How to Make a LED Light Rope Without Soldering




About: Professional work in various electrical and mechanical fields, obscure sense of humour and typically willing to help... Currently under contract designing environmental monitoring equipment.

Using some basic crafting supplies it is possible to make a LED lighting rope without having to solder. This rope uses battery power...

Step 1: Gather Your Tools and Supplies

You will need the following items

1: transparent or translucent vinyl tubing (I used 1/4 inch ID, about the minimum size I could work with)
2: several 3mm 4Volt ultra bright LED (Larger size LED will need a larger diameter tubing)
3: electrician's fish tape or long stiff wire (needed during assembly)
4: fine gauge speaker wire ( I used 26AWG wire)
5: Ultra sharp push pin (an awl or needle will also work)
6: firm stable work surface
7: small ruler
8: sharpie pen
9: hot glue gun
10: inexpensive flashlight
11: small flush cut side cutters

Step 2: Prepare Your LEDs

You will need to trim the LED leads to an extra sharp point using the flush cut side cutters. This will allow the easy insertion of the LEDs into the wire.

It is best to stagger the cut leads both for easy identification and for easier insertion into the wire.

Step 3: Prepare the Wire

It is best to measure the LED spacing to make the rope pleasing to look at. I chose a 4 inch LED spacing.

The wire is marked at regular intervals with the sharpie.

The first LED is inserted into the end of the speaker wire. I chose this type of wire for two reasons. The first is that it has a clear casing which transmits some of the light to the opposite side that the LED is mounted on. And the second is that the wire consists of two separate colours, One silver and the other gold.

The LED has a flat mark around the lower rim which identifies the cathode (negative side) coincidentally I prepared my LEDs with the shorter lead identifying the cathode as it did from the factory.

I chose the mantra short to silver when I assembled the string. You carefully and a straight as possible push the sharpened LED leads into the exposed wire at the end.

Step 4: Insert LEDs Into the Wire.

At the marked points on the wire you will need to make two small parallel (one silver and one gold) holes at a 45 degree angle through the wire sheath into the conductive wire core. Do no go all the way through.

Once you make one set of holes you will have to insert the LED. The holes will tend to close up making the insertion harder if you wait.

Firmly push the LED leads into the small holes and along the wire core. You will only be able get them in about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch before the leads bend. This is sufficient for good contact.

You will have to repeat this procedure until all of the LEDs are placed...

Step 5: Disassemble the Flashlight and Test the String.

I chose an inexpensive LED flashlight from a local discount store. I has the required parts and batteries for a reasonable price.

You will have to disassemble the head of the flashlight

With my flashlight:

unscrew the lens cap and lens cap cover.

You will be left with a lower case, battery carrier, batteries and on/off switch.

The cathode is connected to the case by stripping off some of the silver wire coating and wedging the bare wire between the base and lens cap cover.

The light circuit board has a wire protruding from it, you will have to remove it if you do not want the flashlight to light up. I removed it...

Press the power button. If your LEDs do not light then reverse the leads. If any individual LEDs do not light either insert them farther of reverse them.

Once you are satisfied with the string turn it off.

The gold coloured wire is stripped bare and wrapped around the spring which attaches tot he anode. The lens cap is then reassembled minus the lens to allow the wire to pass through.

Step 6: Secure the LEDs and Feed the Tube

You will need to use the hot glue gun to secure the LEDs in there respective positions.

The glue will keep the LEDs from coming out of the wire. Do Not skip this step...

The cooled off glued string has to be pulled into the tubing either by a long stiff wire or electrician's fish tape as shown. The wire will tend to stick to the vinyl tubing so you will have to use a little patience and wiggle the wire and tube so that the wire pulls freely. Do not fore it otherwise the LEDs could be damaged or the wire could break. It is not advisable to the some sort of lubricant as it will not look good when it is turned on.

Once the wire is pulled though, the ends are sealed with a liberal amount of hot glue. The LED end has to be glued all the way past the led to the wire otherwise the led could pull out of the wire. stick the nozzle of the glue gun all the way in and back it out gently to achieve a flush glue seal.

Step 7: ENJOY

Congratulations you now have a custom made battery operated LED light rope.

All told mine cost me less than $7...



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    28 Discussions


    2 months ago

    This is very helpful, thanks for sharing!


    Question 2 months ago on Step 7

    If I want to make this electric (120), would I just subtract the battery and keep the two wires?

    1 answer

    Reply 2 months ago

    No that would not be a good idea, although the inexpensive holiday lights work on this principle, removing even one or two LEDs from the string will cause the others to blow up (yes I have done this as a demonstration). Those lights use voltage drop calculations to to make sure that each LED gets enough but not too much voltage to operate, which is part of the reason that there is a certain number of LED's in the string. Longer strings are usually multiple shorter strings wired in parallel.

    With projects like this it is best to avoid AC since shorting it usually has spectacular results. After careful planning and calculations if you still want to use AC, I strongly recommend using a fused power bar that will trip at much lower that the wall plugs do.


    2 years ago

    Any reason this would not work with inferred led's? A rope light of ir led's would make a cool and discrete lighting system for night vision security cams..

    In hindsight a resistor might have been a good idea but I never needed one for the short time that I used this lighting scheme.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Hey I am curious how many LEDs can I attach to this? I am very new to all this XD


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Just solder it. It's actually easier once you get the hang of it and it will produce a higher quality much more reliable product. On the other hand this is one of the best solderless jobs I've ever seen!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    looks like copied this


    7 years ago on Step 4

    that anvil is so cute. :-)


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I would love to know your recommendations for this same concept as a lighted dog collar.  The lighted dog collars so far on instructables are a little too bulky for my taste.  These modifications of your design is what I am most interested in: a connecting device to make it a loop and a much smaller battery option.

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    This could work but keep in mind that there are 3 AAA batteries to deal with. You can check the dollar stores to see of there is a smaller flashlight solution. Forming this design into a simple loop for a lighted dog collar is a great idea...

    The power delivery seems to wreck most designs. We definitely need an effective high power, low volume supply on this plane of existence. Mini nukes would be great!!!!!


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I want your anvil. Guess its more popular than your nice, well detailled, with nice photo, instructable lol


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I saw some similar anvils for sale online, marketed as jewelers' anvils.