We Built a Bluetooth-Enabled Porch Light and We’re Giving It Away

CNC & Machining Connected Home Digital Fabrication Furniture & Lighting
We Built a Bluetooth-Enabled Porch Light and We’re Giving It Away

I haven’t had an art class since 8th grade. I guess that would put me at roughly 13 years old. Most of my projects tend to fall more on the functional side of things, even if they are creative. I really wanted to challenge myself to make something that fits more into what I typically think of as art. I realize art is a super general term, but in this case, I was hoping for people to look at it, and simply appreciate it for its beauty.

My initial thoughts were that I would combine CNC cut wood with glass to create something that was almost leaded glass, but more organic. The image of the sun setting through the woods kept bubbling up to the front of my mind as I visualized this, so that ended up being my inspiration.

(If you just want to enter for a chance to win this, scroll down to the contest details!)

I started in Autodesk’s Fusion 360 with a plugin for creating voronoi structures. I set it up to make a structure in the dimensions that I needed, and then worked from there to customize it to the results I wanted. Ideally I’d have some vertical traveling thicker blobby areas that are the “trees” and the smaller outlines would be like the various branches.

The reclaimed wood I had was pretty aged and cracked, but, for this project, it would work just fine. After facing the board smooth, I started cutting out the individual shapes. (Facing is when you grind off the top layers to a set height using a CNC machine.) I did run into a problem here, where the pieces would break loose and get in the way as it completed each hole. I was left with either fastening each piece down individually or switching my method to completely grind out the wood within these shapes, a process called a “pocket.”

Once I had the two pieces (the sides that would later be glued together), I started on the glass. Cutting glass for a project like this is surprisingly simple. You just score the glass in a straight line and snap. Keep doing that till you’ve got the desired shape. In this case, I was also refining the shape with a grinding wheel, though you can do this with a handheld file instead.

I was a bit concerned that the glass would rattle around in the frame as the piece was moved, so I secured everything with little blobs of hot glue. The two sides being sandwiched would have kept the glass roughly in place, but the hot glue will ensure that there’s no rattling.

After laying down a thin layer of glue, I clamped the whole thing together thoroughly and let it dry for a day. At this point, the art part of the light is completed. I simply gutted an LED lamp and screwed the internal light bars to a piece of plywood to use as a mount on my house.

Leviton’s Cool Tech

For controlling the lights, I’m using Leviton’s Decora Digital switches with Bluetooth Technology. They’ve got all the bells and whistles I need to be really happy with the result. I can connect via Bluetooth and control any aspect of this light such as brightness and how quickly it turns on and off. I can even set schedules for when I’m traveling so that it looks like someone is home when I’m away.

I have three switches in my foyer all together, and whoever wired them initially ignored any conventional color coding. It was a bit of a headache figuring out what wire went where, but luckily Leviton’s detailed diagrams helped me figure it out. Once I flipped the breaker back on to test, I was greeted with neat little green indicators showing that the switches were active.

One thing that was a pleasant surprise was this no-screw faceplate. I don’t mean that it doesn’t have screws, but rather they’re not visible. I know it is a silly thing to get excited about but I thought the result was really clean looking (something rare in my cobbled together house!).

After downloading Leviton’s free dimmer and timer app, I kicked on my phone’s Bluetooth, paired it with the switch, and was greeted with a simple interface for control. I can turn lights off and on, control the brightness, and even how quickly they fade when I flip the switch. You can simply tell the light to turn on at sunset and it will automatically handle that for you. I was surprised at how easy it is. You can see me do it in my video just as easy as this commercial. One of the few times things are actually as easy as advertised!

The best part? I don’t like to have my lights on a timer all the time. With the Bluetooth connection, I can turn my porch light on when I get home and it is already dark. It is a small thing, but really makes me happy to have the switch there.

We’re giving it away!

I really love how this looks. The intention all along was that I’d build this, and it would become one of the prizes in a fun giveaway. It is going to be so difficult to pack up this thing and ship it to someone, but I can always make myself another!

There are three prizes that we’ll be giving out:

For a chance to win, simply fill out the form below by November 30th. We’ll choose the winners and reach out to them directly on December 1st.

*Giveaway closed.

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I get ridiculously excited seeing people make things. I just want to revel in the creativity I see in makers. My favorite thing in the world is sharing a maker's story. You can find me on twitter at @calebkraft

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