Work desk :: Task lighting

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(Ikea to the rescue)

When hosting operating sessions, I like to turn off the lights in the layout room so that the layout lights are the only source of illumination. It puts the focus squarely on the layout.

However, I noticed that this arrangement meant that the work desks at St. Williams and Port Rowan were often in shadow. I needed better lighting.

I stumbled across some LED strip lighting units at Ikea and realized they would be a good addition to the facia. They’re called Striberg, and they come in various lengths – from 14″ to 36″. They’re intended for use inside the Pax wardrobe system.

I bought two of these – one for each work desk – plus two Ansluta power supply cords (sold separately).

As shown above (at St. Williams), I mounted the Striberg on the fascia above the desk. I cut the connector off the end of the power cord – leaving enough cord that I could require it later – and then I drilled a hole through the fascia just large enough to thread the power cord. (More on this, below.)

The Striberg LED strips have a three-way switch on them. They can be turned off, on, or set to light up when exposed to the room lights – for example, when opening a closet door. But I wanted the lights to come on automatically, whenever someone pulled out a work desk.

A trip to my local electronics surplus shop provided the solution, in the form of lever lever switches. These have a long lever made of springy metal that may be bent into a suitable shape. The switches have two circuits (known as “on/on”): When depressed, they switch one way – and when released they switch the other. For my application, I could leave the “depressed” circuit inactive and have them activate only when released.

I bent the lever into a suitable shape, then mounted the switch on a block of wood. I then mounted this block on the frame that supports one of the drawer slides for my work desk. I positioned this so that when the desk is fully closed, the back of the desk will fully depress the switch:

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To wire the switch, I cut the cable at the appropriate length, then introduced the switch into one of the leads. The cable then continues to the small Ikea transformer which supplies the LEDs. I mounted this on the wall of the room, near where I was going to plug it in.

I strongly dislike running house wiring through a layout. I think this is a recipe for disaster or even death. So by mounting the transformer out of the layout, near the wall receptacle, I’ve been able to only run low-voltage, low-current wires through the benchwork to the lights.

For the Port Rowan work station, this meant buying some more two-conductor cable from my electronics surplus store and threading it through the benchwork from the end of the peninsula to the wall. I needed about 25 feet of cable, which I simply added between the switch and Ikea’s connector. The length of the run did not cause any issues.

When the desk slides shut, it depresses the switch and switches to the unused circuit – the light goes off:

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As soon as it’s opened, the switch springs open – completing the circuit that I’ve wired up – and the light comes on:

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I’m pleased with how this project turned out. Operators now have plenty of light so they can sort their waybills and draft switch lists. The best part is, there’s no thinking involved on the part of the operator: The light turns on and off automatically.

8 thoughts on “Work desk :: Task lighting

  1. It’s too late for you, but for others considering LED strips, Lowe’s offers a better selection at a fraction of IKEA’s prices.

  2. A brilliant idea! Of course when Ikea is across the Chesapeake Bay and lots of stuff is not in the catalog shopping can be an issue 8^))

    Bill Uffelman

  3. Trevor,
    Nice idea and engineering. You are very wise to run only low voltage power through the layout. I’m an electrical contractor and you would not believe the amount of “stuff” I see with line voltage and open connections like on your switches that people run in their homes. It is a very real danger to life and property. Thanks for stressing the safety issue.
    If people elect not to seek a professional’s help in doing electrical work, they should at least do their research so they can do it safely.
    There are many codes regulating wiring. They are there to safeguard people and prevent injury and fires.
    Remember, safety first.

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