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nice n deep
7 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
guys. Well this is my first post, hope it's helpful!
Hi there buy the way =), I'm Matthew from Cape Town South Africa, the place with the best roads and friendliest bikers!

I've been reading this forum forever, I figured it's about time to join and add my own bit, coz guys like me really appreciate the help and info!
*Thanks allot guys, your forum rocks.

I don't usually network, but at the moment i'm interning, with unlimited internet access! So i'm gonna do it! And I'll try my best to give feed back where needed.

Right now i'm just submitting a few pics of my tail light I made, butsoonish, depending on demand, i'll disassemble the light and make a detailed how-to for anyone to follow.
I might not even need to tho, coz you guys are pretty damn crafty.
So il review feed-back and take it from there!

Essential tools for any fabrication I do, whether for bike parts, furniture, or any other physical object, are Adobe Illustrator(vector CAD app.) and Google Sketchup(3d rendering software).
I strongly recommend you guys get these and learn it! It'l help you like you cant believe, saving time as well.

Google Sketchup is a free download, get it and read the forum. I was doing basic models in a couple of weeks with no prior 3d knowledge.
Illustrator isn't free, but if you're like me, you don't really need tobuy it ;) However there are plenty of open source vector programs, try inkscape.
Unfortunately none of any of the alternatives are nearly as awesome as Illustrator, and i won't be able to help you out as much if your using other software.
But no stress anyway, google whatever you don't know.

Enough crap-talk, let me show you very briefly, my conceptualisation and fabrication process.


First you need an idea in your head of what you want your light face to look like.

*I'd like to add a quick note here, if you're going to take
the initiative, time and all the damn trouble to make something like
this, don't use my design!
I'm just showing you this to demonstrate the process.
Your custom fighter should be just that, custom!
So to all the other guys who are reading, who like designing their own things,
if you see another light like this, and it's not on my bike, do us all a favor and kick it off!
haha. not really, just mock the guy for being a plagiarist douche.

The sketch:


The traced version (using Illustrator). Guys, symmetry is essential, I actually just traced one half, and then mirrored it - easiest way to make it flawlessly symmetrical.

I constructed the face out of perspex, so I need to interperate the image in such a way to accommodate the placing of LED's.
I needed three layers of perspex, the first to hold the led's, the second is a spacer which is the layer that hold the shape of the skull,
and finally the third layer is just a blank layer of clear perspex which protects the light from water, and retards who like to fiddle!

*Quick lesson on laser cutting
Okay so the perspex needs to be cut using a laser cutter, but don't let this put you off coz they're more common than you think.
You local trophy maker, key cutter or art-craft-services place will have one.
Just take you perspex and your file in PDF format and they'll do the rest.
Make sure your outlines are as thin as possible (See my picture below) as the cuts will be more precise, and cutting will be quicker(cheaper as well, they mostly charge by time).
Beware tho, cutting one piece like my design here, should take no longer than 8-10 minutes, any longer and they're probably deliberately slowing down the laser speed to rip you off,
or maybe they just have a crappy slow machine.
You might want to see if you have a local FabLab (MIT Fabrication Laboratory) They will help you cut it out for free, given you tell them that it's for personal prototyping purposes.
My local FabLab taught me how to laser cut, however you have to wait your turn, and the laser cutter is as slow as a nun, so rather pay for fast service if you can afford it.
(If it's your first time tho, I recommend looking for a FabLab coz they'll teach you everything you need to know to understand the purpose.)

Here are the layers:


Okay I'm not going to lie, making the circuit board is difficult if you have no electronics experience, luckily because I'm cheapskate, and I play guitar,
I learned to build my own distortion pedals from copied circuit boards diagrams.

BUT DON'T STRESS! I'm by no means an electrical engineer! I can loosely define myself as an electronics hobbyist, as I can't design a circuit,and I barely understand schematics.
However, if you show me a circuit layout with component names, (The physical layout of an electronic schematic in picture form) then I can build the circuit board and solder on the parts,
it's no more difficult than building a puzzle.

