Building Wireframes - Part 3a - Lights - Minis
DISCLAIMER - The information presented here is solely my opinion. It is only one method of accomplishing the task, not the only way. Please use all necessary safety precautions and equipment before attempting anything presented here. I do not claim any special expertise nor do I consider myself as an expert. You have been cautioned.
If the frame color is to remain white, I use light strings with white wire, if you only have green wire for a white frame, that's OK at this point. If the frame is painted colors, then it doesn't matter, as I'll explain in the "Final Paint" topic.
First thing to do is try to determine how many lights the frame will need, and where on the frame the "male" plug will be, usually on the bottom.
Laying the frame down flat on the table, I usually just lay some lights loosely along the frame, trying to get an idea of the wiring path that will work best for that frame, and that particular strand of lights (ie the spacing between the bulbs 2" 3" 4" etc). There can be a lot of trial and error here, and many times I even select a different light string to try.
I almost always use clips for attaching the lights to the wireframes, so much quicker and neater. Also, as a matter of personal preference, I like to have the bulbs as close together as possible, tip to bottom. I also have found, that keeping all the bulb tips pointed up as much as possible, seems to reduce any GFCI trips and in my opinion just looks better.
This is where a good inventory of lights is useful. I try to keep strings of 10, 20, 35, 50, 70 and 100 on hand, with the different spacing's between bulbs to make life easier.
After deciding on the starting point, time to start wrapping. I find it easier to attach the clip to the bulb base first, then clip to the frame. I then wrap the wire around the frame as many times and as tight as I can. Sometimes it helps to adjust the "twist" in the wire some, either twisting it tighter or sometimes untwisting it some. The point is for the bulb to end up "in line" with the preceding bulb, and the bulbs as close together as possible along the frame.
Sometimes when using lights with a 4" or 5" spacing between the bulbs, I just can't twist or wrap it tight enough to achieve the close bulb spacing that I prefer. In that case, I'll gather the excess wire on the backside of the frame, and zip tie it tightly.
If the light string has a "female" socket, I usually cut it off, use liquid tape and cover with a piece of heat shrink tubing. Unless I'm plugging in additional strings to make up the length of lights needed. However, normally, I cut off the male and female plugs and splice the wires together, using Liquid Tape and heat shrink tubing.
Sometimes I might use a string of 50 lights and a string of 35 lights, or 100 plus a 20, etc to keep from having a 'bunch" of lights left over, or coming up a few lights short.. Just be sure to keep notes for reference if you have to replace a bulb, so you will know where the different voltage bulbs go.
There are four typical bulb voltages used with mini lights.
50 Ct String 2.5 Volts
35 Ct String 3.5 Volts
20 Ct String 6 Volts
10 Ct String 12 Volts
Strings of 70 are just two 35's and strings of 100 are two strings of 50, etc If you look closely you will see that there are 3 wires between the bulbs, until you get to the middle, then there are only 2 wires, then back to 3 wires. If you have a string of 100, you can cut them at this middle point, and make two 50 ct strings. This is what I usually do.
Now, if you used white wire in a white frame, you are DONE !!
Otherwise continue to the next section "Final Paint"
For a multicolor frame, it's time to start bulb swapping to make sure the different colors of bulbs match the underlying frame colors. Sometimes if I used clear bulbs, I may use color caps instead of bulb swapping.
Note: If your frame is to be animated, now is the time to plan for the individual light circuits to be controlled.
Strobe Lights: If you are including strobe lights, plan for the wiring now.
Exception: "ES" or energy saving mini lights are generally not interchangeable with regular mini light bulbs
Types of Lights for Frames:
Most will use mini lights, some of my frames are minis, C7, C9 and LED's. Some use rope light, usually just on a white frame. In my opinion, this does not easily allow for different colored sections on the same frame. It can be done, however, I just don't.
Note: If you will be adding coro to your frame, trace it out prior to installing the lights - just don't attach it yet
If using coro, zip tie it to your frame now
See Part 3b for using LEDs
This is for Minis only