One day while walking in the street, I saw this "UFO LED Lamp" in the display of a lightning shop, and fel in love instantly with it.
Usually, lights ... well, actually, there are so many shapes for lights, that there is no rule, but I'm pretty sure that before LEDs (at an affordable price) came into the picture, lights were big. Not big big, but certainly not flat.
Now with LEDs, a lights can be fairly small, and flat, but this light that I saw in a store's display window was for me the first one that really used the possibility to make a light flat, not just to win space, but to create an effect that I will describe as follow: "to create light from nowhere".
Since I was so attracted by this light, knowing that I had no "need" of it, and that the price tag would everything but flat, I decided to try to reproduce it myself.
This might be my first instructable, but I've always loved to look at other peoples creations here since a friend of mine gave me the link to his own first instructable (Multi-purpose-holder-from-kitchen-whisk ), and I hope this one won't turn out too bad.
Step 1: What to Make It From?
The light that I saw in the shop seemed to me to be using strong LEDs, which I believe are quite hot, meaning that there could be some heat dissipation issues, and also glass, which is not the easiest thing to work with.
For the LEDs, the solution kind of came to me on its own. At the time, I was moving into my first real own flat, after living for two years in a great share-flat in Brussels. Moving into a new flat usually implies some trips to Ikea, and I was of course no exception!
So it is there that I discovered those light strings, which sadly were not anymore available last time I checked, called "glänsa".
Each strings contained 144 LEDs, which seemed to be a good number, and happened to provide not a powerful light, but a glow strong enough to get a nice feeling to a room. I really don't think it should be used to read, or for any other activity being stressful for the eyes.
So I bought two of those.
I already knew then that LEDs can be expensive, and also that since I have no real knowledge on how to make a LED light, I was just better off hacking one.
Then I spent a lot of time thinking on how I would reproduce this "disc", with all the drilling that was going to be necessary.
When I say a lot, just know that the picture shown in the intro step was taken mid november of 2010, and that I finished the light today, june 19th 2011! So it has been some time, but the thing is that I settled for plexiglas. Two pieces of plexiglas actually.
My idea was that to "create light from nowhere", I would be using some king of reflective material to make sure that all the light emitted by the LEDs was going to go in the same direction, and then something that would also unit the glow of each LED, to give the shape to the light.
So when I knew that, I found a professional website on Internet, selling a lot a different kind of plexiglas, ordered a few samples, and then the real thing.
Those are the only thing I had to get, beside tools (and the hooks actually). I paid around 80€ for the plexiglas, and I think one light string was 24€.
Step 2: The Discs - Holes
So I went for a reflective grey one, and a transparent but "sanded" one.
On the pictures you can see the patterns that I used to make the holes in both pieces of plexiglas, and the actual first holes.
I have to admit that this was long and complicated.
First, I had to make sure that the holes were correctly done. For some, the plexiglas cracked a bit around the hole while drilling, and I wanted to avoid that at the maximum. Also, 144 holes for each plate, meaning, 288 in total takes a lot of time...but the worst was when I realized that they weren't actually in line by pairs. I mean that there was some offset on some holes, and despair was not far at this point.
My project stood at this point for some time. I decided to take some time to think of a solution, and two weeks ago, again, the solution came to me.
Then I had just bought a new tool for my Dremel, because I was intending to try wood carving with it. The thing is that this same tool happens to be awesome on plexiglas, and in half an hour, I re-aligned all the holes correctly. Off course, it means some holes are actually doubled, but only on the grey piece, the top one that no one will see.
Step 3: The Discs - the Cutting
Once the holes were done, it was time to cut both pieces of plexiglas into a nice circle.
This was another painful task, because I had to do it by hand for the most part, and my Dremel only helped me for the finishing of the transparent piece.
Finally, I added 3 holes, to fix the plates together. To do this, I used hooks with bolts, but this is not the most interesting part.
Step 4: The LEDs...
Then, I had to tear appart the light string.
Took some time also because they were small, and cutting their plastic enclosure was difficult.
Once they were finally ready, I placed them in the disc, from the bottom (meaning the transparant side), because to be sure that they were not going to move, I made the holes in the grey side smaller that the LEDs, but big enough for the pins to pass.
Step 5: Soldering
This last part was the shortest.
I started this afternoon at one, and finished I believe 5 hours later at least, but for once, it was done in one big step.
144 LEDs + two pins each + sometimes more than one cable soldered to one pin = a lot of fun!
The tricky part was to respect the design of the original LED string. Basically, it represented a grid of 18 smaller strings of 8 LEDs, in parallel, and since my pattern was more of a circle, the cables run a bit in all the directions, but I'm happy to say that it worked on the first attempt, and that I only forgot to solder one end of one string of 8 LEDs, which is why those LEDs don't light up for now.
Also, I use UTP cables for the cables. The power is not strong so it should be enough, and it is really cheap.
Step 6: And the Result
For now it is not well suspended, plus it still has to be plugged, but all in all: it works, I'll just have to fix that last connection that I forgot, put some hot glue on all the soldering points to protect them, and it's about it!
The achievement of 6 months of planification and work. Not full time but still, it was always in one side of my mind, and my friends are going to be delighted too, because now, they won't have to listen to me talking about how I'm thinking of solving this or this issue, and about how it's going to look like in the end.
Now I can turn to something else, at last!
Thanks for reading,