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The tradeoff is that it isn't controlled by my 120VAC timer, but I planned to only switch it on Halloween night for the TOTs to see. Good thing...because on battery power....the lights will drain the battery in a few hours. But this is OK. Batteries are relatively cheap.
I found that the 3 volt battery powered Christmas light you can buy for about $2 for a string of 12 lights did what I wanted. Well, almost. They were so dim driven by 2 "C Cell" batteries...that I tried them with a 6 Volt lantern battery...and got some good light output. Yes, this will decrease the light life, but who cares...they are cheap and easy to replace.
So, here's the materials list:
>One 6 Volt lantern battery (about $5 anywhere)
>One 10 foot length of 4" solid sewer pipe (PVC, thin walled) -- $8 at any big box hardware store
>3/4 inch thick cedar, pine boards whatever...cut into Three -- 4 inch by 22 inch chunks -- ?$ >One 3 volt battery powered set of string Chrismas light (12 lights) -- $3
>Radio shack Reed Relay (5 Volt, 250 ohm), 12K resistor, 22K resistor, 2.2uF capacitor, 555 Timer chip - OPTIONAL - $7
>Black duct tape
>Black spray paint
I cut up the sewer pipe into two 14 inch sections first, then cut those in half again. You end up with 4 sections that look like this. Why PVC sewer pipe? But it's super strong, cheap, lightweight...and blocks the light. You are going to be hooking these sections to tree branches and you don't want something heavy, but want it to withstand heavy winds.
I found some eyes cutouts on the Web that looks ominous and scary -- went to a pumpkin carving site for this --- and then transferred them by cutting them out on some old manila folders.
I traced them them on the pipe with permanent marker. Then, cut them out with a sabre saw and Dremel tool. I've hooked up the lantern battery to the lights and put them under one of the pipe cutouts to get an idea of the final look. A spool of speaker wire for hooking this all up is shown too.
Then, I spray painted the pipe sections with flat black paint. I didn't like the look of lights just shining through the eye holes. So, I found some translucent plastic in various colors (yellow, blue, red) and taped them with clear packing tape to the back of the eye holes. The plastic needs to be durable to hold up to the wind. I found some cheap yellow plastic bags at a Party Store that worked out just great. You don't want the super thin stuff, but you don't want it to be opaque either. I used some blue plastic cut out from an old water softener salt bag too. Whatever.
I then snipped off sections of 4 lights for each pipe section, drilled holes in the 3/4" wood that I sawed up for backing boards to accept the lights, inserted the lights, and then connected them up using 6 foot sections of speaker wire (soldered) to give enough space between the "eyes" in the tree. I decided to go with just 3 sets of eyes, so I ended up with 12 lights on the string (3 pipe sections x 4 lights per section)
I screwed in each pipe section to the backing board (drill 4 holes along the edge of the pipe section into the board edge and put in screws). Then, I used black duct tape to cover the ends of the pipe. The boards are a bit wider than the pipe to make it easy to drill holes to allow a piece of wire to hold the eyes to a tree limb. This low voltage setup will do just fine if it gets rained on. It will happily continue to be lighted.
Nothing special here for the wiring hookup. Just connect one wire from each light set to the positive terminal of the battery and one to the negative. Be sure to wrap the speaker wire around a screw attached to each pipe section backer board for strain relief. I put the lantern battery in a small wood box (painted black) that I made with scrap 3/4" wood and put in a power switch. This way I can turn it on easily before the TOTs arrive on Halloween night.
I went one step further and added a 555 timer to click a little relay(Radio Shack 5V, 250 ohm reed) on and off quickly to make the eyes "strobe" and really stand out. I mounted a small little perf board under the box lid for that.
Here's the schematic for strobe circuit
Here's a quick AVI video of the eyes (2.9 mb):
Big Tree Eyes in AVI format 904K