Well, one year ago I thought I should build an illuminated hitch hiking sign for the dark winter month.
I was too lazy all the time, but then I had to make it quickly as I had to visit my best friend at the other end of Germany before she left for a big journey around half the world.
I made my sign quick and dirty (if I would make a second one I would choose materials wisely to save lots of weight and some thickness).
But for a quick'n'dirty solution I'm very happy with the result - and it works really well as long as it's dark outside ;)
Even in my hometown I'm faster home using my sign than waiting for the bus!
Drivers are happy to see some beautiful colors during the black night - and that's why they stop. It looks friendly and reputable - way better than a cardboard sign. (but the carton one still works well during the day - no worries!).
Step 1: Messagearea
First of all we need a plate to write our text (cities, villages, sea, beach, moom, south, north, whatever you want ;).
Step 2: Make Your Frame
Now it's time to make a frame for your sign.
I just glued some wood ledges together that fit the size of my plate (must be a little bit bigger to avoid having a gap between).
I painted it multiple times and sanded it to get a nice ans smooth surface. First time the painting runs into the wooden fibres and makes them rise - so in any case let your painting dry and sand it at least one time!
Step 3: Be Prepared for Your Router!
Now it's time to prepare your router.
Choose a cutter you like and don't forget the most important roles:
- ALWAYS unplug your power cable while swapping tools!
- Use eye protection !
- Use ear protection !
Step 4: Bring Love to Your Frame ;)
Now I used a jigsaw to cut half of my border - on one side I wanted to save some weight, on the other side I like the look ;)
Then I started to cut the edge with my router, sandpaper it, and paint it white (as it's the best color for the colorful RGB-LED light).
Step 5: Illuminate It!
After the painting cured, I used some glue to mount my WS2812 LED strips.
First I brushed the surface with glue, let it cure till it feels dry and then I attached the led strips - as I don't trust the cheap adhesive tape on it's back.
As I devided it into two party for my sign I directly user some wires and my soldering iron to connect it.
Step 6: Time for Decoration ;)
Now I made my hitchhiking thumb.
As I repaired an old vinyl cutter last year, I could use this one. Or you just can paint what ever you like.
Step 7: Watch Your Back!
Now I placed my plate on the back of my frame, covered it in masking tape and sketched in my electronics.
I wanted a powerbank to supply my light and be able to charge my phone - even in the rain!
And I needed a Arduno nano to tell my WS2812 LED strip what animations I'd like to have.
Than I cut some small strips of wood to clamp my powerbank in position. Shaking inside this area could damage my phone as well as ma Arduino.
Beware the size of your screws as you do not wanna like puncture the front of your plate.
Step 8: Attach Your Back
As I wanted to be able to clean my plate easily, I decided to mount it using some velcro.
I just use it on the left and right side, as it is strong enough to hold everything in position properly.
Step 9: Protect Your Electronics
And of course I wanted everything to keep in position while using the Hitchhiking sign - so I needed to create a lid.
As my hinges were too big, I had to cut them and file away all sharp corners.
Step 10: Add a Simple Lock
And as hinges ton't make the lid stay closed, I needed a small lock.
I wanted it toolless and reuseabld many times.
So I decided to use a thumbscrew and a rampa insert.
Step 11: Easy Access Your Powerswitch
And I wanted to access the powerbutton of my powerbank without opening the whole thing.
A forstner drill was wuite perfect. And to protect it against rain I used some acrylic glass (which I mounted using a small screw which isn't on the picture...).
Step 12: And Some Electronics...
Now it's time to connect all electronic stuff.
My LED-strip needed to be connected to my Arduino and my power supply, and my Arduino needed to be connected to my powersupply as well.
I will add some schematics soon, promised!
Step 13: Testrun Your Led Strip
After I uploaded the FastLED sample Sketch using the ArduinoIDE, I measured the current and voltage of my system to get a first impression of how long my battery will last.
And as it's only 230mA it lasts loooong!
My powerbank has 13000mAh / 230mA = more than 50 hours!
But of yourse this is in theory.... I used it as decoration light on two parties as well as I hitchhiked using my sign for a trip across Germany before my battery was empty. Did I mention I charged my phone in this time as well? ;)
Step 14: Some Elementary Hacks ;)
As I figured out I had to to three hacks on this quick'n'dirty-layout.
1. I added some foam to avoid bouncing my powerbank and smartphone insige my sign as well as scratching on the nuts of the hinged.
2. My clear coat didn't do well with my whiteboard marker - so I used some transparent tape which works like a charme ;)
3. I added some velcro on the back to have my whiteboardmarker on hand. Sometimes it's nice to change the name of the city if you figure out nobody uses to drive in that direction. So detours can be faster than your direct connection ;) (As I just lost my whiteboardmarker on a new years party, I'll add some picture later, promised!)
Step 15: Use Your Sign Wherever You Want!
Don't restrict yourself to use your sign only for hitchhiking. Use it on parties or other events in the dark (here I was using it on a new years party - 'Frohes Neues' means 'happy new year' - thanks Synthon Spencer for the image!).