Peppermint Candy Pinwheels

DIY Peppermint Candy Pinwheels

This is a little project I put together a little late for Christmas 2008 to work on a four channel controller I built out of a string of incanescent chaser lights.  Itshould take a couple of hours to put one together, I spent about 3 hours on the prototype but it will go faster if you make more than one at a time.  The plans that follow will make two peppermint Candy Pinwheels, two is necessary in order to make the LED strings work.

  • Instructions downloaded from www.lightuplawrence.net for free of course!  Christmas Lighting is an obsession that is meant to be shared!
  • 4x30 bulb Red, LED strands, mine came from Wal-Mart, $3.50 each
  • 1x60 bulb White, LED strand, $3.50
  • 120 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.
  • 2 make your own yard signs, available at ace hardware, $5.00 each
  • 1 can Red, Krylon Fusion spray paint
  • 1 can spray laquer
  • 1 roll masking tape
  • 1 package heat shrink tubing, available at Radio Shack

  • Needle Nose Pliers
  • Wire Nippers
  • Butane Torch
  • Soldering Iron with pointed tip
  • Flux core solder
  • Electrical tape
  • Exacto or other utility knife
  • Sharpie Marker
  • Super Glue or 2 part Epoxy
  • Cordless Drill


While not entirely necessary, I made a plywood patter of the holes to begin with.  You can also print out the pattern from the PDFs attached at the bottom of this post and trace or burn through it for the holes.  If you plan on making several, a pattern may be useful.  Thanks to my father-in-law (in picture) for his help in developing this.



The main part of these is made out of coroplastic.  While available from many different outlets and in varying sizes and costs, you can usually find a simple sign kit like this at any Ace Hardware store.  For this design youwill need 2 of these.  The kit I got comes with two steel rods to stake it in the ground.  These are important as we will be using them.


Trace the 12" diameter circle from the PDF plans in the bottom corner of the sheet of coroplastic (coro) and cut it out with an exacto or other utility knife.  I found that several shallow passes worked the best to get a nice clean edge.  Be careful not to damage the surrounding piece, you will need it in the next step.


After removing the 12" diameter circle, trim the remaining piece so that it's square, or in this case rectangular.  Because I used a kit, the channels in the corrugations run from the top to the bottom.  This is important because of how we will assemble the pieces when cut.


Draw a line from one corner to the opposite corner as shown then, sketch a ruffled edge for the outside of the candy tie.  I used a dry erase to sketch the outside so that I could erase it if I didn't like it.  When I was happy with how it looked, I traced over it with a sharpie.  After you have a pattern drawn, cut it out with an exacto, the same as the larger circle.


When you have one side cut out, use it as a pattern for the remaining piece.  Trace the ruffled edge with a sharpie and then cut it out, the same as before.  It is important to keep the corrugations running in the same direction on both pieces as we have to assemble them with one of the two rods.


Slide one of the two steel rods about half way into each of the two ruffles leaving about 1 inch between them.  You can also remove the point past where the rod enters to give you more room later for the center lights. 

I chose to paint my ruffles red in these pictures but I do plan on making some of both Red and White.  It was also suggested when finished they be wrapped in heat shrink plastic. It's a personal preference.


I marked the location of the holes using the plywood pattern I made with a sharpie then used the pointed tip on my soldering iron to melt a hole through the coroplastic.  Make sure you do this outside or in a well ventilated area.  Melting plastic releases all kinds of nasty things I'm sure you don't want to breath.  If you didn't make a plywood pattern, just print out a paper pattern and burn through it.  Like many other coro projects, slightly undersize the holes to the bulbs will fit tightly.


After poking all the holes, overlay the circle on the ruffles and mark the hole locations that overlap.  You want to make sure that the metal rod that connects the ruffles runs between the four center holes.  Keep in mind the direction of the coro channels and which side is up before planning what angle to lay the ruffles at.


Tape off straight lines from the center of each hole using masking tape.  It really isn't necessary to try to curve it, the lights will break the line anyway and when viewed from more than a few feet away you can't tell.  If you are happy with the paint, glue on the ruffle pieces.  Make sure you have the holes punched through both pieces before you glue them together. 


At this point I went ahead and inserted the remaining metal rod to make sure that it would miss all the holes.  I use either a plastic bonding super glue to glue on the ruffle or a two part outdoor epoxy, the one in a double syrenge with a mixing tip.


The assembled Peppermint Candy Pinwheel should look something like this.  There should be four S shaped lines of 15 holes each.  These represent the 4 channels that will cycle.  We will divide the strings of 30 LEDs into two strings of 15 separated by a 15 foot length of cord.  You can certainly make it longer if you want to place the 2 separate pinwheels further apart.

