Introduction: Concrete LED Light Cube

Picture of Concrete LED Light Cube

This concrete LED light cube is very simply, yet pretty striking and I think it would make the perfect accent or night light. Concrete is so much fun to use, and of course you can vary the design depending on your preferences and add color, change the size of the molds - whatever. It's a pretty easy project and you don't need too many tools to work on it!

Step 1: Electronics

Picture of Electronics

For this project I'm going to be using these 5 volt led strip lights. These are really cool because you can power them with a common 5 volt phone charger. Here's a regular 12 volt led strip on the right for comparison, and there we have three lights in series and every connection is a parallel connection, whereas on the 5 volt strip they are all parallel with only one light and resistor per section.

Step 2: Micro USB

Picture of Micro USB

I'm going to be using a micro usb, and these are really tiny. This is what you need so you can plug any phone charger in. Now, these have multiple pins because the middle ones carry information, but I only have to concern myself with the the ones on the ends which are positive and negative.

First of all I'm soldering the micro usb to some wire to connect to the lights, and they are so small and difficult to see! Took a little while to get that right. But this is what it looks like all connected.

I'm also putting on some shrink wrap to completely protect the connection and the wire - cause this is going to sit inside the concrete!

Step 3: Lexan

Picture of Lexan

OK, next up I'm cutting up some lexan into strips, and this is for the middle section of the lamp. I made them 1 1/2 inches or 3.8 cm high, and totally the lamp will measure 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 inch (90 x 90 x 90 mm). To frost the glass, I sanded the pieces with fine sandpaper, but you could also spray with frosted spray paint. Then I mixed up some epoxy and glued the sides together to form a square.

Step 4: Molds

Picture of Molds

Now, let's move on to the concrete molds. I'm just using some scrap plywood here, so I've got some pieces cut up which I'm just drilling and screwing together. To protect the plywood from the moisture and make it a little easier to separate from the concrete I spray painted them with som glossy paint.

Step 5: Concrete

Picture of Concrete

Time to mix up some concrete! But first, remember this little micro usb wire? I'm putting some tape on the connection end to protect it.

Then I'm mixing up the concrete, and this is actually mortar mix which is smoother than traditional concrete and doesn't have the gravel and stones in it.

Step 6: Assembling the Blocks

Picture of Assembling the Blocks

So I've got two molds, one for the top and one for the bottom. First putting down a layer of concrete. Then laying the usb wire down flat, with the tape covered usb opening against the plywood. Then I put on some more concrete on top to fix it in place, and cover up to the edge, but I made sure to have the wires point up straight in the middle.

Then repeat with the top mold, which is the same but without the wire.

Once dry, I unscrewed the molds carefully, and pried the bottom plywood apart, and I had my blocks.

Step 7: Testing

Picture of Testing

Now I actually did this multiple times, experimenting first with different wetnesses, and I know dry concrete is supposed to be stronger, but I liked the wetter concrete more in terms of looks, a little smoother.

On my third attempt here, I also placed the lexan square in the wet concrete to create an indention, and that made the plastic square fit better once dried without many gaps.

Step 8: Sanding

Picture of Sanding

Once I had the blocks, I sanded them - first I used a sander, and the dryer blocks needed more sanding. But then I moved to sanding by hand - and I also found that the blocks made with wetter concrete didn't need nearly as much sanding, they were pretty smooth already, apart from some sharp corners.

Step 9: Connecting the LEDs

Picture of Connecting the LEDs

OK, now the next step here was to solder on the led strip to the wire coming up from the concrete. And just testing here to make sure everything works. Now to secure the lights in the middle of the block, I simply used hot glue and I kind of glued the strips on top of each other into this tower thing. And then just putting it all together.

Step 10: Bottoms

Picture of Bottoms

To make sure the concrete bottom doesn't scratch a table surface I'm cutting out some rounds out of leather for feet and then just hot gluing those on as well.

Step 11: Frosting

Picture of Frosting

I also cut up some paper that I glued on the inside of the plastic square, and this is because I didn't actually want to see any of the individual lights, and the paper dimmed it even more so there was just this glow.

Once everything looked good, I epoxied the plastic square to the concrete pieces. I also put some shellac on the concrete to seal it.

And there it is. To turn the light on, you can either plug in a 5 volt power bank to make it portable and use anywhere, or you can plug in to any standard phone charger or your computer.

Step 12: Conclusion - Watch the Video

For a much better perspective, make sure to watch the video to see all the steps in detail and the finished result.

