Custom holiday light window frames

September 25, 2011

This year, I needed to upgrade the display infrastructure.  A number of items in the display are getting refreshed for this season. One item on the to-do list can be scratched off: new window frames for lights.

There’s a bit of history leading up to these frames.  I first started hanging lights around the bay window on the front of the house about 5 years ago.  At first, it was simply running strands of C9 lights around hooks. All the lights are on SPT-1 gauge wire, which easily twisted in the cold weather.  As a result, the bulbs were pointing in all sorts of odd directions.  Over the course of the next few years, I considered commercial kits, some nifty ideas from others, and went down the PVC path.  However, I didn’t feel any of these solutions met all my requirements:

  • Hold the lights uniformly
  • Hide the wires
  • Don’t look cheap
  • Easily mount, display and store

This year, I set out to correct that by making wooden frames to hold lights.  Here are the results:

I cut the frames to simply match the window frames, using 1×3 boards primed and painted white to match the house.

The frames were measured and cut to length with the help of a handy mitre saw.

The socket holes were drilled with a 7/8″ bit using a basic drill press.  The lights are spaced at 3.875 inches (on center) the full length around the frame.  Arriving at the spacing was a function of determining the overall length and finding what spacing worked consistently.  I wanted consistent spacing from corner to corner, and discovered that determining the run distance between sockets is not simple.  I’ll post a follow-up that explains how to determine the distance.

The strands are assembled in-place, and all pieces are put together to form the light strand.  The frames are constructed for 3 light strands each (I use white/red/green ceramic C9 lights.)  The order of construction:

  1. Push the socket through the hole from the front. (The drilled hole is properly sized to allow the socket to push through, but not allow it to pass through entirely.)
  2. Lay down the wire across the back of the socket.  Two small pointed tips in the socket will puncture a small hole in the wire, allowing metal contact and making the connection.
  3. Push in the socket backing to lock the wire in place.  (This isn’t necessarily an easy proposition. I had the aid of channel lock pliers to squeeze the back onto the socket.)
Last, mounting the frame onto the house is done through pre-drilled holes for hanger bolts.  The bolts are affixed to the house, and the frames simply slide on and lock with four wingnuts.
I’m very pleased with the results and will be using the same approach for frames on the rest of the house.  Time to get to work!

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