Tag Archives: lighting

Fiber optic starry sky nursery

Getting a house ready for a new baby is no small task, there’s really no end to what one may consider essential, such as a fiber optic star-filled ceiling for the nursery. There’s nothing more comforting to an infant than the feeling that they’ve been left in the woods under a wondrous, awe inspiring, night sky — no?

Thankfully there are some great products available to convey just that feeling with the use of fiber optic cabling. Wiedamark offers a number of kits as well as the separate components, which are basically bunches of fiber optic cabling and a light source or illuminator. I opted for their 288 3 Star LED Fiber Optic Star Ceiling Kit With New Dimming Feature, it comes with everything you need for a drywall install (aside from tools) and includes 3 different diameters of fiber optic cables which translate to different sized stars or planets.

While waiting for the kit to arrive my wife and I decided on a night sky to represent. Our first child is due in December so we chose the night of the Winter Solstice this year, December 21st, 2014, or at least what the night sky should look like barring some unforeseen astronomical event. There’s some handy sites online you can use to generate a star map on which you can base the ceiling. We used Your Sky which generates images based on date, location and a number of useful options. The easiest way to get your latitude and longitude if you don’t already have it is to find your home on Google Maps and grab your lat/long from the address bar, it will look something like this 43.650033,-79.391594. Positive latitudes, the first number are North and negative are South. Positive longitudes, the second number, are East and negative are West. So when using the above coordinates in the Your Sky interface it would be 43.650033 North by 79.391594 West. You can also turn on and off constellation names and such as well as select what magnitude of objects to display. For printing purposes it’s useful to change the output to Black on white background, if you’re printing in colour this may not be the case. It’s also useful to increase the image size, something around 2400 x 2400 should do.

Once you have a sky that you’re happy with you can right click on the resulting image and select save image in your browser, you’ll end up with an image aptly entitled Yoursky.gif. I decided to divide the image into a grid in order to make it easier to transfer the star positions to the ceiling. This step is completely optional as you can just wing it if you like, create your own constellations and such, though you run the risk of creating an awkward cluster of stars that you’ll end up focused on for years to come.

I won’t go too far in-depth with the install instructions as I’ve recently found another fellow has here, in addition, Wiedamark has a variety of instructions available here. I will, however, outline some of the differences in my approach. You should note I placed the light in my attic, this requires an electrical outlet in the attic, you can also place the light source in a closet or the corner of a room. I also placed the light source in a large plastic storage bin with holes for the power and fiber optic cables to isolate it from the blown insulation in my attic. The light source does need ventilation so ensure any container is large enough for ample airflow and is not sealed.

Two things made my install quite a bit more difficult than a typical install, the first is that the target ceiling, and most of our house, is plaster lath and the second is that our attic has about 3 feet of blown insulation piled on top the 2nd floor ceilings. Step one should have been to clear away the insulation from the ceiling, I was impatient and only did this after I drilled many of the holes and promptly regretted it. Clear the insulation first, everything will go much faster. If you don’t have much space in your attic some good knee pads will go a long way to avoiding aches and pains, you’ll be up there for a while.

The typical method of install for these star fields is to drill through drywall from above and feed the fiber optics down through the drilled hole. Those of you familiar with plaster lath may see a problem with this method — plaster lath enjoys cracking off in large chunks, especially if you’re drilling through from the unfinished side. Because of this I decided to drill up through the ceiling, which reduces the plaster cracking, and insert a placeholder wire into each hole which I could then locate from the attic in order to replace with a fiber optic cable. For the kit I selected I needed three different colours of wire, one for each size of cable/star. I chopped this wire into lengths of 4 or 5 inches, one length of wire for each star. When transferring the star map to the ceiling be mindful of your cardinal directions and take some time to ensure that you’re orienting the map correctly, or not, it doesn’t matter all that much in the grand scheme of things — then again, maybe it is the grand scheme of things!

If you’re dealing with drywall you can skip this entire step, if you’re taking my approach you’ll end up with something like this after drilling and inserting placeholders.

Try to match both the drill bit size and the wire to the fiber optic cable diameter as closely as possible, this will contribute to a clean finished install. I found it difficult to find drill bits small enough, but they are out there.

The next step is to head up to the attic and feed fiber optic cable down through each hole, drilling down if you have drywall and replacing the placeholders if you have plaster lath and have already drilled from below. An LED headlamp helps quite a bit if you don’t have lighting in your attic. The hardest part (aside from back aches and sore knees) is keeping the fiber optic bundles organized, fiber optic cable will craze or crack if bent and that will impede or interrupt the light flow through that cable, so be gentle. It seems easy to pull cables off at first, but eventually everything will be a tangled mess if you don’t take your time to stay organized from the beginning. It helps to first separate the different sized cables into their own bundles. Be sure to push each cable at least a couple inches further than you need through the holes, you’ll clip them flush only after you’ve patched and painted any ceiling defects resulting from the install. Once you’ve placed a star and are sure it’s extended down through the ceiling by a couple of inches then put a dab of glue where it enters the ceiling from above to keep it in place. Use a glue thick enough so that it doesn’t drip through any extra space or along the cable.

