Light Saber -save $450

The DIY Light Saber(TM) costs ~$50 to make, it has better "specs" than an IceLight, and it costs $450 less. If you don't include the remote control/dimmer and you only use one battery it will only cost ~ $30 to make. This is not a simple/basic DIY. You need some experience and knowledge with power tools and electronics... and you need the tools of course.

I'll apologize for not having every detail documented... I had to do the work and test it before I could write about it.

Here are the items you need to make one.


2" PVC Pipe of desired length- I used ~ 3ft
2ea 2" PVC couplers
2ea 2" PVC test caps
1ea 2" PVC spigot cap (upper left)
1ea 2" PVC slip cap (domed)
5 meters of LED tape lights
Translucent flexible cutting board
1/4-20 threaded anchor

2ea 12v Li-Po batteries
Optional: Remote LED control/dimmer

First you have to decide how long you want your light to be and that will be dictated by the size of cutting board you purchase. I found a 24" board at a local kitchen supply for ~$5. You can get two of them for the same price on HERE. And it just so happens that 24" worked out perfectly for the 5meters of lights.
With the length of the light decided I cut a 24" section of the PVC pipe. Now we have to cut this in half lengthwise. To do this I attached it to a board by running long wood screws thru the board and into the ends of the pipe and then cut it using a table saw. I then removed the 1/2 pipe from the board and cut two small rabbits into the inside edges. These create a lip which holds the diffusion screen in place. It's not entirely necessary to cut the rabbits. If you don't you'll probably have to tape the seams between the diffusion screen and PVC to eliminate light leaks.

Now we want to attach the led light tape to the inside of the half pipe. I chose to use a "bright white" 600 LED strip. I chose it because a 3528 bright white LED is rated at 6 lumens and 6000 degrees Kelvin color. So that gives me ~ 3600 lumens at a temp that is a close match for daylight and speedlights/strobes (before the diffusion panel). If you were going to be wanting to match household (tungsten) lighting you would probably want to choose "warm white" instead. The tape I used was self adhesive so all I had to do was run it up and down ~21" in length folding it over at the ends to make it return. I glued down the ends with a drop of superglue. Be careful when making the folds not to cause an LED or resistor to pop off. If you do cause one to pop off that 3 LED grouping will have to be cut out and the remaining sections connected together with wire jumpers. When it's done it will look like this:

The 5 meters of LEDs made nine runs that pretty much filled the half diameter of the 2" PVC. The last inch or so of the PVC and diffuser will be hidden by the cap/coupler so the screw hole from cutting will be hidden; and that's why I didn't run the LED's all the way to the ends.

The next thing to do is to cut and form our diffusion panel. To measure the width needed I simply used the 2" coupler. Insert the led panel into the coupler and measure the remaining radius. Cut the required width from the cutting board using a straight edge and razor knife. To form it I put it inside a length of 2" PVC and put it in the oven at 200 degrees for about 30 minutes or so. This also made the PVC soft so a metal pipe would have been better. I then turned off the oven and allowed everything to cool. This is the result:


Next we need to make up our battery connections. I purchased two of these cheap Li-Po 12v batteries and wired them in parallel. You could get away with just one with about half the usable run time. They have a built in power switch, power LED, and protection circuitry. The problem with that is the LED will always be draining the batteries as they have to be switched "on" all the time. The LED and switch are under a cardboard cover so I simply tore the cover off, snipped out the LED and switch and reconnected the hot lead. If you don't think you can figure out that part then maybe you should choose a different battery. Or you can just switch them on an put up with the constant LED drain. To wire them in parallel simply cut off the plug ends and join like wires together (red w/ red). Reattach the charging plug to those wires and insulate the connections. If using only one battery all you need to do is cut off the output plug and strip the wires back. I then taped the batteries together to make them a single unit and protect the internal circuits. It now looks like this:

Now we have to decide how we want to control the power. You can reuse one of the battery switches, or you can use remote control. I chose to do both. For the remote control I purchase this LED dimmer control. It provides remote on/off and step-less brightness control. Simply disassemble it with a screwdriver and desolder the wire ends from the board. Then solder the remaining battery wires to the labeled board connections (red to input +). The LED strip wires get soldered to the remaining labeled connections on the board. Test your remote control to ensure everything is working. You can't hurt led's by applying power "backwards" but they won't light up if you do. The only problem with this setup is you are dependent on a little battery powered remote control. As a backup in case of misplacing the remote or it's battery dying I used one of the switches from the batteries to bypass the ground connections on the control board. This allows manual on/off control.
I also considered using the second "charging" plug in parallel with the battery output to allow the light to run off of a 12v 5Amp power supply. But I don't have one and that would probably require a simple circuit protection wired in to protect the batteries (unless the batteries' protection circuits are already adequate). Just a thought you might choose to implement.

