Do you need a very simple and very inexpensive star to build? Here's one you can build in a couple of hours or so using only:
- 5 wire coat hangers,
- A rope light (or other Christmas string type lighting of your choice),
- Some twist ties (or cable ties), and
- Some box tape.
My Total Cost: $5 for the rope light and under $2 for a new set of wire hangers.
My Total Time: About 2 hrs? (Slowed down by taking photos for this Instructable.)
In this Instructable, I'm going to:
- Point you to how you can calculate the size of your own star;
- Show how I made the wire frame using the 5 coat hangers; and
- Show how I attached the rope light to the frame.
Then you can see a bit more of my own finished star.
Step 1: I Really Wanted a Star This Year! (And Acknowledgements.)
(Skip ahead to the next step if you don't want to know the thoughts behind the project.)
I've wanted a lighted star for the top of our outside "Christmas Cone" (aka Christmas Tree) -- for years. Any type of lighted star. Our tree just seemed unfinished without something on top, bugging me more and more every year, but we just didn't seem to have the time to focus on it.
- Despite this, at night, I browsed several Instructables showing large stars. Very impressive, some of them.
The last one above stuck in my head as the most feasible for me at this time. Some heavy wire and a smart couple of jigs to help with bending the angles.
But honestly, even building the simple jigs could be a rabbit hole down which I would fall for too long, distracting me from other projects in progress. Despite this, I grabbed a box at Aldi's -- one 18ft long rope light, indoor/outdoor, $4.99 US. (While I could! These things go fast!). If I was going to make something, it would have to be a very quick project!
As I mused in the back of my mind on where that leftover heavy gauge galvanized wire might be ( I know we have some somewhere?)... the electric fence wire would be too flimsy... have to fit in a trip to the store?...
Then, my eyes lit upon some coat hangers. Ends like a star point? I grabbed two and laid them out. Rummaged for two more. Found a fifth... this seemed feasible. My star doesn't have to be perfect! It was a gamble... but it paid off.
Thanks to those who published the previous projects to give me a head start. The end results are a lot better than I could hope to expect for the time and money invested.
Step 2: Materials/Tools: Yup, 5 Coat Hangers & a Rope Light...
For a star about 2 foot high. (Determined by the size of the wire hangers.)
- 5 Coat Hangers. Wire. (I actually went to the big evil box store and bought a set of
vinyl-covered hangers that match. $1.19? Figure they might tolerate the weather longer. )
- 18ft "Rope Light" (Mine came from Aldi's for $4.99 U.S.. You can use other types of light strings.)
- Twist Ties or Cable ties
- Box tape, clear. (You could use cable ties here, too.)
- A Sharpie marker
- Tape measure or ruler
- Protractor. (Or drawing of a symmetrical Star to estimate the angle in the tip of a point.)
- Tri-square or Carpenter's square. (Or even a piece of 8X10 paper with square corner -- a 90 degree angle in it.)
Step 3: Size of the Star
I wasn't picky about the size of my star. I just let the coat hangers set the size.
If you want to know
- how tall your star will be once you have your coat hangers...
- or figure out how far across between two opposite points it will be, so you can figure out how many light strings you need, etc.,
...for any sizes for a star, I've placed the calculations for a "Symmetrical 5-pointed Star" in a second Instructable:
I hope that'll give you a good start at the calculations.
Step 4: Preparing the Coat Hangers (10 to 15 Minutes)
[See the first photo here for the names I'm using for the parts of the hanger:
- NECK, SHOULDER, TOP EDGE, BOTTOM EDGE, POINTY END (OR TIP).
- There's also the UNUSED SIDE (OR END) of each hanger. ]
- Straighten out the little "shoulder" of the first hanger. (Just bend the wire if necessary a bit to give yourself more of a straight edge.)
- You could also bend the pointy corner if you want. I didn't bother, because the rope light is going to be rounded at the tips of my star points anyway.
- Place your tri-square [ or something else with a square edge like a sheet of 8x10 paper] along the top edge of the first hanger. ( Start from the pointy corner of the hanger. Lay the tri-square or a straight edge alongside one of the upper wires up to the neck of the hanger.)
