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Eric Adem

Easy Way To Wrap Lights

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Just wanted to share an idea I'm trying out for the first time this year.  I wrap my palm trees, porch columns and balcony columns with lights and they're divided into several colors and several vertical positions (5 for the palms, 3 for the columns).  Every year I get up on a ladder and hand-wrap everything, and it can be very tedious and I tend to procrastinate about doing it.  Also, taking it down at the end of the season, I always wind up with a big ball of lights that gets thrown into a box because by that point, I don't want to put any time into it.

 

So, I figured out an easier solution.  I'm cutting chicken wire into rectangular pieces that have a height matching the height of an individual section of the lights and a width equal to the circumference of whatever I'm wrapping the lights around.  Then I lie it flat on the ground and attach the lights in a zig-zag pattern using the cheapest zip ties I can find.  Then when it comes time to put the lights up in November, I just wrap it around the tree, tie it in the back with a zip tie (at the top and bottom), and do something to keep it from sliding down, which depends on what you're wrapping it around (tree, wood column, etc.).

 

Also, when you wrap things the manual way (without chicken wire), you actually waste the back 25% of the lights because nobody can see that from the street anyway (although you can see it from inside your house).  Attaching it to chicken wire makes it much easier to budget your lights and make sure that you're only attaching it to the part of the chicken wire that will be visible from the street.  Also, this technique facilitates being able to add things later likes strobes, etc.

 

If anyone wants to see photos, let me know and I'll be happy to do that...

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I was planning something similar with my big tree trunks in the front yard.  The only worries I had is how visible the chicken wire is at night time.  And also if it would enhance the likely hood of GFCI trips with all that conductive metal around the wires.  It is a brilliant idea, love to see a nighttime pic too.

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You could use black hardware cloth from Lowes or Home Depot. It is actually made from black plastic and is a grid like material and comes in a roll. It was what I used way back when I made a singing pumpkin face. http://www.lowes.com/pd_157763-13113-751397_0__?productId=3457514&Ntt=hardware+cloth&pl=1&currentURL=%3FNtt%3Dhardware%2Bcloth&facetInfo=  There is also plastic covered steel version for more money.

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You could use black hardware cloth from Lowes or Home Depot. It is actually made from black plastic and is a grid like material and comes in a roll. It was what I used way back when I made a singing pumpkin face. http://www.lowes.com/pd_157763-13113-751397_0__?productId=3457514&Ntt=hardware+cloth&pl=1&currentURL=%3FNtt%3Dhardware%2Bcloth&facetInfo=  There is also plastic covered steel version for more money.

Thanks!  My fingers are really gonna hurt after all those zip ties. lol

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I love the idea of using the plastic hardware cloth instead of metal chicken wire. I assume that's probably available in different colors too, so you can match the color of your tree, column, etc. I've already started building mine so I'll stick with the chicken wire for now. I'll try to get those photos posted in the next few days!

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Also, another point concerning wiring up the lights: If you're doing multiple colors, connect them to the chicken wire at the same time so you can share the zip ties between them and use only half / third / whatever as many.  And don't over-tighten the zip ties.  The only need to secure the light to a certain point on the chicken wire and you want to leave enough room to get a pair of wire cutters in there later on, if you want to swap out a strand.  Also, label your plugs with color coding labels so even the process of plugging everything in is much easier!  I found these 1/4" diameter color coding dots for only $2.38 for a box of 450 (that's per color).  And they have red, green, blue and white, as well as other colors.

 

http://linton.stores.yahoo.net/1dipeaddibox.html

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Okay, here are the photos I promised. I just finished wiring up the first section of lights that has two channels, one red and one green. First, the supplies used. Chicken wire, lights and zip ties. The chicken wire was previously measured and cut using wire cutters: anebypys.jpg One section wired up: ja6emu8y.jpg A close up of where the lights are attached to the wire using a zip tie: gu4yvy8e.jpg The view from the back once installed on the tree, using bigger zip ties: ady7evyg.jpg How it looks during the day. Yep, you can definitely see the wire during the day: yny6a8yv.jpg Finally, the view at night with both red and green channels turned on: abavegam.jpg Sure, the photo is only ten feet away or so but I tried taking it from across the street and while it looks good in person, the photo didn't do it justice. Anyway, I'm pleased with the results and in fact, some of the color is reflected off the chicken wire as you can see in the photo, a side effect I didn't expect. So I'll be busy the next few days measuring, cutting, and tying!

