Home Made Tumbler Diffuses Clear LEDs

What happens when you have a large stash of clear LED’s but you want or need diffused models for a project? You could go buy some more, but [Tyler] says no! Go grab some scrap from the shop, and make yourself a sand tumbler to diffuse the LED’s you already have.

The tumbler mechanism is similar to a rock tumbler, but is crafted out of bits of wood, some rods, a spaghetti sauce jar, and a DC motor which is available out of the types of machines we already tear apart. Once constructed, fine dry sand and the LED’s are loaded in the jar and is set to tumble for several hours.

Once done its easy to fish out the now diffused LED’s, which have a more even glow over their clear counterparts which shoot most of the light directly out of the end. Although it takes time, its a lot easier than trying to manually diffuse LED’s by hand, and if you need more than just a few its a massive labor saver.

Join us after the break for a quick video showing the results of different attempts during the learning process.

39 thoughts on “Home Made Tumbler Diffuses Clear LEDs

      1. Imagine doing 20… 50… or 300… gets a little crazy after the first ten or so. This is a somewhat automatic process. Might take longer to do 50, but I can sleep at night while it does all the work.

    1. It’s common to use apostrophes to denote plural forms of acronyms in all capital text. It makes it more clear, even if not grammatically perfect.

      If you were proposing a change to make communication clearer, great. But it seems you just have a grammatical bone to pick or want to feel linguistically superior.

      1. >It makes it more clear

        , said no competent English speaking adult ever.

        “LED’s” incorrectly leads the reader to believe that the LEDs possess something, which is never described. It’s a broken clause. It doesn’t work as intended.

        It’s fine to assume the author made a mistake that they didn’t have time to correct yet.
        But to claim that it’s “more clear” is just plain wrong.

          1. I wasn’t being critical of you, I was just pointing out something semi-related that might be amusing. Notice that “Video Game System’s” had an apostrophe. Terry Pratchett even wrote about the concept of “the Greengrocer’s Apostrophe” in one of the Discworld books.

        1. “And using bad grammar does not make things more clear- good grammar does!”

          I’m not a native english speaker so I won’t debate it with you but just ask a question.
          Why a dash at the end of “clear”? Shouldn’t it be a comma?

          1. That’s a tricky one. I believe, if you used a comma, it would be “clear, but good.” Since both are complete statements you need the conjunction, or you could split them into their own sentences with a period. This could be an instance where the difficult to use correctly semicolon can be used, but I am not sure.

    2. So painful to see.

      A misused apostrophe is the natural language equivalent to an extraneous mid-function semicolon. It looks parsable but does not compile.

      Grammar up and put on some big boy pants!

    3. More often than not it’s clear in context if only one LED as spoken or or multiple LED are spoken of, why worry about adding the the s unless, unless you are turning in school work to Mrs. Eisenmeinger.

  1. Sift the whitest sand you can get through the finest mesh you have and then dip the LED in glue, when it is just starting to get tacky dust the glue coated area in your quartz dust. Or you could just plunge the LED into the quartz dust if it is at the melting temperature of the LED’s plastic.

    1. That is an interesting technique. I imagine variations could be used to create really interesting non-boring LEDs. Maybe use a mix of colored media. The coated LED could be sealed in epoxy for durability.

  2. I’ve been thinking of trying just this for a couple of years, but was afraid that the tin coating on the legs would be completely abraded away – so unless they’re soldered into the circuit immediately they would be corroded and basically unusable.

  3. Outside of uniformity, doing it with steel wool (0000, quad ought) makes since you have to load every one by hand. Fold a tuft and chuck it in a drill and press the LED into the end of the wad a few seconds while angling and then insert in board. That fine dust sticks to everything.

  4. Another approach to this would be to blast the LED’s with grit. That would also seem to resolve the concerns about stripping the tin from the leads.
    I’d imagine a little device that re-circulates the same abrasive. The LED would be inserted at one end. A challenge would be even treatment of the LED surface, ideally without the hassle of rotating the LED.
    Back in the day, every auto garage had a spark plug cleaner. The plug would be inserted (and held!) in a top mounted rubber washer/plate. At the bottom was a fabric catch bag that contained an abrassive. The air compressor hose was applied, circulating the abrasive. I imagine it is very challenging to contain the fine silica debris, which is very harmful to breathe. So this is best done outdoors.

  5. I’ve had LEDs that were ESD sensitive, mostly blue ones when blue were still fairly new on the scene. Didn’t think it would be an actual issue, but did have a few that didn’t work after dropping them on the carpet. I would say sand in a glass jar would be a good way of making a static charge along with the abrasive action on the tin coat as others have mentioned. With LEDs being so cheap maybe it wouldn’t hurt if you lost a few to ol’ sparky. But being so cheap it probably wouldn’t hurt to just save these for other things and buy some diffused ones straight up.

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