Introduction: String Art Dome

I got into UV string art years ago but my projects kept getting bigger and the wood I was using for frames would not rebuild well. I then discovered how easy it was to build domes and thus was the beginning of the String Theory Dome. It progressed over the years as I wanted to make the lines not only move, but change colors too. This led me to learn high powered LEDs and to use side emitting fiber optics.

Step 1: Build a Dome

There are a few good websites out there that will teach you how to build a dome. I used a 3v 16ft 5/8ths dome. The site I used for help is

Follow the directions to build a dome. I also painted my three sizes of struts for easy assembly.

A drill press is key for this project. I picked this one up from harbor freight new for $70.

For string art we want an even amount of holes in each strut so patterns come out symmetrically. I put 16 evenly spaced holes in each strut. The bigger struts were spaced out a little bit more than the smaller struts. I used an 1/8th drill bit for the hole and used the appropriate 2" size drywall screw for each hole. Cut a 45 v shape slot in a 2x4 for a nice drill jig. Using the drill press, drill the holes with cutting oil. If the bit starts to wander off track, back off pressure or you will break the bit.

Step 2: Paint String

After much experimentation this is what I found works best.

I drilled a turkey pan down to a piece of wood with washers so it wouldn't tip over.

1 quart of paint to 1 roll of 264 yard red heart white yarn. Put the yarn an paint into the pan. Squeeze the paint all into the yarn. Tap two poles into the ground an arms length apart, slightly angled so the string doesn't touch the ground.

While one person squeegee's the paint on the yarn and unwrapping the roll into the paint, another person wraps around the drying poles. This is the very tedious part. Make sure you don't leave any white parts on the string. When you get to the end of the roll it will want to tangle. Instead of trying to pull it apart, carefully unwrap the painted yarn ball flipping it over. If you pull on it it will make a ton of slip knots, and well, thats no fun.

Set the yarn carefully to dry, you may want to fan the strings apart every 4-5 hours if really wet with paint. After drying, roll up the yarn on a dowel. If the yarn isn't tangled too much you can put the dowel or stick on a drill gun and wrap it up efficiently.

UV paint, you get what you pay for. Cheap paint will be dull and not as bright. Also since UV is the spectrum of purple, I would avoid using purple paint as it is the least brightest UV pigment. It's expensive but I've learned to used wildfire paint over the years.

Step 3: Power and Lights

For my first and second setup I used 6x 13-25w cfl black light bulbs with clamp lights. They have limited reach so I had to mount them in the upper part of the dome. I wanted a bigger throw of black light but still on a budget so I decided to go with the 400w American DJ cannons for around $200 each. I settled on 4 x of them so I also had to get a generator to handle at least 1600w of just lights. Don't let water or a raindrop touch the bulbs, or BAM!, there goes a $40 bulb, I bring extras.

Step 4: First String

From doing string art for a while I've learned to visualize the end result and then work backwards. You must first do the base layer and then layer the strings that go over that layer.

Helpers vs single artist.

I feel that string art should be symmetrical. If you have someone helping, the biggest challenge is making sure they don't skip a screw on accident. If it is one off and awhile until you notice it, it could be hours of restringing to fix the mistake.

It took about 2 1/2 days to string this the first time.

Step 5: The Second String

The second string was a few weeks later. It took me 36 hour to setup. This time I took video.

Step 6: Fiber Optics!

I developed 6 boards with the tlc5940 chip and the high powered circuits to handle the fiber optics.

At first I used prototype boards but I kept running into signaling problems so I eventually designed a pcb and daisy chained the boards. Heat sinking the high powered LEDs were also a challenge. I have since designed something better but this was my first configuration.

I found that cutting pens in half to fit over the 1w rgb LEDs will channel in the fiber optics perfectly. Over the years I have learned to tap 4-40 screw holes into an aluminum heatsink for the high powered LEDs. The pictures and video depict my first design of trying to epoxy them in between heat sink fins which work to an extent but not ideal.

I'll try to write up another instructable to cover the pcb design.

I also cut out mirrored plexiglass for a 3d effect.

The second video is the dome by itself with the fiber optics.

The side emitting fiber optic cable is sold as pool lighting. There are two types, one with an inner and outer core, and the other with just a solid core. The one with an inner core seems to be more flexible. It comes in many different sizes, the stuff you see here is 3mm. It cost anywhere from $.50/Ft - $1.50/Ft depending on if you source it from China.

The main downside to using this fiber cable is when it breaks I have to replaced the entire cable. Also if it gets crushed or just bent too much it will let too much light out and the rest of the cable will be dim.

Step 7: Third and Fourth Setup

Each time it takes me a few days to setup. The first time I setup the fiber optics was the pentagon on top. I found it to much of pain to work on it up top so the next few times I set it up as a pentagon on the side of the dome.

Step 8: Dusty Places

I built the dome with side emitting fiber optics for the burn twice. Both times I failed to get proper video and pictures before the chips failed to work properly. I couldn't bring my UV string along due to the dust as it would turn it to brown within a few minutes.

Step 9: One More Year in the Woods

This was the last year I built the dome. See the video for how the fiber optics work.

It takes me about 5 SOLID days to setup, first light to sun down. Each setup is different and unique.

If you would like a step detailed further please comment as it has been a few years since I built this.

Step 10: