Project #60 – LED Light Jars

I think one of the low moments of planning for my wedding was sitting next to several tea lights one afternoon with a stopwatch and pouting when I realized that they would never make it through a four hour reception. I then bought enough supplies for a whole wedding of LED lights and never used them (dumb!) except for in some magnetic lanterns I built for an art installation. (side note: Hilariously, I don’t think anyone noticed my lanterns because they were hanging ten feet above everyone’s heads. There was just a little card with my name and the title on it at eye-level and nothing nearby unless you craned your head 90 degrees to the ceiling, which no one did. I should have added a little card that said ‘Look up.’ with an arrow…and maybe a smiley face or something. The lesson: always get your pieces installed at eye level. )

I still have most of the parts sitting around my office along with lots of other electronic components, but I’d like to put them into use for an upcoming movie and board game party.

Ingredients:

  • As many Jars as you can find
  • 1-2 LEDs per jar
  • 1 battery per LED (I recommend CR-2032)
  • 1 battery holder per LED
  • 1 switch per jar (optional)
  • Wire
  • Solder (optional)
  • Soldering Iron (optional)

I got most of my parts from ebay, but the batteries came from cheapbatteries.com.
These LED lights last for days (I know from another timing experiment), although they’ll dim significantly after the first day and a half. Plus, unlike tea lights you can stack them. You can use saved jars, but I have a matching set I ordered a year ago from American Science and Surplus. All together, building a dozen or so of these things shouldn’t cost more than $15.

First, pop your battery into the holder. Next, solder two pieces of wire with stripped ends, one to each of the wires coming out of your to your LED. Clip the excess LED wires. If you don’t have a soldering iron handy you can twist the wire with the leads from the LED or use electrical tape to hold them together. LEDs are directional so test to see if you have the correct side of the LED matched with the correct terminal on the battery. Solder one side together. DO NOT solder anything directly on the battery; use the leads on the battery holder. If you aren’t using a switch connect the other piece of wire to the remaining battery terminal. However, I recommend using a switch because it’s a pain to switch the batteries in and out whenever you want to turn the light on or off.

If you are using a switch, solder the free piece of wire from your LED to one of the free metal leads, testing to make sure you don’t accidentally connect one side to the ground. Solder one last piece of wire to the corresponding switch lead and then to the remaining lead on the battery holder. The circuit should be complete and your light will turn on and off with a flick of your switch.

Some switches allow for controlling two separate circuits.

Here is a close up look at my soldering, something else I learned in middle school and never improved.

Most of my wiring knowledge comes from an eighth grade project where each student in my class built a little cardboard house and then wired each of the rooms complete with switches that turned on and off. While that was that was the coolest middle school project EVER, my knowledge of electronics pretty much ends there. If anyone has any smarter ideas than the ones I write about I’d love to hear them.


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