Building an El Wire Sign

After both of our Astronomy outreach events at Vassar I’ve gotten comments from folks that we should have a sign out at the main street to direct people into the event (which also might bring in folks that didn’t know about it.) This struck me as a great chance to look into using EL Wire.

EL Wire is what they used in the new Tron movie to make the distinctive look on people’s clothing. In the old tron the glow was post processing, in the new one it was actually there. EL Wire only glows blue/green, but through the use of colored sheaths you can get different hues. EL Wire runs at 100 Volts, 1000 Hhz, though with such little amperage that you can make an inverter that supports about 3m of wire that will run off 2 AA batteries.

So I bought some EL Wire in “red” to see about making a sign. I got 2 9 ft lengths (which turned out to be a good guess on length) that already had inverters on them. With some scotch and electrical tape I did a quick test to see if I could write out STAR PARTY with an arrow.


I considered the test successful, so I decided the next step was to paint the plywood black, and instead of using masking, actually drill through the plywood to make the lines.

It turns out that there is enough friction to hold the straight lines without any worries, but the loops on the Rs, P, and S need some help, so scotch tape to the rescue there just to hold it in place.

The final result with the lights off an illuminated:

It’s not so much red as orange, but as an indicator sign this should work out well for our events. It also made for a great little weekend project.

3 thoughts on “Building an El Wire Sign”

  1. Nice.
    I wanted some nice energy efficient and low-profile under-cabinet lighting, so I got a test string of preterminated “ultra bright” EL wire. Not even close to a usable brightness. So now I have 9 feet of wire to figure out what to do with…


  2. I was similarly curious, but I the sign seemed like a good place to start. EL Wire is good for indicator only. For actual illumination you need to get to LED strips.


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