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Animated EL Wire Sign - do it yourself

MakeICT was the recipient of an EL (electroluminescent wire) kit from Instructables and coolneon.com in January 2014. We decided that our most pressing need was a sign to direct people to our door. We meet bi-weekly and it took 7 sessions to create the sign in its current state. About halfway through the process someone suggested animating the gears. We all decided that was great, but would wait until a later version.

In our first meeting, we reviewed the materials list to decide on a project. One MakeICT member brought a mockup to show the flexibility of the EL wire. We quickly settled on some sort of sign. The entry door to our makerspace is on a dark side alley. We printed out the letters of the sign, one to an 8.5 x 11 sheet, started brainstorming, and this is what we ended up with.

Step 1: Supplies

  • Cable ties
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Wire cutters
  • Wire strippers
  • Awl
  • Scissors
  • Small wooden spools (optional)
  • A friend (optional, but recommended)


  • EL wire (we used 10 strands cut into 5 ft. lengths)
  • Power source and inverter
    NOTE: The power source we were provided failed (lifted trace on the PCB) and had to be replaced.
  • 12v, 1.5a AC/DC Adapter
  • Inverter
  • EL Sequencer/shield
  • An Arduino
  • Craft wire (12 ga.)
  • Scrap plywood
  • Light finish nails
  • Fishing line (15 lb. test)
  • White plastic tape
  • Black electrical tape
  • Corrugated plastic board
  • Wire coat hangers (2)
  • Large grommets (2)
  • Code

    Step 2: Layout

    Print the letters/shapes of your sign design in the desired font and size.

    Arrange the letters on the corrugated plastic board to determine the final size and arrangement of the sign.

    We ended up using white corrugated plastic board because we didn't have enough black. Black is probably a better choice, as the white board allows light to shine through, including light from the Arduino/shield.

    Step 3: Creating Letter Forms

    Animated EL Wire Sign


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