Intro: Soldering Chasing EL Wire
* Note I'm a very inexperienced techy. So please excuse me if my terminology is incorrect. But I could not find any tutorials on this specific topic (Chasing EL Wire) so I thought I'd make one :D. Hopefully it will help someone else just as this website has helped me countless times :D
- Chasing El wire (2.3 mm is easier I think than 1.3 mm )
- Chasing El Wire inverter or a 3 channel sequencer for testing.
- solder iron
- 60/40 flux folder (or whatever is your favorite solder, just make sure you have some flux )
- thin copper wire
- power connector 4 wire preferably
- shrink wrap 2mm - 4mm - 6mm
- AND A LIGHTER !!!! (ill get to that part in a bit :D)
I recently started a project that includes EL wire.
Now I got this cool 1.3mm chasing EL wire (see video), but of course I wanted this in short strips ... bad idea as soldering El wire in itself is tough if you don't use your soldering iron on a daily basis. Now here is the bad part; soldering CHASING EL wire is even worse haha.
Chasing EL wire is similar to normal EL wire but has 2 additional EXTREMELY THIN wires and to make it worse they are TWISTED to get that funky chasing effect.
A dual metal one = Very fragile. and easily breaks when bent
A dual red wire = Coated with phosphorous.
a dual Blue / cyan wire = Coated with phosphorous.
and a dual white wire. = Coated with phosphorous.
All the wires have a copper core which I will get to later.
Now I tried every type of wire strippers (which what they recommended in most tutorials for normal el wire) but seeing as I'm clumsy I noticed that when using wire strippers you always nick at least one wire. So I was about to give up when I thought about a thing that my dad showed me once which is using your lighter to burn of the plastic :D. This actually works like a charm.
Step 1: KILL IT WITH FIRE!
1) KILL IT WITH FIRE
Melt off the plastic.
So I melt off about 2cm of plastic (just wiggle the lighter below it, no need to set it on fire :D. Note safety first etc!). let it cool for half a sec and you can tear it off with your fingers or a use piece of cloth. (I'm sure there are better ways to do this. But this worked well for me)
Now you see the 3 colored wires with the metal wire wrapped around it.
2) Untangle the metal wire.
When untangling you will notice that there are actually two mini metal wires. They belong together so make sure you find both of them.
3) LET IT BURNNN
move them to the side and give them a quick burn with a lighter as well to burn off the phosphor and it will expose (i think) the copper inner core.
I noticed some tutorials use a shaving razor / knife to scrape off the fosfor coting but I found that that makes it really easy to damage the wire. Hence using my friend the lighter again.
4) wrap it onto the plastic coating.
now wrap it around the plastic coating of the EL wire.
5) wrap it in copper
grab a piece of thin copper wire (any thin copper wire will do i guess) (I think this is supposed to be used for speakers or something)
and also wrap it tightly around the el wire so it covers the metal wire you just wrapped around it.
Do not fully wrap the copper around it just yet.
Step 2: Power and Heat Shrink
6) add power connector
Before you do add the first stripped wire of your connector ( in my case I use two mini 1.3 2channel jst pigtails as i dont have any 4 pin connectors lying around) onto the El wire.
Descide on an order or connecting the wires and stick to it! it will help you loads. Also it might be a good idea to mark the wires if you use similar wire :)
FYI the inverter i received had the following colored wires
red, black, yellow, white
in order to match these up to the el wire colors connect them in the following way:
Red == metal colored wire
black == blue wire
yellow == red wire (logical eh ? :P)
white == white wire.
7) Solder the guy.
Now you can add a small tip of solder to make sure the power connector and copper wire are firmly attached as that part might get some force applied on it later. (The copper wire itself seems to hold it in place reasonably well but better be safe than sorry.)
fyi I use a standard 60/40 flux core solder wire.
8) Heat shrink it
Now that wire one is done you add a piece of heat shrink around the wire. fortunately the other end of the wire is still open so we can slide one along. (If you managed to work very tidy , so not in my case :P, you might actually be able to fit a 2mm heat shrink around it. in my case I usually end up with a 4mm one.)
If you don't have a hair dryer(heat shrink gun or paint remover heat gun) you can borrow / steal / grab out of your drawers, then you can use your LIGHTER AGAIN \o/. (Be careful not to set the heat-shrink on fire or burn the power supply cable :P)
That was the easy bit.... hahha
Now you get to untangle the red cyan and white wires :D
If you have any finger nails then try untangling them with those. or a thin small knife / scalpel might help you here too but be careful not to cut any of the wires.
Also what might help is one of those really small pincers you can find inside a pocket knife.
You might notice that the wires stick together because of the phosphorous. you will have to pry them loose carefully.
If you get two wires that you cant seem to separate give the tip a bit of a burn. Be careful not to make the wire glow too long as that will make it very feeble. Also don't burn the wire completely as then you wont be able to tell the color anymore :D ( yes did that. had to start over haha)
While untangling you will notice a white fluffy kind of wire in between. You can ignore that or burn / cut it away. its used as a separation layer (i think)
Step 3: Do It Again ...
10) all ready to do the fiddly bits.
now we have the wires untangled. Start with one(MAKE SURE YOU HAVE BOTH WIRES OF THE SAME COLOR, else the wire will glow less bright.). (I start with the red wire) Give it a bit of a burn with the lighter so the phosphorous burns off.
Afterwards wipe the "blackness" off the wire with your fingers or a piece of cloth. Make sure you can see the copper color of the wire.
11) Around the world, around the world, around.....
Now do step 4 to 8 again :). wrap it over the shrink wrap you just put on for the first wire.
add the bit of copper wire. add your power wire. continue wrapping the copper wire. add a dot of solder.
heat shrink ( you might need to go up a size now though as the heat shrink size needs to be a tad bigger now )
12) Test it :) But be careful.
Small step you can do in between is test and connect it to your el inverter. you now basically have the main wire (metal one / first wire we connected) and one of the phosphor wires attached. Be careful where you hold your wire though. if you touch one of the exposed power wires you might get a slight TINGLY feeling. Funny the first few times but gets old very quickly hahah :D. One section should now light up ( don't expect any chasing action just yet. ). If you also bought a chasing EL wire inverter then you might see it blinking.
13) Around the world etc
do the same for the remaining cyan and white wire.
14) Size does matter ...
the last bit might deserves a tad larger heat shrink so it covers all bits nicely. Now I only have 6 mm heat shrink so i grabbed a pair of pliers and stretched them a little :D
Note it took me about 3 or 4 pieces of wire and testing before I found this technique. The first few times you might notice that all seems to work until you do the last wire so take your time and make sure all connection area's are properly cleared and connect! So it does take you a few try's before you get the hang of it.
Also if you turn the inverter on you will hear that high pitched tone. If you connect it and the tone instantly stops it means the wires are short circuiting. So you will either have to cut open the heat shrink or cut off the wire and start over :(.
I hope i have covered all the information needed but if you do have any questions feel free to ask :D.