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Make your own Neon sign inspired light-up tube map with EL wire!

Posted by Cat Morley from London, United Kingdom • Published See Cat Morley's 1102 projects »
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  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 1
    Step 1

    For this project, you'll need a large rectangle of plastic or perspex around the same size as your desired tube map. I used the plastic from an Ikea Lomviken frame measuring 91 x 61 cm.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 2
    Step 2

    Remove the plastic from the frame. Mine came with a protective coating on the front and the back but I only removed the plastic from the front.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 3
    Step 3

    You'll also need a large tube map. I actually used London Underground gift wrap that I'd found in the Transport For London Museum shop.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 4
    Step 4

    Use double sided sticky tape to tape the map in place on the back of the plastic.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 5
    Step 5

    Turn the plastic over so that the tube map is facing ip and you're ready to begin.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 6
    Step 6

    Measure each line on the tube map with a measuring tape and buy a length of EL Wire in the corresponding colour. Remember to buy extra for any lines that have extra branches or bits that jut off. EL Wire doesn't come in black - so I've got a little trick for the later.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 7
    Step 7

    Start with a nice simple line, like the Hammersmith & City.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 8
    Step 8

    Place a block of wood behind your map and drill a hole, big enough to fit your wire, through the first station on the line.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 9
    Step 9

    In this case it would be Hammersmith.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 10
    Step 10

    And then drill a second hole at the last station on the line, in this case Barking.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 11
    Step 11

    Thread the tip of the EL wire up through Hammersmith and then down through Barking, so that the connecting side of the wire is nearest the bottom of your frame.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 12
    Step 12

    Use a hot glue gun to stick the EL Wire along the path of the Hammersmith & City lines, stopping wherever the line meets another tube line.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 13
    Step 13

    When you meet another tube line, leave this section unglued and place a second length of EL wire underneath, before continuing to stick down the wire above the new line.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 14
    Step 14

    Be careful to follow the shape of the tube map at any areas where it bends and curves.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 15
    Step 15

    Keep going until you reach the end of the line.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 16
    Step 16

    Next, I worked on the circle line, which is continuous, so I drilled two holes right next to each other at Tower Hill.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 17
    Step 17

    This line sat snuggly underneath the Hammersmith & City line.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 18
    Step 18

    When adding one of the trickier lines, like the Metropolitan line, we need to drill a few extra holes.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 19
    Step 19

    Work out the path of the EL Wire and where it needs to pop up and pop under the map. This required drilling holes at Harrow-On-The-Hill, Watford, Chorleywood, Amersham, Chesham and two holes next to each other at Chalfont & Latimer.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 20
    Step 20

    Now thread the EL Wire up at Aldgate and bring it down all the way up at Uxbridge.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 21
    Step 21

    Thread the wire behind the map and bring it back up through Amersham and back down through Chorleywood, then go up the back of the map and back up through Chesham, making a loop around to Chalfont & Latimer, then up through Chorleywood and then down halfway between Rickmansworth and Moor Park, looping around the back and up through Watford.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 22
    Step 22

    And then back down the line to Harrow-On-The-Hill.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 23
    Step 23

    Once you've got your path sorted, glue everything down.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 24
    Step 24

    This is a good time to turn your lights on to check that they're still working and that your map is looking good so far.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 25
    Step 25

    Continue adding the rest of the lines.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 26
    Step 26

    Turn on the lights one more time to check that you're happy with the design. You'll notice that the light will shine through from the back of the map.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 27
    Step 27

    Flip the map over.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 28
    Step 28

    Use white electrical tape or duct tape to wrap the wire on the back.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 29
    Step 29

    Cover all the exposed wires bringing the ends together at the bottom of the map in the middle.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 30
    Step 30

    Remove the paper map from the back of the plastic, along with the protective coating.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 31
    Step 31

    You'll notice that I used a clear white light for the Northern Line. To give it a black line, I found a thin strip of black wire from a broken cable.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 32
    Step 32

    Simple glue the black wire on top of the white light.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 33
    Step 33

    Snip the wire whenever you get to the interchanges.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 34
    Step 34

    In the same way, I used a white wire to stick on top of the green light for the DLR.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 35
    Step 35

    Simply stick it along the middle of the light, creating two green lights at the top and bottom.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 36
    Step 36

    Your map is ready to hang on the wall. I drilled holes through the top corners of the map and nailed it into the wall. I also used a white cable tidy to group all the wires together and cover their light on the way to the plug.

  • How to make a decorative light. Light Up London Underground Map - Step 37
    Step 37

    Turn off the lights and admire!

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