Behind the scenes of Lights on Display, with projects, tips and relevant links.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Chasing Candy Canes

One of the elements of my display is a line of chasing candy canes bordering the front of my display. The canes are individually illuminated and controlled by one sixteen channel controller.

The 30" canes can be purchased at a home center, but they are not the illuminated canes that are often found as a group of three. The canes I use are solid White PVC and need to be modified. The results are much better and result in an even illuminated candy cane.

To create the chasing canes, I first start by cutting a half inch clear rope light into a three foot length, which is two rope light cut segments. I cap off the cut end of the rope light and add the power cord to the other end. 

Then, I carefully drill a half inch hole 2" up from the bottom of the candy cane. I choose the direction of the cane I want to face towards the audience, and drill the opposite side. Returning to the rope light, I cut off the plug, leaving 8" of wire attached to the rope light. Then I feed the rope light through the bottom opening of the cane. This may take some gentle twisting and wiggling to get the rope light through. I stop as soon as the end of the power cord reaches the drilled hole.  A small pair of long nosed plier can be used to pull the wire through the hole. Pull the wire and the rope light until the capped end of the rope light stops right at the top end of the cane. The same plug can be reattached by carefully wrapping it with electrical tape to protect it from the elements. A better and quicker alternative is vampire plugs that can quickly be attached to the cut ends.

Half inch sections of PVC pipe can be used to stake the canes into the ground. The pipe should easily slide into the base of the cane, but may need a small piece of Duct Tape wrapped around the top of the pipe to create some friction. Cutting the bottom of the PVC into a spike will help to drive the pipe into the ground. Small PVC hand cutters are perfect for this job. When placing the canes, you can either gently drive the PVC pipe into the ground with a hammer, or use a large screwdriver or rod to open up a hole in the ground. The canes can then be slid over the pipe and into place. Be careful not to force the cane down onto the pipe too far, which could severe the power cord.

An electrical harness of wires needs to be created, which will feed power to each cane from its corresponding plug on the controller. The easiest way to make this is with individual runs of lamp cord cut to the proper lengths and plugged on both ends. A more economical, but more time consuming and less bulky method is to create the harness using one common wire and sixteen hots. This takes some electrical know-how and will not be covered in this how-to.

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