How did it come to this……

Somewhere around the age of 14-16 I developed an interest in electronics. Not digital electronics because that sort of technology was not quite developed at that time ( I am 48 now 😉 but rather analog things. Radios, amplifiers speakers and the sort of things a normal 16 year old would be interested in. So I etched, drilled, populated and soldered my share of PCPs.

Many years later for my mechatronics engineering thesis I developed a device to measure joint angles for extremely handicapped people. I designed and built the mechanical device, a digital PCB connected on one side to the rotary encoders and the other side to a computer to be able to display the measurements on a computer. I also wrote the software to display the measurement results. That was before MS Windows was on the market!

By then SMD components were getting quite popular and hobby electronics magazines that had offered many interesting DIY projects started vanishing. I had started my first job as a design engineer for automated machinery and computers were getting more popular and my interest shifted towards computers, programming and computer graphics.

With the new job in a new town I also had moved into my first own apartment and was in need of furniture and all the things a normal household needs. So in essence I had to spend money rather on needs than on wants. Unfortunately I always had a taste for more modern interiors and low voltage halogen lighting had caught my eye. Back then these things we IT, which means they were also expensive. Out of budget for me. Also, I had seen these in stores like Ikea and I discovered a couple of “issues” with these.

The actual light source is a very small intensely bright tungsten filament and when these are installed overhead it creates some visual discomfort or glare. The other thing that I did not like was the rectilinear forms of the mostly steel wire installation, which would not have worked in my rental apartment anyway.

So It had to be curvy and more indirect lighting and I came up with a scaled down sketch on graph paper ( no fancy 3d graphics here ) and went to my local home improvement center and see if they had ” something” that I could use to built something myself. The only thing that I really did not want to build myself was a socket for the MR16 Halogen light bulb and I got very lucky finding some very nice, simple, and unobtrusive sockets in an acceptable price range. These were meant to be used in a ” normal” steel wire but the solid 3 mm aluminum rods I needed to complete the project and that were readily available in the hardware section were a perfect fit. Great!

The department I worked in provided most of the automation needs for the manufacturing company it was part of. Not only did we do all the mechanical, electrical and controls design but we had our own shop to build the electrical panels and more importantly (for my purposes) a fully equipped machine shop. Having completed an apprenticeship as an industrial mechanic before I went back to school to become an engineer, operating lathes and milling machines was familiar territory and I was granted permission to machine my own hardware for the halogen lighting system – somewhat reluctantly, because as the rookie and only Diplom Ingenieur in the department I was a certified pencil pusher and the technicians and machinists were a tad uneasy and afraid I might hurt myself 😉

As I mentioned above, I had an idea in my head and just made a simple sketch on graph paper to help me visualize my idea but I really had no idea how it would look once installed on the wall and operational. So when I had finished machining the hardware on a Saturday afternoon I could not wait to get home and put it all together. I had plotted out two templates of how I would have to bent the aluminum rods and tubes and bent and shaped them by hand. Then, finally I was able to assemble it on the wall and………it did not work. Bummer!

Then it occurred to me that the anodizing of the aluminum tubes not only looked very nice but also the anodized layer is aluminum oxide, ceramics basically, which are an excellent insulator. So I had to take it all down again and as stores had already closed for the day I had to scramble around to find some sandpaper to remove the anodized layer from the end of the aluminum tubes.

After that was done and everything was installed back at its designated spot I was finally able to enjoy the fruit of my labor and here it is.


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