Every February I used to feel sad as my Dad's and my own birthdays are back to back this month. I never got to know my dad growing up, hence the sadness. One year I decided to do something joyful for my dad, and for me. I created a memory heart as a gift for him. Now I hang them up every February. People love them. Traffic drives slower on my street. People toot their horns. I have had notes left by my front door expressing gratitude for the hearts. Complete strangers recognize us out in public as the people with the hearts. It has been really fun.
The first heart I made back in 2010 had a chicken wire frame. It was 5 foot tall and just magnificent. This year I discovered these wire frames that are much easier to work with. I still have and hang the chicken wire heart though, That one is special
Step 1: Materials and Tools
24 inch heart wreath form (purchased from the Maine Wreath Company)
Led outdoor fairy lights about 9.5 meters long
10 foot long piece of 1/2 inch electrical conduit (we had them bend it for us at the hardware store see step 2)
2 - #210 screw eyes
10 inches #14 black chain
2 - 1/8 inch x 1 inch S-hooks
Dark green outdoor spray paint for metal with satin or flat finish
black permanent marker pen
black plastic garbage bag
4 - #10 x 1 inch sheet metal screws
2 - 1/2 inch 2 hole strap
2 inch Deck Mate all purpose screw
50 foot outdoor extension cord or other length as needed
black Gorilla Tape
tools needed: drill, steel punch, needle nose pliers, pliers, screw driver, hammer
Step 2: Bending the Conduit
Using a conduit bender, bend the conduit at a 90 degree angle giving you about a 27" horizontal arm to hang the heart off of. We had them do this for us at the hardware store. (thanks to Gina at Home Depot)
Step 3: Wrapping the Lights
Before starting I always test the strand of lights to see if it is working.
Hang the heart frame at a convenient height with a bungee cord. Use a clothes pin to anchor the led lights at the second light in from the controller box at either the top on one hump or at the widest part of one side of the heart frame.
Start wrapping on the lights. Try to space them evenly. I looped the plug end through the bungee hook to keep it out of the way as I wrapped.
When you get close to the bungee hook, re-position the heart and keep on wrapping. Tuck the tail end under a previous wrap when you get to the end. I made about 3 circuits around the heart before I got to the end of the light strand.
Step 4: Measure and Mark for the Holes
Measure in 4" from the end of the short arm of the conduit and place a mark with the permanent maker.
Repeat 18 1/2" in from the end.
Using a hammer and steel punch, tap a divot into the conduit where the screw eyes will end up being so the heart hangs down from the arm. This keeps the drill from slipping.
Step 5: Drill and Screw
Drill two small holes at the divots, wearing eye protection. Vacuum up the metal shavings. (we called this the suction step).
Screw in the screw eyes.
Step 6: Add Chain and Paint
Separate the chain into 2 equal pieces about 5 inches long. Do this by opening one of the links with needle nose pliers.
Place the open link of the chain into the screw eye and squeeze it shut.
Repeat with other piece of chain.
Slip one end of an s hook into end of each chain and squeeze shut with pliers.
Take the conduit outside and spray paint it with the dark green spray paint.
Step 7: Add Heart
Lay the conduit assembly down flat and position the heart in place so that the side of the heart with the control box is closest to the long upright leg of the conduit.
Hook the open ends of the s-hooks onto the heart frame at the top of the humps.
With pliers, gently squeeze the s-hooks shut taking care to not damage any led lights.
Step 8: Protect the Control Box
Using a black permanent marker, draw over the last led light bulb next to the controller box.
I also did this to the led bulb next to this one if it was going to end up hanging too far from the heart. This preserves the integrity of the heart shape when it is shining at night.
Step 9: Protect Control Box
Even though these lights claim to be outdoor lights, protecting the control box makes them last longer.
Cut a rectangle out of the double layer of the trash bag that measures 8 inches by 16 inches.
Fold it in half to form an 8 inch square.
Roll in the sides and tape them down to form a sleeve for the control box.
Slip the control box into the sleeve and fold in the ends and tape them around the wires.
Step 10: Secure Control Box
Using the black electrical tape, tape the control box in its plastic sleeve to the conduit so that the opening hangs down and that the button on the control box is facing away from the conduit. It will either be positioned to the side of the heart or above it depending on where you started wrapping the led lights on.
The flashing sequence of these lights tends to change over time, so placing the button facing out is important. You want to be able to press it through the plastic sleeve.
Step 11: Placement
Using the #10 sheet metal screws and the 1/2" 2 hole straps fasten the long leg of the conduit to your fence post. Take care to make it as level and plumb as possible.
To keep the heart from turning in the wind we placed a 2 inch screw through the conduit into the fence post. This also allowed us to raise the heart a couple more feet in the air over where it would have been if we had let the conduit end sit on the ground.
Step 12: Plug It In!
Plug in the heart using an outdoor rated, dark green extension cord. If you spiral the cords around the conduit it looks neater. Wrap the juncture of the cords with black gorilla tape to seal out rain.
Step 13: Ta Da!
These heart frames come in sizes as big as 48 inches. Next year I want to add more sizes and to hang some of them in our trees. I also noticed that star shaped frames are available. Sounds like a summer project to me.