panels firstly you'll need to cut the bases from 2mm thick aluminum. Make sure you ask a company with the proper equipment, as for a good cut you'll need industrial shears.
ATTENTION: make sure sharp edges are rounded with a file!!
2. Once you have the bases of different shapes (square, trapezoid, pentagon, hexagon) these aluminum shapes will help you a lot in sawing the wood. Starting from the outer frame made of 6x2cm poplar wood, you can place the batten on the base and mark with a pencil where you have to cut it with the circular saw.
3. Then you need to fix the wooden pieces to the base with screws. I have chamfered a little the external perimeter of the wood structure to make it look better.
HINT: make sure you add countersink to all the holes you make on the aluminum base!
4. And after you have done the outer frame you can take the dimensions of the inner frame. This will be made with 2x2cm polar wood strips.
HINT: leave a good mechanical tolerance of at least 2.5 - 3mm between the inner and outer frame!
5. To fix together the wooden parts of the inner frame I have initially used just clips.
6. For the next step you have to secure the lampshader sheet to the inner frame with clips and to screw it to metal strips with holes or flat L-shaped corner brackets.
7. screw the magnets to the wood in a way that when the inner frame is inserted they would attach to the metal strips and you are done with the first wooden LED panel!
8. cut with a scissor the LED strip 24V, attach them to the aluminum base with their double-sided tape and solder them in parallel using 1x0.25 wire, it is very easy as (+) goes with (+) and (-) goes with (-). You have to make sure you cut the LED strip where you can actually cut them, the strip is formed by LED modules, for example 6cm long in my case. For building the square panel I have cut 7 LED strip of 7 LED modules each and connected them in parallel and I have kept the distance between them at 5cm.
Step 7: Building the Touch Buttons
Building the touch button wall supports
To make the wall supports I decided to use walnut wood battens.
I have worked with drill, manual milling machine and saw and finally attached together the pieces to make the wall support.
You can also use a CNC to mill wood more easily.
Don't forget to use opaque impregnating agent on the walnut wood to make it look smooth and easier to polish in the future.
Building the touch buttons
Let's start with a little help from a 3D printer and a CNC milling machine:
- At the start you will need to do some 3D printer work to print all the cases. I have attached all the .stl files in the design section.
- To work the plastic diffusive cover you will need a CNC also to mill the lowering and the sides. I have attached the .dxf files for that.
- You need to change the drill bit of the CNC to work on the brass sheet. All the capacitive areas are obtained from a brass sheet 1mm thick.
And now you will need a little of dexterity:
- solder two small wires to a 24V LED strip module and fit it inside the case. Usually positive is red wire and negative is black wire.
- solder a wire to the brass capacitive areas
- glue the plastic diffuser on the 3D printed case making sure that all three wires are coming out:
- the sensor wire → green in the schematics
- the +24V wire → red in the schematics
- the -24V wire → black in the schematics
- solder these wires to the pins of Systema sensor PCB board as shown in the schematics
- settle Systema sensor inside the 3D printed case made for it
ATTENTION: Never use acetic silicon for electronics as it will corrode it!! Use special silicon for mirrors!
- screw the lid on top
- use double-sided tape to fix the case to the back of the wooden support and protect the wires going out from the touch button with electrical tape
- to connect the sensor to the lighting system you only need to add a short 2 x 0.75 wire soldered to its positive and negative pins and two connectors
- to test the touch button do as in the video: connect it to Systema control unit and and give power (24V).
Step 8: Wiring and Testing
If you have a bench power supply you can set it to 24V and connect it to each LED panel that you have built and you will see how much current each panel drains.
In order to calculate the power of a LED lamp you have to use the following simple formula:
E.g. Power of the square-shaped panel = 24V · 1.45A = 35W
ATTENTION: always choose a power supply at least 10-20% more powerful than the actual load! For example the hexagon LED panel in the bedroom is 75W and I will use a power supply of 90W.
Here there is the consumption of each room and the power supply I have chosen for each room:
- Kitchen/living room → 35W (square) + 35W (trapezoid) = 70W → 90W Power supply
- Bedroom → 75W (hexagon) → 90W power supply
- Bathroom → 43W (pentagon) → 60W power supply
ATTENTION: always use LED certified power supplies which are protected against shortcircuit and over temperature!
I have decided to centralize all the power supplies and the Systema control units in two big electrical boxes with holes on the lid to keep the air flowing. I highly recommend you to use electronic insulating spray to protect the control units.
DANGER: make sure that ambient air can reach the power supplies and control units to avoid overheating, do not seal them in a box on the wall!
As you can see I have built a wooden grid to make the ambient air going in and out.
From these boxes I have pulled all the cables going to each area of the house to all LED panels and wall supports. Lamps has been screwed to the ceiling and wall supports fixed with silicon to the wall.
Step 9: We Made It! Let's Start Dimming Lights!!
If you have arrived here it means you really gave an unique touch and a bright new light to your house.
This project could seem daunting but it was great fun to make for me. I hope you will enjoy it as well and that you'll extensively personalize it. There are so many options to customize: changing shapes of touch buttons and LED panels, what about circles or round shapes? changing wood type, why not using birch wood or oak wood? why not giving a touch of luxury using silver or gold instead of brass to make the sensor touch area.
For now it's all, until the next time,
Participated in the
Indoor Lighting Contest