Intro: Instamorph LED Mood Light
This Instructable came along quite by accident - a happy accident. My buddies at the Makerspace were working hard on their more useful and practical applications while I was working on an unrelated project using LED's. Unable to ignore the powerful flow of creative ideas surrounding me, I felt I had to do something - but what? After much gnashing of teeth and mental perturbation it occurred to me - what would it look like if I wrapped a blob of Instamorph around the LED's I was working with? I slapped on the hot glove, scooped up a pile of plastic from the pot, wrapped it carefully around the LED's I was working with and voila! - instant Mood Light!
The only materials required to build this project are a package of Instamorph plastic, a pot of hot water, a soldering iron and solder, one or more LED's and a pair of batteries in a battery pack.
Step 1: Get Some Instamorph
Instamorph is a moldable plastic that melts at a low temperature (about 150deg F) and is easily molded by hand into many useful end shapes. (And no, I don't work for them... but I do like the product.) This project used only a small portion, maybe one half of a 6oz. packet. The amount will vary based on the size of the "mood light" you wish to build and the number of LED's you use.
Step 2: Get Some LED's
The LED's I used in my project were "fast flash" Red Green Blue (RGB) LED's. There are many other types of LED's you can use such as the "slow flash" RGB variety, flickering LED's (as in LED candles, available in many colors), two-color flashing (red/green, red/blue etc.) or even multiple, single color LED's. The choice is yours. They are all readily available at sources such as Radio Shack, eBay and a wide variety of surplus dealers. Just make sure you buy LED's with only two leads - the three and four lead ones won't work! Buy some, connect them together, then see how you like them.
Step 3: Get Some Batteries
The LED's require about 3 volts of DC power, best supplied from a pair of AA batteries. A battery holder with a pair of leads will make it easy to construct the project. Get a battery holder with a built in switch if you can. Radio Shack, eBay and other online sources carry these regularly.
In case you noticed in the photos, I used a single Lithium Ion battery in my project - it's what I had on hand. AA batteries are probably a better choice as they are more readily available, they are a convenient size, have a reasonable lifetime and you can get a holder with a switch. AAA's, C's and D's will also work - even wall warts (those little black things that grow out of your wall, charging your phones) will work as long as they are rated about 3 to 5 volts dc.
Step 4: Solder the LED's Together
The long lead on a two-lead LED, the "standard" LED, is the positive ("+") lead. This is also the lead next to the flat side of the LED, sometimes hard to identify - but it's there. The short lead will be the negative ("-") lead.
Solder all of the long leads together at one point, making sure you somehow keep track of which leads they are. A small piece of tape attached to the long leads - BEFORE soldering the short leads but AFTER you finish soldering them so the tape doesn't melt - will do.
After that, solder the short leads together.
Step 5: Connect the Battery Pack
Attach the battery pack to the LED assembly by soldering the two battery leads to the two LED leads. The red, positive "+" lead of the battery pack should be soldered to the long leads (now you see why we marked them!). The black lead from the battery pack should be soldered to the short leads of the LED's.
Step 6: Test the LED's
Install the batteries and turn on the battery pack (if it has a switch). The LED's should (hopefully!) light up. If so, great! If not, double-check your wiring. Are the long leads from the LED's, the ones next to the flat side of the plastic LED package, connected to the red "+" side of the battery pack? Are the batteries good, and are they inserted correctly? Are all of your connections solid? Wiggle and jiggle the wires - sometimes that will sniff out a loose connection.
Step 7: Heat Up Some Instamorph
Pour a packet of Instamorph into a pot of warm water, about 150 degF. Give it about 2 minutes for the pellets to turn clear and melt.
Step 8: Scoop Up a Blob of Instamorph
With a glove on, carefully scoop up a blob of the plastic, shaking it very gently to remove some of the water from it. A little water in the plastic is to be expected and will not be a problem.
The amount of plastic used will vary depending on how many LED's you have and how big you want the mood light to be.
Step 9: Wrap the Plastic Around the LED's
Shape the blob into sort of a half-moon and wrap it around the LED's - GENTLY - fully enclosing the LED's but not crushing them. You don't want the LED wires to short out. Work the plastic into the desirable shape, keeping in mind that you only have a half a minute or so to work the shape out.
I suggest you have a shape in mind before you start, basing it on the arrangement of the LED's, the desired end appearance - and the limited amount of time you have to work with the plastic. Practice it in your mind beforehand if you can.
Step 10: Test the End Product
Turn on the battery pack and confirm that it works.
Step 11: Enjoy!
Turn off the lights, relax and enjoy your labors...