Instructables
Picture of How to create a fiber optic starfield ceiling
Hi everyone,

This is a quick instruction guide on creating a fiber-optic starfield ceiling. The stars have a very natural twinkle & glow. My fiber optic illuminator also features a handy remote for turning the stars on&off, as well as controlling the twinkle speed.

This is my very first instructable, so I hope everything comes out well. I'll try to answer any questions that readers may have. The finished product is very pretty and everyone who has seen it in person has thoroughly enjoyed it.

My wife and I are expecting our very first baby in about 4 weeks. I can't remember in which baby/new-parent/scared-daddy magazine I read this, but - newborn babies can't see very well. Apparently, anything past about 2 feet is incredibly blurry. Contrasting colors and blinking lights are supposed to stimulate their senses and assist in early development. Don't quote me on all of that because I might have just dreamed this all up one night. Anyway, that's what I've told everyone that asks...

I've seen instructables and "how-tos" on creating high-contrast mobiles and decorations, but the 'blinking lights' part escaped me. A local movie theater has a beautiful starfield ceiling above their concession stand, and this inspired me to create my own. The home-theater crowd has been creating these star-ceilings for years... but I never saw these in baby-nursery settings. So... here we go.

I made a small video to summarize most of the starfield features.



The effect is much prettier in person and it's a very simple process. The way I did it takes a little bit of work, but I think it's definitely worth it.
 
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ghawn10 hours ago

i was wondering when you spray the ceiling what happens to the fibers? Does just cutting them down expose the tip enough? thank you this is great and thorough instructions. I think i could do this....

haunjmf1 month ago

"if you are crazy" - brilliant. superb instructions. well played. i am going to have a bash at this before too long...

natenamy5 months ago
Awesome. And agree 120 in attic here in Texas is a beating.
RYBARRA6 months ago

how did you set up the electrical part of the install?

VixenGT7 months ago

first of all, LOVED this instructable! My husband and I are having our first baby in April and we've already bought the Wiedmark kit you recommended to do the ceiling in our daughter's nursery next weekend. :D I was wondering though, how big was the ceiling you had? I looked in the comments and the steps and never saw just exactly what size the room was. Just curious, we got the 288 fiber optic kit and our room is roughly 12x18 minus the corner where the door comes in. Hopefully we should have enough.

kvzz11 months ago
This is amazing!! I wish I could do it, but it seems too much work for me haha. Anyway, thanks a lot!!
I hope my english is OK haha I'm from México :p
hgeorge11 year ago
That's absolutely beautiful!! And I will probably be stealing this idea one day :)
Yeah, we're in Michigan so I imagine we'll be good. The humidity is high here but our attic has pretty decent ventilation. Thanks!

I spent WAY too long on the first section, mainly due to over-thinking things in my typical fashion.

I'm attempting constellations, albeit my scaling might be a little off. The way I went about this is, since our baby is due in Sept, I printed out the Sept night sky and imported it as an overlay of the room (to scale) in Sketchup. I divided the room into quadrants, marked the dims in the attic, and took a sharpie and drew out the constellations on the back of the drywall. Worked great, with one exception....we don't have a popcorn ceiling so drilling down left bumps that are quite noticeable. I considered drilling upwards, however, the joists run every which way since the room is in the corner of the house. So, now I have to pull the 90-or-so cables back out and fix the holes. Luckily I hadn't glued them yet!

I'll post some pics soon, for some reason my iPad doesn't like the java uploader on this site (nor would it let me reply to your last post...weird). Thanks again for the reply, will keep you posted!
First off, you and your instructable rock. I'm completely copying this for our first-born's nursery, and your advice has been stellar. I just finished the fun and exciting task of clearing out the blown-in cellulose. There's no amount of money that would make me want to do that again!

I do have one question, and maybe someone can help if you haven't done this. Will heat be an issue when installing the illuminator in the attic? I'm guessing not since it will be only run at night, but just want to be sure. I've already installed a GFI up there and my next step is to drill all those tiny holes, so I'm hoping that I can proceed as planned!

Again, awesome job and thanks for the fatherly inspiration!
mikegalloway (author)  backinthelab1 year ago
Howdy =)

Keeping the illuminator up in the attic shouldn't be a problem as long as you don't have 100° nights like we had in North Texas. The lights get a little hot, but the case does a good job at shedding that heat. If your nights are typical, or even upwards of 85-90s, go for it. I would say that you're on the right track =). Post pictures when you're done, I'd love to see the final result!

