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Mini Leaping Arches

DIY Mini Leaping Arches


This is an idea I had at the end of Christmas 2008.  Originally I intended to make them work on a four channel controller I built out of a string of incandescent chaser lights but the design changed a bit when I made the jump to LOR.  It should take about an hour to put one arch together, I spent about 8 hours on the prototype but it will go faster the more
you make.  The plans that follow outline how to make the brackets between each arch and the arch itself.  This design is not completely my own, lots of people have different designs and I sourced them all when I came up with this.  Thank you all for your feedback!


MATERIALS LIST
  • 2  1/2" x 1/2" PVC elbows $ .90 each
  • 1/2" x 1/2" PVC cross $1.07 each
  • 1  2' section 1/2" Scedule 40 PVC pipe $ .84 each
  • 1 can PVC Cement, no idea on cost I had it already...
  • 5x30 bulb White, LED strands, mine came from Wal-Mart, $3.50 each
  • 50 feet 22 guage wire, similar to lighting strand, I salvaged mine from old incandescent strings I tore appart but Radio Shack and Ace carry it as well.
  • 1 56" long section of PEX tubing $3.00 each
  • 1 can Black, plastic bonding spray paint $5.00
  • 1 roll black electrical tape $2.00
  • 1 package small zip ties $1.00
  • 1 package heat shrink tubing, available at Ace Hardware $3.00
  • 6x Salvaged male/female plugs (can come from the LED strings)
TOTAL COST PER ARCH ~ $30


TOOLS NEEDED
  • Needle Nose Pliers
  • Wire Nippers
  • Butane Torch
  • Soldering Iron with pointed tip
  • Flux core solder
  • Exacto or other utility knife
  • Sharpie Marker
  • Tape Measure
  • Jig Saw or other saw


STEP ONE


This is a diagram of the overall assembly of the Mini Leaping Arches.  The design is made to be expandable so your first step is to decide how many arches you want.  The materials list is for one arch and two brackets so adjust your materials to however many arches you want to make.  From bracket to bracket these arches span about 4' and they stand about 2' tall.  The brackets hold the arches to a more perfect circle but could probably be adapted to a lower arch if desired by swapping the 90 degree elbow for a 45 degree one.


STEP TWO


The main component of this design is the PVC bracket so we'll make those first.  I actually made two different kinds of brackets, one for the meeting of two arches and one for the termination at the last arch.  The "stake" at the bottom of the bracket is simply an 8" piece of 1/2" PVC pipe cut to a 45 degree angle.


STEP THREE


The bracket is made up of three PVC fittings.  Notice the elbows are a 1/2" male to 1/2" female fitting so I didn't need to use bushings to connect them.  I actually made two different kinds of brackets, one for the meeting of two arches and one for the termination at the last arch.  The "stake" at the bottom of the arch is simply an 8" piece of 1/2" PVC pipe cut to a 45 degree angle.


STEP FOUR


This is an example of the assembled bracket.  I glued the fittings together with the PVC cement.  A little tap from a rubber mallet helped them fit nice and tight.  Here's where we face a challenge.  The outside diameter of the PEX tubing is 1/2"  while the inside diameter of the PVC pipe is 1/2" and the inside diameter of the fittings is 3/4".  This means that we do need a bushing in the top end of the elbow so that the PEX tubing will fit tight.


Here you can see a top view of the bushing in the elbow, the unchanged cross, and the PEX tubing in a bushing.  The bushing is nothing more than a piece of 1/2" PVC pipe cut off flush to the top of the fitting.  I took a little time to sand the edges so there were no sharp corners.


STEP FIVE


Now it's time to prep the section of PEX tubing.  Each section is 10" long and will be loosely wrapped with 30 white LEDs.  If tightly wrapped a full 60 bulb string will fit but barely.  Depending on the bulbs and counts you choose you may need to adjust the section lengths.  I left 3" on each end of the arch for the PEX to fit into the brackets so the overall length of the arch is 56".


STEP SIX


Now it's time to begin wrapping the jump wires on the PEX.  These are the wires that the LED strings will connect to.  I actually started at the last arch and worked my way back to the plug end.  I actually wrapped 6 sets of jump wires under black electrical tape, 5 sets for the five channels on the arches and a sixth wire for the candy canes that will go between each arch.  A diagram should explain this easier than a photo can.

=-----+---------------------------------|-|-|-----+---------------------------------
=-----------+---------------------------|-|-|-----------+---------------------------
=-----------------+---------------------|-|-|-----------------+---------------------
=-----------------------+---------------|-|-|-----------------------+---------------
=----------------------------+----------|-|-|----------------------------+----------
=---------------------------------+-----|-|-|---------------------------------+-----
Female Plug                  String Attachment        Bracket              Jump Wire         String Attachment


This way of wiring does only take up 6 channels on LOR however, it does not allow you to control each arch individually, they are all wired in series so when section 1 on arch 1 lights, section 1 on arch 2 also lights and so on...

STEP SEVEN


I wired just a female plug on the sixth channel at each bracket.  This will allow me to plug in the Candy Canes and will allow me to change them out for something else in the future if I want to.  For those of you who decorate for more than one season this lets you adapt your arches for other holidays.  You can also see the wrapped section between the two arches.  These are the other 5 sets of jump wires.  I left a little extra here for some flexibility so that I could stack the arches accordian style for storage.


STEP EIGHT

   

   


UPDATE

Since converting the entire display to RGBW didn't lend itself to the single color of these arches, I re-did them in 2010. The basic construction is still exactly the same. I swapped the 90 degree elbows for 45 degree ones instead to give me a slightly lower arch and replaced the white Mini LED strings with Firefli strings instead. The pixel strings got zip tied to the PEX and I used 8" sections of plumbing pipe insulation between each one to black out the PEX tubing. This is what they looked like for our 2010 Display.


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