Unfortunately, in this case there was no circuit board layout that I could crib, and I didn't know how to wire LEDs.
To my delight I found an awesome website that creates a circuit for you.
You fill out the info, clicking on the question mark if you don't understand anything.

-source voltage is 12v,
-diode forward voltage is 2v (for red LEDS)
-diode forward current (mA), it should be 20 if you're using regular 5mm LEDs like I used,if your using super-brights though, ask the supplier for this value.
I would advise against super brights tho, they cost 4x the price, and regular LEDs are very bright already.

Then you choose your output view, if your dumb like me, choose wiring diagram.
*here's a good chance to see the difference between wiring schematics, and wiring diagrams.
Here's the URL:

An important thing to note is that my tail light consists of two circuits, one circuit for the eyes, and one for the rest.
I designed it like this so when I brake, the eyes turn on!
So if you want the whole thing to just brighten and dim like a conventional tail light, you're on your own.
I think you could do that by just adding a resistor to the whole circuit, and bypass it when the brake light circuit is activated.

I studied the generated wiring diagram and saw that the LEDs were divided up into several mini-circuits, each with their own resistor.
This is good coz if a resistor on one of the LEDs blow,(which is unlikely) the whole circuit won't stop working =)

Next I had to group my LEDs how it was in the circuit diagram, it came out like this:
*The image on top includes the circles indicating each LED, i just coloured them in groups so I wouldn't get confused, the bottom image is the actual image that gets etched into the bank circuit board. (The image must be mirrored for etching, i just flipped it so you can compare it to the first image.)


Next you've gotta etch our design out of blank copper board, everything you need you can get from our local electronics supplier.
But for you buggers in the states-all you gotta do is order from radioshack, and *poof*, like magic, it arrives in your mailbox.
In Cape Town, great as it is, I still have to physically go and fetch the crap myself.

Unfortunately I don't have the pics of the etching process for you - I took all the picture with my girlfriends phone, and the other night she wanted to take pictures of her poodle or something and there was no space left on the phone so she asked me if she could delete the pics...
I was well pissed at this point in time and never heard a word she said, but apparently I said yes =/

I can however briefly explain the process. I've got a good tutorial at home on etching, i'll find it for you guys and post it.

-First you photocopy your design onto press n peel blue, or any other transfer sheet.

-Then you sand you blank circuit board with very fine sand paper, get rid of all scratches, rinse with hot water and a drop of dish washing liquid, dry it with a paper towel, don't smudge it with your fingers.

-Next you warm up the board with an iron, when its evenly warm, put the transfer paper face down onto the circuit board and apply heat until all the toner has properly adhered.

-Then you peel of the sheet and all the toner should be stuck onto the cb, if any lines are broken, draw it on a couple of time with a fine permanent marker.

-Next chuck the thing into a plastic bowl filled with warm ferric chloride, and wait a couple of minutes until all the copper is dissolved, your image will be unharmed as the toner isn't dissolved by the acid.

-Then you sand of the toner from the remaining copper, drill your holes and solder on your parts!

Check for good tutorials on the web, it's a long process to explain.
My circuit worked first time =)


So your light is working, assembled to your perspex and everything, what now?
Build a housing! This is what I did:
I designed it in sketchup:

Then I layered each panel face up, viewed in the parallel projection viewing mode(eliminates perspective distortion) Then you take that image, trace it in illustrator,print it,
stick it to your alliminium and cut it out!


Here's how it came out, rock n roll

It would of fitted perfectly on my old bikes tail:
Unfortunately some douche-f*cks stole my bike right from outside college.
Ive just recently got a slingshot , but need a job before I can start building it up.


