Intro: Custom Size Christmas Star (for Outdoors)
My mother lost her outdoor Christmas star due to moving and I thought to myself I have all the materials I would need to make one, so why not give it a try.
The idea is to make a custom sized star to fit your or my application. If you are lucky and have all the materials laying around then you can save money too.
Here is a look at what we will be making.
Step 1: Determine Your Size.
The best part about what I am going to tell you is that you will be able to basically make any size star with these instructions. I originally wanted to make a 3' star to put on the chimney, but my family talked my into this smaller one.
So the first thing to do is determine where you would like your star to go. Next measure to find the approximate width of your star. Note the height of the star will be slightly less than the width. In the diagram below we just measured the line AC we will use that to find the length of the arms of the star (AF).
Note: Once the lights are added to the frame the width of the star will be greater then just the frame. To avoid making the finished star to large decrease your width (AC) by 1-1.5 inches.
The length of your arms (AF) will be approximately 38% of your width (AC). Once you do your calculation round the number to something nice (measurable).
Here's are the numbers for my star:
The width of my star can be 27". I multiply 27 by 38% or 0.38. The length I come up with is 10.26 inches. I round this down to 10.25". Nice and measurable!
Step 2: Gather Your Tools and Materials.
-Wire for the star's frame. I used an 8 gauge galvanized wire that I had on had. I would not suggest using a gauge higher than 8. Especially if you are making a bigger star.
-2 pieces of wood. I used some 6-8" scraps of 2x4 I had.
-Miter saw, or something that will allow you to accurately cut angles in the wood.
-Hammer, clamps, wire cutter or hack saw.
-Something to attach lights to the frame. 20 gauge wire, zip ties, tape, string, plastic light clips.
-Hardware for mounting or hanging your completed star.
-Optional: Spray paint. White, black, green it doesn't really matter. Match the lights or the wire of the lights. I didn't feel the need to paint my frame since it's galvanized.
Step 3: Make Wood Forms for Bending.
We will cut the two angles, 36 degrees and 108 degrees, into our pieces of wood.
Warning: Be sure to take the proper precautions when using power tools. Proper eye and hearing protection should always be used.
Adjust your miter saw to 36 degrees and make your cut. Now adjust the saw to 18 degrees and make your next cut on the other board. The photos show where the angle we need is at on the board. It might be helpful to make them.
Optional: For a little extra help while bending I decided to cut a dado into the 2x4's. The dado is deep and wide enough to fit the wire into it almost flush. This helps with clamping and bending. I used my table saw to get a nice cut. This could also be done with a dremel/rotary tool or even a wood rasp.
Step 4: Start Bending Your Star.
The first bend we will make is with the 36 degree block. Make the first bend with 3-4 inches of over hang. We will use this to close the star when all the bends are done. From the first bend measure out your arm length (AF) that we calculated in step one, and mark it. This will be the point of the next bend.
With the 108 degree block make the bend on the outside of the star. Don't forget to clamp to previous part to the block, it makes it much easier. You can use the hammer to help make the bends. It doesn't have to come to a perfect point as long as it resembles as star when we're all done it's good.
Continue making bends alternating 36, then 108 degrees. Five of each and you will be all done bending!
Now close up the star. I just wrapped my small gauge wire around the overlapped part a few times. It could also be welded, epoxied, or taped. I felt that once all the lights were added it wouldn't come apart.
Tips:I found it helpful to cut my wire to just more than the length I needed (I have a large coil). just multiply your AF measurement by 10 and add an extra foot. Straitening out the wire and as much as possible also helps out, as well as doing the work on the ground (I did it in my garage on the concrete). Doing it on the ground allows you to stand on the block so it won't move when you hit it.
Also if you are making your star larger then a couple feet wide you may wan to start adding cross braces. Simply run the smaller gauge wire across the inside of the star (keep it taught) to help stiffen it up.
Step 5: Attach the Lights.
If you wanted to paint your star frame now would be the time to do so.
Pick your fastener of choice and start to attach the lights. Start and the end that plugs in. I used a zip tie to start so I could tighten it down without damaging the lights. I am using a string of 100 mini white lights. The box says that the lighted length is 29'. That is enough to go around my star just over three times. To figure out who many lights you will need multiply your AF by 10 and that's what you will need to go around your star one time.
As I went around the frame I used three foot length of my 20 gauge wire to wrap the wire to the frame. Snug but not tight enough to damage the electrical wire. Continue to wrap until all the lights you want on the star are on. When I was done wrapping I added a few green zip ties for extra security.
Step 6: Hang Up Your Star.
Determine the hardware that you need to hang your star. If you are going to use a ladder read the safety guidelines and have someone hold the ladder if necessary.
I used a single heavy duty hook to hang mine up with. I added a large zip tie to ensure it would not come off of the hook.
Now all you need to do is run power to it and your all done.
Now wait until it get dark and enjoy your newly made custom sized star decoration.
The cost to complete my star was $0.00. I had everything I need at my house laying around. Little or no cost was my goal here, so use what ever you have, be creative!
Step 7: UPDATE 2009!
When I originally created my star I just used the lights that I had already. I had the idea of trying out some rope lights on the frame, thinking they would give a better effect.
So this year I purchased a 12' white LED rope light set and attached them to the star. I was able to go around my star one time and I had about 14 inches left over (I blacked part out with electrical tape and the rest I put up on the roof).
To attach it I used a combination of methods. I tried to only use the clips included with the rope light but it didn't come with enough (I added hot glue to the clips to help keep them in place). So I added some of the enameled tie wire to it. I even used some electrical tape in places.
To make the tight outside angles I made loops in the rope and blacked out the excess with a couple layers of electrical tape.