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RGB DMX Wreaths

Million Color Wreaths



This was an idea spurned by a display I found on YouTube.  A user who goes by vladdysdaddy has an excellent display and does a really neat matrix of Santa wire-frames on the end of his house.  I wanted to do something similar but with wreaths.  True to form, everything in the display has been four colors and going forward shall be RGB and operated by DMX.  This is the first display element I have undertaken with these new parameters and as I think many of us are making the transition to RGB and DMX, I wanted to share it's construction with you.


MATERIALS LIST
  • Instructions downloaded from www.lightuplawrence.net for free of course!  Christmas Lighting is an obsession that is meant to be shared!
  • 16 3" long, 12v, 5050 smd RGB LED Modules.  You can order them here. $1.29 each
  • 1 waterproof, 12v, DMX 512 decoder module.  I ordered mine from HolidayCoro for $7.99 each
  • 1 Wire framed wreath, mine came from Walmart on after christmas clearance for $2 each.
  • 1 100 count package of small zip ties, $1.99 each
  • 1 12" Cat5 pigtail, mine came from monoprice for $0.46 each
  • 1 Cat5 coupler $1.57 each at monoprice
  • 1 package heat shrink tubing, available at Radio Shack
  • 1 can liquid tape, $6 at Lowes

A Complete kit including all DIY materials (does not include the wreath itself ) is available here

STANDARD DISCLAIMER

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!

TOOLS NEEDED
  • Needle Nose Pliers
  • Wire Nippers
  • Small Philips screwdriver
  • Butane Torch
  • Soldering Iron with pointed tip
  • Flux core solder
  • Exacto or other utility knife
  • Sharpie Marker

STEP ONE


This is the wreath I started with.  They were carried by Walmart for the 2010 Christmas season.  The normal price was $20 per wreath and they came pre-wired with battery operated multicolored LED lights.  While I'm positive that you can find an 18"-24" wreath for much less than $20, I got these on clearance for $2 each. 


STEP TWO


Here you can see the back side of the wreath, the wireframe, the two brackets for holding the waterproof battery boxes, and the pre-wired multi colored LEDs.  We are going to remove the battery boxes and strings but leave the wire-frame mounts.  These are important as we will be using them to mount our DMX controller.


STEP THREE


These boxes can usually be opened by a small screwdriver, afterall they are made to open to change the batteries!  Now, for my purposes now and in the future, I don't need the battery functions or the multi-function controllers.  However, the waterproof boxes are very well constructed and may be usefull.  For now I will remove the contents and toss them in a box for future projects. 




STEP FOUR


Here are the before and after shots of the waterproof box.  You want to completely remove the lights and strings.  So that the only thing we have left is the bare wireframe and wreath. 


STEP FIVE


  


On the wreaths I bought, there are two of these boxes because there are two separate strings of LEDs.  I removed them both.  Now, normally I am against throwing anything away and have saved even loose LEDs from every string I have purchased ever.  I now have several hundred of each color, more than I need for my tinkering and I'm running out of room too keep them all.  Furthermore, the wire on these strings is very thin, making it unsuitable for most anything else.  As a result, these headed straight to the trash.


STEP SIX




Beginning near one of the mounting brackets, start aranging the 5050 smd RGB LED Pixel Modules on a diagonal and zip tie each end to the metal frame.  You want the open wire end to have enough flexibility to reach where the controller mounts.  I loosely secured the first ten of the modules in this fashion so that I could slide and adjust them to be evenly spaced.  When you are satisfied with their placement, go back and tighten each of the zip ties to secure them.


STEP SEVEN



After completing one loop around the wreath, continue mounting the last six modules horizantally along the interior ring of the wreath.  These inner modules serve two purposes, one they light the darkened area of the garland not covered by the outward facing modules on the first ring, two they cast light into the inside of the wreath, lighting the wall or surface behind and giving the illusion of even more intense color


STEP EIGHT



  Here's the finished result, 16 modules evenly spaced on the backside of the wreath.  I actually perfer to mount these modules behind the garland because they really don't look like Christmas lights and it really doesn't detract from their overall effect anyway.  The picture shows an extension, this was a short piece of Cat5 cable I used for testing.  In my final assembly, the DMX modules are soldered directly to the module leads.


STEP NINE



The last module in the string will have the cut wires protruding from the end of the module.  Because these are going outside, and because those wires are live, we want to waterproof them.  I use a trick I picked up from another decorator, it's called Liquid Tape.  It's a sticky, black, ooze that goes on wet and dries like rubber.  It's usually found in the electrical aisle at any home improvement center.  Evenly and thoroughly coat the end of the last module with the liquid tape in order to waterproof the protruding wires.



STEP TEN



After soldering the DMX decoder module to the first 5050 RGB module we need to secure it to the wreath frame.  I didn't get terribly complicated with this, we have a nice wired mount on the back and the modules come with holes on each side of the unit for mounting.  I simply zip tied the module to the frame.  Now the wiring and data streaming for this type of setup is totally different and unique.  You may have noticed that we haven't used all the parts in the parts list yet.  I'm planning a follow up tutorial that deals just with the wiring.  When I get all ten of the wreaths done, I'll move onto Data and Power and how to connect everything.
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