What do I want? An LED flow-wand.
Why can't I have one? They're $200, and I'm underemployed.
What to do? Make my own from EL Wire of course!
Step 1: Supplies
Lots! Let's see...
1x 27" length of 3/4" acrylic tubing from TAP Plastics (I want to use polycarbonate and will replace the acrylic with it, but I can't find 3/4" polycarbonate tubing... any ideas?)
1x 1/4" acrylic rod, also from TAP, color of your choice
2x 3/4" caps for your tubes, also from TAP
1-2x 3' 2.2mm EL Wire Kit, color of your choice (kits include wire, connectors and drivers which take one AA battery)
2x AA Batteries
Electrical wires, solder, solder wick
Dremel or Saw, if you're cutting your own tubing
Hot Glue Gun
Strong nylon upholstery thread (black)
Strip of bike tube, leather, ring or shoelace
Step 2: Cut Everything to Size
Cut your tubes to 27" (or anywhere between 25-30", depending how you like your wand.)
Cut your colored rods to 18.5" (or the length of your tube, minus 4x the length of your driver.)
If you're using an acrylic cutter, score and break the acrylic. Or use a saw or dremel. Sand the ends. Might be a good idea to wear gloves and eyewear, acrylic is sharp when you break it and plastic dust is probably not so good to breathe!
Step 3: Wrap Your Wire
Start wrapping your EL wire around your colored rod. Give it at least 3-4" of extra wire between the rod and the driver. Wrap as tightly as you like, being careful not to bend the EL wire too much--it's delicate. Using electrical tape at the top of the rod helps make this step a lot easier.
If you're using two colors of EL wire, wrap the other color, making sure to position the connector at the opposite end of the wand. When you're finished, you should have a rod with two colors and a driver at each end (to keep the wand balanced).
When you've got it the way you want it, hot glue the wire to the rod with a drop of glue every few inches.
Step 4: Reconfigure Drivers
Tube cap with switch : Battery : Driver : EL Wire lighted portion : Spare battery as counterweight : Tube Cap
Tube cap with switch : Battery : Driver : EL Wire lighted portion : Driver : Battery : Tube Cap with Switch
This part requires soldering and electrical skills. If you're going to attempt this, be safe!
- Crack the top case off your driver and use your exacto blade to pop the glue off where it is glued into its case. Remove the circuit, switch and battery holder.
- Desolder the short battery post and extend it with a new longer (~2.5") wire.
- Take the spiral on the long battery post, twist it 180 degrees, and shorten the wire so it sits flush against the driver assembly. Now the battery can sit to the right of the driver.
- De-solder the three contact points of the switch and extend it with three more wires.
- Cover it all with ample hot glue. A little electrical tape is nice too, for insurance.
- Now shorten the connection of your EL wire kit so everything fits in nicely... clip the EL wire just below the heat shrink tubing and clip the connector (black) wire, solder them together and seal. We had to do this twice--you want as little extra wire as possible between the lit EL wire and the driver circuit.
Step 5: Paint
That whole battery/driver assembly is kind of ugly so I chose to paint the ends of my tube to hide it.
Tape off the center of your tube where the lighted portion will be. Spraypaint the ends of your tube and your caps. The caps pictured are for the single-color wand, so only one has a hole for the switch.
Step 6: Add the String
Wands look like they're floating because of the string attached to a ring around your finger. So we need one of those.
Use your drill or Dremel to drill 2 very small holes, about 1/4" from the center of your wand. (It should be almost dead center but not quite... this helps the wand stay vertical when you're manipulating it.)
Cut a strip of leather or bike tube to use as a finger loop--about 1/2"x4". Cut a slit in one end and thread the other end through. Cut a hole in the other end and tie a short piece of strong thread to it. Tie the other end of the thread to your small swivel.
Thread a length of thread through the hole. You'll probably want your string about 2' long, but a longer string also means you can do some different tricks (neck and elbow wraps, etc). It's up to you. Tie the ends of the long string to your tiny swivel. Use a strong knot.
Step 7: Connect and Construct
Connect driver/EL wire to the battery. Slip inside the tube.
Fit the cap to the end of your tube with the switch poking through the rectangular hole. If you like you can affix your second battery terminal to the back of the switch.
2-color wand: Repeat for the other end.
1-color wand (pictured): Don't cut a hole in the second end cap. Shave down a cork to use as a stopper and push it into the end of the tube. Add a spare AA battery. The weight of the cork + spare battery will counterweight the driver/battery on the other end so your wand will be balanced. And you won't run out of juice at your next party!
Step 8: Play!
Congratulations, you have finished! Cupcakes for everyone!
But seriously, if you're interested in learning the wand, just make one and try it, it's pretty easy and fun! You can also search "flow wand" on YouTube for some good videos.
Thanks for reading, hope you liked it! This was a prototype and I plan on making more, so comments and constructive criticism welcome!