Comments

Iggylu (author)2018-01-11

I can't wait to make this!

Thanks for putting this up!

zonkerharris (author)2018-01-04

I like the idea of using mortar-concrete, and you showed a good approach for protecting the connectors while adding the concrete. But I like to use color in my projects! This would lend itself well to Neopoxels and an ATtiny or small Arduino Pro Mini, etc. (One of my other projects has the code with comments, and could be easily adapted to just a few pixels. https://www.instructables.com/id/IKEA-Star-With-ATtiny-and-NeoPixels/ ) I also like the idea of the resin from Greg Rufato in the comments below.

WinsantS (author)2018-01-02

Lovely... Can elevate the look of the room....

HenryC98 (author)2018-01-02

Great project. Thank you for the clear explanation

George Rufato made it! (author)2017-04-09

I made this one inspired by your instructable, but the light parts were casted with resin :)

Ham It Up (author)2017-04-02

Linn,

Another great idea using concrete! I like playing around with LEDs. I'll make a couple of these. I thought about making a cavity just large enough, in the top, concrete block where I could install a push button on/off switch. Install a small piece of tubing (plastic) during the molding process for the wiring to run through. I would glue the switch in place. (polyurethane glue!)

Gary

Cris DIY (author)2017-03-28

fantastic!

cbrooksokc (author)2017-01-29

Cute DIY. Thanks! Do you recall what thickness you used with the molds? I like to proportions of what you have and would like to match it. I see your dimensions for the Lexan is 1.5" tall, so I'm guessing 3/4" on the height of the concrete?

SirCooksalot (author)cbrooksokc2017-02-08

Her overall dimensions were 3.5" x 3.5" x 3.5", so with a 1.5" lexan strip you'd want both concrete 'slabs' to be 1". You can make the molds deeper for convenience sake, and just mark a line at 1". I'm making a bigger light, but I liked the ratio she used, it looks just right.... So I'm making a 6" cube, with a 2.5" lexan strip and 1.75" concrete slabs- 1.75" + 2.5" + 1.75" equals 6"- not precisely her ratio but VERY close.

cbrooksokc (author)SirCooksalot2017-02-08

Thanks for the tip. I'm making a slightly larger version as well. I'm also going to drop a Gemma in the middle to drive some Neopixels vs. straight white lighting.

MichaelC350 (author)2017-01-29

Where do you get those strip LEDs? Is there a brand name?

SirCooksalot (author)MichaelC3502017-02-08

You can get led strips anywhere online. They're not likely to be locally available, at least not for me. I got a 15" strip with the USB cord already soldered on for about $5. So mine will have a standard USB wire coming out of the back, instead of a female micro-USB port, which should be fine. It will still plug into a phone charger so no issues there. If you google '5v LED strip' you will be on your way!

darbinorvar (author)MichaelC3502017-01-30

All the products are listed in the description of the video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwVxTm7bgqs

MichaelH653 (author)darbinorvar2017-02-01

not sure where your getting your information, I've watched 3 videos and have yet to find out where to acquire the LED lights and yet to find any material list.

BradJ37 (author)MichaelH6532017-02-01

Follow the youtube link and see the video description. You need to click on "Show More" to see the full description.

kbouchard1 (author)BradJ372017-02-05

You should be able to buy the light strips on Amazon or many other places, just google them. Most come in reels, depends on the price. You want to get the 5 volt types. RGB ones are more common, you just have to ground the RGB contacts and supply 5 V to the + contact. You cut them on the marked stripe, or cutting the solder lands in 1/2 to make them work properly. Duct tape will do if heat shrink tubing not available.

kbouchard1 (author)2017-02-05

I might paint the concrete blocks sfter sanding them, masking off the wires and usb port. Also if you wanted to get complex you could use RGB light strips, and maybe mount 3 toggle switches into 1 side or even in the concrete and wire up to have color combinations, just a thought.

BlueEye.dk (author)2017-02-01

Hi great build....
I installed a arduino in it an a 24neopixel and a Bluetooth and when I get a message it slightly turns blue , ringing slightly red.

And there is a led chasing around , im thinking about putting in 2 24 neopixelrings.

When I'm done I'll put up a link.

Again thx for a great build, did not watch the video....

MauricioC23 (author)2017-01-31

Beautiful lamp!!!!! i need create one

MohammedZ37 (author)2017-01-31

Awesome work!

PURVAKD (author)2017-01-27

We can simply use granite without messing with concrete.

