Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Lights for the gun safe

I'm tired of using a flashlight every time I go into my safe. I got the idea to make my own after seeing some of the LED kits that are available online. I didn't want to pay $40 per kit, so I went to Radio Shack and got the supplies to make my own.

6404039 Female QD 22-18 gauge connectors: $2.19
6503108 16 pack of butt connectors 22 to 18 gauge: $2.69
2750017 smini spdt roller switch: $3.19
2700324: 5 pack of 9 volt battery clips: $2.69
2700387: snap vbat holder 8 AA batteries: $2.29
Batteries: Radio Shack had a sale on batteries. Sure they're no-name, but they were cheap. two 12 packs of AA batteries for $11.99
Lights: I had these tucked away from years ago. I purchased them at Advance Auto Parts from their discount bin for $2.22. I knew I'd need them some day.

The only tool I needed for this project was a stripper/crimper tool.

Here's what I got. The stuff all together cost me $27.26. That'll leave me with extra connectors and 16 extra AA batteries. If you already have batteries, the cost would be $15.27 in supplies, as long as you can track down some cheap-o LED lights like I did from the auto parts store.
The roller switch uses little tiny connectors that really are probably just intended to be soldered on. If you're going to use a soldering iron for a project like this, skip the connectors and save yourself $4.88.

Lets talk about the lights. I don't know if they're still being made, but I got a pack of 4 LEDs with pretty long wires on them for $2.22. That's cheap. If you chose to buy LEDs at Radio Shack, be prepared to spend a couple of bucks EACH for similar stuff. You might want to try discount chains like Ollie's Bargain Warehouse or BigLots for cheap LEDs. They're commonly sold in the auto parts section of discount stores as accent lighting. As long as your LEDs are 12 volt, you're good to go. I chose LEDs over 12 volt neons because LEDs just draw so little energy compared to neon tubes or incandescent lights. Hopefully the batteries will last a while only powering 4 LED lights.
The battery holder holds 8 AA batteries. When fully charged, a AA battery produces 1.5 volts of energy. Lets do some math. 1.5x8=12. That's 12 volts of output. Even though the LEDs are intended for an automotive application, they'll work fine for this project because they're being fed enough power to light up. The strange part about the battery holder is that it has terminals on the top of it like you'd see on a 9 volt battery. I could've just soldered my wires onto the terminals on the top, but I wanted to be able to unclip the battery holder to replace the batteries. The battery clips came in a 5 pack, not individually. Now I have extras for the next LED lighting project.
I have some Rayovac batteries in the holder right now. That's just what I had at the time.
Before actually installing anything, I wanted to make sure that my battery pack was going to be able to light up 4 LED lights at the same time. It was also a good idea to test out the switch to make sure it worked. Even though the stuff was all new in the package, its still a good idea to test this stuff before really installing it.
For those of you unfamiliar with wiring, its really pretty easy. What I did to test these lights was to put all of the LED wires together. I took all the wires with a stripe on them and twisted them together. Then I took all of the wires coming out of the LEDs that didn't have a stripe and twisted them together too. The ones with the stripe on them happened to be the positive wires. The red wire coming out of the top of my battery pack is the positive, so I used the switch to interrupt the flow of energy on the positive part of the circuit. I used little female connectors on the switch and put the red wire from the battery pack into one of the connectors. I put the striped wires coming from the lights into another red connector which was hooked up to the switch. To complete the circuit, I connected the black wires from the lights to the black wire coming out of my battery pack. With the switch in the open position, I've got light. With the switch in the closed position (like when the safe door is closed) the lights don't work. That's what we're looking for here folks, just to make sure the lights actually go out when the safe door is closed.
Here's a simplified diagram I just made. Seeing the picture of my lights illuminated doesn't really show how the wires are supposed to go. Many people learn better with pictures than by reading text, so here's a picture for those visual learners out there:
The lights I bought came with a small strip of 3m VHT tape. That'll come in handy for securing the switch to the edge of my safe's door opening. If you need to check and see if the lights are actually turning on/off when you close the door, put your cell phone in there. Most cell phones these days have a video function. Start recording a video, pop the cell phone in there, then close the door. You don't need to lock the door or anything, just close it and open it up again. Watch the video on your phone. If the lights went out when you closed the door, you're good to go.

I forgot to mention tape. Using some kind of tape will be needed to adhere the wires to the interior of the safe. Electrical tape was not sticky enough for this project. I had some Gamma tape laying around which did the trick. Its used to protect the top of tennis rackets, but its very similar to Gorilla tape.

The switch has 3 terminals. Only 2 are needed. I used the outer terminals. The switch is marked Zippy Shin Jiun. If you use the same switch that I'm using, you'll need the two outer terminals. The middle terminal is not needed for this project and I didn't even investigate into what that middle terminal would be used for.
Here is my safe with the lights in place. The installation is incomplete in this photo, I just hooked the wires up to the battery pack to show you folks what it looks like in there. I have since installed the switch and tucked the wires away neatly.
This isn't as bright as the safe lights you can commercially buy, but this was far less expensive.

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