Have fun and thanks for the compliments.

-Mike
mikejpow1 year ago
Wow--------------Great job !!!!!!!!!!!
I to love Fiber Optics ,
so i Created a space Wall in My Lower Level After having a Muriel Painted of looking into space,
I installed over 600 leads of Fiberoptics through my Drywall to make space move a little, It
took me little over 100 hours of labor,, but it was worth it
I did a one minute video, Very tuff to Video


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZU5QfaA9BQ

Thank you
Michael Powers
mikejpow@msn.com
rrobles62 years ago
This looks absolutely fabulous. Good job. I am inspired to do this yet I cannot due to the type of insulation I have. :(

Your "blown insulation" looks a lot like mine which was determined by professionals recently to be asbestos. It would be extraordinarily ill-advised to do this work if the there was indeed asbestos in the attic. Especially above a little one's room.

I assume you are sure that your insulation is asbestos free?

If I do have the asbestos removed from my attic and I go ahead with this, I have just one more concern - I have plaster ceilings. Will this work with plaster ceilings?
squintero22 years ago
OMG! love it!
viper5183 years ago
Excellent job. I know how hard this project is. Where did you get the full phase moon? That was great. The star ceiling that I built took me 3 months, has over seven hundred stars with a shooting star. It is also concave (contact lense shaped) and is 8' across. I put this in my theatre room down stairs. I also built the light box illuminator using everything from Radio Shack and Home Depot. If anyone has any question or wants me to build a light box for them let me know, it nay be home made but I am trying to do these for a price way cheaper than what they sell for every where else. Great job on the ceiling.
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jenmcd viper5182 years ago
Nice job!

I've seen the fiber optic shooting stars before, and I would love to know how you did it. I couldn't find any instructions for it, but maybe I wasn't using the right search terms. Could you explain the shooting star or link to an instruction page?
viper518 jenmcd2 years ago
I have a new instructables on my star ceiling and will slowly add things in the future. sorry for the very late reply.
That's very nice looking. How did you make the round and concave ceiling? What materials did you use? That's a very neat idea I'd like to go with.
I used 4 --1"x12"x8' pine. I cut an arch in 2 of the 8' pieces. the thinnest part of the arch is about 2". but also has a noch cut out in the center of the arch. that way you can make the 2 pieces cross each other. Like a "+" sign. So know the 2 pieces are knotched together. Then the other 2 8' pieces I cut in half so know I have 4' pieces. These also have been cut out into an arch. They are all supported together. with brackets and screws. I used special order 1/4 " drywall cust into 4 quarter round pieces. You should form a paper template first to get the shape from your arch then use the template on your drywall. cut out the drywall and start forming against your wood frame. you have to wet the drywall with a spray bottle and slowly and CAREFULLY press the drywall down on the frame with out putting your hand through the drywall. you will have to glue and screw the drywall to the pie shaped frame. It is all time consuming and slow. Sorry I dont have any pictures.
tim_n2 years ago
Just ordered a kit with different diameter fibres to produce the near/far away affect. Might need to get the bedroom ceiling skimmed first though, it's a bit rubbish!

Very inspiring :)
kikatrina2 years ago
So you left the ceiling painted white? I'm thinking of doing this in a family room/movie room and I see recommendations for painting the ceiling dark blue or black. What are your recommendations on ceiling color??

LOVE your project!
BADMANU2 years ago
Hi Mike, I was wondering how long it took your to complete this project, from start to finish? I'm doing a bedroom makeover for a little boy…he's into planets and starts….long story short, I would love to do a starry ceiling in his bedroom. The only downside is that we don't have more than 2 days to complete the whole room. The room is roughly 11'x12', do you think this can be done in a day or two at the most? Thanks!
AnObeseCat4 years ago
Hey, I LOVE the stars, they are absolutely BEAUTIFUL.. I was thinking about doing this for my 6 year old daughter, but there is no space above her room, no attic or anything, so how would I go about doing this? Or is it not possible?
You could actually make another (false) ceiling right under the ceiling that you have now.This could be made out of drywall OR make a frame then you some kind of panelling that you choose. it would just lower the ceiling by an inch. just would have to do it low enough not to kink or bend the fiberoptic cable. The light box would have to be small enough for you to fit in your Actual ceiling you have now. you could cut a hole in your ceiling to fit that in between the ceiling joist. if you ever wanted to take it down you could patch it back with dry wall. Home Depot or who ever you have near by sells access panels to put in drywall. you could do that for your light box so you could access it if you need to then paint it black I do make some light boxes and could do one for you if you wanted. I sell them way cheaper than they are sold online for the price. they are home made but I would guarentee my work. hope this helps
atoptical3 years ago
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tinker2343 years ago
oh wow i have a cousin such a cute liltle thing he loves the stars
justinhyp3 years ago
Downright awesome instructable! Perfect detail, resources links, photos, and the article was sooo well written -- and joy to read! Funny stuff!
mikegalloway (author) 3 years ago
User matthewh415 recently completed a similar project and he sent these pictures. I think he did an excellent job and the room looks fantastic. Check them out =).

