I’m a huge fan of Big Clive, and watch his videos regularly. Back in December he built a DIY LED bulb kit from China, and as soon as I finished the video I ordered a couple for myself! It’s a fairly simple kit with a lot of potential for customization. There’s a lot of solder joints but the overall assembly isn’t too complicated, and the theory behind how they work is fascinating and not too hard to comprehend. Best of all, with prices well below $2 shipped, they’re cheap fun! I recently assembled one of these kits so I can review it and share what I’ve learned so far.
This little LED test box couldn’t be simpler – pop an LED into the tester, push the button, and see it light up. The top header accommodates standard LEDs with two leads, and the bottom headers accommodate 4-pin “piranha” LEDs. I use it frequently when assembling LED lighting projects or to quickly test a new batch of LEDs. It’s a great value for the approximately $2.00 USD that I paid for it. With that said it has some issues, and there are a few things to be aware of when using these testers.
You can’t expect much for $2, but the quality is fine for the price. The biggest issue I have is the headers; they don’t always make good contact with the leads on the LEDs, especially the bottom rows for piranha LEDs. So sometimes I have to fiddle around with the LEDs to get solid contact. The other minor issue is the battery compartment, it’s fairly tight and I’ve had some trouble figuring out how to best orient the battery so it will fit with the case closed. With a little trial and error though, it’s possible.
These are minor quibbles, and acceptable given the price. But there are some more concerning issues with the circuit itself, which I’ll cover in the next couple sections.
I recently reviewed the Color Night Joule Thief by The LED Artist, and tonight I built the original Night Joule Thief. It works just like the color version, except that it uses two white LEDs instead of a single color-changing LED, and has slightly fewer components. Unlike the color version, I didn’t run into any problem with the PCB layout; everything fit with no risk of any short circuits. Assembly is easy and well-suited for a beginner.
Light output is very good using a fairly new battery. I tried it in my bedroom and it provides enough light to keep me from stubbing my toes on the bed posts after dark. With that said though, I wish the output was spread out more, it’s very narrowly focused. This could be adjusted to some degree by soldering the LEDs so they point at different angles. Another possible solution is using LEDs with a wider output beam. I purchased two kits, so I may try doing something like this with the other. Other possible modifications which are discussed on the related Instructables page include using a switch instead of a photoresistor to turn the LEDs on and off, and using alternative battery clips to allow for C, D and other size 1.5v batteries.
Overall, this is an excellent kit, perfect for beginning electronics enthusiasts learning to solder as well as experienced hobbyists looking for a simple circuit to build that offers some room for customization. It’s available for under $11 from The LED Artist.
While testing my recently acquired Piranha LEDs, I noticed quite by accident that the output from the breadboarded circuit created some interesting effects when used to cast shadows against a plain background. The edges of the shadows show the red, blue and green (and mixed) colors due to their coming in from slightly different positions and angles. It’s a fun effect, but there isn’t much room for creativity as my test circuit only had 6 LEDs (2 of each color) grouped closely together. Something more interesting and dramatic could be achieved using larger light sources positioned further apart, which would allow control over where the different colors fall and how much they overlap. It’s something I may pursue in the future when I have more lights built. Until then, here’s a couple photos I snapped and a video I quickly put together using my test circuit.
The first photo is (quite obviously) my hand and the second is a failed amplifier circuit I had laying around.
And a video, which came out creepier than I had intended. A friend described it as “Dr. Frankenstein visits Studio 54!”
I’m planning an LED floodlight project that will use a lot of square 4-pin LEDs, aka SuperFlux or “Piranha” LEDs. I hadn’t had a chance to use these type of LEDs until now, so after receiving my order this week I immediately went to work on trying them out. This won’t be a very technical review, just a quick look at the specs and my experience with testing the LEDs and what I thought of them.
I recently stumbled upon Akimitsu Sadoi’s website, The LED Artist. Akimitsu describes himself as a Brooklyn, NY based electronic artist with the motto “Art and Technology are Friends”. He designs and builds LED Art projects and offers a variety of kits for sale through his online store. I’m a sucker for anything that lights up, so it didn’t take me long to find several kits I wanted to purchase and build. I can’t afford to buy every kit I want on there, but I did pick up a couple, the smaller (and cheaper) of which is the Colour Night Joule Thief.