Million Color Pixel Candles
I'm not an electrician, an expert in electrical things, nor do I have any training or degrees to qualify me as such. ;) I'm just a guy who figured out what works for his display. Take this information as such. If it works for you, GREAT! I've accomplished what I set out to do. If you see a problem with what I'm doing or have a question, please e-mail me. I'm always excited and willing to learn something new. I can't assume any responsibility for the outcome of your project if you chose to follow these instructions, or the fallout thereof. If you think I'm an idiot, kindly smile to yourself, click your "back" button three times, and have a nice day!
The kit from HolidayCoro arrives with most everything ready to go. I recommend using a utility or Exacto knife with a very sharp blade to remove each of the pieces from flat pack. Trim off any little "fuzzies" (I do believe that's the technical term for them) left over from the CNC cutting. To begin we want to focus on the base of the candle. It's marked with a Top and locations for each module.
Flip the base over so that the printing is on the bottom. Using the CoroClaw with the first pin only, insert the blade in the coro flute that aligns with the small slots cut at each rounded end. Slide it all the way along the full length. This will create a small tab along one edge with pairs of holes along it. The other side of the base will form the rounded front. Look for a small hole adjacent to the notch. Begginning at that flute, use the first pin and blade of the CoroClaw to slice through just the top layer of the flute. Continue this across the flat working your way towards the other small hole.
When you are done you should have something like the above picture. After slicing through the coro flutes on one side, the panel takes on a more flexible form! Yes, it's kind of fun to play with it. Next we want to make the joint to fold the ends. Using a ruler, line up the edge with the two slots on the face of the tube. Use your exacto knife to score the end tab starting at the CNC cut notches.
DO NOT CUT ALL THE WAY THROUGH!
We only want to partially score the coro, cutting through the top layer and the flutes but leaving the bottom layer completely in tact.
When you're finished you should have something that looks like this. Notice that the lower layer we left now functions like a "hinge" Because we lined our cut up with the edge of the slots on the face, the two small tabs along the rounded edge will now line up exactly with them. Now is when you can begin to see how the whole thing comes together!
You'll notice that one side of the rounded ends has a "flat" or straight side. This is to account for the double thickness of the tab and the front diffuser overlapping. To minimize this, I also used the CoroClaw to remove the top side, one flute deep along the edge of the tab. Here you can see how this will allow the front diffuser to follow the curve and match the other side of the candle.
With the candle base prepared, we want to start working on installing the pixels. For my purposes, I'm using the 3" long WS2801 pixels. Pixels come in many different types, forms, and ICs. Most of them are somewhat waterproof, and it really doesn't matter what type you choose. Make sure you test whatever type you want to use before making a final installation. My first choice didn't look good at all, they weren't bright enough and didn't diffuse properly. I ordered these later and am really happy with the finished result. All pixels are directional meaning their is a "start" and an "end" to the string. Because of my sequencer set up I wanted to be able to draw the candles how they would appear in real life. To do that without re-ordering channels in the sequencer window I wanted to have pixel number 1 at the top running down the candle to pixel number 8. Starting at the bottom of the candle diffuser I placed the last pixel in the string. Notice the little arrow on the pixel that indicates direction.
You can see that the spacing on the modules is slightly closer than the wiring allows. In order to avoid shadows on the diffuser I put a small loop in each section and seccured it to the coro with a little dab of hot glue.
When you have all five modules placed down the candle base you should have three left over. These three modules are what will be used to light the flame on the top. Pull them through the slot at the top end of the candle base.
To prepare the flame tip, we need to score the end tab, the same way we did the base. There should be two small holes at the edges of the tab. Line up the ruler with the edge of these holes and use the exacto knife to score the coro. Again, we want to cut through the top layer and the flutes but leave the lower layer in tact. this gives us open flutes to slide the mounting rods in and a "hinge' for the bottom tab.
There should be 4-6 rectangular coro pieces in the kit. These are the side pieces for the flame. After removing them from the flat pack, use the CoroClaw to slice through evvery other flute on one side of each piece. As a dad, I'm always looking for chances to let my kids help and my son absolutely loves "Doing Lights" with daddy. The CoroClaw is super safe with the protected blades and with supervision he was in orbit getting to help out. It took about 5 minutes to do all 4 pieces which was about all his attention span could handle. If you have kids, please look for opportunities to include them and teach them, projects like this are great! One of the reasons I'm a handy guy today is that I had a dad that let me "help" him with projects and took the time to teach me, now I'm doing the same.
Take one of the rectangular pieces and line it up along the edge. What we want to do is find the end point. Place a very small dab of hot glue at the end of the piece. This is a marker for where to stop out bead of glue in the next step. Run a bead of hot glue along the end flutes of the rectangular piece. it will likely drip down into the flutes and that's OK, all we want to provide is a foundation for the next step.
Run a solid bead of hot glue along the edge we previously measured. Starting at the base, slowly set and align the square piece, cuts facing outward, along the curve. The strip of glue we applied to the square piece earlier should make it very easy to get it to stick tight. Hold it in place until the glue sets, then move onto the next piece, do the same thing, the same way again and again, working your way around the edge of the flame.
