How to make an LED light tube

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How to make an LED light tube
Swinging an LED but the cord is not safe! (Photo by pablogv2004 at morguefile.)

Make an LED light tube to brighten any occasion. This LED light tube will work from a wall socket and can also plug into a car's cigarette lighter. Use these tubes for parties, on car camp-outs, or for emergencies. Customise the colour of the tube and even the length of the cord to fit your needs.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 1 foot baton case/tube with end caps
  • Dowel rod
  • Dental floss
  • Spray paint (white is recommended)
  • Light strip with included interconnect cable (see resources for example)
  • Toe-nail clipper (to cut and strip wires)
  • Extension cord
  • Soldering iron and solder
  • Drill with 1/4-inch bit
  • Hot glue gun and glue slug
  • Liquid electrical tape
  • Cigarette plug and universal AC to DC 12-volt converter

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  1. 1

    Purchase a baton tube case (see Resources) custom cut to 1 foot. Remove the end caps.

  2. 2

    Slide the tube over the dowel rod. Tie a piece of dental floss onto the dowel rod at both ends to hang the tube up from a rafter in the garage or other suitable place.

  3. 3

    Spray paint the tube lightly with an even coating of white paint. To get the even coating, turn the tube carefully using your finger on the inside of the tube. Allow the paint on the tube to dry.

  4. 4

    Cut the wire of the interconnect cable in half between the plugs located at either end. Strip the ends of the wire you just cut.

  5. 5

    Plug the cut and stripped interconnect cable plugs into the plugs at either end of the light strip.

  6. 6

    Solder the wires together at one end and cover the expose part wire with electrical tape. Coil up the wire. Use a hot glue gun to glue this wire under an end cap.

  7. 7

    Insert the light strip into the tube and put on the end cap, sealing it in place with a hot glue gun. Be careful not to melt the tube with the heat.

  8. 8

    Drill a hole into the end of the remaining end cap with the ¼-inch drill bit. Cut a length of extension cord to the length that you desire.

  9. 9

    Strip the end of an extension cord and strip the wires inside at both ends. Thread the positive and negative wires from one end through the hole and solder them to the leads on the interconnect wire (except for the ground wire which is left free).

  10. 10

    Tie a small overhand knot into the cord above the hole and glue the knot and extra wire to the end cap. Glue the end cap in place.

  11. 11

    Strip wires leading to a cigarette lighter plug and solder it to the end of the wires coming out of the other side of the extension cord.

  12. 12

    Paint the connection with liquid electrical tape to hide any exposed wires. Buy a universal AC to DC converter that will allow you to plug in the cigarette lighter plug into the wall.

Tips and warnings

  • Liquid electrical tape can be used to make the system more weather resistant for outdoor use by coating electrical components and using it to seal the caps and hole in where the wire comes out. If overheating is a problem, use a heat sink to dissipate the heat from the inside of the tube to the outside of the tube. An LED series resistance capacitor is included in the resources section for those who wish to solder their own LEDs in series (instead of using the LED strip) and need to know how much resistance to add to the wire.
  • There is a risk of electrical shock. Do not use this device in or near water. Do not touch the electrical leads of this device when in use. Test the light under the conditions that you intend to use it under (time length, room temperature, etc.) to check for overheating and other problems. As always, wear safety goggles. Read and follow all instructions/warnings that come with your equipment. Refer to our tutorials for supplemental information on soldering. Swinging the tube by the cord is not safe for many reasons.

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