In the next episode of Make your own sh*t, I'll show guys how to make awesome alliminium plates like this, using the same etching method mentioned here.
This will look badass stuck on your bike somewhere, use it to brand your own parts, like cans or whatever.
In the pic it's riveted onto my coffin table i made =)

Shoot the questions! Cheers, Matthew

50,493 Posts
Holie fookin shit mate !!!You should write a manual on this stuff hahahaha,that was awesome Mr Suppositary...Thanks fer all that info ...Didja say hi in tha noobs welcome section lad?

nice n deep
7 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Hey Rob. No I haven't actually!, got ahead of myself i guess. I'll head over there now.
It's a pleasure bud, now go make your own shit and show us all!

******* Dumbass
5,796 Posts
This is one of the top noob posts ever! Really sweet job on the lights! I'm an EE for a living, and I've had to make thing like that, and you did everythign pretty much correct for what you had in hand. Very nice! The light turned out better than the first Clear Alternatives light I paid $98 for!

Welcome in.

8,827 Posts
Lots of great info in there and great job for taking the time to post that up and make it.

One bit of info to add for you. Resistors in LED circuits and why. You listed specs on your red leds with a 2v forward voltage drop and 20mA current. So if you are working with 12v and have a 2v drop and 4 leds in the circuit thats 12v - 8v = 4v(since they are wired in series voltage is additive). If your current is 20mA you have this to find your resistor....

(4V) / (20/1000) = 200 ohms.

The reason you wire them in small circuits like that is because of the voltage drop and the resistor you add makes sure the current is right. For a brake light you could possibly power them on 20mA and for Brake functions up it to 40mA(depending on the LEDs used). Also keep in mind the wattage ratings for your resistors. 12v * .02A = .24watts. So when you are picking out resistors 1/4 watt ones should be fine. If there is any question then go up to 1/2watt. These will be able to sink more heat than a 1/4 watt.

Its typical to wire arrays of leds in 3 led chains. Now you will have a bunch of Series of LEDs wired in parallel. Voltage adds in series, current adds in parallel so now you have 12v through all but your current will be multiplied. Say you use the 4 led example from above and you wire up 5 sets of those you now need 20mA * 5 = 100mA.

Led circuits are very practical and there is tons of info out there on them. There are also tons of chips out there that do very cool things with minimal effort. I built an AF gauge using a few resistors and a single chip. There are websites like NationalSemiconductors that list hundreds of wiring diagrams for just about everything.

lb/hp is what it's about!
10,448 Posts
I'm thinking this is a little outside my skill level too. Maybe someday, but not now. In the mean time Rob and I will sit back and admire your handy work. :D

172 Posts
Great post man, definately a + to have you on the forum thanks for the great info hope to see more info from you and you being able to answer alot of our questions.

826 Posts
Awesome post man. To be honest I just read a long until I was completely lost, and then scrolled down for the finished product. That's one of the coolest tail lights I've ever seen. Can't wait to see it on he slingshot.

Who the fuck steals a bad assed slabside like that?!! I thought that's exactly what hayabusa's and stock cbr's were built for??

Make sure you post some pictures of your old bike somewhere for it so we can check out the details. I'm not usually crazy about that generation of gsxr but you made that one look really good.

nice n deep
7 Posts
Discussion Starter #14
shift, thanks bud, you just summed it up for me in an understandable way, i was looking around everywhere for simple advice like that! Thanks for the feedback guys, always great to help. When i find the time il try puting together some detailed tutorials that anyone can follow, i know this info above isn't very instructive. Happy christmas eve everyone! Off to buy beer incase the booze store is closing early!

nice n deep
7 Posts
Discussion Starter #15
Who the fuck steals a bad assed slabside like that?!! I thought that's exactly what hayabusa's and stock cbr's were built for??
hey maiden, merry christmas! Yeah it sux hey. Down here slabsides are called pre-slings, and they're common as shit, the biking events down here are usually like 30% full of pre-slings every time,it's crazy. So because of these bikes being so common they get stolen regularly coz the parts sell fast, sucks ass. Anyway i'm busy making some brackets up to mount these cool headlights i baught for nothing, will post picks soon as i'm done. Im way excited coz this is the first chance i've had to start on this new slingshot of mine. Cheers, time for some christmas beer!
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