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Completely new to electronics, I've just begun to play with an Arduino. I was wondering, if I wanted to make an LED sculpture, what is the correct way to extend the legs of each LED so that they stand about 3 inchs long and are bendable? Is there a particular type of shielded wire that has enough strength to support an LED's weight?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

You probably want solid insulated hookup wire that is about 0.5mm or 0.6mm in diameter.

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That's about AWG 22 or AWG 24 (larger AWG numbers are for thinner wire).

As an alternative you could use bare wire and use sleeving on the wire but solid hookup wire is often cheaper and easier to get than bare wire suitable for soldering. If you get two colours (such as red and black) you can keep the polarity straight.

It would also be a good idea to get some heat shrink tubing and put it over the LED leads where they are spliced to the wire, but be careful not to overheat the LED when you are shrinking the tubing with a hot air gun.

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Old UTP ethernet cable can be a good source of moderate quantities, if the twist is aesthetically acceptable. – Chris Stratton Jul 25 '14 at 16:42
Telephone trunk cable also contains solid wire of a fairly appropriate gauge in a myriad of colors if you can score some on the surplus market. The insulation makes it a bit hard to solder because it's low temperature and melts back. – Spehro Pefhany Jul 25 '14 at 16:46
Thanks, this is perfect! exactly what I was looking for – McDonnellDean Jul 25 '14 at 16:51
When using solid wire like this, be careful of accidentally bending the wires once they are in place - particularly doing so as to bend the wire right at the solder joint. When you do that, and then straighten out the bend, you work-harden the copper and it becomes susceptible to failing due to metal fatigue. The effect gets worse the larger the wire. – WhatRoughBeast Jul 25 '14 at 16:55

Solid core wire would be my recommendation.

Electrically it will be sufficient for the voltage & currents for LEDs... and it's stiffer than standard stranded wire; You might need to get one size larger (for added strength) but I would think it could hold an LED up at 3in.

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As the lower current, also smaller cables can be used. Be sure to isolate correctly, not for LED life, but for ARDUINO life: a short-circuit can be dangerous.

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Thicker wire will of course provide structural integrity and allow positioning of the LEDs. – David Jul 26 '14 at 8:20

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