Designed, Built and Written by Chris Batchelor
“BUILD IT FAST AND BUILD IT CHEAP”
That was my goal. Less than a week and under $100. Came close.
Step one was discovering The Fiber Optic Store online. I ordered the Combo Pack 400(100 ft. each of .25, .5, .75 & 1mm filaments) and the hard part was done. Then I warmed up the power tools and built a 6.5 x 4 ft. panel.
The panel is bordered with 1×4″ boards with a decorative edge routed on both the frame and side panels. Another frame of 1×2″ boards is behind that, with one brace across the center of the panel. The panel itself is made of a very lightweight material for bulletin boards. This helped keep the overall weight of the project around 40 lbs. To work on the panel, I added temporary “feet” to keep the frame off the floor, and a couple of legs at the top to steady it with rope at the ceiling. This let me add the stars and paint the panel in a comfortable working position.
NOTE: Some photos are ‘thumbnails’ Click on them for a larger image.
As I worked, I really wanted to see the stars “working” so that I could place the stars without the end-results being a mystery. So I clamped a scrap piece of the panel material to the center brace behind the panel and positioned a lamp below it. Then, as I threaded each star through the panel, I also threaded the filaments through the scrap material aimed at the light.
Then I could stand back and look at the front of the panel and see where the next star would look best. You can see that I snagged the Elmer’s glue from my kid’s school supplies and found this worked well for securing the filaments on the back of the panel.
I was able to use a fine needle for the .25mm filaments, and progressively larger safety pins to make the holes for the .5 and .75mm filaments. I finally had to drill to get holes large enough for the 1mm filaments. The needles penetrated the bulletin board material quite easily with even less back damage than drilling.
Having all of the filaments in the scrap piece made gathering them up in a bundle at the end very easy.
Following the Fiber Optic Store recommendations, I left each filament at least an inch long on the front of the panel, then painted the panel and filaments black.
After two coats of paint and letting the panel dry overnight, I used finger nail clippers to cut the filaments to about 1/4″ inch.
I would have loved to use one of the Fiber Optic Stores illuminators (and maybe I’ll snag one in the future), but remember my budget. A friend had bought one of those mini pre-lit fiber optic Christmas trees for about $20, and let me buy the illuminator and color wheel from it. Since this panel is the prototype and is going in my son’s room, the unrealistic colors were actually ideal.
My son fell asleep on the couch while my wife and I mounted the panel over his bed. Half asleep, he reluctantly let me guide him to bed. He looked up, paused and said “Whoaaaa!”, then climbed in bed and fell back to sleep under the twinkling stars.
This picture is a 1.6 second exposure, so the room appears brightly lit. Some light from the illuminator lights the ceiling around the panel, so you can see why I’d eventually like to get a boxed illuminator. Note the extension cord–I’ll run power to it through the attic later. Despite the quick construction and low budget, the results are more stunning than I ever imagined it could be. No small thanks to The Fiber Optic Store for great ideas, tips and products. “I’ll be back!” as soon as I can convince sweetie we need a panel in our room.
“Whoaaaa!” … Excellent Job Chris !
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