Thrill your neighbors with this highly animated Pie Tin Holiday Wreath, a new DIY lighting project for 2017. The project is powered with the fantastic GE Color Effects color changing holiday lights, which feature 6 colors and 40 functions. In automatic mode, this Wreath puts on an amazing 7-minute light show in your front yard. This is the fourth in a family of pie tin Instructables from me, including the pie tin Christmas Tree, the pie tin Hanukkah Menorah, and the pie tin Time Ball.
1 box of GE G-28 Color Effects Light String (36 Bulbs)
12 x 9-inch Aluminum Pie Tins (optionally sunstitute one 10-inch pie tin)
Backboard (4x4-ft piece of white plastic cardboard)*
36-inch Lighted Red Bow by Holiday Time/Walmart
Miscellaneous hardware/supplies for hanging etc.
*Note: 1/4-inch plywood or pegboard can also be used and may be easier to work with
Step 1: Purchase/Test the GE Color Effects Holiday Lights
This project is based on the newer GE G-28 Color Effects 36-count light string. Cost was $60 at Lowes.
Before you tamper with the bulbs, it's a good idea to plug in the string and test the operation. The Color Effects lights come with a remote control which provides access to 6 color choices and 40 different pre-programmed functions (steady, fade, chase, strobe, etc). An "automatic" mode creates a light show that cycles through all of the color/function choices and the resulting light show takes about 7 minutes.
The newer G-28 size bulbs are slightly smaller than the G-35 bulbs that GE had used for this product in the past. The G-28 bulb lenses seem a little easier to snap out of the base of the fixture, but they are also a little more fragile. GE offers 24 replacement lenses for a small charge ($5).
Other than light bulb size, the newer G-28 light strings are the same from a project design perspective. Hole size for the pie tins/base board is still 1-inch, and the distance between bulbs (about 10-inches) is unchanged. If you wanted to for some reason, you could replace the G-28 light bulb covers with spare G-35 light bulb covers, as the socket remains the same size.
Step 2: Prepare the Pie Tins
The Hefty or Reynolds E-Z Foil Pie Pans for 9-inch recipes look great as a reflector for the GE Color Effects bulbs.
The E-Z Foil pie tins are actually 8-3/4 inch inner diameter (inside the rim), which allows spacing them exactly 9-inches apart in this project. Using an X-Acto knife or equivalent, cut a 1-inch diameter hole in the center of each pie tin. A total of 12 pie tins are used in a circular pattern resembling a giant clock.
Optionally I used a 10-inch pie tin in the top 12 O'Clock position.
Step 3: Construct a Wreath-Shaped Base Board
For this project, the GE lights and pie tins will be mounted on a circular base board, typically made out of 1/4-inch plywood or peg board. Readers are referred to my prior Instructables (Pie Tin Christmas Tree and Pie Tin Hanukkah Menorah) for examples of a wooden base.
For the current Holiday Wreath project, instead of thin wood I tried white plastic cardboard from Home Depot, available in 4x8-ft sheets (Cost $20). The white plastic cardboard works, but seems to be a bit too flexible, which makes it harder to work with (e.g.; it is easier to snap the clear lenses off the lights when they are attached to a firm board). Therefore I suggest a wood base for future versions of this project A wooden base should last for many years. One advantage for plastic though, it can be cut out with an X-Acto knife vs. jig saw for the wood base.
As shown in the above diagram, cut the circular base out of a 4x4 sheet of base board (wood or plastic). I actually used a 36-inch diameter HO train track layout as a measuring guide.
Twelve 1-inch holes are then made to insert the GE Bulbs. The 12 holes are evenly spaced and lined up on 34-inch diameter circle. A little math shows that the straight-line distance between centers of the holes is 8.8-inches (the so-called "width of the arc"). This provides nice close spacing of the 9-inch pie tins, which looks best and gives the most slack in the cord of the light string. For reference, the bulbs on the GE light string are spaced about 10-inch apart.
In case the photos are deceiving, this is a big wreath, measuring about 48-inch high (not including the bow) and 45-inches wide to the tips of pie tins. Your neighbors cannot possibly miss seeing this lighted Wreath on your house.
Consideration must also be given to a method for hanging or mounting the wreath. One approach is to hang the tree from a thin rope. In this approach, a small wood block can be secured to the rear of the base board (with screws) to provide a place to mount an eye hook for attaching the rope. Finally, you will probably want to paint the wood base with dark green spray paint for waterproofing and appearance.
Actually, I will probably paint my base green on front, and orange on the back (for a future Halloween Pumpkin mode).
Step 4: Assemble the GE Lights Into the Wreath
OK now for putting the project together.
