Creating Nate’s Universe
Meeting Karmen and the other members of the ‘Wish Team’ at Nate’s home for the first time was a bit surreal ~ especially seeing the photo of Nate on his bedroom door.
The 10’x12′ bedroom was fairly typical, and had a perfect closet where I could run the fiber into the illuminator. Karmen asked me what I needed, I told her: “I need a hole in the wall between the bedroom and the closet right here” Pointing to the area of the wall where all the fiber optic cables from the panels would go thru the wall into the closet. “A shelf here – and an electrical outlet here.” She affirmed my requests with a very definitive: “Done!”.
Two day’s later, when I returned to Nate’s room, Paul (another awesome member of the ‘wish team’) had my requests completed!
The Panel Dilemma
Having personally installed a healthy number of fiber optic star ceilings, I know first hand that the creation and installation of a custom star ceiling has a number steps, many of which require significant blocks of time – Time was something I did not have a lot of between Karmen’s initial call and the reveal date. Not having the acoustic panels was a major concern – and the usual path I take to obtain the panels for local installations can take up to 3 weeks, that was NOT an option! After delving into some serious web searching – I found a panel that, from it’s online description, seemed like it might work. It was from Sam’s Club of all places! ~ Sam’s Club Acoustic Panels
Call me crazy ~ However, given that Nate’s passion was astronomy and outer space, I was compelled to create an astronomically correct star ceiling, incorporating as many constellations as possible. So while I was waiting for the 12 panels that I purchased online from Sam’s Club to arrive, I began taking the design steps necessary to make this happen.
In brief: I created an ‘installation blueprint’ by scaling and superimposing a star chart over a two dimensional layout of Nate’s bedroom. This gave me the foundation where I could then layout the 12 individual star panels.
I was excited that ‘on paper’ everything appeared to align perfectly, and that I should be able to ‘transfer’ the details to the 12 individual panels – that is, if they were ‘fiber installation friendly’. Remember ~ up until this install, I had never worked with this particular acoustic panel.
For most my ceiling installs, I prefer to create the panels ‘on location’. I like to install the panel immediately after I’ve threaded it with the fiber optic filament. This method helps prevent any ‘accidents’ or ‘entanglements’ that could occur if you move the panels around too much after they are threaded. Given the dynamics of Nate’s install, this was not an option. Also given that I was going to need as much time as possible, and quick access, I decided to set up a panel production workstation right in the living room of my home. As you can see in the photo, the panels arrived in time and as it turned out – they were PERFECT for this install!
PLEASE NOTE: While I will go into some detail here as to how I created Nate’s astrologically correct fiber optic star ceiling, I will not spend a lot of time on some of the other aspects related to the creation and installation of a fiber optic star ceiling. For that information, I’d respectfully ask you to visit our guide on How To Create An Indoor Star Ceiling.
As you see, it raises up the panel while at the same time allowing me to put my hands under the panel as I thread the individual filaments thru.
Also having the panel raised up off the table helps prevent the threaded filaments from becoming ‘crushed’. I developed this little technique early in my fiber optic star ceiling adventures.
Part of transferring the two dimensional star map to the correct individual panels required assigning each of the 12 panels a unique number. Here is the back side of panel number 8. This particular panel features one of the more popular constellations – Orion The Hunter.
As you can see in the panel photos, the back of the panels is actually covered by a large piece of white cardboard. This white cardboard was perfect in that I could write all sorts of information on the back of the panel, yet it was not too thick that couldn’t pierce it with the large sewing needle that I use to thread the individual strands of fiber optic filament through.
Look closely at the panel, notice the 4″ guidelines that I lightly drew. This grid corresponds to the grid I drew on the two dimensional star map. Using corresponding grids allowed me to accurately plot and draw the various stars across all twelve panels.
Those of you who are familiar with the constellation Orion, probably noticed that it’s drawn backwards. That’s because this is the backside of the panel. The other (under) side of the panel is actually the side that faces into the room. On that side, the constellation will be in it’s correct orientation.
The various number 2’s close to some of the dots indicate that I need to thread 2 fiber optic strands thru this point, rather than one. Having two strands of filaments threaded thru together will produce a brighter ‘star’ on the other side. Again, this information as to which stars should be brighter, was transferred to the back of each panel using the star chart.
Laying across panel #8 in the two photo’s above, is one of the fiber optic cables with the protective jacket already removed and the individual filaments extracted ready to be threaded into the panel.
You’ll see that for this panel I used two of the black 64 strand cables.
