Introduction: Umbrella Light

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Ever been walking home on a dark rainy night only to have a car or cyclist almost run into you?
Pesky cyclists. How did he not see me there?!

An intersection later...
Pesky motorists! I was almost flattened!

After a hard day at work many of us are on a mission to get home and relax, sometimes forgetting to pay attention to the buzz of traffic around us. It's kinda ironic that we are all in such a rush to get home and relax.

Anyways, aside from being more vigilant during these long nights you can help out all the other commuters by indicating your position well before they roll up on you, by illuminating your umbrella!

Make your own by combining some common dollar store items with your existing umbrella and create your own umbrella illumination device, allowing motorists and cyclist to see you from a distance and slow down.

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Enough talk, let's build a better umbrella!

Step 1: Materials & Tools

  • LED flashlight
  • vinyl poncho (or other translucent, light-weight plastic/nylon)
  • umbrella (cavity handle a bonus)
  • 2x CR2032 button batteries (1.5v)

I purposely chose cheap easily found materials.
I managed to obtain the flashlight and poncho at my local dollar store. On my bus-ride to the dollar store to shop for my materials I found this umbrella on an empty bus seat (thanks forgetful transit-user!).
Though I found the most expensive item, if you buy an umbrella you can expect to spend $20+.

  • glue gun
  • soldering iron
  • drill (or rotary tool)
  • needle nose pliers
  • hobby knife
  • measuring tape
  • safety goggles

Step 2: Disassemble LED Flashlight

This particular LED flashlight style separated into the housing and clicker half, and the light assembly half. You're going to need everything except for the housing from both halves.

back half:
  • battery pack
  • on/off clicker
  • (-) lead from clicker to negative terminal
  • battery housing and handle
light assembly half:
  • LED array (+ terminals)
  • reflector
  • housing

Step 3: Drill Opening / Wire

The LED array I bought was manufactured as a disc with the positive (+) terminal on the inside and the negative (-) terminal along the outside.

I was able to remove the center LED and drill a hole large enough to allow the umbrella shaft to pass through the middle.
I taped some emery cloth to the drill and sanded the opening to enlarge it enough that the shaft of the umbrella would pass through easily (feel free to use the right tool for the job, like a rotary tool with appropriate bit. Wearing goggles, right?).

The first solder was to attach the clicker to the negative terminals. The on/off clicker was attached to a ring which was held in place when the flashlight was screwed together. We no longer have the housing to hold the ring in place so we need to solder that ring in place onto the negative terminals.

Your next solder is for the positive terminals.
Drilling removed the original location where the batteries connected to the positive terminals, a new soldered connection is required. Use caution here as exposed wires may touch the metal umbrella shaft when inserted. I managed to solder my wires with enough room for the umbrella shaft to pass through without touching. The wires were coated in hot glue afterward to ensure a solid connection and no further contact.

Step 4: Drill On/off Control

Remove the handle from the umbrella. This may sound easy, but those clever manufactures don't intend for their product to be disassembled. You may need to use your  hulk strength.

Once removed, drill an opening for your control button. Make sure to investigate the location from the inside too, there may be an obvious location to install your button or you may have to be creative.
I was lucky and found a cavity inside the handle which was a suitable location. Drill and remove any burrs.
Running the tip of a glue gun inside the opening gave as smooth look and removed any jagged edges, use sparingly or the opening may become too large!

Once opening is drilled and de-burred glue the clicker into place.

Step 5: Reassemble

Connect the wires from the button to the batteries and then to the LED array (see diagram in second picture).

Feed the umbrella shaft into the opening and then reattach the handle with some glue. You can leave the LED array unglued, this way you are able to access and change the batteries at a later time without damaging the assembly.

Step 6: Make a Light Sock

Time to take some measurements.

Open the umbrella up and measure from the upper lip of the handle along the shaft to the slider handle. The shape will resemble a truncated triangle with a curved top and bottom.

Individual measurements will vary, for reference mine were:

height:              33cm (13")
upper length:     5cm (-2")
lower length:    13cm (-10")

Step 7: Sock Attachment and Seam

Start by attaching the truncated tip around the slider at the top of the umbrella. Then form the cone shape by taping the bottom of your cut-out to the handle.

Depending on the material you use the methods of closing the seam will vary. The material I chose is thin and melts with no trouble under the heat from the glue gun (no glue). Carefully and gently I was able to seam the sock shut, the seam may warp slightly but still looks good.
(I recommend practicing on scrap material first, it's very easy to melt right through the sock. An issue that is hard to repair and may compromise the awesomeness of your umbrella.)

Step 8: Sock Finishing

Since I wanted to keep the electronics in the handle accessible I decided to attach the end of the sock with a friction ring.

I took a spring coil from an old beastly D-cell battery flashlight and cut off a ring from the large end spring. Using pliers I manipulated it into a ring slightly larger than the opening for the handle of the umbrella. The ring was fed inside the sock, then the excess sock is tucked inside the handle, the ring slips into the inside rim of the handle last.

The compression of the spring unwinding holds the sock in place and allows for easy access to the electronics by slipping the ring out and lifting the sock.

Step 9: Results

These pictures were taken at around 9:00pm, plenty dark for Fall in the Pacific North. The photos shown are not manipulated in any way, they are a direct comparison using default settings on a simple point an shoot camera to show illumination values.

From the pictures below we can see a marked difference from the umbrella light being off, then on. A small idea that may just alert drivers and cyclists to your position on these dark and rainy nights.

Be safe and be seen!

Happy making :)

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