This is my first Instructable so go easy on me!
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My daughter wanted me to make her a night light so I looked around for ideas. She loves dancing and the stage, so I thought I could do something to tie in with her interests.
After a while looking I decided to make her a "Marquee" or "Vegas" style name sign. she would get her name in lights!
This can also be used to make a great decoration for a wedding reception. You can use any word you like or even the bride and grooms initials. Its very different and eye catching!
Step 1: Gather the Stuff
You don't need much really. The total cost for materials was about £25 as I had all the wood already.
1. A set of mains powered LED berry christmas lights. (I got mine from Argos for £12 in the sale)
2. Red gloss spray paint. (I got mine from my local DIY shop for £4, any brand will do)
3. Clear Gloss Acrylic spray. (Again £4 from my local DIY shop)
4. Black Gloss Spray paint (£4 from my DIY shop
5. Two sheets of 3mm MDF. Any size you fancy really. I used two sheets that came with a flatpack cupboard. They measure approx 100cm x 50cm
6. Three lengths of 2"x1" pine at 1.5m long. You just need enough to make a frame around 1 of your sheets of MDF.
7. One in-line table lamp switch. ( got mine from Maplins for about £3
You may need some electrical tape or heat shrink tubing and a soldering iron. I'll cover this in a later step.
A jigsaw or scroll saw
a cordless drill and a selection of wood drill bits (around 8mm in diameter)
You may also need a heat gun, but again I will cover this later.
Access to a printer will be useful but not essential.
Step 2: Lettering
I used Microsoft Word to print out the letters of her name.
I chose a large bold font that would be easy to cut with a jigsaw. I printed them at a point size of about 80. each letter filled one sheet of A4.
I then cut them out and arranged them on one of the sheets of 3mm MDF to make sure they fit and to get an idea of what the final sign would look like.
When I was happy with the letter size etc, I moved onto the LED christmas lights.
My set was a string of 120 static LED berry lights. I removed the berries from the LEDs, they just pull off with a little effort. They are just slipped over the LEDs and held in place with a small blob of hot glue. Some were harder than others to remove though. This is where a heat gun would be useful for warming the berry gently to soften the glue. If you don't have a heat gun, or just can't get a berry off, no problem just skip it and carry on with the rest. We'll sort this out later.
Using the berries I removed, I laid them out on the printed letters to work out the spacing a how many would be used in the letters. This left me with 51 LEDs left over. I decided to use these to "edge" the sign. I chose to use 25 on the top and 25 on the bottom. The one left over I would just leave behind the sign and it would not be used.
Step 3: Marking Out and Cutting
I marked on each paper letter template where the LEDs would go.
I then used the paper templates to mark out the letters on the other sheet of 3mm MDF. Then using the Jigsaw I cut out each letter. You could use a scroll saw or fret saw for this.
I then sprayed a couple of coats of red paint on each letter.
When the paint was dry I used the paper templates again to mark the points where the LED holes needed to be drilled. I did this by drilling a 2mm hole at each point through the paper template and the 3mm MDF.
Step 4: Drilling and Test Fitting
I measured the base of each berry and found them to be 8mm, so using an 8mm drill bit I reamed out each 2mm hole.
I then put a berry in each hole. They are a good snug fit.
I then pushed an LED into each berry from behind and plugged them in to see how it looked. I was very pleased with the look.
Using the MDF letters as templates I then drilled the main sheet of MDF with all the 8mm holes needed. I drilled 25 evenly spaced 8mm holes along the top and bottom too.
I placed a berry in each hole to see what it looked like. I removed the berries again then spayed each letter with a couple of coats of clear acrylic. Then using contact adhesive I glued the letters in place.
Step 5: The Frame
I cut the 2"x1" pine into four lengths to make a frame for the main sheet of 3mm MDF.
Using a few small pieces of off-cuts I glued them inside the frame to be used to fix the main sheet to later on.
I then sprayed a couple of coats of black gloss on the frame and left it to dry fully.
When the paint was dry I glued in the main sheet onto the little blocks.
Step 6: Installing the LEDs
If there are any berries you couldn't remove earlier, this is where we sort it out. Push a berry into a hole and then an LED into each berry from behind the main board. When you come to an LED with a berry still attached, mark one of the two wires with two marks about 1cm apart and about 2-3cm from the berry. Then cut off the LED/berry with wire cutters or scissors. Strip both wires on the berry and both wires left on the main string where you just cut the berry off. Feed the wires on the berry through the from the front and push the berry into the hole. Now reconnect the wires using the marks you made earlier to make sure you match the wires up as they were before. You could solder them if you have a soldering iron, or just twist them and then cover the twist with electrical tape.
This is perfectly safe because even though they plug into the mains, the LEDs will be running from a wall wart transformer and therefore the cables are only carrying low voltages.
Be careful in which order you fill each hole. You need to make sure the distance from one placement to the next is as short as possible otherwise the wire may not reach. You may have to extend a pair of wires to reach the next hole if this happens. Use the same technique as before by marking the wires to make sure you reconnect them the correct way round. I had to do this in 3 places as the distance between each LED on my string was quite small.
Once you have all the berries and LEDs installed plug it in to make sure everything is OK.
As you can see from the pic, I had a couple of bad connections. If you do too, just recheck everything and make good where needed.
Step 7: Finishing Off
Once all the LEDs are working and you are happy with everything, tape the wires to the back of the main board and tape over each LED to hold it in place. The berries should be a snug fit so won't come out, but if they do, just use a tiny spot of super glue to hold them in.
I then cut a small notch in the lower right corner of the frame on the back to allow the wire to pass through. I then tied a not in the cable just above the notch so the wire couldn't be pulled out.
Lastly, making sure the lights are unplugged, I cut the main wire about a foot below the frame and installed the in-line lamp switch. Plug it in and make sure everything is working.
I used a couple of brass picture fixing plates to screw it to the wall in my daughters room. You could just hang it like a picture or even just stand it on a table etc.
If you want you can cover the back in more 3mm MDF or even just use thick card.
My daughter was very happy to get her name in lights!
I hope you found this useful, but if you have any questions, or if I have missed anything, please let me know.