Preparing the Front Panel

Now that the 5050 LEDs are tested in their PCBs, you can remove them from the grid. A slight twist will pop them out from the support material.

Make sure to keep the warm white and cool white separated, to prevent confusion.

Using the PCBs, lay them out on the 4" x 6" piece of wood to get the proper spacing. You want the LEDs to be as separated as possible, leaving room on the top and bottom edge for the support posts.

The brightness of an illuminating object is due to a property of its luminance and surface area, so we want the LEDs to be spread out to increase the wash and prevent the entire light from becoming too much of a spotlight.

The Pattern

I used just the warm white PCBs for my reference, to keep from accidentally mixing up the colors.

The pattern I used is 7 x 6 x 7, for a total of 20.

The ratio is:

  • Top Row: 4 warm white, 3 cool white
  • Middle Row: 3 warm white, 3 cool white
  • Bottom Row: 3 warm white, 4 cool white

Alternating every other LED makes it possible to orient the light, adjust the brightness of each color, and not have to worry about realigning the light based on the color temperature used.

Mark the Holes

Once you've laid out the basics of the rows, use a scribe (or a thumbtack, small nail, or thin pin tip) to mark the placement of the 6 thru-holes per PCB.

Make sure to hold the PCB down firmly while you mark, so that it doesn't shift in position while you mark the holes.

After marking the 120 holes (!), use the 1/8" drillbit to drill out all 120. Don't worry if the bit slips from the proximity of the holes. We want the holes to connect.

After all 120 holes are drilled, use the Stanley knife to cut out the wood sides between the bunches of holes. You want to widen them out enough to fit three wires, side by side.

As a result of this, you'll go from 120 individual holes, to 40 holes of oval shape. If the holes weren't quite wide enough, I forced them open just a little more by pinching the tweezers together, and forcing the tips through until the hole was wider.

The Mounting Blocks

This final portion is probably the trickiest, since it works out like a puzzle.

Using a pen or scribe, mark three holes - two on the top, one on the bottom, for the mounting screws.

These holes will correspond to the three small blocks cut out of plywood.

First, slowly drill a pilot hole using the 1/8" bit through the top panel and mounting block, with both aligned to be flat and flush. Go very, very slow as the plywood will want to split.

Screw the M3 wood screw into this hole, so that the mounting block is secure to the front panel. Now repeat this for the other two holes, making sure each is flush to the edge of the panel.

Now, remove the bottom of the assembled 1/2" box, and align the panel and blocks to the top of the box. Using the 1/8" bit, drill a pilot hole (slowly) through the mounting block and top panel.

Screw an M3 wood screw through the mounting block into the top panel.

Now, replace the bottom panel of the 1/2" box.

Once you have, unscrew the top M3 screws affixing the front panel to the mounting blocks.

Unscrew the #6 wood screws from the top panel of the 1/2" box along the sides.

Drill a pilot hole using the 1/8" drillbit through the last mounting block into the bottom 1/2" panel. Screw an M3 wood screw into the mounting block.

Replace the top panel of the 1/2" block and its corresponding #6 screws.

Replace the M3 wood screws into the front panel to check for alignment.

This guide was first published on Apr 09, 2015. It was last updated on Apr 09, 2015.
This page (Preparing the Front Panel) was last updated on Dec 30, 2019.