DIY LED Lighting Projects

It seems everyone is jumping on the LED light bandwagon these days so I figured I might as well do it also.  I have a few projects that I want to accomplish with LED’s so I am going to document them here.  These projects are a work in progress varying from initial concept to in-work and I will update them as I make progress.

DIY Under Bed LED Lighting

My first project is an under-bed LED project for my kid’s loft beds.  Earlier this year, I made each of my three kids loft beds with stairs.  While these beds are pretty cool, I think they need a little extra zing to make them really really cool!  I plan on using an Arduino to control several strips of individually addressable RGB LED lights.  Is this overkill?  Definitely.  Is this more fun than flipping them on with a switch?  Definitely.

Project Status: Phase I Complete.  Prototype built and beginning to program

Click Here To Check Out The DIY Under Bed LED Lighting Page


DIY LED Photo Light Panels

My second project is for my wife.  She has a blog about food and life at www.WholeMadeLiving.com  (feel free to head on over and check it out…I’ll wait….).  This site requires lots of photo’s of yummy food which I happily get to eat after the photo sessions.  She always tries for natural lighting for the photographs but that doesn’t always work out.  She currently has some portable studio fluorescent lights that she uses that get the job done but just don’t do it as well as could be.  My goal with this project is to build her some insanely bright (but dimmable) DIY LED photo light panels.

Project Status: Material Procurement

DIY Under Bed LED Lighting

*This project is currently in work and the post is a work in progress.  Feel free to check back to see the project as it moves along.

A Great DIY Project For My Kids

This project came to mind after making three pretty darn cool loft beds for my three boys.  Click here for the plans I used to build them.  I mentioned to the 6 year old that maybe someday we would put some LED lights under them.  Well, to a 6 year old someday is the next day.  He kept asking and asking so I figured I would make a project for us out of it.

DIY Loft Bed Project
One of the loft beds I built for my son

Now an easy way to do it would be to buy an LED strip light kit with a built in controller, stick it up there and voila you are done.  The downside of that is that it takes all the fun out of creating something cool and special.  I have this project pictured in my mind as an under loft bed lighting project to trump all other under bed lighting projects!

I plan on this being a multi-phase project.  Phase one will just be getting the LED’s installed, hooked up to the Arduino and working properly.  I will have a simple control panel to allow dimming and a limited number of effects.

With that out of the way, let’s just jump right in and begin!

Get your tools and supplies together

We will be needing quite a few parts and supplies to get this project complete so I’ll go ahead and make a list.  This list is what I’m using for one bed, not all three.  I am using the first bed as a prototype and then will replicate for the other two beds.

I will be using a few different sources to get the materials.  I will typically default to my favorite which is Amazon but also will be using AliExpress for a couple of the parts.

Step 1 – Prototype the thing

The last thing I want to do is get these all installed and have a Clark Griswold type of moment when I try to turn it on.  I will be prototyping this before I attach everything to the bed.

I have measured where I want my lights to go and decided to run four separate 33 inch LED strips.  Is this overkill? Absolutely!  Since my lights come in a roll of 5 meters or 16.4 feet for us here in the USA, I will have to cut the light strips down to fit.

Luckily, these are designed for this and even have a little picture of scissors to tell you where to cut.  Just use a sharp pair of scissors to cut at the cut line between the LED segments.  Since the lights I bought have 30 LED’s per meter, this leaves me with 25 LED’s for each 33 inch section.

I plan on running these in parallel as four separate LED strips, each operating from their own digital pin on the Arduino.  I think this will give me more control but I will have to find out for sure as I proceed.

WS2812B RGB LED Flexible Strip

The type of flexible LED strip that I’m using has the WS2812B chip, this little chip includes the RGB LED’s as well as the control circuit all in one component.  The WS2812B is the chip you see in the photo below with the four soldered contacts.  The rest of the flexible light strip is customized around the chip by the manufacturers but they are fairly standard.

RGB LED strip close up of WS2812B Chip
RGB LED Strip Detail WS2812B

The cut lines in the photo above divide the light strip into individually usable pieces.  You are cutting between solder-able contact pads that you will use to hook up your project.

Now it’s time to break out the soldering iron and get it warmed up!  I will be soldering the wires directly to the end of the LED light strips.  Each strip of lights will get three wires soldered to it going to the contacts as listed in the table below.

 Label Meaning
5V 5 Volts DC (Yours might be 12V if you are using 12 Volts DC)
DI Digital Input from the Arduino
DO Digital Output to the next LED in the string

Arduino Proto Shield

I have left plenty of wire to get back to my Arduino once it is mounted on the bed.  I will be using a prototype shield to make all of my connections.  This is basically a solder-able breadboard that mounts on top of your Arduino.  The Arduino can be removed as needed for other projects or to program it.

Many proto shield’s or prototype boards come un-assembled, this means you have to solder the header pins, reset switch and other components on yourself.  If you don’t mind spending a few extra dollars you can get one pre-assembled.  I prefer to solder them myself, saves money and helps to improve my soldering skills.

Connecting To Your Arduino

For this project, I will be connecting the Digital Input (DI) contacts of the four LED strips to pins 5, 6, 10 and 11 of the Arduino.  Why such strange and random pins?  I’m glad you asked… There are only 6 pins on the Arduino UNO that use Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) and they did not put these in order.

Everything needs to be powered, the Arduino plus the LED’s.  One reason I chose the 5 volt LED’s is because I could use the same power source as the Arduino.  Keep in mind that you DO NOT want to power the LED’s directly from the Arduino’s 5V power pin.  Even though it’s 5 volts just like you need, the amperage draw of the LED’s would overwhelm the Arduino and you would end up tripping the self resetting fuse.

