Muses Shoe, EL Wire and You

Here’s something for the locals. I knew there had to be some fun locked away in the light-up Mardi Gras throws that have become more popular in recent years. Unfortunately, I’m not cute enough to have a Muses shoe thrown to little old me, so I had to wait for somebody to throw it away at the Really Really Free Market held at Art House this past weekend.

A few notes about this. It’s not hard. Not really very impressive, either. There’s a lot that I don’t know as I only had one shoe and one 4ft EL wire that I picked up from Electronics Goldmine a while ago. For those same reasons, I could have documented this much better. The longest part was dealing with my miserable skills with a soldering iron.

Up on the top there, if you peel back the circuit board you’ll see a coil telling you we are dealing with a high voltage AC inverter here (running on two AAs), which is why I did this; I was too lazy to ever order an AC inverter for the EL wire I had. For those that haven’t read up on EL wire, it won’t run on DC current, so these little pocket inverters, usually found in a 9V variety, are the way way to go if you want to, say, mount it on a bike like I did. Be careful, I shocked myself about 15 times messing with this, and though it wasn’t too bad it was because I was clumsy, not because I liked it.

The shoe half is mostly useless to this project. If you notice, I pulled off some of those pins from the shoe end. Don’t bother with that, I thought they’d make it easier to attach the EL wire to the leads from the board, but they didn’t stick on there well.

You need to strip one end of your EL wire a little to use it (the other end is free to dangle). The outer layer is essentially the tint of the wire. Underneath there are two very fragile wires, I’ve seen them called Corona wires or Angel Wires. They are important and frustratingly brittle. Then there’s the relatively fat, sheathed wire in the middle. You’ll need to strip that as well.

A couple of guides recommend a strip of copper tape wrapped around the white wire. That way your brittle angel wires can be soldered to the tape, then the next thing you solder to the tape without worrying about tension on the angel wire. If you’ve got some copper tape DO IT, it will probably make your life much easier. It made my life harder because I checked out Radio Shack, Lowes and Home Depot, and none of them have copper tape. Instead I broke the angel wires a good 6 times until I finally managed to put the thing together intact, taping it all together so they wouldn’t be jostled much. But I’m skipping a step

This part’s a little shaky, but here’s what worked for me. The main rule that I discerned is that one wire from the EL has to be soldered to one of the two outside wires, the other to any of the middle three. Since different parts of the original shoe were supposed to work in certain ways, each one will behave differently. I found my favorite combo to be the fat wire on the lead the corresponds to the leftmost joint on the inverter’s circuit board, with the angel wire going right next to it. That’s the only configuration I found that allowed a sustained glow.

From there I taped it up tight, waterproofed it by sticking it in a ziplock with a hole in one non-zip corner for the wire to escape (and taped that corner too) and packaging-taped it around my bike! There’s a lot more I’d like to learn about this, such as how long of an EL wire it can drive, whether it’ll run two wires just as easily etc., and I don’t even know about battery life just yet, but for once your Mardi Gras beads have some worth.

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  1. cyber.shifter
    Posted July 13, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    You should have checked a stained glass shop. Copper tape is a common item there as it is used in one method of making small stained glass pieces.

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