Pixabulb Tree Topper

January 4, 2016
In 2015, I built a new Pixabulb megatree, but didn’t have time to build a topper for it. That is going to get built this year.

The concept for this topper is a 3D star, sometimes called a starburst, sometimes called a porcupine. I am modeling mine off a rope-light version a guy built in 2010. The details of his build are here.

First I built a prototype. I used the same 2″ tubing with 1 3/4″ sleeve tubing that I built the new Pixabulb Megatree center pole out of. The hub is 8″ long. Then I cut two 6″ pieces of 3/16″ x 2″ flat stock and drilled 2 holes in each. I welded one of the flat pieces to a side of the 2″ tubing. Then I welded four 5/16″ x 36″ rods from Home Depot to one of the flats. The rods are at 45 degree angles from each other, and the top-most and bottom-most rods are 22.5 degrees from vertical. I mounted the light strips with thin strips of velcro, so that I could slide sections of Sharkbite tubing over them to add a diffused look if I want.

This was my first time soldering pixel strips. I got a lot of good advice from people at doityourselfchristmas.com. The first one I tried building for the prototype worked fine. I will need to measure power draw on the strips I use for the final product and decide how to power inject and how many strips to run off each controller port. I should be able to run two leaves of the star from one controller port, so I would need 4 ports to run the entire star. I have that many spare ports on the F16V2 that runs the megatree, so I should be able to use that to control it.

I am still debating whether or not to encase these in Sharkbite tubing to diffuse the light. I tried it both ways on the prototype. As of now I am leaning towards not using the Sharkbite. Once I get the entire star built and the lights attached, I will see how it looks and re-evaluate.

January 6, 2016
I ordered the steel to build the star, and will pick it up on Saturday. 160′ of 5/16″ hot rolled rod and 10′ of 3/16″ x 2″ flat. I will cut the flat stock into 6″ pieces. 8 of these will get welded to the hub, and 8 more pieces will each get four of the 5/16″ rod welded to them that will hold the lights. The 2 pieces will bolt together so that the star can be disassembled for storage.

The prototype I built used 17 pixel segments, built out of one of the old arch strips from Ray. This length was because I used 36″ rods from Home Depot. I am going to use 20 pixel segments for the final version, so I can get 5 sections out of a 5m 100-pixel strip with no waste. I am going to order these from DIY LED Express in their pre-sale this month. This means the rods will be around 43″ long. I am going to use 12V 60/20 pixel strips. I considered using 5V 60/60 strips, but the prototype appears to have enough resolution with the 60/20 strips.

I also ordered some 18 gauge red, black and green wire from Amazon. I will use this in the final version so that the wiring colors match my standard for everything else. This should also help me assure things are wired correctly so I don’t ruin any of the pixel strips.