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Great idea. I wonder if you spray paint the wire the same color as the tree you're wrapping, so the wire blends more? I think matching paint to the color of any tree would be easier than finding colored wire.

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Could be painted, sure, but I actually like the reflection of the color off the metal, and paint would diminish that. So I'll stick with it the way it is, but others would probably want to paint to camouflage it. Good idea!

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vkjohnson mentioned using the black plastic hardware cloth and after working with the chicken wire for a bit, I decided to start over with the plastic stuff. The chicken wire was tough to cut. You had to use wire cutters and could only cut one square at a time. So it took forever and I kept scraping myself with the sharp edges. So I seriously recommend the plastic hardware cloth instead. I got it from Home Depot. Good luck!

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You should post some pictures of the black plastic hardware cloth with the lights. Do you have to punch hole in it or are the squares the same as chicken wire?

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Sure, give me a few days to get a section of the hardware cloth wired up with lights and I'll post some pictures. I just bought a few rolls this morning and haven't started on it yet. It has the same basic holes as chicken wire and can be cut much more easily with regular scissors. The number of holes you cut through is only limited by the length of your scissors and you won't get blisters in the process. So I'll post more photos in a few days.

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I picked up 5 rolls of the hardware cloth this weekend.  I'm starting on this myself in the next week or two.  I'll chime in when I learn something.  It looks like it should go pretty well.  It's just like the chicken wire above, only made of plastic and colored black from the factory.

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Yes, thank you thank you for the idea with the plastic. I hated working with chicken wire and it didn't seem like storing it after December would go very smoothly...

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Yes, thank you thank you for the idea with the plastic. I hated working with chicken wire and it didn't seem like storing it after December would go very smoothly...

credit goes to pc user keitha.  They mentioned it first, but it's definitely a great idea.

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I took the plunge and got started on this.  I used the black plastic hardware cloth.  I have two very thick maples in the front yard that I wrap with lights on the bottom 10 feet of the trunk.  This took a full afternoon to do in the past.  I expect this to be much easier now.  I will be covering them in clear, red, and green minis.  The clears are actually divided into 8 channels on each trunk, red and green are being added new this year on their own channels.  Here's an example of what they look like animated if you're interested.  Comes on at 1:07. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jMCJkAPh80

 

Before I started with the lights I checked how the cloth fit.  This ended up a great idea.  The plastic does not contour well, so I had to cut (easy with a utility knife) relief joints to let it flair out at the bottom with the trunk. (see link below)  I then temporarily ziptied a rope to the bottom edge to mark how far apart I needed to stretch the cloth when I took it back to the shop.  When I got it back to the work table I pulled the plastic cloth apart at the joints so the rope was tight and started with my lights.  I ziptied about every foot and on both sides of my cuts.  I kept making sure that I was not pulling the strands tight, so they would be loose enough to expand with the joints I cut at the bottom.  The rope I ziptied to the bottom helped me know how loose to make them.  After I finished with the lights on the bottom half where I cut the joints, the top was super fast.  If you have a perfectly strait trunk and don't have to cut little slits in the plastic like I did, this will be much faster.  My next layer of hardware cloth will not need cut like the bottom, so I expect it to take half the time...maybe an hour to do a 3ft by 8ft piece.   I am very satisfied with how it turned out.  It does get to be kind of heavy.  I managed to put 7 strands each of clear, red, and green on one 3x8 piece, however it is so easy to roll up and store away.  The black cloth disappears at night and all you see are the lights.  Pics of it on the tree here... (I have some other albums posted too)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/sets/72157635576849394/

bring on any questions.  I hope I explained well enough.  It would be easiest to not cut the expansion joints like I did, but I was picky about how it would fit at the bottom.

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