This is the most time consuming, frustrating and potentially painful part of the process and is best done in stages. On the upside I bet you never thought you’d find yourself grappling for hours on end with a nightmarish deep sea monster.

Once you’re done running the fiber optic cabling you’ll end up with some trippy, glowing, alien grass growing out of your ceiling, don’t trim it just yet.

Now it’s time to patch and paint over any holes you didn’t use and any other ceiling damage that occurred during the install. It’s important to do this before you trim the cables so that you don’t paint or patch over any illuminated ends. Once you’re done patching and painting you can use flush cut pliers, or even nail clippers, to trim the fiber optic cable flush with the ceiling. After a couple of days and you’re confident there’s nothing left to do in the attic as far as corrections or the like, you can replace any insulation and pat yourself on the back.

 

DIY reclaimed lumber hanging Edison bulb chandelier

This DIY reclaimed lumber chandelier with hanging Edison bulbs is easy and quite self-explanatory, though I will explain somewhat. Here’s what you’ll need,

Parts for Fixture

  • piece of lumber
  • 2x lengths of chain
  • 4x open/close chain links, to affix the chain to the eyelets you’ll screw to the board
  • 4x screw eyelets, to secure the chain to the lumber
  • 2x screw hooks, to hook the chain to the ceiling *screwed into solid wood joists
  • one or more junction boxes depending on the size of the wood
  • one or more hanging lights, cord, socket, bulb (see below)
  • a cover for the ceiling junction box plastic or otherwise, you may have to cut a notch for the power cable

Parts for Lights

Once you’ve selected your lumber, drill a hole for each light cord. I started with a spacious zig-zag pattern but it’s whatever you like really. Affix junction boxes to the top-side of the lumber and wire the lights into them. Screw an eyelet into each corner of the top-side of the lumber, at least an inch in from any side.

If the lumber is extra heavy you could consider another length of chain and place two more eyelets to support a chain in the center. If ceiling joist placements allows you could also use four lengths of chain straight up to four hooks instead of the swing system I employed.

Screw the hooks firmly into ceiling joists, hang the fixture and wire whichever junction box is closest into the ceiling electrical. If possible the power cable would be less noticeable if it snaked to the ceiling along one of the support chains.

Once hung you can adjust the heights of the hanging bulbs and coil the extra cable on top, it’s not coiled very neatly in some of these pictures but I have since remedied that. There you have it.

If you’re interested in other Edison-style lighting ideas check out DIY steampunk-style iron pipe Edison fixture and the reason I have so many Edison bulbs kicking around, Maker Wedding: Rustic Edison-style hanging light fixtures.

DIY steampunk-style iron pipe Edison fixture

I’ve been seeing these types of steampunk black malleable iron on the net for years; it was only a matter of time before I went and made one. The texture of the iron combined with the warm vacuum-tube glow is quite an amazing effect, and they certainly look easy to make. Previous trips to the hardware store had only resulted in the question of what socket will fit into these types of pipes? I found myself with some spare time this past Saturday, so I went to the local hardware store and laid out 15 or 20 iron gas pipe fittings in the aisle and designed a 4-bulb fixture — roughly designed that is.

While designing the fixture be careful not to screw the fittings together too tightly as they can bind, also keep in mind these fittings will turn your hands black and the sharp threads can easily shred your hands if you slip. This being my first attempt I kept it relatively simple, keep in mind that you will have to thread wiring through all the bends and turns at some point.

I used the largest malleable iron piping I found, which had an inner diameter of 1 inch on the female threaded sections. I then purchased some basic keyless (no switch) brass sockets. These did not fit in the pipes, though I didn’t mind the look of the brass sockets extending from the fixture so I started with that.

The rounded base of the sockets became a problem as when they were wired and threaded into the fixture they lolled this way or that rather than extending straight from the fitting. I tried bulking up the base of the sockets with electrical tape, but they still slipped. I then tried removing the rounded bottom section yet the upper brass part was still too large in diameter to fit in the pipe.

Then I discarded everything but the bare socket with its bakelite base, the middle portion in the exploded image below (not the exact socket, but very similar). These almost fit, I had to crack/shave/cut off some protrusions from the bakelite base. Discarding the brass and cardboard meant that the socket had no protection or isolation for the wiring leads, for this reason I wrapped the hot lead with some electrical tape to isolate it and then ran one wrap of electrical tape around the entire socket. This extra bulk meant I had to twist and fiddle but they still fit in the pipe. If you fiddle so much that you think the electrical tape may have shredded, take it out, replace the tape and start again. It’s better to be safe.

Even though the sockets had no ground lead it was important when wiring be sure to wire all sockets in the same fashion and keep track of which wire is hot as they will all be combined at some point and you don’t want to short the wrong lead to the iron fixture structure.

While threading wire through the fixture you can unscrew fittings but be careful not to twist the wiring too much inside around elbows.

