Aardy R. DeVarque (aardy) wrote,
Aardy R. DeVarque

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Homemade Christmas decorations

I wanted to make the house a bit more Christmas-y this year, but didn't have the time, energy, and money to spend hanging lights all over the outside of the house, nor the proper hooks (or wooden window frames for nails) to hang lights on the inside. I'd tried hanging light strings from the strings of the blinds of two windows with paperclips, but the end results were, shall we say, not the sort of thing happy memories are made of.

A week before Christmas, on a day when I was on vacation but kateshort had to work, I scratched a creative itch that's been scuttling about the back burners of my brain for a while.

I made a snowflake out of Christmas lights.

Obviously, my photography leaves a little to be desired, and the drizzle that was coming down didn't help, but there it is.

My inspiration for this was a house up the street from me when I was growing up, where they'd taken two sheets of plywood and some strings of Christmas lights and created their own decorations. The one I remember best was Snoopy in a Santa suit, and the wood was painted so that it looked "right" both day and night.

To start out, I pulled out my drafting kit; in particular a 30-60-90 triangle, a T-square, and a compass. I took a piece of printer paper, drew a line down the middle the long way, then used the triangle to make lines looking something like this:
/\  /
\/  \
The diagonal prongs on the right side reached to the corners of the paper, and the triangle + T-square made sure that the angles were exactly what I wanted, so it didn't take long to draw and I didn't have to do any measuring. I then used the triangle to make hash marks at the center of every diagonal line, and drew large dots over each, at the end of each line, and one more half-way between the "diamond" and the "fork".

Then I took five more sheets of paper, stacked them under the first one, and used the compass to punch holes through all six. After that, it was relatively easy to spread out the six sheets of paper in an asterisk pattern. Getting the holes that ended up being "shared" by two or three sheets to line up was trickier than I thought it'd be, largely because my hole punching wasn't quite exact. So I pulled out a box of 1-inch wire nails, threaded them through the shared holes, and soon had a snowflake template that was reasonably lined up. At that point, I taped the pieces of paper together and put the nails back in the box.

I then went out to the garage and pulled out a 2-foot square piece of heavy corrugated cardboard that was left over from a large box I'd cut down but hadn't recycled yet. I used the T-square to mark reasonably straight edges that were still large enough to fit my paper template, and cut it down to the new markings. Then I roughly centered the template on the cardboard, aligned it the way I wanted it, taped the template to the cardboard, and punched the holes through the paper into the cardboard.

The compass obviously wouldn't make holes big enough for Christmas lights to pass through, so I got an awl and used that to widen all the holes. The holes still weren't big enough--the sockets of the Christmas lights were much wider than I'd thought--so I checked my drill bits to see if I had anything wider I could use as an awl. No luck there. Looking about for something else I could use, I decided to try a needle-nose piers. That ended up being just the ticket. My wrist and elbow were aching by the end of it, though, having now gone over all 49 holes three times.

With the holes done, it was time to string the lights. Actually, I lied earlier about not doing any measuring; the only measuring I had to do was to find the distance between two Christmas lights on the string I was using, so that I could plan out how far apart to make the holes and be able to successfully string the lights. With that hurdle already crossed, stringing the lights was easy. (Because there were 49 holes and 50 lights on the string, one ended up pointing backwards, out of sight from the street.)

From there, I rigged up some twine and paperclips to suspend the cardboard from the support for the blinds in our second bedroom, dug out an extension cord, and plugged it in. Worked like a charm. I was a little concerned at first about the potential flammability of light bulbs in such close proximity to glorified paper, but after leaving it on for a few hours and keeping an eye on it, I found that I could still touch my hand to the lights without any discomfort. So I decided that since the string itself was UL rated (making shorts/sparks unlikely at best) and the bulbs weren't getting even remotely close to 451° F, I wouldn't worry about it.

Voila, one home-made Christmas light snowflake. All told, it took a few hours to complete, but a large part of that was creating the template, figuring out the logistics, and hunting for tools.

Except for being so large that it can't be hung in the window without being partially blocked by the horizontal center bar that divides the two window panes, I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out. Maybe for next year I'll use the compass as a compass and make a snowman...

Feudalism: Serf & Turf
Tags: christmas, decorations, diy

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