How to build a Bethlehem Star
This Tutorial will teach you how to make a Bethlehem Star Cutout. Materials you will need
- 8x4 piece of plywood - I used 1/2"
- Drill with 1' and 1 1/8 spade bits
- Black Paint
- 7 Strings of C9 Lights (could use C7) - Equals 175 Lights
- Computer Projector
First you need a pattern. You can make your own or you can use the one below that I created. Click Here for a higher resolution version of the star to project. We want a little bit of buffer room on the outside so I marked that area in gray.
You will then need to project this image onto your piece of plywood. Since the artwork is vertical, I turned my projector on it's side so I could more resolution and get better accuracy of the image.
Adjust the Zoom and make the star the size you want. I wanted to make it as large as possible and had it just barely fit. It is best to make sure the projector is not pointing up or down. Try to adjust the projector height until you can get it projecting straight forward. If the image is pointing up or down, you will get a keystone effect and the image will be slightly Skewed.
When you have everything set up, go ahead and start tracing the image. Make sure you have the screen saver turned off on your computer so you will not end up with a bunch of fish swimming around after 10 minutes of tracing (I speak from experience).
Go ahead and cut the star out with a jigsaw
Now you have to figure out where all the lights go. You will want to make sure the lights end on the points of the star so you will not be able to just mark your lines every 2 inches. You want to try and match two inch spacing as much as you can and you will want to compensate to make sure you end up in the right place. For example, one line was 14.75 inches long. If I was using 2 inch spacing, the closest I could get would be 14 inches which would be 8 lights. So what I did was take the number 14.75 and divide by 7 (the amount of spaces between the lights) and ended up with 2.10 spacing so I would end exactly on 14.75 inches.
You will continue to do this for all the lines and you may have to adjust for all of them. Some might be 2", 1.95", 2.1", etc. Just make sure you can get the spacing as close as you can to 2".
It took me awhile to figure out the best way to attach my lights and you will have figure out the best way for your lights. At first I thought I could just drill holes and staple the wires to the back. After doing this method I found out the lights were not as straight as I wanted since the lights could move around a bit.
I had a bunch of extra C9 light strings from last year and I found a method that would work with one of the styles I had. This method would not work with another style but I had enough of the correct ones to do the job.
It is best to test a few methods on a scrape piece of plywood wood before you try it "for real". I found that if I removed the C9 bulb and then drilled a hole, I could put the light socket on one side and screw in the bulbs from the other side and it would be nice and tight. One problem I found out though was that the bulb would not screw in all the way and connect to the back for the light to go on. What I ended up doing was drilling in a little with a 1 1/8" spade bit and then finishing the job with a 1" spade bit. This allowed the socket to go part way into the wood which allowed the bulb to screw in all the way.
In the photo below you can see how I drilled into the wood just a little with the larger bit.
I then flipped the star over and started drilling through the wood with my 1" spade bit. You could drill from either side but I found out the wood would chip less if I drilled it from the opposite side I already drilled.
Here is a close up of the hole. Notice the small lip inside the hole which is just small enough to not allow the C9 socket to push through. I chose to make the larger hole 1 1/8 but you can make it larger if you need a bigger lip. Remember to do a few test holes on a scrap piece of plywood so you can get the right setting.
After you have all the holes drilled, you will want to sand down all the rough edges.
Now comes the paint. I used a roller instead of spray paint so I could put on some nice thick coats. Since this is going to be outside, you really want to protect the wood. Using a primer and 2 coats should do the trick.
I made 3 different zones that I could control on the star to give it more of a twinkle look using a computer controller. Each zone requires a different amount of lights. For example the inside part took about 36 lights on my star so I had to use 1 and half strings. What do you do with the extra lights? You cut them. The nice thing about C9s is you can cut them anywhere you want to get the perfect length. It is a good idea to put some electrical tape on the end of the cord you cut.
The star is 5'10" and weighs 25lbs.
I made a frame for the star so I could mount it on my roof. I made the frame so it would rest on the very top peak of my house. To get the right angle, I carried 2 2x4s up to the top of my roof. I set them on the top peak and then took a pencil and outline one 2x4 on the other one. I was able to build the frame with the exact pitch as my roof.
You will want to assemble the entire thing down on the ground using screws. When it was finished, I unscrewed the frame into two pieces and separated the star. I was able to carry the frame up in two trips and assembled it together and then brought the star up and mounted it back onto the frame.
I then carried up 4 60 pound sandbags and tied them onto the frame using metal wire.
Have fun making your star!