How to: Standard arches.

Mike

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Oct 22, 2010
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I thought I would write a how to on Standard arches seeing as there are none on the site. It covers the basic Arch wrapped in standard LED string lights. These have an overall length of about 2.8-2.9m and a diameter (spread) of around 1.6m from memory. This lets me have 10 controllable sections on each arch. As a general rule most people like a minimum of 8 sections on each arch. This makes the “jump” nice and smooth.

This is not the hidden wiring method some do. Reason being is I like to see what condition the wires are in and it also makes it easier to replace a section if needed.

Note: this how to is written using the BigW lights but can be adapted for any strings you would like, but section lengths may vary. Also if you use a thicker pipe your section length will vary as well. See this link on modifying BigW LEDshttp://auschristmaslighting.com/forums/index.php/topic,362.0.html

You will need:
Strings of lights (400 BigW LED strings are used in these arches)
½” Electrical conduit , normally comes in a 4.2m length
Cable ties
Conduit cutter (or hacksaw) can be bought at Bunnings for about $15 and leaves a nice clean cut. Also good for cutting ropelight to length.

A wire stripper
Soldering Iron
Extra wire for the extensions (18AWG speaker wire works well)
Marker pens and Tape measure
Connectors ( I use the Deans style plugs , but use what you like)
We also get discount on these with Hobby Unicorn. See http://auschristmaslighting.com/forums/index.php/topic,548.0.html

Heat shrink

I start off by unravelling the lights and cut them into 40 LED sections (roughly 4m) you should get 5 sections out of a pack of 200 lights. Then I put them all in an empty box just to keep them in a kind of neat tidy manner.
Next is to set up something to work off. I use the outdoor chairs, but you could use anything you can rest the pipe on.
2011-10-21 15.40.48.jpg

What I like to do is give myself some extra space from the floor to avoid condensation etc and keep the lights off the floor. I measure 100mm from the end of the pipe and mark it. This is where the first section will begin. You can use a different measurement here if you like. I also start at the non flared end so I can use the off cuts for something else.
2011-10-21 15.40.59.jpg

Take your first set of lights and cable tie them fairly tight to the pipe on the mark you have just made. Make sure you leave enough of a tail so you can strip the wires and connect them to the extensions. Generally I cable tie just before the first LED. I do like to put the resistor as the first connecting LED but it does not really matter if you do it the other way round.
2011-10-21 15.45.40.jpg

To start wrapping all you need to do is wind, wind, wind, wind. Make sure you are getting a good even wrap that is firm, not real tight or you make break wires or solder joints. Keep laying it next to each other, there should be no real big gaps that you can see the pipe through. The section of 40 LEDs come in at about 260mm each give or take a cm each way depending on how tight the wrap is. The trick is to keep this length fairly consistent. Rest the pipe on the chairs or bench that you have set up. This will get tedious and the pipe will get heavy and start to sag. I Like to take the off cut of pipe from a previous arch and push the flared end on to the start of the pipe I am wrapping. This enables me to rest that on another chair to support it a bit more.
Once you get to the end of the first section, cable tie just after the last LED so it does not unravel. Then it’s time to start the next section. Start the same as the first and try to keep the tail of the lights in line with the first section. This makes it easier and neater when connecting the extensions.
2011-10-21 15.47.06.jpg

Repeat the above steps until you reach the desired number of sections. In this case its 10.
2011-10-21 11.38.38.jpg

Once you have a completely wrapped pipe cut to length with the cutter 100mm (use a different spacing if you like). Measure the complete length and keep this the same throughout the arches or they will end up different sizes. You can use the off cut as a template for further cutting so you have a quick way to measure it.

Continued next post........
 

