Introduction: Neon Flex Snowflake - 49" Wide
While wandering through one of those membership warehouse stores I came across a Santa face that looked like neon but wasn't, and my imagination started firing. After searching around the internet I discovered it was most likely made from neon flex and I was in love.
I wanted to make a snowflake to go on the outside of the house for Christmas, but I hadn't worked with anything like it before so I wanted to make it somewhat simple as far as the process, and not do any electrical work that would involve more parts or soldering.
The goal for this project was to make something relatively quickly (because I know myself, and I tend to underestimate how long things will take), not use too many things I had to order other than the neon flex, and to have a finished project that was large but not too large to store.
This snowflake is 49" across from tip to tip and uses the neon flex, zip ties, some wood, wood glue, and wood screws. See the materials list for a full breakdown.
- 50' spool of neon flex (I used ollrieu brand LED Rope Lights, 110V 50Ft / 15m Flexible White Neon with IP68 Waterproof, 6000K Interconnectable, UL Approved, Indoor & Outdoor)
- 8" white zip ties - 102 at minimum, but 2 packs of 100 will allow for error
- 6 pieces of wood, each 1" x 2" x approximately 23" and 1 scrap of wood, 1" x 2" x approximately 3" (for the hanging wire) - we used pre-primed pine scraps from another project
- 2 pieces of 3/4" plywood, each cut into a hexagon approximately 8.5" across from tip to tip
- wood glue
- wood screws (to secure the arms to the hexagons, and to secure the hanging wire)
- drill and drill bit; drill bit wide enough to fit the zip tie through
- 100-pound picture hanging wire, approximately 18" (this was overkill, but it's what we had on hand)
- tape measure (either cloth or metal)
- ballpoint ink pen or permanent marker with a good point on it
- scissors or side cutters to cut the excess off the zip ties (side cutters will be easier on your hands)
Step 1: Before You Begin, and a Few Notes
- Before starting, plug in the neon flex and make sure that the whole thing lights up. I didn't have any issues but now is the time to find out if there is a defect.
- A note about positioning the zip ties: be sure that the clasp part of the zip tie is on the neon flex so that the back is flat--you'll be using more zip ties to attach the neon flex to the wooden structure, and if the ties are so that the clasp is on the back they'll not allow the neon flex to sit tightly against the wood.
In the photo above I had the zip tie positioned incorrectly and had to cut a bunch off and re-do them. You want the tail of the tie to go off to one side.
- I planned for the ends to meet at the bottom of the snowflake. This allowed for the power to come off one point which meant a shorter extension cord, plus having the weirdness of the ends being at the tip was--I hoped--going to make it easier to disguise. I think it worked!
- The neon flex is just flexible enough to throw off measuring or marking; try to keep it as straight as possible. If you're bending to find the mid point, make sure it's not leaning one way or the other because that will affect the accuracy of the measurements. That said, this is not an extremely high-precision project and no one will notice if it's not perfect.
- A ball-point pen worked really well to mark the back of the neon flex. Since the back is flat it's easy to mark and see.
Step 2: Dividing the Neon Flex Into Six Sections and Creating the Tips of Each Arm
Fifty feet of neon flex is a lot to measure, and I couldn't do it accurately laying it out on the floor so I enlisted a helper. It took both hands for each of us.
I started with three equal sections with some help, then folded each of those thirds in half to make six equal sections. A ball-point pen worked great to mark the back of the neon flex where the sections were.
This next part is much harder to describe than it is to actually do. The first sketch shows how we held it between two of us to divide it into three equal sections.
Person #1 holds one end in one hand and the helper holds approximately 1/3 of the way in one hand. In the other hand, person #1 holds a length approximately 1/3 from the other end, and the helper holds the end of the neon flex. With each person holding an end and about 1/3 from the end, slide the non-end parts until there are three equal sections of the neon flex and mark where the top of the loop is.
Once the 1/3 and 2/3 marks are made, bend the neon flex around so that the marks meet side-by-side. Then, holding the two sections together work your way to where it bends and mark where the top of the bend is. You can see that mark in the last photo above.
At this point you'll make the loops at the tips of each arm.
