Grandiose projects can give a sense of wondrous fulfillment when completed, but they can be a hard slog, and the time between inception and gratification can be disheartening. I’ve come to realise that having a small task in my backlog can help at times like these, so that I have some way to get a quick hit of satisfaction.
These can be short tasks like changing out a blue power LED for some other colour (which is good for your health if you sleep near it), or longer-burning (but periodically rewarding) challenges such as learning the best way to digitally encode video using command-line tools.
Not a day has gone by in the last fortnight when I have not worked on the Tripper Trapper, and it was beginning to wear me down. So after cutting, re-soldering and re-sealing six short LED strip segments, I took some “me time” and improved my bench light.
The existing light was made from two 40cm strips of common-anode RGB strip glued to the underside of a shelf. I had bought the strip a month earlier on a whim when Amazon had listed them at $6 apiece (at the time of writing this, they were listed for $18 — I happened to walk past a similar offering at Home Depot last week for the amazing price of “only” $65). I figured $6 was worth it just for the 12V 3A power supply alone, so I bought as many as Amazon would let me (hint: 6). Thus, I already had the perfect system to build a bench light.
The whole thing is pretty simplistic, and construction was made even easier by the acquisition of these 4-wire connectors which are great for any kind of 10mm 4-wire strip (clocked-addressable or common-anode RGB).
While the store page does say they are solderless, I found during construction of the Wonky Queenslander that they are much more secure and make far better contact with a dab of solder.
As an aside, these are probably my favourite demonstration of why soldering is 90% about heat and 1% about solder (the other 9% being avoiding burning your fingers). Just heat the tab with your iron, touch the solder at the gap between the connector pin and the pad on the strip, and watch it flow beautifully. Since both the tabs and the strip have so little
thermal mass heat capacity, even the most impatient of learner-solderers will see how the solder will automagically wick nicely between the pad and pin as soon as both metals are hot.
Since the driver is good for the whole 5m of strip that it came with, all this upgrade took was two more rows of LEDs soldered and glued to the bench with E6000 (which is a magical substance, even if the vapours are potentially carcinogenic). I then plonked the shelf back into place and basked in approximately twice the number of photons per second as I had basked in only 30 minutes earlier, feeling satisfied, refreshed, and ready to get back to trapping trippers.