Tape anchors and secures both the black cable and the individual strands of filament. I use duct tape and clear packing tape on the cables (it’s kind of hard to see in the photo because it’s clear) and blue painters tape on the individual strands. You’ll also note that I use a small piece of the blue tape right at the point where I’m threading the filament thru the back of the panel. I use this rather than white glue because it’s quicker, cleaner and just as effective.
Off the left edge of the panel, you’ll see the coil of cable temporally ‘secured’ to the panel. How do I know how much cable to use? In the design phase, while I was waiting for the panels to arrive, I calculated the distance from each panel to the location of the fiber optic illuminator, which was going to be in Nate’s closet.
As you can see in most of the panel photo’s above, I was carefully lining up all the completed panels in front of my fireplace. I also saved the original boxes that the panels came in. I used those boxes to carefully ‘pack up’ the completed panels for the 45 minute drive to Nate’s home.
The actual installation of Nate’s star ceiling would not have gone as smooth as it did if it wasn’t for the phenomenal assistance of fellow Wish Team Member – Paul.
Talk about a invaluable team player!
- Cut the hole in the wall to the closet.
- Hung the shelf in the closet.
- Had the closet electrical outlet installed.
- Painted the ‘exposed edge’ of the existing white ceiling black.
- Was right there with me for the ENTIRE installation of all twelve panels
- Aligning, Drilling, Lifting, Maneuvering, Collaborating on how to deal with Smoke Detectors, ceiling trusses and all of the other wildcards that came into play.
In addition to what he was doing to help me install the panels, Paul was also helping all of the other members of the Wish Team with their respective contributions.
The frame inside the panel is wood. Back in the panel production phase, before I threaded the fiber optic filament into the panel, I pre-drilled each of panels.
To attach the panels to the ceiling I designed a custom combination of 4″ bolts, washers and expanding anchors which I would install off of each corner of the panel.
After measuring and marking the position of the first panel on to the ceiling, Paul and I drilled the corresponding holes into the ceiling. Next we would both lift the panel and guide the bolts with the expanding anchor into the holes, securing the panel into position. The first panel was the most challenging. Once we had that one done, the rest fell into place.
The 12th Panel
We began installing the panels from the furthest point, moving towards the closet. With each new row came the management of the individual cables associated with the panels. Carefully and methodically we would manage the growing umbilical cord of fiber cable until it came to its culmination off the corner of panel 12.
After feeding all of the cables thru the wall into the closet, I then released and ‘blended’ the individual strands of fiber optic filament.
Remember that these techniques are cover in greater detail in our How to create an indoor Star Ceiling Guide.
The illumination of Nate’s Star Ceiling was taken care of via one of our favorite LED based fiber optic illuminators – The LLE-003.
Not only does this little powerhouse have a twinkle wheel, it also has a small RF remote control that would allow Nate the option of turning his stars on or off, and letting them twinkle or just stay on without the twinkle – all from the comfort of his gamer chair.
To create the stars we used 250 feet of our 64 Strand Fiber Optic Cable.
Each cable contains 64 individual strands of .25mm fiber optic filament ~ that over 15,000 feet of filament!
A Few Links
For those who are inspired to create your own ‘indoor universe’ ~ here are some links*:
- ~ A Guide on how to create your own Star Ceiling
- ~ Fiber Optic Cable
- ~ Single Strand Fiber Optic Filament
- ~ Fiber Optic Illuminators
All Links will open in a new window.
A Very Busy Room!
While I was engrossed in and working thru the various stages of installing Nate’s star ceiling, I was NOT the only one working in the room ~ it was a hive of activity!
There were many people coming and going, delivering, assembling, decorating, cleaning, working on, and installing all the various items and aspects of Nate’s Gamer Man Cave.
Even though at times it was crazy busy and sometimes impossible to move where you needed to move to — the attitude and karma was always that of compassion and purpose – it was amazing!
The Evening Before The RevealIt wasn’t until the day before ‘The Reveal’ that I was to the point where I could ‘breath a little easier’ – because now all of the concerns that something might not go according to plan, had been taken care of. All that I had left to do was to take care of the final cut and snip of each one of the 800+ stars that comprised Nate’s Universe.
This final step, while somewhat simple in procedure, is challenging in other ways. The process involves looking up while reaching up, as I locate, and snip each and every thin strand of fiber optic filament dangling from all 12 panels. It’s both tedious and somewhat mundane, however i need to stay focused. If I snip the filament too short it could disappear into the panel, if I leave it too long, then it looks sloppy.
Given that this final step would take a few hours, and that I’d needed to concentrate, I arranged to come back after everyone else had finished for the day – so that I could have the room to myself.
I made sure to bring my portable MP3 player – I spent the evening before ‘The Reveal’ snipping and reflecting on all that had happened, and all that was about to happen in just a few hours.