Introduction: LED Skull Torches
Add realistic looking flames to your next project.
I used these for Halloween Skull Torches using foam skulls purchased a Michael's.
These are very easy to make and only require some basic electrical knowledge.
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Step 1: The LED Flame Bulbs
I used 12 volt DC bulbs with 2 pins that fit into standard low voltage G4 sockets. (Note that you will find similar 110 volt AC bulbs available on Amazon - do not buy these for this project)
Inside each bulb is an array of LEDs, a power driver and a controller. The controller automatically runs a flame pattern all you have to do is plug them in and they produce a very nice looking flame effect. Beyond this project I also used these bulbs to illuminate my Jack-o-lanterns. Just put a bulb in a socket and wire it to a 12v power supply or battery and place it in the pumpkin. The effect is infinitely better than those cheap blinking jack-o-lantern LED packages that you get from department store.
Step 2: Getting POWERED Up !
First note that the LEDs that I am suggesting are 12 volt bulbs. You will need a 12 volt power supply to run them. I used an old 12 volt adapter from my box of orphaned wall warts. Everyone has a box like this, right? Check the label on yours and make sure that the output is 12 volts. I am not sure of the wattage of these bulbs but I had a string of 8 of them on an adapter rated for 1 Amp and it worked fine.
If you dont already have an adapter you can get them pretty cheap on Amazon. You could also use an old computer PSU (remember these are NOT made to be used outside so keep them dry) or even a garden light power supply if you have one. Basically any 12 volt power supply will work.
Step 3: Connecting Things
I used Tamiya power connectors for all of my connections. You can use your favorite connector type but I think these are pretty easy to work with. They have crimp on style pins/sockets - I like to solder them but you dont have to - and they snap together very easily.
Although they use LEDs the Flame bulbs do not have polarity so you don't need to worry about it. However, if you are a stickler for wiring standards the square socket on these connectors are the Negative side.
Step 4: The Base and Flame Cover
The base holds the G4 socket and flame shaped cover its fitted to it with a locking tab.
I designed and 3D printed these myself. If you have access to a printer you will find links to the STL files below. They are also posted on Thingiverse:https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3189926
When printing these you can use your favorite color/settings for the base.
For the Flame cover I used 'natural' filament with very thin (0.8mm) walls and low infill (5%)
If you don't have access to a printer message me and I will help you get some for your project.
Step 5: Preparing the Skull
Dig a hole in the top of the skull to accept the bottom of the 3D printed base. Trace the bottom of the base on the top of the skull then use a hobby knife to cut it out. Dig about a half inch straight down. Then bevel the edges of this cut to about 45 deg. The base should fit in nice and snug.
Then from the bottom of the hole punch a hole the rest of the way down to the base of the skull that is just wide enough to feed the wires through. You could use a knife to do this but I found it much easier to use a hot soldering iron to melt down through it. Note: using an iron will make a smelly dirty mess of your iron. If you are doing several of these I suggest that you take it outside
Step 6: Putting It All Together
1. Attach the metal Tamiya connect pins to the leads on the G4 socket. You can just crimp these with pliers or you can solder them on.
2. Thread the G4 socket leads down through and fit the ceramic into the printed base it should sit almost flush with the top of the base.
3. Thread the G4 socket lead down through the hole you carved into the skull. The base should fit snugly into the skull. You don't have to but you could add a dab of hot glue to secure the base to the skull.
4. There should be about 2 inches of the socket wires coming out of the base of the skull. Snap the end of the wires into the plastic Tamiya housing.
5. Insert a bulb into the G4 socket.
6. Fit the Flame Cover over the bulb and twist it into the base. Again it is not required but you could use a dab of hot glue to better secure the Flame Cover to the Base
7. Fit the skull to a post or some other display location. I used bamboo sticks purchased from Michael's
8. Connect it to your 12-volt power source.
Step 7: Connecting the First Torch
I put up 8 of these in my display this year. I bought 100ft of 16 gauge 12volt wire from the local hardware store.
I cut a 5ft length of wire for each torch and added a Tamiya connector which would mate to the skull lead to one end. Connect this to the skull and zip tie the wire to the pole. do this for all your poles
Starting from your power source run a length of wire along your torches and cut to length so that it reaches the last torch. Put Tamiya connectors on either end of this. Connect one end to the last torch and the other to your 12v power source. At this point that torch should light up!
Step 8: Connecting the Other Torches
First, DISCONNECT the power.
Use the blue tap connectors to connect the other torches to the power source.
To prepare for this you need to separate the two wires of your power line, use a hobby knife to separate the wires taking care not to expose the copper wire. Separate about 3 inches of line.
You will use one tap connector for each wire (positive & negative). Thus, you need TWO taps for each torch. Open the tap connector with a screwdriver. Insert the end of the wire from the torch into the tap on the hinge side of the tap. put it in all the way to the plastic stop. Now enclose the tap connector of one of the wires in the power line. use a pair of pliers to drive the metal blade of the connector into the wires and then snap to hinged cover over it. Repeat this process to connect the other side.
Reconnect the power and this newly connected torch should light up.
Repeat this process for the rest of the torches
Step 9: Trick or Treat!
Be sure to keep people clear of the wires so that no one trips and hurts themselves and/or your display. I use my torches to illuminate the walkway up to the front door. I made sure that all wires were on the opposite side of the torches. I also stretched some spider web between each torch to discourage people from walking between them.
Participated in the
Halloween Contest 2018