JetMechanic (author)PURVAKD2017-01-31

How do you bury the wiring and connector in granite, without the neccessity of acquiring an expensive drill and drill bit? The fact that the electrical connection emerges from the mortar, definitely adds an element of coolness to this project.

RonS68 (author)2017-01-29

Taking it one step further, could a small solar panel be installed on the top so the cubes could be used as outside accent lights?

JetMechanic (author)RonS682017-01-31

Then why not just save yourself the grief of mixing up concrete, and construct the project from wood, metal or plastic. The project would be covered up by ugly solar panel anyways.

zoomgali (author)2017-01-31

LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT!
Also thought your video was totally professionally done
Kudos.

maniacse (author)2017-01-26

Where you get all the inspiration? This is great like everything you made. Thanks for this ibble. Also, thank you for informing me about 5V LED strips. I do not know, that those exist. I have to find some now.

darbinorvar (author)maniacse2017-01-30

Great to hear!

ryanlee13 (author)2017-01-29

Hi Linn,

This jumped out at me as my father is a mason. On thing you can due to make the concrete look better is mix a very wet slurry of concrete only using silica sand instead of regular sand. Then after your first concrete is dried you mix the silica sand slurry and paint it on with a brush. It gives an even sandpaper type of finish. I might have to make one for my dad as a gift!

Thanks.

Ryan

darbinorvar (author)ryanlee132017-01-30

Thanks for the tip Ryan!

DirkJ1 (author)2017-01-29

Did I miss something? I can't find a parts list for the micro usb nor the led strips.

darbinorvar (author)DirkJ12017-01-30

All the products are listed in the description of the video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwVxTm7bgqs

BryenC (author)2017-01-29

Excellent project AND video. The video really put it together for me. I would have never thought to do this.. thanks for the inspiration!

darbinorvar (author)BryenC2017-01-30

Great to hear!

bethmwl (author)2017-01-29

I just searched for the little terminal connector and came up nothing. Do you have any links for those components?

darbinorvar (author)bethmwl2017-01-30

There are links to all the products used in the description of the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwVxTm7bgqs

h.it (author)bethmwl2017-01-29

something like this...

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/like/302188383259

bethmwl (author)h.it2017-01-29

Thanks

grbennet (author)2017-01-29

Thanks Linn. Nice little project. I will show this to my class.

darbinorvar (author)grbennet2017-01-30

Awesome!

tesselation (author)2017-01-29

Really looks great!

How many LED emitters did you use on the final light? In your video, when you tested it, it looks like you had 6-8, but when you hot glued them in, it looked like many more?

darbinorvar (author)tesselation2017-01-30

That's right, at first I just used a short strip for the test. For the final assembly, I used a 18 inches (45 cm) long strip.

Divaofdecomposition (author)2017-01-29

This is a great project! I wonder if the concrete mix were infused with glass bits or beads if some light would pass through it too.

I think that would look really cool.

My same thought ... I can see pieces of glass as long as the concrete is thick, sanded flat for safety reason. Randomness of glass bits or beads would need touching each other to pass light from one piece to an other ?

But there is a patented "transparent concrete" which seems to use glass fiber which passes through the thicknes of the concrete slabs : http://retaildesignblog.net/2011/05/27/litracon-transparent-concrete/

Oh yes! That is gorgeous! Thanks for finding that web page SergeE. http://retaildesignblog.net/2011/05/27/litracon-transparent-concrete/

DoğaD (author)2017-01-30

Very good idea to tower up the LED strip. Good work.

darbinorvar (author)DoğaD2017-01-30

Thanks!

scooper3 (author)2017-01-30

for the concrete to be smoother on the sides and surfaces you could use a palm sander and vibrate the concrete and it should help with giving a smoother finish

http://service.multiquip.com/pdfs/Concrete_vibrators_1003_handbook_25124_snapshot.pdf this pdf has a good explanation of what vibrating does.

awesome little tutorial I think I may try something like this though I am scared of the led lights in this and may go for a solar powered option (i would like this outdoor

cheers

porgo0 (author)2017-01-30

Cool idea!
Can be turned into a minecraft night lamp for my lil cousin ^^

slimtender. (author)2017-01-30

Really an original idea...it seems like a chocolate candy of my country....the "cremino"

About This Instructable

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Bio: Hi I'm Linn and on my Youtube Channel I have lots of great videos about building, construction and fun projects. You can also check ... More »
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