The Pie Tin Wreath incorporates some new artistic features Although we only need 12 out of 36 lights on the GE light string, the unused 24 bulbs are attached behind the base to provide a glowing back-light effect on the wall behind the wreath. This bulb attachment is easily accomplished with the plastic bulb mounting brackets provided with the GE lights. So that sense, all 36 lights are used. Prior projects I have used black tape to cover over bulbs not unused in the pie tin display.
The challenge when using only 12-lights out of a 36-bulb pre-programmed light show is picking the best 12 lights for the display. This requires some study of the light show as well as trial and error.
Suggested Bulb Positioning
Pie Tin Position: Bulb No./Color
12 O'Clock: Bulb #1 (Red)
1 O'Clock: Bulb #4 (Blue)
2 O'Clock: Bulb #8 (Green)
3 O'Clock: Bulb #11 (Purple)
4 O'Clock: Bulb #15 (Yellow)
5 O'Clock: Bulb #17 (Red)
6 O'Clock: Bulb #20 (Blue)
7 O'Clock: Bulb #24 (Green)
8 O'Clock: Bulb #25 (Purple)
9 O'Clock: Bulb #28 (White)
10 O'Clock: Bulb #32 (Blue)
11 O'Clock: Bulb #34 (Green)
(whereas Bulb#1 is closest to the wall plug and Color is defined for Multi/Steady mode)
(1) Insert all of the selected Bulbs into the pie tins as shown in the above photos.
(2) Then use the plastic bulb mounting fittings to place the unused bulbs behind the base. Use some twists and turns in the cords as necessary to take up slack.
NOTE: The plug ( and push button control unit) will be located near the the top of the display, which I am plugging into a outdoor light modified with a plug-in socket).
Step 5: Tips for Removing the Clear Plastic Lenses From the GE Lights
In preparation for mounting the GE lights onto the base board, you must remove the clear plastic lens from 12 specially selected lights (see next Step for the recommended bulb selections).
The GE Color Effects bulbs are not threaded, so they cannot be unscrewed. Instead the clear lenses have been "snapped" into a green plastic base by the manufacturer. You will need to (carefully) unsnap some of them off to insert into the base board, and then snap the lenses back on. Obviously, this could be considered tampering with intended use of the lights, which voids the 3-year limited warranty.
The good news is the newer G-28 size bulbs seem to snap out of the green fixtures quite easily. In case you crack one, you can usually still use it. If not you can buy replacements from GE. The trick is to pull fairly straight up, without too much sideways torque which could crack the lens at the base. Use gloves to be on the safe side, until you get the hang of it
One solution I've found is to build a bulb removal tool using an approximate 1x3-ft section of pegboard. As pictured, the removal tool features a nominal 1-inch diameter slot with a larger 1x2-in opening at the top. A 15/16-inch spade bit was used to make the slot in the picture, but presumably a 1-inch slot works just as well. The idea (as shown) is to secure the GE light fixture in the slot, hold the board firmly or step on it, and then pull the bulbs straight out with a quick yank. Interestingly, you will note the bulbs are completely empty -- the tiny color LEDs are surface mounted in the bottom base of the fixture, and protected with a clear plastic lens cover.
Another tip I sometimes use a toothpick to apply a very tiny drop of vegetable oil around the base of the lens, and then I spin the clear lens to spread the thin layer of oil. This makes it easier to snap off the lenses.
Some further precautions - most obviously, always unplug the lights before you take them apart. If the bulbs are pulled out at too much of angle, you may chip the plastic bottom of the bulbs. These damaged bulbs may still be usable however. More seriously, it is possible to crack the clear plastic lens cover over the surface mounted LEDs. It's also a good idea to work with the bulbs on a carpeted surface, as they tend to fall on the floor and crack. The good news is that this project only uses up to 12 out of the 36 lights on the string. So there will be plenty of spare parts. Additionally, you can practice your technique on the unused bulbs in the design.
Step 6: Attach Eye-Hook for Hanging
As shown, I usually use screws to attach a small piece of wood to the top of the base for hanging the Wreath.
Step 7: Accessorize the Wreath (Red Lighted Tinsel Bow)
Normally I design my own LED decorations, but for this project the store bought (Walmart/HomeDepot) Holiday Time 36-inch Lighted Red Tinsel Bow was a perfect match for the Pie Tin Wreath. Cost was $14. I routed the plug back up to the top of the Wreath, where it is near the plug for the GE lights.
Step 8: Custom Light Show Option
The ultimate display solution used by hobbyists is to electronically hack into the GE Color Effects lights to provide a custom light show Assuming no problems, I hope to provide instructions here shortly for an Arduino-based custom light show option.
Those skilled in the art of LED electronics/wearable displays will immediately recognize that the Pie Tin Wreath looks just like a gigantic Adafruit 12 RGB LED Neopixel Ring (see Amazon.com).