If you didn’t know already, I love LEDs! They go great with any project. So when walking by a wooden America cutout sign in the sadly closed down AC Moore, I instantly knew what to do: make it light up!
Despite my extensive history with LEDs, I have never used LED strips before. This is for numerous reasons that I won’t dive into but I knew that I was going to have to use LED strips for this project. Thus, I went onto Amazon and bought an LED kit with all the needed essentials.
LED Kit Notable Features:
- 150 RGB 5050 SMD LEDs (16.4 feet)
- 3M Self-adhesive tape background
- 12v power supply
- Controlled through IR remote
- 16 different color “modes”
Prep and Assembly
Originally, I was thinking of making this complicated acrylic glass wall that would be placed on the backside of the sign. I would stick the LED strips along this wall, allowing for even light distribution from the acrylic but this idea quickly fell through for a multitude of reasons. I neither have the tools to make an acrylic cut out nor the skill to do so. Thus, I relied on old fashioned sticky tape and stuck the LED strips onto the backside of the America sign.
Tip: I advise you to wipe down the surface with alcohol pads to remove any dust or grime. This ensures maximum “stick” from the LED strips.
The Long Solder…
Going into this project, I didn’t realize how much time and effort it was going to take to finish the LED sign. I thought this was going to be a quick solder job but I was mistaken. In all, it took me about 5 hours to solder everything together, most of it spent planning wire placement and cutting them down to length.
Why did I spend such a long time planning everything out? Because I wanted everything to be as perfect and precise as possible. Without a proper light diffuser on the sign, having an evenly lit background would be difficult to achieve. Thus, if you set out on your own journey to make a light-up sign, I advise you to spend as much time as possible planning the placement of the LED strips. Once you stick them on there is really no turning back.
As an electronics hobbyist, I know all too much the reality of the magic smoke. After spending 5+ hours on this project, the last thing I want is the LEDs releasing the magic smoke. Thus, I spent the next hour probing my connections, checking for bad solder connections and/or any shorts.
Plugging in the 12v adapter, the LEDs promptly turn on. Success!