To install the switch you can drill a couple of holes and file/cut the opening into square to accept the switch (which is what I did) or an easier method is to simply cut into one side of the handle section to create a slot. The waste piece can be broken out just by flexing it back and forth. The coupler will complete the opening. I used ~ 9" of PVC for the handle section.

The last thing we need to do before final assembly is create the butt cap. The but cap is made up of one 2" coupler and the spigot cap. I chose this over a standard cap because we need flat surfaces and suitable thickness for the 1/4-20 thread insert. There are a large variety of thread inserts but I chose to use this type of T-nut as I wanted it to be as secure as I could make it. To install the T-nut I drilled a hole in the center of the butt cap to accept the collar portion and then I used a soldering iron to heat it up and melt it into place.

If any part of the t-nut threads extends beyond the outside edge it should be removed with a file or similar. I used a large drill bit to slightly countersink the threads on the outside. This ensures the T-nut is applying clamping force when attached to a tripod or light stand and it won't come loose with use. I cut the cap a little shorter so it fit all the way into the 2" coupler. It's not required but I thought it looked better. Now glue the cap into the coupler. (I found superglue to the best choice for assembling this project). And drill a hole into the side near the bottom to accept the battery charging socket.


Now its time for assembly (again, superglue worked best). Start by gluing the test plugs to the led panel. You'll have to notch the bottom one for the wires. I also painted the bottom cap to block light from leaking into the handle section. These test plugs provide "separation" of the sections and support for the diffusion panel.

Next glue the top cap to the led panel.
Slide the diffusion panel into place. Almost nothing will glue to the PTFE cutting board material; but I put a bead of Loctite Go2 glue in the rabbit grooves and it has worked well to hold the panel in place. 
(If you did not create the rabbits to hold the diffusion screen then you should put tape on the inside of the diffusion screen edges and attach it to the LED panel *BEFORE* gluing anything up... you will need to use a stick or something to finish the taping from the inside. I suppose you could tape it from the outside, but it won't look as good.)
Next glue the remaining 2" coupler to the bottom of the LED/diffuser assembly.
Slide the handle tube over the battery/controller assembly and retest all controls/functions. We're about to seal it all up and it will be very difficult to fix anything after that. Once everything is verified working glue the handle in place.
Secure the battery assembly inside so it doesn't move around. I just used a large bead of caulking. But hot glue or even foam stuffed around it will work.
Take the charging plug and glue it into the hole in the side of the butt cap assembly from the inside. Make sure the wires are clear of the threaded hole. And then glue the butt cap in place. 
DONE! It should look like this:

I chose to paint it black with plastic paint. In retrospect I would use solvents or sandpaper to remove the printing on the PVC and just leave it white instead.

So here are the specs as compared to an IceLight:

                                LightSaber                             IceLight
Diameter:                   2.2"                                       1.75"
Length:                      33" (22" illuminated)               20.25" (?)
Watts:                       48 True(2-300 comparatively)  150 comparatively 
LED hours:                 50,000+                                 50,000+ 

Battery Life:             ~2hrs @ full pwr                     ~1hr @ full power
Color Temp:             ~6000K                                  ~5300K
Lumens:                  ~3600(spec)                             1160 (spec or true?)
Power draw/range:     0-48w                                     1.5-15w
Charge time:              12hrs                                      2.5hrs
Dimmable:                  YES                                        YES
Remote RF:                 YES                                        NO


To be fair, I've never seen an IceLight in person and I have no way to test the actual measurements (color temp, etc) of the LightSaber(TM). All I can do is go off of the spec sheets. I suspect the spec sheets are over rated somewhat and the actual performance is less. I have no idea if the specs for the IceLight are "true" or spec either.


To give you an idea. From two feet it measures two stops above ambient with a full charge. To put that into perspective... that's something like a GN of what, 4ft at ISO 100? I'm really not certain, but it's not a lot.

Here it is turned on in a completely dark room:

The furthest corner is ~ 20ft away... and it's not pointed at that corner, it's pointed along the wall.

Here it is in an unlit room during the day (not "dark," reading light levels):

A note about the batteries and charger:
These batteries come with a slow charger which is kind of weird; the red LED light is on anytime it's connected to the wall or battery and the green LED is on when charging. The slow charger is good as it will get the most out of the batteries over time.
The batteries have built in protection circuitry for over temp, over charge, and over drain.  This is good but it has the effect of a "hard shut off." The light will run for ~ 2hrs with no noticeable dimming and then just shut off when the voltage drops too far (to ~10v).



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