To remedy this, we will be wiring the 5 volt power supply directly to the prototyping board and then splitting it off from there to the Arduino and to the LED’s.

You want to connect the positive and negative leads of your 5V power supply to your proto board.  Make sure you have these separated from each other with enough room to connect additional wires to the adjacent through holes.

Connect the GND wire from each LED strip to a contact on your proto board and make sure that they are either jumpered or there is a soldier bridge connecting them with the GND from your power supply.

Connect the +5V wire from each LED strip to a contact on your proto board and also make sure that they are either jumpered or there is a solder bridge connecting them with the +5V from your power supply.

Now you want to connect the wires coming from the DI on the LED’s to the proper digital pins on the Arduino.  I am using pins 5, 6, 10 and 11 for my project.  On the proto shield solder them in the through holes adjacent to their pins on the header.

LED Power Requirements

Now to do a little calculating for the amperage requirements…  I know from the specifications of my LED’s that they consume about 1.8 Amps per meter when the LED’s are at full brightness.  Since I’m using about 3.6 Meters of LED’s I will go ahead and round it up to 4 meters just to give a little bit of cushion.

This means that I will require a total of 7.2 Amps to run all of the LED’s at full brightness.  The Arduino itself draws a minimal amperage in the milliamps so I won’t even concern myself with that since I have a decent cushion built in.  So, with all that said I will need a 5 volt DC 8 amp power supply.

Powering Your Arduino with 5 Volts DC

Since your Arduino has a 5V and 3.3V output, you might be thinking that you can just supply 5V to the power plug and you will be all ready to roll.  Unfortunately this is not correct.  The Arduino Uno has a recommended input voltage range between 7-12V and an input voltage limit between 6-20V.  Since I will be powering with 5V only, how can this work?

Click here for the DIY workaround to power your Arduino UNO with 5 Volts DC

See Photos Of All The Details

I made a separate post with photos of the Proto board during all of the phases of soldering. Click here to see the detailed photos.

Here is a video of the finished product, Phase I.

WordPress – Genesis Page Template – Remove Title

I recently stumbled around for far too long trying to figure out how to remove the Title from a WordPress page that uses a StudioPress Genesis template so I decided to write up a post on how to accomplish this.

Let’s say you create a “Page” (not a post) named “BLOG” and want to use it as your blog template.  You probably don’t want the title to show up at the top of every page.  You could just delete the actual title from the page template but the problem is that you now have a page with no name.  With just one page this might not be a big deal, but with several it makes things a little complicated.  It also leaves an empty space at the top of the page which is reserved for the title.

The fix is very simple, just paste the following code before the genesis closing tag in your page template.

//* Remove the page title from a Page template
remove_action( 'genesis_before_loop', 'genesis_do_blog_template_heading' );

By default Genesis adds the page title into the genesis_before_loop.  This line simply removes it using a Hook.  The page title no longer shows up and neither does the blank space for it.  Add this line to every page template that you want the page title removed from or put it in your functions.php file to remove it from every page template at once.

Start Your Own Blog

Starting your own Blog is really simple, you just need to follow a few simple steps to do it correctly and get the best results.  These steps will show you the Simpleton approach to starting up your own blog and doing it right.  If you want to know more, follow the links to get more detailed information about each topic.

Simple Steps

1: Choose Your Blog’s Domain Name Carefully

You have one shot to get this one right.  Take your time and think about it before you bite the bullet and buy your domain name.  I highly recommend getting a .COM domain if at all possible.

2: Pick Your Web Hosting Provider

Think of the web hosting provider (Web Host) as your blog’s landlord.  You rent space on their web server for your blog to live in.  Just as there are good and bad landlords, there are good and bad web hosts.  Do your research and start off using one that you won’t be regretting later.

If you are just starting, you don’t need massive amounts of space or numerous bells and whistles but you do want the opportunity to expand in the future.

3: Pick Your Blogging Platform

Your blogging platform is the software that makes your entire blog come together.  It is a CMS or Content Management System that gets all of the little bits put where they need to be.  You do have a few options when it comes to the blogging platform, however I recommend WordPress hands down.  WordPress is the most popular platform in use, it is extremely well supported and flexible enough to do pretty much anything that you will be needing.

To keep things simple, just stick with WordPress for the time being.

4: Choose Your Blog’s Theme

Your Blog’s Theme will be dictating the look and feel of your entire website.  On a WordPress blog, the look of the site and the actual content you write are separated into separate entities.  What this means is, you can change the theme (look and feel) of your site without having to jump through hoops and mess with the content every time.  This is extremely handy since you can keep updating the look and all of your brilliant content will be just fine.

WordPress comes with lots of free themes.  These are great for getting started and most can be modified to give your blog it’s own custom look.  These free themes allow you to get your blog set up instantly so you can get your information out there.

Needing more control over the look of your blog?  You probably want to consider upgrading to a Theme Framework.  These are highly customized “Theme Engines” that give you tons of control over the look of your theme.  There are several companies that have created these framework and all are completely different.  A couple great places to start are the Genesis Theme by StudioPress and the Thesis Theme by DIYThemes.

5: Write Amazing Content

This is the most important step of all!  It is much easier to design a beautiful and easy to use Blog than it is to write amazing content that will keep readers coming back for more.  You have two goals when writing your blog’s content.

  • Write interesting and readable content that will engage your readers and keep them reading.  This will get them to start looking around your site for more, which is exactly what you want.
  • Write content that is expertly optimized for Search Engine Optimization or SEO.  This will get you ranked well in the search engines like Google or Bing so that readers will find you.

These two goals are basically one in the same.  The search engines are looking more and more for well written content that is readable and will give their users the information they have searched for.  Gone are the days of just stuffing lots of Keywords in your content and expecting to rank well.