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i think leaving the strands hanging like that is nice, kinda feels like under the tree of Avatar :D
It is nice, until you try to do bed in breakfast. (Spills the [plastic] cup of juice)
zilcho SRChiP3 years ago
I just did this and I completely agree it looks just like avatar.
mossDboss3 years ago
i made a small star ceiling using fiber optic patch cord. i had about 120 - 150 strands, I hand polished each fiber for the best light results.

I would suggest cutting and polishing the fiber before glueing the fiber. If the cut is not clean then the angles then at certain angles the "star" would not be visible.

great project.
hawkbird4 years ago

seems the frame would work better. eventually someone will have to paint the ceiling!:(

I'm not saying how, but I was looking into this once for my baby girl, and the mfg website said, you can paint them over 4 or 5 times and they will still function properly.

I think you could re-cut the tips maybe?
I actually used to be a designer at a company where fiber starfields were our bread and butter...they did the one in Drew Carey's house. 

The big cost of fiber optic displays is, well, the fiber.  The illuminator can certainly be built at home with a small servo motor, a pie tin with holes cut in it for a flicker wheel, a 100w halogen bulb, a vent fan enclosure, and some romex running to a wall switch, but your fiber cost is what it is.  MIkegalloway's source from tools is super cheap- I think I might buy a spool to play with!

With regards to panels or frames.  They can be "wipe clean" and easily taken with you if you move, so might be a good choice for apartment dwellers who move frequently and don't live in earthquake country like me.  Downside:  the illuminator lives "elsewhere" because it won't fit in the panels, so you need a big, fat umbilical of fiber, you need couplers to prevent light loss between panels, and all told, might actually be more expensive than leaving your old starfield behind and installing a new one if you only move once.  Also, with frames, you lose the "magic" of your transforming ceiling, if you're into that sort of thing.

To have a paintable starfield:  Don't use glue.  Staple fiber in place near port hole on inside of crawlspace.  Leave extra fiber.  When you paint your ceiling (which typically gets done very infrequently,) paint the whole thing.  Then, push 1/2" of fiber down under the staple and through the holes, and clip ends again.  Good as new!


ScienceWiz4 years ago
*GLORIUS MOMENT OF AWE INSPIRED SATISFACTION*

I have been wanting to do this for years! I never knew things like this existed! I was nearly about to glue hundreds of led's to my ceiling!

I can not wait to install one of these getups in my room!

Although, when i went to the website and looked at the cost, i was a bit blown away... I need to save up 500 bucks!
Hey I did one of these in my room downstairs and built everything inluding the lightbox with a shooting star. Have any questions let me know.
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zilcho4 years ago
I originally had an idea to poke a whole bunch of small cheap l.e.d. lights through my ceiling but this, this is so much better.
WieDaMark4 years ago
This is a really good post. I just added a small video on how you install the fiber optic cable in to the Illuminator (Light-Engine) that might be helpful to someone. http://www.instructables.com/id/Installing-Fiber-Optic-Cables-into-an-Illuminator/
allangee4 years ago
I didn't see any vapor barrier in any of the attic shots. That isn't required in your part of the country? Up north here, vapor barrier is always applied on the warm (indoor) side of the insulation -- over the joists and studs -- then drywall/gyproc/wallboard is applied. Drilling that many holes through a vapor barrier would require a better sealant than a water-based glue imo. Looks great though!
Great work! Love the constellation look better than the isolated stars. Looks like an older house by the construction, probably wasn't even an option for vapor barrier when built. I am living in a similar house in TX (built 1930) and don't think I could force myself to dig in that stuff in the attic that much!! My ideal plan (for the old black loose insulation like I have) would be a floating ceiling with 1X2-inch furring strips and 1/4-inch drywall or cement board fake ceiling to install the fibers. Would be much more work, though.
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