- Mark the top edge of the hanger up near the neck. Measure (or save) this length. This is the length of a side of one of the 5 points of the star. (Lock the tri-square at this length. Or make a mark on the paper along the edge.)
- Transfer the measurement to the bottom edge of this hanger.
- Transfer these marks on both top and bottom edges to all 5 hangers, front and back.
Adjust the angles of all 5 hangers.
This is a symmetrical star, with 5 equal points. Grab the hangers in the middle at the necks and bottom wires -- all 5 at once will work. Widen the two sides so the angle of the pointy tip is about 36 degrees. Just pull on the hangers. The distance between the marks you made on the top and bottom edge should be about the same for all 5 hangers.
You can use a drawing of a star point as a pattern to get the angle right if you need it.
Step 5: Layout the First 2 Hangers for Bottom of Star Frame. Tie Together.
Form the Bottom 2 points of the star's wire frame:
Take 2 hangers. Arrange as shown, symmetrically around a vertical middle axis and mirrored with respect to each other.
- The neck/shoulder markings of both hangers meet/overlap.
- The two unused and intact TOP WIRES (not the top wires used for the star's points) lie vertically inside the frame, overlapping each other.
- The unused pointy ends of both hangers meet at the center top.
Tie together at 3 points as shown.
Step 6: Layout Next 2 Hangers for "Middle" of Star. Tie Together.
The left hanger here is only rotated a bit from its original position.
The right hanger is flipped and rotated up a bit.
The shoulders of each hanger should be about horizontal.
The distance between the marks on the two shoulder markings of these two hangers should be your "inner chord" distance. Use this to help position the two hangers in relation to each other and the bottom two hangers already tied together.
Twist tie these 2 hangers into the bottom 2 hangers as shown. The frame will not be totally rigid yet.
Step 7: Add in the Last Hanger (Point) to the Wire Frame.
Rotate the 5th hanger into position.
Spread the middle 2 hangers until the Inner Chord is the right measurement.
If necessary, bend the hook part of the hanger to align with the sides of the points a bit.
Watch the other tie points - -they'll be slipping until the frame is secured.
Start adding Twist Ties (or Cable Ties) wherever else you can in the middle.
The first few ties will seem a bit loose, but the frame should actually be very firmly held together without too many twist ties in the end, and in a good symmetrical star shape.
Step 8: Add the Rope Light. We Taped It On.
You can do this your way. I chose to go across from point to opposite point of my star, instead of following the perimeter along the sides.
I found the middle of my rope light, and attached it first to each side of the top point of the star by wrapping a band of clear packing tape on each side of the point.
I wove the rope strands above the intersections with itself, then below, mostly in an alternating pattern where the left and right strand had to intersect. The rope was too long for one pass. We ran some of it behind the wire frame, taping it together firmly.
This star will only be outside a few weeks. We think the box (packing tape) will last that long. I'm sure it'll have to be replaced sometime in future years -- if the rope light lasts.
The star is very sturdy!
Step 9: Hanging the Star. and Power Considerations.
Hanging this took about 2 minutes. Lowering and raising the birdhouse (it's on a winch), and tying the wire frame of the star on with just 3 twist ties to the railings on the birdhouse. It's actually very stable.
(The "tree" is actually a bunch of light strings connected in series staked to the ground, and hung from underneath the tallest of our purple martin houses, from a sturdy ring we suspend from the bottom of the house. We've kind of got erecting the "tree" down pat, and this year, my spouse ordered and replaced all the light strings with some commercial LED strings, which we hope will be more reliable than the ones available locally in the stores.)
Check your power ratings:
One note about electrical power. This rope light was rated at 0.27amps. We added this together with the ratings on the strings of lights to double check that combined, there would be enough power and we wouldn't blow a fuse or exceed the capabilities of the circuit or fuses in the strings. With LED strings, this is not so much of a problem, but it's not a step to skip.
Step 10: Waiting for Dark...
We're quite happy with the results. The whole project took a couple of hours max. The star is very sturdy. We'll see how the box tape and twist ties hold up. (Should really have used cable ties instead - this was just an experiment.)
We're enjoying the star! Give me a comment when you make something similar or better! :)