Introduction: Custom LED Throwie Badges
Wow, it's been a decade that I have been creating Instructables (ibles as they are commonly called if you have been around just as long). So for my 10th Anniversary ible, I wanted to create something going back to the basics and DIY crafting in pure form.
Throughout the years, I have increased dabbling in more electronics and tech but what was it that I have seen on Instructables that stood out to embody the Maker spirit and fascinating as art? The LED throwie. A simple circuit consisting of the bare essentials of just an LED connected to a battery. It meant anyone could make one and use it as a jumping point for anything else the imagination could conjure up.
It seems at every tech convention, each event has to outdo the last with a more complex and expensive badge. So wouldn't it be cool to create your own special light up badge for any occasion? And especially for those non-tech conventions, it would be even cooler to have a custom LED Throwie badge.
Step 1: The Usual Random Mix of Stuff...
For the LED throwie circuit, you just need an LED and a battery, we won't be using the added magnet.
This is the part where you go learn about LEDs or Light Emitting Diodes and how they work. LEDs light up at a certain voltage and if you exceed that specification, you will burn it out. Sometimes a resistor is added to the circuit to prevent that from happening. The battery has to be attached with the correct polarity, (+) positive and (-) ground, to the correct wires of the LED. Using a 3 volt lithium coin cell will underpower the LED somewhat so we do not need to use a resistor. I have a pack of LEDs that have an additional feature of it being able to flicker on and off like a candle. The assortment pack of candle flicker LEDs only had red, yellow, and white colors but I have seen them available in blue and green also.
You will need some jewelry findings to hang your badge. They can be adhesive pinbacks, various keyrings or clips. You could use the magnet on an original LED Throwie to attach to a metal backing plate under a garment.
I was browsing through the art supply store one day and came upon this thick clear flexible vinyl sheet. It is sold as clear linoleum which would be an alternative to the grey or opaque linoleum used for carving out woodblock prints or stamps. I have never seen it before so I bought a piece to try out. I also got the line cutter knife with assorted blades. It has small v-shaped blades to gouge out the vinyl. I think if you had leatherworking or other woodcarving tools, they would work too.
And you need some opaque and clear tape for attaching the LED throwie to the vinyl.
Step 2: Sharpen Your Pencils...
Create your artwork however you can. Note that you want to horizontally mirror the image so that you can carve on the back of the vinyl to leave a glossy smooth front. When viewed from the front of the vinyl, the image should be correct.
You can print out the artwork and use it as the template we will be "tracing" with the cutter knife.
I cut the larger sheet, actually the remnant from another project, into pieces to fit the artwork. Tape the artwork under the vinyl so it doesn't shift as you carve.
The technique seems to be similar to carving wood but these plastic shavings seem to stick back to the vinyl so you have to clear it often. You do have to be more diligent in cutting off the end of a shaving to release it from the block. Filled in areas can be any pattern you carve. I used a metal straightedge for a guide. Crosshatch or carve deeper for a darker or what will be a more lit infill. The vinyl cuts like butter though.
Yeah, yeah, you could probably lasercut this, CNC route or even 3D print in flexible filament but this is working with your own hands...
Step 3: More Human Than Machine...
What you end up with looks like it was carved on a CNC router.
I did start to experiment with the edge treatment. I tried to bevel an edge with a utility knife but you probably want to get a mat cutter with angled blade to get consistent results. You can chip away at the edge or round corners to give it that cracked ice look. One edge I sanded to rough it up and give it a frosted effect.
You will need to drill a hole about the diameter of your LED. You can then press fit the LED in from the back. The pocket-hole drill bit happened to be handy so it was chucked up in the drill.
I used some aluminum foil duct tape to cover the front of the LED and around the base of the LED on the back. The stuff is sometimes conductive so I made sure it did not contact the leads or wires coming out of the LED. You could insulate the leads with a small piece of regular tape. The opaque tape is to block the glare of the bright LED and to spread the light internally for the vinyl piece.
Gently bend the two leads to fit over the battery. When ready to use, make sure the polarity is correct, it lights up, and tape it all in place.
Step 4: Light It Up...
The candle flicker LEDs adds that certain something to make the piece get your attention.
And it looks better in a dimly lit or dark room.
You can even try it with two or more LEDs...
So use this ible as a jumping off point for your own creations.
Expand it to do light up signs if you want with Neopixels and a microcontroller.