ON TO WIRING!
You have options when it comes to the wiring and I'm going to intentionally keep this basic due to that. What I'm showing in this HOW TO is my 4 core wiring setup. It's the system I use for all my decorations and has been working well over almost a year of testing. I've worked with my Chinese broker to actually produce parts for these and now even have splitters, "T"s, and caps for this system. It's been very affordable with most cords costing less than an extension cord from Lowes. Basically, we just need to get power and WS2801 Protocol to the beginning pixel in the tip of the candle flame. I started with one of my 10' long 4 core extensions but any 4 wire cable will do. Whatever you decide to do, just be consistent with the rest of your display and make sure it's something that you can easily understand!
Starting about 12" back from the female end of the cable, cut it completely through. This will give us one male incoming pigtail with about 9' of cable and one female outgoing cable with about 1' of cable. Strip the outer casing off of each of the new pigtails and strip each of the individual wires back about 1/4" from the ends.
Strip the ends of the beginning pixel wires and tin all the ends with solder to allow them to easily attach later on. Beginning at the bottom of the candle base, begin feeding the wire end of the 9' long pigtail through the hole, up to the top of the candle base, and through the hole at the top. This incoming wire will carry our 12V power and WS2801 up to the beginning pixel at the top of the flame. Wire each of the leads to their corresponding wire on the pixel. In this case my blue/red pair is 12V power, the black/black pair is my ground wire. The red/green is the clock wire for ws2801 and the green/yellow pair is my data. Now is the time to plug them in and test them with your pixel controller! Set it to the test or color cycle mode and plug it in to make sure the pixels respond as expected. It's not uncommon for these pixels to be mislabeled, especially the clock and data wires, if they don't power up, try swapping the wires. Either way, get them all working before you go any further. When they are all tested and working properly, heat shrink away!
When you have this finished, you want to do the same thing to the last pixel at the base of the candle. Make sure that whatever wiring method you use or wire combinations, you match it on the other end. Using the 12" long female pigtail, solder and heat shrink it to the last pixel in the row.
There are two metal rods that came with the kit, you want to remove these from the packaging and get them ready. Insert the rods into the flame base at the flutes with the small holes in them. I added a small dab of hot glue through these holes to help hold the rods in place once they were fully inserted. Be careful not to push them too far, you don't want them to poke out of the top of the flame!
Feed the last three pixels and the extension wire through the hole at the base of the flame. Slide the metal rods down into the corresponding flutes in the candle base. Slide the flame until it is flat against the base end and hold it in place with a few dabs of glue. Starting at the first pixel, run a bead of glue along the back of the pixel and stick it down onto the candle flame. Some kits come marked with the location of these pixels, mine didn't as a prototype so I estimated their location based on pictures and what looked good. It's important to get the last pixel pointed up into the very top of the flame as it affect how well the flame looks and flickers!!! BE mindful again of the wires, we want to avoid unwanted shadows. Glue them down to the back and route the extension wire along the inside corner edge of the flame. Secure them all with a small bead of hot glue and hold in place until it's dry.
Pull the excess slack on the extension wire back down into the base. Working along each of the secured modules run another small bead of glue and stick the extension wire down. Again, the goal is to keep the wire out of the beam angle and avoid any shadows on the front diffuser panel. I found a small hole at the base of the candle and made another one next to it with my exacto. I slipped a small zip tie through so that I could secure the wires before they went out through the bottom hole. You'll also notice the outgoing female pigtail has been soldered to the last pixel here. Loop both wires through the zip tie and secure it tight with your zip tie gun. You should now have two pigtails extending from the back hole, a short female outgoing pigtail and a long male incoming pigtail.
The kit comes with a strip of hook and loop tape. Fold the strip in half and cut at the half way point giving you two pieces the same size. You'll notice two pairs of slots along the back flat portion of the coro candle. Feed the ends of the hook and loop tape through these holes until each of the protruding strips is even. Run a bead of hot glue inside the slots and it will prevent the strips from slipping out or pulling out later on.
The kit comes with 4 zip ties for securing the cover. Feed these through the two holes in the long tab along the side of the base. We want to pull the sliced diffuser panel across the ends and feed the beginning of the zip ties through the corresponding holes on the end of the panel. You'll notice the small tabs at the top and bottom of the candle will line up with the notches in the diffuser panel.
Use your zip tie gun to secure, tension, and cut each of the ties. You can rotate the end of the zip tie back into the notch created in the coro to make it disappear. When you are finished you should have something that looks like this, a finished candle base that is smooth and evenly lit and an open flame top. The last step is to run a bead of glue around the top of the flame, much as we did while assembling the base. Use the last piece of the flame from the kit, making sure the surface is very clean, and glue it down to the top, completely closing in the top. Work slowly, aligning the side pieces to the top. It help to use the blade of your knife to pull out the sides as needed.
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