How to Build a Cheap Timing Light

Jun 07

You can follow the instructions here to make your own timing light kit. However, today I feel using one of the many smartphone or tablet timing apps is a better experience. Having it change timing signals by itself is very handy!

In an earlier post, I mentioned creating a quantity of affordable timing lights for local Toastmasters clubs; some Toastmaster friends and I had done some research and devised what we thought was most cost-effective.

Imagine my surprise when Toastmasters from other Districts started emailing me–and a few even paid shipping to have me send some of the lights to them!

Things have changed since I first made the lights. Now it is easy to buy the lights individually off eBay, often with free shipping. Just search eBay for "remote control color changing led "

Now here’s information on how you can make your own.

Due to shipping and the simple effort in finding materials and assembling the lights, note that it is far more economical to produce a group of lights rather than one at a time. Think about getting together with other clubs in your area, division or district so that, instead of one light, you can make three or five or ten.

Parts List for Toastmasters Light

  • LED Color-changing light bulb (comes with remote and one battery for remote) $17
  • CR2025 watch battery (get them on eBay for a fraction of the price you’d get at a local store–better to do this ahead of time than after the battery for the remote dies!) $1-5 for a pack of five
  • Bubble wrap (from the mail supplies section of your favorite store–it’s really cheap and will come in much larger quantities than you need) $1-5
  • toastmasters timing light instructions (or make your own) $0
  • 12′ white indoor extension cord (from Amazon or Home Depot) $2-3
  • outlet to socket light plug $2-3
  • large washer (the biggest and heaviest you can find–for use as a base) $0.10 – $1.00
  • non-slip matting (there are many different types–just anything that adds a little friction is fine) $1-10
  • superglue
  • paper mache case (from a craft store) $3-10

When I made these, the cost of parts was almost exactly $25 apiece, but your mileage may vary (especially depending on how many timing lights you make at a time).

The special remote-control light-changing light bulb is the only essential piece of this setup. Here I’m just describing my way of making the light kits. You could do just as well by putting the LED bulb into a lamp you got from a garage sale, or in some light fixture that’s a part of your meeting room. Or you might prefer to use a cardboard box or a wooden case to house the light… there are many possibilities.

Assembling Your Affordable Timing Light

  1. Figure out how many kits you want to make; the more you can produce, the more economical they are, so see if you can find other clubs nearby that are also interested.
  2. Order the light bulbs. This is the first step; since they are sent from China, it can take a while for them to arrive
  3. Track down the other materials. You may need to spend some extra time searching for something satisfactory to use for the cases, that is exactly the right size, protects the light, and isn’t too ugly.
  4. Spread some newspaper on your work area, to catch stray glue
  5. Carefully cut out washer-size circles of the non-slip mats, trimming around a washer as a guide
  6. Glue the washers to the side of the extension cord where the holes are protected by a plastic flap. It may be easiest to turn the plug over so the weight of the washer helps to hold the plug down.
  7. Glue the mats to the washers. If you do this with the washers on top of the plugs, then glue can’t seep down to the table or newspaper and glue the light kit to it.
  8. Once dry, plug the outlet to socket light plug into the extension cord.
  9. Screw the light bulb in; test it
  10. Print out the timing light instructions and glue to the case for your lighting kit (cutting the instruction sheet to fit, if necessary). If the lid is removable, you can glue the instructions to that so that the timer can position them for easy reading.
  11. Coil up the extension cord and put the light away with some bubble wrap around it (LED bulbs are not nearly as fragile as ordinary light bulbs, but precautions are still wise)
  12. Make sure a spare battery and the remote are in the case as well and you’re good to go!

Tips on Using the Light Kit

  • When you turn the timing light off (as long as it is plugged in) it will “remember” what color it was last on and will show that color when you turn the light on again. Make sure to turn it to green every time you turn it off–after all, you don’t want to startle the next speaker by accidentally showing the red light when they’ve reached minimum time!
  • The remote supposedly has an extensive range, but needs to be aimed precisely at the base of the bulb to work. It’s best to be within ten feet of the light; if you have trouble, sit closer to the light and make sure to aim directly at the base of the bulb, or check the battery.
  • Some people don’t like the color that goes with the yellow button, but there are several other near shades you can select from.
  • You can control the brightness of the bulb within a certain extent; adjust for your environment, if necessary.
  • Depending on what you used for a case, you may be able to put the light on top of the case to make it even more visible to the speaker.


  1. The color changing LED light is a nice alternative to those fancy digitally controlled traffic light timers.

    After I saw the previous post I came up with another alternative – timing tiles that form a progress bar to give the speaker more effective feedback. See:

  2. Hi Chad:

    I’m interested to know how to purchase a Timing Light for our Toastmasters club in Irwindale. Could you please contact me and let me know if you are still making them? If so, would you also let me know the price and send a photo to me at Thanks! Our cub is growing and having a timing light would be a big help.

    • Thank you for your interest, Constance-Noelle! I don’t make the lights anymore–and even if I did, shipping for them would cost as much as the materials, lol. Hopefully these instructions will help you easily put together a timing light easily and cheaply. You can get one of the lights off eBay easily now, and then just stick that in a cheap light fixture and call it a day, or follow the instructions above.

  3. Hi Chad,

    are you able to take a picture of the completed project and sent them to my included email? I love the fact that this project saves you alot of money compared to the cost of an real timer machine.



  4. Great idea!

    We still need an indicator for color blind Toastmasters. For this reason, Contests are still currently operated on a three light system. I like the idea of LED lights and will report back to this site when I have a final design.

    Bob Huddleston
    Daybreak Toastmasters, Charleston SC
    Club 1005 District 58

    • This is a problem, and an advantage a three light system has over a one, color changing light system. In general I now recommend using a smartphone/tablet timing app over building your own light; some may use different shapes for different timing signals, or put a letter or the word (“Green”) on the screen to help differentiate. Audible timing signals may be necessary if you have a blind speaker in your club.


  1. Affordable Timing Light for Toastmasters | TM Vision - [...] Oct 20 I have now posted instructions on how to make your own timing light kit.…

Leave a Reply