DIY 4 Channel Controller
a how to for a simple 4 Channel Controller made from a string of
incandescent chaser lights. This is not my idea, I followed the
directions on Kindla Christmas and decided to give it a
try. The pictures below are from him and the original idea was from Doug Lawrence. They put together a great How-To which is reepeated here. Apparently this is what a lot of
people did before LOR to simply
animate parts of a static display. I use mine to controll the
Peppermint Pinwheels I made thus allowing me to animate them using only
1 Channel on LOR. It should take less than an hour to put one of these
together once you have all the parts. Thank you
all for your feedback!
TOTAL COST PER CONTROLLER ~ $20
- 1 String of incandescent "smooth" style chaser lights with variable speed controller
- 2 Standard electrical outlets
- 1 2 outlet indoor/oudoor metal junction box
- 1 Metal faceplate for indoor/outdoor junction box
- Needle Nose Pliers
- Wire Nippers
- Butane Torch
- Soldering Iron with pointed tip
- Flux core solder
- Exacto or other utility knife
- Sharpie Marker
- Tape Measure
- Jig Saw or other saw
Here is an example that shows how a four channel controller
will see there is one neutral (C) and 4 hot (1,2,3,4) wires. Each
hot wire shares the neutral connection. This controller does a simple
1-2-3-4 (repeat) sequence.
Here is the same four channel controller hooked up to only
outlets. This configuration could be used for elves waving, bells
or anything that need to move back and forth through three frames
#2 = arm middle
#3 = arm up
#4 = arm middle
Now this is my favorite sequence. This is
a three channel controller set up to animate a smoke stack and
One of these controllers are most likely not powerful enough to
power all of the wheels and smoke.
Continue reading to learn about their limitations.
There are two major types of controllers out there.
The first type is a single function controller that simply
the lights one after another and has a speed adjustment. This
feature is very desirable. Without this
speed adjustment you may get the proper sequencing effect you
but, at an inappropriate speed.
Do you have a three or four channel controller?
The second type is a multifunction controller that has several
functions built in. You have to be careful with this type to
it has the memory feature. A multifunction controller will
its factory default setting if it does not have memory. That
function may be a fade function or something totally unsuitable
effect you are trying to achieve. To determine if your
the memory feature, power-up your lights and set the function
switch to one of the middle
settings. Don't use the first setting on the controller for your
test as this might be the factory default setting. Unplug the
power, and then
restore the power after about 15 seconds. If, when power is
the controller returns to the same setting, you have memory and
controller can be used for your animation.
140 light controllers have four channels with 35 lights per
Now that we understand how the
controllers work lets turn one into something useful. Keep in mind
controllers have limits. These devices are not over engineered.
They will do what
they are designed for well but they can not handle many more
lights than what they
came with. Most are limited to 50 mini-lights per channel.
If your design demands more than this, you will need to connect
outputs from the controller to some relays. Franklin's page at http://lightsofchristmas.com/ssrs.htm
a solution for you
150 light controllers have three channels and 50 lights per
First we need to identify which wire is neutral
and which ones are hot. To do this you will follow the wires from
controller out to the first four bulbs. The first bulb you get to
channel one. Cut the wire just before the bulb and label this wire
to the next bulb and this wire will be channel #2. Cut this wire
before the bulb and label this wire #2. Continue this process for
#3 and #4. At this point the only wire left coming out of
the controller that was going to
the lights should be the neutral wire. Cut this wire a little long
and label it "C" for common. Now your controller should look like the
Feed the wires into a square two
gang junction box. Use a wire clamp to secure the wires as they
enter the box. This will keep the wires from pulling on the connections
You can add any type of plug ends that you want. You can even use the
ends off of old
light strands. I choose
to use standard outlets because I had some extra around the shop.
ground wire will not be hooked up on these receptacles and is not
needed for mini-lights. The longer slot
on the left side is always neutral and will have silver screws on
the side. The shorter slot is always hot and will have gold screws on
it convenient for electricians to wire up these outlets a jumper
tab is placed between
the side screws. This feeds power to the top and bottom outlet at
time. Since we want to control each outlet separately we will need
to remove the
tab on the hot side ONLY. The tab on the neutral side can
stay because we are going to share the neutral connection.
This is a very important step and must be
performed on both outlets. (only one outlet is shown here with the
tab broken off.) A pair of pliers can be used to break off the tabs.
Here is the wiring diagram. Each hot wire will go directly to one of the
The common wire will attach to the neutral side of outlet #1. Since the
tabs are still on the neutral sides, the neutral connection will be
carried to outlet #2
without any additional work. Now, attach a short piece of wire from
outlet #2 to outlet #4
on the neutral sides. (You can use a piece of wire from the lights you
cut off the controller
for this connection.) The neutral jumper tab between outlet #3 and #4
will carry the connection
up to outlet #3 to complete the circuit.
If you were using a three channel controller you would do everything the
same except you would not
have a hot wire going to outlet #4.
Here is your completed controller. You can use any type of square
electrical box to hold these
components. It can be plastic or metal. Double check all of your
connections before you plug it
in for the first time. If you have the wiring wrong it will usually fry
the controller and you
will have to start over with a new one.
Always be careful with electricity and if you don't feel
comfortable making these modifications then don't! Have fun and enjoy
your new controller.