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Discussion Starter #1
I searched the site for all the key words I could think of but didn't find anything like this so here goes ...

First, want to give credit to someone named "Goldie" at Instructables . com for the basis of this idea. My changes are not earth shaking - more like adaptations to create a "heat" source for "cooking" up some goodies in cauldrons in our new Witches Coven.

Here is a pic of the final results in low light with Cauldons setting on the prop.



Materials:
  • A "fire bed" shaped per your needs, made of anything from foam board to 1" plywood. Whatever suits your needs and how well you want it to hold up year after year. - Craft store or Hardware store
  • Several strings of lights to your choosing. I used one string of 150 Orange lights with a controller (button selects differnt flashing patterns), two strings of 50 orange lights, two strings of 25 purple lights and one string of 50 orange and purple (same bulb) lights. I think that last string was not necessary. - available anywhere - got programmable lights off of ebay, be patient there
  • Wiffle balls of as many different sizes as you can find. I found softbal sizes, hardball sizes, and golf ball sizes. I also used a few orange pingpong balls. The quantity will depend on your taste and the size of your fire bed. I suggest you buy one package of each size and add more later as you like. - most came from Walmart
  • Fire grate - optional dependent upon your application. I used four tree supports landscapers use to hold up a newly planted "small" tree. - Landscaping section of a large hardware store
  • A few Screws. - hardware store
  • One piece of 3/4" plywood about 12" x 14" (very optional). - hardware store or your scrap bin
  • A small bottle of acrylic craft paint in gray - think ashes. - Craft Store
  • Great Stuff expanding foam - my "fire bed" required alomst all of two cans. - hardware store
Tools required.
Something to cut your "Fire bed" to the size and shape for your application. Could be an exacto knife or a Utility knife for cardboard or foam board to a circular saw or jig saw for plywood shaping.
A good Hot Glue gun and lots and lots of sticks.
What ever you need to cut your grate if you use one. I use my sliding compound miter saw and a drill press (for the vericle supports), but you could get by with only a hand saw.
Screw driver

Steps:

1. Decide / cut to size and shape, your "fire bed." Keep in mind that the larger the "fire bed," the more components you will need, but the greater the impact, IMO. Also, I think the programmable lights really improve the affect but should NOT be used without some other lights staying on all the time.

For the picutured prop, I used a rectangular sheet of 1/4" plywood about 4' 6" long by 20" ... because that's what fit the intended display space.

2. If you intend to use a grate, determine where you want the verical supports and mark those locations on your bare "fire bed" material. Our plan required extra support in the middle where we have a "boiling" cauldron of eyeball soup brewing - filled with water and floating eyeballs. Water is heavy and could ruin the prop if the grate breaks. BTW the pics don't show this well because the water was low and the mist was high at the time.

3. Cut your wiffle balls in half. If you want your surface to be uneven, cut some balls at 3/4 of their height rather than half.

4. Spreadout the lights on the "fire bed" in a very irregular. Take care not to infringe upon the vertical support areas. I tried to group a good mix of the different featured lights as much as possible, but some remained by themselves and that's ok too. Have one of the cut wiffle balls handy to give you and idea of the space needed for the groupings.

Most crutial here is the placement of the control box for the programmable lights and the accessability of the male plug that will power the strings of lights. Try to have enough length to it that it can extend away from the prop to better hide the power source ( I didn't do this well on mine).

More in the next post.....
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Step
5. Plug the lights in, to make certain that they all work properly prior to advancing to the next step. Be carefull in all the following steps, not to break any of the bulbs in any of the strings.

6. Time for the glue gun. I like to use a pie pan as a resting place for the glue gun to localize the mess that you WILL make. You also might want to keep an old rag around to wipe the tip (double or tripple fold - that bugger is HOT) when it gets a bit too loaded up.

Use the glue gun to librally adheare the wires of the lights to the "fire bed." Certainly not every wire needs to be glued down. Focus on gluing the clusters of lights to the board. Use one of the cut wiffle balls to assure the bundle will fit.

7. After the wires are in place, begin to hot glue the wiffle ball pieces over the lights. I prefer a very uneven "coal" surface, so I stacked wires in the center and put different sized and shaped wiffle balls nearly touching. Here the wiffle bals must be glued to the wires if they do't reach the "fire bed." As long as you use plenty of glue to anchor the balls and the lights to th "fire bed," you should follow whatever pattern you desire.

Here is a close up of the corner where I mounted (hot glued) the light controller and you can see some of the wires and balls mounted in that area. You also see a couple parts of the grate setting in place.

 

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Discussion Starter #4
Step:

8. Grate. There are lots of options here.

ALERT!! BE CAREFUL WHEN WORKING ON THESE ROUND POLES. BE CERTAIN TO SECURELY CLAMP EACH PIECE BEFORE STARTING ANY CUTTING OF ANY KIND - I AM NOT RSPONSIBLE FOR YOUR MISTAKES. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

a. If you don't want a grate to set a cauldron over the fire, skip this step entirely.​
b. If you want a grate, you might choose to do this first, not 8th. Why? So that you can mount the veritcal supports prior to gluing any lights.​
c. In my case, I cut the grate pieces while gluing the wires and screwed the verical supports to the plywood, prior to gluing the wiffle balls in place.​
d. You might have a better / easier idea for a grate for your application​

Grate construction:
If you want a grate, you need to decide how high you want the horizontal grate from the foam covered wiffle balls. For my prop that was 6 inches.

