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Discussion Starter #1
This year the theatre group decided on a carnival theme for Halloween and they decided EARLY for a change, so I've been working on a carnival sign. Problem is, it looks wonderfully old and decrepit until I add the LEDs, which by nature are pretty and bright. Any ideas how to distress them to difuse the light a bit? Before splattering them with paint (which will be a major pain to remove if it doesn't turn out well), I'd like to know if anyone had other techniques.
 

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Wow, looks like you spent a lot of time making the letters. I think it would be more suitable lighting if you used a dimmer and go all one color.
White or yellow would look good. Or if you dont have controllable leds you could use white Christmas lights of the incandescent variety.
Pete
 

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Not sure how you wired these but higher resistors would dim them. Kind of tedious but you can also use a Scotch Pad to dull the LED's which diffuses the light and reduces the brightness.
 

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What Hump?
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I agree with Catpete.
I think clear, incandescent bulbs would look the best, and you could put a dimmer on them.
I'm a big fan of low voltage and LEDs, but probably not for this application.
Awesome aging and rusting on the letters, BTW.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I agree that a single color might have been a better choice but I bought the Christmas lights on clearance and the holes are already drilled to fit. Scuffing them up with a scotch brite and maybe adding some woodstain to give them a patina may work.
 

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Scaring kids everywhere!
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First let me say how fabulous your letters look, they are just flawless!!! :D
These bulbs might work well for you. You can get them at Michaels and probably at other craft stores as well. I would mist a few with a light dusting of paint or stain to grunge some up and then black out a few to look burnt out.

You can also usually find pearl lights at Big Lots.

http://www.heidiswapp.com/items/marquee-love-medium-bulb-kit/
 

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Thanks, I went from complete novice on the scroll saw to high school shop teacher--if the shop teacher was high on crack and banging the head cheerleader while cutting out the letters :) . But luckily, since this is an abandoned amusement park, I don't need pretty perfection. It takes around 30 lights per letter. I bought 60-light led christmas globe lights on clearance for 2.00/box, so I have about 8 bucks in this so far (the wood and aluminum flashing were free from the scrap pile). I have a whole list of prop builds for this year and a small budget so I'm going to have to make these lights work. I am planning a "MIDWAY" sign with larger letters and incandescent globe lights (also snagged on clearance), those globes are interchangeable so I can group colors. Unfortunately the "carnival" letters are too small for those though.
 

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Emergencyfan, nice work BTW! I haven't tried my hand yet on a scroll saw but we have one so your work is inspiring me to pick it up and give it a try.

Back to your original question. Do you think you could use thin, clear acetate sheets, like the stuff for those school cover reports, trace the letters and cut out a little bit larger so you can use the overlap to adhere to the sides of your letters (fold along original letter shape and place folded material on the inside of the letter -- I know I'm not explaining well...think a box top lid that fits inside the box edges instead of over the outside edges...), then dirty up the acetate. Scratching with steel wool, airbrushing or sponging on grime, yellowing to age or indicate brown bulb "overheating" spots, etc. I don't think the LEDs would overheat and if you find them getting too warm you could probably add some air holes in the acetate sheet. If you mess up the look, simply redo another acetate "cover".

To get a nice fold in the acetate there's a little scoring tool you could pick up at a Michaels to make the job easier (maybe a thin, not wide, flat screwdriver tip could work to score as well or a ball point pen with dried up ink). If acetate is too tricky or flimsy to work with, perhaps thicker clear vinyl fabric from Joanns Fabrics for example would work. Not sure how well paint would adhere to it without coming off. You probably could yellow it somehow to give it an aged look...maybe leaving it in the sun for a while would achieve that. I'm reminded of the vinyl packages that cover bed linens for example and are left in the store's display window that end up yellowed.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
True enough and great thread, thanks. After combing through suggestions, I'm thinking maybe some wood stain rubbed onto the lights might give them the aged look I want along with blacking out some of the bulbs completely here and there, possibly adding a dimmer if that's not enough. An alternative may be to paint all the bulbs black and sand off some of the paint after it dries. Paint and stain I have, so free fix if I can get that to work :)

I think I need to mount the letters first so I can play with the overall look of the sign rather than trying to do a letter at a time, plus now that they're wired together, they're kinda a PITA to deal with loose. Will let you know how it turns out. Thanks, everyone!

I would say, at a minimum, you need to pull some of the lights out. You can't put 30 LEDs in a letter and expect it to not be as bright as a flashlight.

Have you seen this thread: http://www.halloweenforum.com/halloween-props/108985-years-aggressive-build-carnival-theme.html
 

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Rutherford Manor Haunt
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I would move away from using the multicolour lights they are too festive, go with clear incandescent or warm white LED's. Then distress the bulbs and darken some of them out, it will look much creepier. And yes your letters are amazing, good job!
 

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Funeral Crasher
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If you have another set of the LEDs to experiment with, lightly misting them with some black or brown spray paint might dull them for the effect you want.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Thanks everyone for your input! With a little finagling, I was able to switch out the green and blue bulbs for either orange, red or yellow ones and still had just enough to do all the letters. I ended up toning them down with some black paint. I may still tone them down some more once we figure out exactly where/how we're going to mount them. The photo makes them look brighter than they are.
carnivalsign3.jpg
 

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Typical Ghoul Next Door
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That look really good - much better than the super bright/colorful version you started with!:cool:
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Getting down to the wire. Props accomplished this year:

Yard sale pumpkin before/after. Cost = $3


Ticket sign. Cost = $0 (made from left overs/scrap)


Sleepy Hollow Horseshoe for the museum of oddities. Cost = $4 for shadow box


Demon under glass for museum of oddities (inspired by someone's post on this forum, thanks! :). Cost = $5 for shadow box


Snow cone cart. Cost = $60 (My name is actually "Grimm" how cool is that?!?" :)


1st attempt at clown shoes. Okay for a dark corner, looking forward to improved v2 next year. Cost = $0


Exit sign. Cost = $0 Shamelessly copied from something I saw on the internet


Assorted signs $6 (6 pieces of dollar tree foam board)


Tea dueling trophy $5 & sign $2



Assorted other trophys

 
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