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How to Cut & Solder EL Wire Guide

Soldering EL wire can be intimidating depending on your previous soldering skills. If you are new to soldering I recommend purchasing a pre made kit set to the length you require for you project. If you are skilled at soldering or just want to start, read on! Being able to solder EL wire allows you to cut up a long length and use it for many different projects.

If soldering EL wire seems too complicated why not purchase some of our pre-soldered EL wire options. We carry starter kits, deluxe multi-color kits, sound sensitive kits, and pre-made glow glasses.

 

Time: Beginner 30-60 minutes, Pro: 5-10 minutes. Patience is key!

What's Needed: El wire, male connectors for EL wire, wire cutters, wire strippers, small needle nose pliers, soldering iron & thin solder, heat shrink (various sizes), a soldering stand, crazy glue.

 


 Steps:

-Measure out the length of wire you need and cut it with the wire cutters. I recommend leaving an extra 5-10 cm or so on the end to allow for any mistakes that can and will happen.  Also if your costume design needs an exact length, it's a lot easier to cut a piece shorter at the end than to magically make it longer.

-EL wire is made up of multiple layers of plastics and wires.  For our soldering today we need to strip off the outer layer of plastic, and a thinner clear layer underneath it.  When you get better at prepping the wire you will be able to strip them both off at the same time.  Pick one end to be the connecting end and use the strippers to remove around .5-1cm of the plastic layers, revealing the inner copper core (coated in a phosphor), and 2 TINY 'corona' wires.  If don't see 2 corona wires then you will have to cut that off and start again being careful to not damage the corona wires.
LEARN FROM MY MISTAKE TIP: removing the outer layer(s) is one of the hardest steps, and takes practice which is why we've left on some extra length to cut and start fresh. If you break a small wire, start again. Automatic adjusting wire strippers will save you much frustration in the long run, well worth the price. When removing the shell, use the smallest gauge possible that wont damage the inside wire, if you are lucky both sleeves will come off the first time.

-Now with the EL wire insides being visible, lightly pull away the two small corona wires and fold downwards. If you don't see two, you broke one, go back to step 1. Sorry, it happens to the best of us! Next lightly file off the phosphor off the inner copper wire being careful to not damage it (copper wire should now be visible). Slide a piece of heat shrink on to the EL wire around 2 cm long and push out of the way (don't forget this step!)

 

- Prepare the ez connect wire. Use the wire strippers to pull off around 5mm of wire coating. *Slide one piece of heat shrink over each side*. Using your soldering clamp put the ez connect wire and el wire in the clamps.  We are first soldering the main copper wire to one end of the connectors.  At this point if you aren't using the 'ez' connect wire, then you would be attaching the EL wire to the driver directly.  The steps are the same but you can't remove it after you are done.

- Using the needle nose pliers bend a small flat hook into the EL copper wire and a hook into the ez connect wire (this helps with soldering and holding it together) ensure the small corona wires are not attached or near these. Hook the two hooks together and intertwine them a bit but keep them as tight and small as possible.

 

- Your soldering iron should be nice and hot by now, briefly press the iron against the connection you are soldering heating up the metal allowing the solder to flow easier. Quickly drop a few drops of solder on the connection, making sure to not use too much as the connection has to fit under the heat shrink (did you forget to put it on? Back to the beginning!).  Let it cool off briefly and then slide the small heat shrink to cover it, using a heat gun or lighter to shrink it evenly.

 

- Now comes the fun (not fun) part of soldering as the smaller wires are very fragile. I recommend using the same technique of hooking them together but it is easier said than done. There are some shortcuts in existence that use a copper tape as a connector but I have never attempted it. Connect the two small corona wires to the unsoldered ez connect end, ensuring a solid connection and apply solder.  Keep it small and minimal as it has to fit under the heat shrink tubing again!  Once it has cooled give it a light tug to ensure it is truly connected, this is the weak point that can cause your EL wire to fail later on if not done correctly.  Slide the heat shrink down over the connection and heat it so it fits tightly.  Next take the larger piece of heat shrink and slide it over the two smaller, using it to close off everything on that end.

 

Almost done!

All that's left is to terminate the other end and to close it off. Start by removing a tiny bit (1-2mm) of the casing on the opposite end of the one we just soldered.  Use your small pliers to break off 1mm of the corona wires, or fold them away. They shouldn't touch the end of the copper wire.  Use an end cap to close the end off by gluing or heating, or a small piece of heat shrink to close it off.

 


 

Test it out!

What to do if it doesn't work:

Check your batteries on the driver, or try multiple drivers.  Ensure it's not the driver!

Or

Repeat the termination steps at the end as it is the quickest fix and sometimes the cause.  Lastly cut off the connector and start again. Sometimes your solder points are touching if the heat shrink isn't covering everything, and sometimes the unknown happens.

The reason I gave this a 30-60 minute time frame is that it is VERY hard to work with the small wires and things will often have to be repeated. Don't fret, it gets easier.  Makes those pre made kits look pretty appealing now doesn't it?

 

Random Points

- It doesn't matter what end you use for the connector.

- If the wire flickers when moving it around, your solder wasn't done properly.

- If doing more than one I recommend that you do each step at the same time to all wires, it's the most efficient way.

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