With the sockets wired and the wiring threaded through the fixture the next step was mounting it to the ceiling or wall. The wall mount fitting, pictured right, is not large enough to cover a junction box. For this reason I used a white plastic cover, however screwing the wall mount fitting to the plastic cover would not be strong enough to support the fixture (iron is heavy).

Another problem was that the wall mount fitting’s screw holes would block the plastic cover’s screw holes. I decided to use a steel junction box cover on top of the plastic cover to support the fixture. I drilled a center hole in both covers, two holes to line up with two of the iron mount’s screw holes and ensured that one of the remaining two screw holes in the iron mount fitting lined up with one of the plastic cover’s screw holes. This meant that the iron fitting would not be centered on the plastic cover, but it did allow access to both of the plastic cover’s screws even after the iron fitting was secured.

In this manner the iron fitting could be bolted to the steel cover, through the plastic cover and still allow access to the plastic cover’s screw holes in order to affix the entire assembly to the junction box.

The photo above shows the steel cover which has been drilled, in this photo the white plastic cover has not had the center hole drilled for the wires yet. I’m confident this system would have worked with a full sized junction box, however once I removed the old fixture I realized my desired location had an old-style smaller junction box and this system wasn’t going to work.

As it turns out, mounting to an old-style smaller junction box is even easier as the two junction box mounting bolts do line up with the iron fitting and therefore there wasn’t a need for the steel plate after-all. I put bolts right through the iron mount fitting, the white plastic cover and into the junction box, which allowed the junction box to directly support the weight of the fixture.

If you’re confident wiring fixtures, outlets, sockets and such this should be right in your comfort zone — if not perhaps enlist a friend who is to help out.

If you’re interested in other Edison-style lighting ideas check out DIY reclaimed lumber hanging Edison bulb chandelier and the reason I have so many Edison bulbs kicking around, Maker Wedding: Rustic Edison-style hanging light fixtures.

A Maker Wedding

Initially I wasn’t sure how much our wedding was truly going to represent my fiancée and I, after all, we wanted our family and friends to enjoy themselves and feel included — as with any large event there are a lot of expectations to manage. After deciding to craft my own Edison-style light fixtures for our reception I realized that the occasion was, in addition to a celebration of our life-long commitment to each other, an opportunity for us to showcase our creativity and perhaps introduce some of our family and friends to aspects of ourselves they may not have known existed.

In retrospect we probably took on too much, but it allowed us to feel the occasion was a true reflection of ourselves — for me this meant soldering, stripping, crimping, twisting, programming and no small amount of brow furrowing. None of these projects could’ve come together without the help of my wonderful wife Ester, who not only said yes, but also collaborated throughout and trusted me to deliver on some very important aspects of our big day. In addition, a big thanks to my dear old Dad who took time to help me with the lengthy task of wiring the Edison fixtures and to the friends and family who helped us setup and teardown these, and other installations.

Animated Arduino LED matrix lounge table top

Vinyl “flexi” record wedding invitations

XBee remote relay as photobooth RF camera trigger

Bachelor party wireless Arduino accelerometer Stab-O-Meter

JQuery Animated Wedding Website


Various puppet arms available at Obscura Antiques & Oddities, New York

Maker Wedding: Rustic Edison-style hanging light fixtures

Edison-style light fixtures


After deciding to have our wedding in a barn which had been converted into an event space my thoughts turned to lighting. With the rustic nature of the barn and the impressively high ceilings, one type of lighting sprang to mind instantly — Edison-style bulbs.

I’ve long been a fan of cloth covered wire, so I decided to make each bulb a separate hanging fixture with twisted cloth covered wire, an outlet and a bulb socket. This made the setup completely modular, allowing us to adjust for electrical loads and support almost any arrangement of bulbs. Each fixture would be plugged into a multi-outlet extension cord and secured with a small electrical tie. Each multi-outlet extension cord was plugged in through a lamp dimmer, which was also affixed with an electrical tie to avoid disconnections.

The parts I sourced are below, feel free to comment with better prices. These sockets are three-stage but the bulbs are not, bulbs could be swapped for three-stage bulbs or the sockets for single stage, but it all works regardless. Three-stage bulbs may eliminate the need for the dimmers, but having the dimmers made adjustments quite easy.

To wire the hanging fixtures I first slipped one piece of heat shrink tubing (without heating yet) over the cloth ends encompassing both leads. I then worked the cloth back, stripped the insulation inside and then attached the leads to the socket and plug. Once the leads were secured I shimmied the heat shrink as close to the connections as it would go and blasted it with the heat gun (or, oh my, harassed it with the soldering iron).

Before you go wild with these, do some math to see how many fixtures you should be plugging into each extension cord, and how much wattage your dimmer can support — watch dimmers closely at first, they may heat up, but make sure they’re not melting!

If you’re interested in other Edison-style lighting ideas and/or wondering what I did with all these lights afterwards check out DIY steampunk-style iron pipe Edison fixture and DIY reclaimed lumber hanging Edison bulb chandelier.

Update: Close to a year following our wedding we sent these lights, along with a simple handcrafted fixture, to family and friends as a token of our appreciation and as a keepsake from our wedding. Details about the Edison light thank you packages can be found here.

Parts