As I mentioned earlier, I needed 4 landscape poles, three for the horizontal grates and one to be cut up for the veritical supports.

The poles are about 2" wide. I mounted a 2 inch hole cutter into my drill press. I clamped one poll under the press so that the distance from the pole end to the shortest point the hole cutter hits the pole is 6".

Drilling the hole should provide you with one complete support piece and create the top for another on the remainder of the pole.

Use the saw to cut the pole at a 6" length - again from the shortest point of the hole cut.

Drill another hole repeating the prior two steps until you have all the vertical supports you need.

Another option for those with no drill press / hole saw:
Measure and cut, with your circular saw, one pole into 7 inch lengths. Then cut a one inch deep "V" at the top of each section.


For my prop, the veritcal supports were screwed to the "fire bed" from the bottom after drilling small pilot holes from the top to assure correct placement.

Here is a pic of the prop with the verticals mounted and the horizontals trial sitting in place, before the expanding foam application. We are looking at the "back" of the prop here. Notice the end of the light strings, the female plug in the center at the back. Also at the back on the far right here, is the light pulse controller box and the male plug (out of the pic) for the lights.


9. If your vertical supports are now mounted, or if you are not going to have a grate, you are ready to apply the foam. This stuff is REALLY messy and sticky. It's best to wear disposable gloves and spread newspapers down the well beyond the outer edge of the "fire bed."

If you have vertical supports, surround them with the thickest application of the foam. This to help bond the veritcals to the "fire bed."

Elsewhere, cover the wires and wiffle balls "mostly" and "thinly." In other words, don't lay it on thick and don't try to cover every crack. But, make certain that the wiffle holes aren't open to view from the front. Seeing an occasional light directly through small openings in the foam is desirable to enhance the affect, but perfectly round holes ruin the authinticity of the prop.

Do NOT over spray the EXPANDING foam. Also, apply it in spirts, not one long string of foam, or it will resemble intestines more than coals.

Almost finished here. This is a flash pic that washes out the lights almost completely, but provides a good view of the post foamed prop. Yet to do... ashize the foam and add support that will hold about 4-5 gallons of watter.


Here is a no-flash pic of the illuminated prop prior to painting. Some of you might be tempted not to paint it.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Step:

10. Screw the cap off of the 2 fl oz, gray Acrylic Craft paint and pour about a half oz - a quarter of the bottle into a coffee cup or something similar. Add enough water to the paint to thin it without complete loss of color. Use a 1 to 1.5 inch cheap foam brush to hit the tops of all the foam. Do NOT try to cover every crack, valley and crevice in the foam. You want different levels of resistance for the escaping light. Just like the application of the foam, less is better with the paint. Mix more paint / water solution if you need it.

I chose to use the paint undiluted on the control box and on the surface of the plywood - the "fire bed" - so that no plywood could be seen. Originally I had planned to hit parts of the foam with black and some parts with red paint. However, I decided that while this would enhance the daytime view of the prop, it would degrade the nighttime glow of the lights, so I stayed with the gray only paint

As with everything else about this project, do this to your taste, not mine. You have to be happy with the finished prop.

Here is a flash pic that shows how sparce the foam is painted. That cente cauldron holds 4-5 gallons of water so under that cauldron is a rectangular 3/4" piece of plywood about 12" by 14 " that is screwed to each of the horizontal poles. This helps keep them together under the weight of the water and helps the cauldron's bottom stay in one piece :) .


No flash provides a pretty good comparison to the unpainted no flash pic in the last section.
 

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Great Tutorial, LT Scare.
I think a lot of members will find a use for a version of this.

It's certainly one of the most realistic effects I've seen for hot coals.
 

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This is a great tutorial LT! I think I could really do this one! I've been wanting to make fake coals or fire for my set up. This would be a great foundation for so many fire props. Thank you soooo much for posting it!
 

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Discussion Starter #16
what happens if a bulb blows out and kills the whole string of lights, how do you fix it?
I used only strings with independently wired bulbs. If one burns out, the others stay lit.

I'd have used all LEDs if I could have found a string of preprogrammed Orange LED lights.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am thinking of using this in a wall application. Question: What setting do you have the lights on?
There are two or three settings that look "compatable" with the coals, but the best one, IMO, is the fade in / fade out setting.
 

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I used only strings with independently wired bulbs. If one burns out, the others stay lit.

I'd have used all LEDs if I could have found a string of preprogrammed Orange LED lights.
theres no way to fix or replace blown bubs tho right? I didnt see where this was addressed in the post, just making sure I didnt miss something.

I think this would look good as a smoldering fireplace (which I might use it for :) )
 

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Discussion Starter #19
theres no way to fix or replace blown bubs tho right? I didnt see where this was addressed in the post, just making sure I didnt miss something.

I think this would look good as a smoldering fireplace (which I might use it for :) )
I chose to build my prop with no wires on the bottom and all of the wires and lights more or less sealed under the wiffle balls and the foam. I chose to use LOTS of lights. If so many were to burnout that the affect was diminished, I'd try to cut the foam away, replace the lights, and patch with new foam and paint. However, this prop will be lit up only for a few weeks, a few hours each night every year, so I'd expect the lights to last a long time.

That said, if the placement of your version of this prop is not flat on the ground, or if you choose to elevate it with a "frame" on the bottom, you could drill holes through "fire bed" and mount the lights from the bottom of the "fire bed," sticking each light throught the hole and under each wiffle ball.


FWIW
 
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