You'll want to lay this out right-side down, so that it's making a zigzag in a series of U shapes, with no twists in the neon flex, as shown in the third drawing.
Bend the neon flex around so that the marking is at the top of the bend, and place a zip tie 3 1/4" from the top of the bend. (The photos show the tie at 2 1/4" but that's for the small loop between the arms.) Now you're ready to do the fancy parts!
Step 3: Measure and Zip Tie the Sections to Make the Tips of the Snowflake
The trick to making each arm the same (or very similar) is to measure each section.
Following the drawing above, place zip ties as indicated. Since the white zip ties are slightly transparent, you can see your marks through the zip ties although that level of accuracy is not required.
Once you've placed the zip ties, you'll bend the loops up in the next step.
I completed each arm and then moved to the next one since going back and forth meant more wrestling with the neon flex.
Step 4: Bending the Section Up to Make the Arm
The loops are done by eye--once the zip ties are placed in the previous step, I found that things just naturally fall into place.
Using the photos above for reference, pull the side of the second section from the tip out to the sides and bend them as shown.
Place zip ties at the base of each loop and tighten them.
Loosely place zip ties between the first section and each loop, which will slightly spread the first section.
Bring up the second pair of loops, place zip ties at the base of each loop, and tighten them.
Loosely zip tie the second pair of loops to the first pair, as shown above.
You've completed one arm!
Repeat for the other four arms, placing them on top of each other to make sure the loose zip ties are similar. (That sixth arm is next but it's slightly different.)
Step 5: That Sixth Arm, and Adding the Center Loops
For the sixth arm, plug in the neon flex and determine where the illumination stops. Overlap the ends with them pointing in opposite directions and zip tie them together (at the top of photo 2 above). That overlap point will be the tip, and you'll measure, mark, and repeat the same steps for the arm as above.
Be sure that the neon flex isn't twisted.
To add the center loops, flip the snowflake so that it's face down.
Find the mid-point between each arm by lining up two adjacent arms and bending to find the middle between them. Mark this with a pen as before.
Create a loop that points to the outside of the snowflake and secure it at the bottom of the loop, just as with the tip of the arm.
Repeat five more times.
Step back and admire you work so far! (This is the fourth picture above.)
Step 6: Building the Wooden Support Structure
From pieces of 3/4" plywood, cut out two hexagons that are approximately 8 1/2" from tip to tip. (There are a number of ways to make that shape, depending on what tools you have, so I'm not going to cover that here.)
Glue the wooden arm pieces between the two hexagons, laid out as shown in the photos above, and secure them with screws. Since the glue is going to do most of the work, we only used one screw per arm. You are welcome to use more.
If your wood is not already painted, paint it white at this time and allow it to dry. We didn't bother painting the back but I might next year.
Step 7: Attaching the Neon Flex Snowflake to the Support
Tip #1: use another piece of wood behind where you're drilling holes to avoid tear-out.
Tip #2: complete one arm before moving to the next arm.
Lay out the snowflake on the support structure, then line up the end of one tip of the neon flex snowflake with the end of one arm.
Mark on each side of the neon flex, just below the zip tie that holds that first loop.
Drill holes where the marks are, then feed a zip tie through the holes and around the neon flex. Make sure the tip of the snowflake is positioned where you want it and tighten the zip tie so that top of that arm is secured to the support. Trim the excess zip tie.
Making sure that the rest of the arm of the snowflake is straight/taut, mark two more pairs of holes so that the arm is secured in the middle and just above where it splits to go to the other arms.
Repeat for the remaining five arms.
Step 8: Adding the Hanging Loop
Once you've got the neon flex attached to the support, you'll want to decide which arm should have the hanging loop.
For hanging on my house we decided to have the power come down from the bottom, so the hanging loop needed to go on the opposite side from the arm with the power.
I bent the picture-hanging wire into a loop so that it was doubled with about 3" excess on each end to have enough to wrap around the loop to secure the ends.
We secured the small piece of wood to the back of the top arm using wood screws, sandwiching the wire loop between the two pieces of wood and between the two screws.
Then we hung the snowflake from a hook on the house, plugged it in, and enjoyed our very, very bright snowflake.
Participated in the
Make it Glow Contest