Mike

CLAP infected!
Joined
Oct 22, 2010
Messages
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Location
Rockingham, WA
Now for the wire stripping. Take your strippers and strip the tails of the start of each section. Test each section and find the negative and positive wires for each and mark with something like a red and black marker pen.
On these BigW lights they are a common positive so to save on wiring you can run 1 wire daisy chained to each positive wire for each section if you like. Then connect up the negatives in each section separately. These will be for the channel control on the board.
2011-10-23 14.26.10.jpg

Next take the wire you are going to use for the extensions and now solder them to their respective wires (positive and negative) and run them around 200mm past the end of the pipe to whatever side you wish. This will give you a good amount of room for the connectors. Label each section with their respective channel number and keep this consistent throughout the arches (dont label section 8 on 1 arch and the same section on the next arch 7) This should be pretty self explanatory.
2011-10-23 14.26.50.jpg

Cable tie all the extensions onto the arch so they are nice and neat. Don’t forget to heat shrink the joints to prevent water damage.

Now make up all the extension cords to go back to the controller. I run 1 positive wire back to the controller and split it into 10 (depends on how your controller is also set up). And then 10 negatives back to the controller, connected to each channel. This gives me a total of 11 wires per arch going to the controller instead of 20. If you wish run a positive for each one it’s up to you. The extensions are all made from 18AWG figure 8 speaker wire.

If you wish to drop your channel count you can connect the arches in parallel. This lets you control all arches at once using just the 10 channels (controller board channel load limit will apply here though).
Eg you have 3 arches with 10 sections each = 30 sections. Normally you would have a channel allocated for each section. If you connect them in parallel you can control them with just 10 channels. All you do is basically daisy chain them together. I did this last year and it worked well. You just don’t get that fireball chase look.

Test them all out and your done!!
Arches 1.jpg

I do hope this helps somebody who is starting out in this hobby[/attach]
 

SmartAlecLights

Im a SmartAlec what can i say!
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May 4, 2010
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Murray Bridge, S.A.
Great work Mike,
Now if people want to make a Red Green Blue arch using separate strings,
Here's my set of pic's to help them out

First i made a Wiring loom with all the sections an colours joined up ready

Then i did the same as you but i taped the wires to the pole an the lights wrapped over them
You can just see it here

In the you have lots of wires, i did 9 sections, so thats 27channels

In the end you have a lovely 9 section rgb arch

An boy was i happy when it was completed

Hope that helps showing how RGB can be added to a arch
 

Superman

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You should be very happy with that Alec, Thats a really tidy Arch you have there.
 

fasteddy

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Very nice work guys, thanks for posting the tips, it will sure help others in creating traditional arches.
 
I

indudio

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hey guys,

do you have information on how you actually mounted these in the yard? Ie attach them to the ground?
 

Superman

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I use a piece of 12mm re-bar bashed into the ground and just slide the conduit over it.
My re-bar lengths are 600mm long.
 

kane

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Trigg (Northern suburbs of Perth)
indudio said:
hey guys,

do you have information on how you actually mounted these in the yard? Ie attach them to the ground?
For my arches (which are pixel strip, but are still mounted to the same sort of PVC conduit), I use approx 400-500mm lengths of reo bar (steel used for reinforcing concrete), hammer them into the ground at a slight angle, leaving around 200mm above the surface, and then just slip the conduit over it.
 

Bird

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Nov 8, 2011
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Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
indudio said:
do you have information on how you actually mounted these in the yard? Ie attach them to the ground?
Same as the two above, 1/2" rebar 2 feet long, at an angle in the ground. I made an angled wood jig with a slot to rest the rebar in so I would easily get the same angle each year. Makes the job go a little faster and I don't hit my hand either. :)
 

Gray_magic

The CLAP is highly infectous and incurable!!!
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Sep 10, 2012
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brassall
I actually got sick of winding and got a drill and connected to the end. Got my wife to hold the trigger slow while I guided the strings on. Saved me about an hour of winding I think. Good to see the rebar belted into the ground was the inline with most others as this is what I planned to do. These arches on this thread are very neat. I sure hope mine end up looking like these ones.
 
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