Also answered here is “How do I blend cabled filaments?”
OVERVIEW: After you’ve strung all your raw fiber optic filament or cable, you will need to connect or attach the fiber to the light source. For our example we will be using fiber optic cable and a basic illuminator. We’re going to show you how to “Blend” the individual fibers from the fiber optic cables to achieve the maximum effect!
Single Strand Comment: The beginning of this example is about blending fiber optic cable. If you’re using single strand filament you do not need to blend the filament. You can jump down to the steps after we’ve cut off the outer jacket of the fiber optic cable.
Time to make an executive decision: You’ve spent the past several nights threading fiber optic filament into your ceiling. The fiber optic cable has been run to the location of your light source. You could gather up the cables, give them a clean cut, connect them to the illuminator and color it done! However, we suggest you consider taking a few additional steps and “blend together” the individual fibers contained inside the cable.
Blending the fibers?? Blending the fibers is the process of cutting off the protective jacket and intermixing strands from the different cables. While it sounds difficult it’s not. It will take a steady hand and a bit of patience to blend the fibers, but the end result will be worth the extra effort! A blended mix of fiber has several advantages
Advantages of blending the individual fibers from the cables:
- More Fiber will fit! The opening to the illuminator is only so large. By removing the protective covering on the fiber optic cable you’re going to reduce the overall diameter of the fiber bundle thus allowing you to fit more fiber into your illuminator.
- Better “Twinkle” ! If you’re using fiber optic cable with an illuminator that has a ‘twinkle’ effect, it possible that the “twinkle” will not be as random when you keep the cables intact. (Jacket not stripped back) In other words, it’s possible that several stars next to each other will have the same twinkle timing when not blended with other stars from other cables. You’ll have a better ‘twinkle’ effect if you blend the individual fibers from all the cables together.
TIP: If you current illuminator does not have a twinkle effect, you might still want to consider blending the fibers together just in case you decide at a later date to upgrade your illuminator. It’s a lot easier to do it now while you’re still in the creation mode!
Disadvantages of blending the individual fibers from the cables:
- Possible Loss of Stars Anytime you remove the protective jacket, you run the risk of damaging the individual filaments. We strongly urge you to practice the following technique on a few pieces of scrap cable!
- More Time But, in our opinion, the result is worth it!
Let’s Start Cutting! Assuming your practiced on a few scrap pieces, you can start by cutting the protective jacket. With a small hobby knife, begin cutting about 6 inches from the end GOING IN THE SAME DIRECTION of the fibers. You’re blade is going to want to “roll” and turn, so move slowly. Don’t drive the blade too deep into the cable. Just enough to break through the jacket.
It helps to have a flat surface and good lighting, when removing the protective outer covering of the fiber optic cable.
While it takes a bit of time, it can be done.
Gather Together Using some type of tape. We like electrical tape) bundle the cables together. Do this in 3 or 4 locations a few inches apart. This will help ‘steady’ the fibers as not to shift around later.
Blending the Fiber Optic Filament
Let’s Begin Blending! Begin by fanning out the individual strands. Being careful not to bend them. The photos directly below should give you an idea of how to blend the fibers. Beginning on one side, gather up a section of fiber, and roll it over on top on the next section. Repeat this from the other side. You can continue this pattern until you feel the fibers are blended or ‘mixed’
Four Hands would be Nice! Gather together the filament and wrap a piece of masking tape about 1 inch from the end. You’ll note in later photos that we wrapped some black electrical tape OVER this original tape wrap.
TIP: We like to use the BLUE painters tape. It’s more forgiving on the fibers should you make a mistake. (Duct tape is NOT an option here!)
End Cut and Connect! Time to make the final end cut. We use a VERY sharp scissors or small utility knife. If your fiber is a thicker diameter (.75mm+) you might want to consider investing in a Hot Knife to make a clean cut.
Most illuminators use a special tightening collar called a compression fitting. When the outer collar is turned, the inner, soft plastic, ring constricts around the fibers. It’s possible that you don’t have enough fiber to give the inner ring anything to grab onto. You’ll need to ‘build up’ the area with tape. To do this, push the fiber bundle all the way into the illuminator. (Some illuminators have a stop plate as not to touch the light or twinkle wheel).
Remember the position where the tightening collar will touch the fibers as you pull out the bundle. Then using tape begin to build up the area where the collar will hold the bundle. We begin with our BLUE masking tape and then add black electrical tape. The black electrical tape is plastic and so is the tightening ring inside the collar. The two plastics together tend to hold better.
Tighten ‘er up! Carefully turn the fiber tightening collar down on the black tape. Don’t allow it to twist the bundle. Depending on your illuminator placement, you might want to anchor the fiber bundle in a couple of locations several inches/feet away from the illuminator. This may prevent an illuminator accident should the fiber bundle be pulled suddenly.