Now the wiring... I don't want to get to technical here, it's easy to get overwhelmed but it really isn't that complicated.  I'm sure that regular mini lights could be used in this project but for my display all I use is LEDs.  I could elaborate on the evils of energy sucking incandescents but I think that we're all trying to make the switch so I'll pass.  If you're not switching to LEDs, YOU SHOULD BE!  I started with the 60 LED strings from Wal-Mart.  $3.50 on clearance.  I cut the strings at the at the midpoint where there are only two wires, leaving me two strings of 30 bulbs each.  I then remove the jump wire, that's the third wire that jumps electricity past half the string.  This leaves you with two strings of 30 LEDs that have only two wires each.  For this project I will use the half of the string with the factory plug.  I plan on using the second half with an aftermarket plug added for another project, probably arches.  This string of 30 LEDs now needs to be divided further into two sections of 15 bulbs each.

A few things specific to LEDs.  As I said at the beginning, this design is for a pair of pinwheels.  You have to wire them in pairs, you can't just split a string of 30 LEDs in half.  They have little resistors that adjust the power to meet exactly those 30 LEDs.  This means that display wise, you will have at least two that are spinning at the same time, they have to... They are connected.  They don't have to spin the same direction!  If that's OK, You can make them all rotate together and do as many as you want on only four channels.  Another possible solution would be to space them something like this:


Where A and A are a pair, B and B a pair, etc.  This would allow you to control any divisible number of 4 pinwheels with only 16 channels.  I plan on making several of these and since I'm without LOR I plan on making them work on a home built 4 channel chaser controller.


Here is the factory half of the  60 LED string.  Notice no female adapter, I’m not plugging anything into this so I don’t care. Also not possible with only 2 wires.

Fold the string in half or count down 15 bulbs and cut the string between bulb 15 and sixteen using the wire nippers.


The Polarity of the LED bulbs will come into play as the two wires that are cut must be connected together exactly the same way or the string will not light.

Fold the string in half or count down 15 bulbs and cut the string between bulb 15 and sixteen using the wire nippers.


Start with the plug half of the cord and slide a heat shrink tube onto both sides of the extension wires.  As stated earlier, I made mine 15 feet long, you can certainly make yours longer if you wish.  After
the heat shrink, solder the leads of each wire together using flux core solder and a soldering gun.  When your finished, slide the heat shrink tubing over your joint and hit it with a torch or open flame.  It will shrink and seal your solder joint.

When you’re finished it should look something like this.  Make sure not to let the torch sit too long or it can start to burn the insulation on the wire.


Start the same as before with the remaining end of the strand slide a heat shrink tube onto
both sides of the extension wires.  After the heat shrink, twist the leads of each wire together, then PLUG IT IN to make sure the string lights.  If it doesn't, then you have your polarity reversed, switch the wires then solder as before.  When your finished, slide the heat shrink tubing over your solder joint and hit it with a torch or open flame.  It will shrink and seal your solder joint.


When you are finished you should have one string of 30 LEDs with only a factory male plug.  The string should be divided into two sets of 15 bulbs separated by a 15' length of chord.  For this project you will need four of these strands for each of the four channels so... lather, rinse, and repeat!


Now it’s time to start wiring.  Start with the non plug end of the wire near the top of the candy and work your way across following the S pattern of the holes.  Bring the extension sections together at the steel rod and zip tie them together.  Wire your second candy the same way at the end of the extension section and bring the plug ends together at the steel rod with another zip tie.  As an option you may want to go around the outside of the circle with white LEDs to help make it a little more visible.


When you are finished you should have two Peppermint Candy Pinwheels that look something like this.  The controller I built uses a 4 channel string of chaser lights.  These are usually sold as smooth chasers because two channels are always lit.  I simply split each channel and connected it to a plug in.  The controller is meant for incandescents so it will handle up to .48 amps.  All these LEDs sum up to only .06 amps with the optional white LEDs around the outside, without them only .04 amps.  And because the controller only lights 2 channels at a time that means that one controller can easily run 24 sets or 48 Individual peppermints!


This is the controller I built to run these.  For those of you running LOR or something similar this is unnecessary although, if you are trying to cut channels, one of these controllers plugged into a single channel of your LOR could make them run just fine.  My controller fires 1,2,3,4 in clockwise rotation.  It may take some trial and error to make sure you get the right plug in the right outlet.  Also, because LEDs are polar specific and the incandescent controller is not, you may have to rotate the plugs to get the strings to light.  (Notice some of my plugs go wire up and some go wire down.)


That’s it!  For video of the operating pinwheel check out:


I would love to see your take on this, improvements, changes, etc. and am more than happy to help with any questions.  I’m usually in the Planet Christmas Forums or can be reached by E-mail at n.j.st.christmas@gmail.com.  Good luck and MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Zach Stoltenberg,
Jan 18, 2009, 8:08 PM
Zach Stoltenberg,
Jan 18, 2009, 8:08 PM