August 1, 2018
Tutorial

Watch: How to Make Your Own Compact Dimmers

Take control of your lighting with this cool DIY project. 

It's easy to spend a lot of money when you're investing in lighting equipment. There are, however, plenty of budget-friendly options.

If you're willing to invest the time you can save a lot of money by building your own equipment. Bellow, we'll take a look at how to create a compact dimmer. If you already have the tools, these dimmers will run you less than $35. 

Parts Needed

Tools Needed

  • Box Cutter
  • Screwdriver w/Phillips
  • Wire cutter/stripper
  • Tin Snips
  • Scissors
  • Drill
  • 7/32 & 5/16 drill bits

Step 1 - Drill the Holes

Take the gang box and use the 7/32 bit to drill a pilot hole in the top. Next, widen and bevel the hole with the 5/16 bit. Punch in one of the tabs at the bottom of the gang box, without fully removing the tab. Cut the 16/3 Wire to the appropriate length and then run the wire through the bottom of the gang box. 

Step 2 - Prepare the Wires

To access the wires, use the box cutter to score the rubber in the middle of the cable. Pull the sheath of the cable back just enough to access the wires (3" is a good amount). Use the tin snips to cut both the green and black wires in half, and then strip a 1/2 inch off of the tip of each one using the wire cutters. Now it's time to connect everything.

Step 3 - Make the Connections

We want the rocker switch to be at the bottom of the dimmer, so position the switch and the gang box next to each other appropriately. The switch comes with two screws and several wire caps. Screw the blue wire cap over the red and white wire that's attached to the dimmer. Connect the black wire from the dimmer switch to the lower black wire of the cable via a wire cap.

Next, connect the red wire of the switch to the other black wire of the cable via another wire cap. For the last connection, bring all three green wires together under one wire cap. Be aware of the positioning of the wires as you need to fit everything inside of the gang box. To put everything together, bring the cable through the top hole of the dimmer and then screw the switch onto the gang box. 

Step 4 - Attach the Plugs

Next, we'll connect the male and female connectors to the cable. Use the box cutter to score each end of the cable and remove a small section of the sheath so you can fit the wires into the connector plugs. Use the wire strippers to remove the ends of each individual wire.

When you open up the plugs, you will see three different colored screws. The green screw connects with the green (ground) wire, bronze is for the black (hot), and silver is for white (neutral). Connect the female plug at the top of the dimmer and keep things neat keep by placing the ground wires facing down.

Step 5 - Fine Tune the Range

Depending on the light source you're using, you might need to fine tune the range of the dimmer. The dimmer comes with a slider on the side which you can use to make adjustments.

Be sure to test the light with the dimmer before adding the faceplate. You want to get that range tuned in to exactly where you want it. And voila, let there be light.       

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2 Comments

If you'd rather not take the DIY route good old Harbor Freight has a box you can get for 20 bucks or less if you use a coupon. I got one a while back and it works...
https://www.harborfreight.com/router-speed-control-43060.html

August 1, 2018 at 3:08PM

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I actually just followed this tutorial two days ago to make myself a pair of dimmers. The tutorial is great! Great instructions and easy to follow. There are certainly simpler solutions on the market but in some cases, especially with LED's, you need a dimmer that will work with a lower power draw. Most of the more expensive LED's have dimmers already built into them or the manufacturer will make a dimmer specific to that model but they're sometimes more expensive that way. For example, the LitePanels Astra has a dimmer built into it (but it'll run you $1425 brand new). Quasar Science LED's, on the other hand, come with no power control. Not even an on/off switch BUT they're way cheaper ($275 for a 4 ft LED). So this $35 solution is perfect in that case.

I built mine using an all white, metal gang box just because I wanted it to be more solid and the box had the holes already built in (plus it looked nicer) so it was a little more expensive for me (~$43 per dimmer) but still pretty inexpensive and works just as well.

August 2, 2018 at 10:29AM, Edited August 2, 10:31AM

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Dale Raphael Goldberg
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