We were lucky enough to spend our New Year’s holiday in Vegas this year – one of our favorite destination spots. Red Rock gave us complimentary stays that we couldn’t pass up so we packed our suit cases with our warmest clothes and headed out to enjoy the sun and sights. Oh, and we hauled out our camera equipment to catch the bird viewing sites and local State Parks. When we left home it was heading into the teens around here and when we landed in Vegas it was a balmy…. what the ?!? 30 degrees. The high was only getting into the low 50’s – guess no pool for us hehehehe. I’ll leave the results of the shoots for another post, but all was good on the other fronts – just stayed in a little bit more than usual. Today’s project post idea was inspired by a decoration at the New Year’s Eve party we attended. So without further hesitation I bring you project “A Little Bit of Vegas” … on my mind.
Disclaimer: I do not recommend you try this project yourself do to the dangers involved!
The decoration we saw consisted of a battery operated light at the bottom of a vase filled with those water retaining gel pieces. This resulted in a nice glow effect that looked quite pretty. Now this is an idea I could embrace and extend on. The first element of change was to make the light battery powered so I could put it up in the ledge below our dormer windows in the great room. I also needed to replace the gel fill with glass beads since it would not be easy to change once it was put up there – figured the gel would dry out eventually.
Hit the jump to see how this project came together!
To accomplish this, the vase would need some serious modifications requiring some new tools and accessories.
That was my starting set of items based on watching a few YouTube tutorials and wandering around Menards trying to determine the best way to make this thing without going to the hospital – Linda gets rather annoyed when my projects go awry so try and prevent that as much as possible. Note, the coax plugs were not used. The plan was to use them to cover the hole in the glass but the rubber grommets worked perfectly.
The modeling clay was used to create a water dam to insure the glass drilling bit didn’t get hot. The water also helped to keep the glass dust down – something I did not want to be breathing in. Suggestion – get a white or light color modeling clay – the black makes a mess of your hands!
I opted for the diamond tipped boring glass/ceramic cutter The videos recommended starting at an angle to get some bite into the glass. This sounded easy, but in practice just about impossible to hold the drill steady against the glass. It ended up walking all over the place but eventually it dug a small groove – scratched the glass up a bit but let it go since it will be in the back.
Once the groove was made I could slowly tilt the drill up vertical to begin the long slow process of grinding away on the glass.
Problem number two – trying to hold the weight of the drill off the glass while cutting through the last little bit. This isn’t easy and as expected when the glass got thin it chipped out some on the inside. Problem number three – as the dust was collecting, the water became milky making it very difficult to see the drill bit placement. It was lifted from time to time to make sure the water was getting into the cutting zone. Apparently I didn’t get it placed in the same spot every time evident by the extra circle on the left side – ugh.
As mentioned, the grommet fit perfectly into the hole covering up the sharp edges of the glass.
The original idea was to simply put a small strand of Christmas lights in the bottom. The set I bought ended up being sub-optimal due to an ungodly and uncontrollable blink rate and the bulbs ended up being a little bit big thus requiring the wire to be cut and reassembled to get through the hole. While looking for other options, I spotted this option – LED Tape. Multicolored, thin, spliceable and the cherry on top – remote controlled.
Essentially it was a strip of LEDs encased in clear rubber with numerous connector locations throughout the strip to cut and reattach in different configurations with the wire connector shown below. The metal probes on the inside of the connect push through the clear rubber and sink into the copper leads you can see right below the grommet.
Once you attach the power supply the LEDs light up nicely. The remote allows you to turn on and off, change color mixtures of RGB and even allows you to animate the colors through a controllable fade or similar effects.
The original idea was to simply loop the tape in the bottom of the vase and let the light reflect up through the glass marbles.
This ended up falling short of expectations as once the light made it through the first few inches of the glass marbles it was refracted so bad that the light became too dim This was addressed through a design change which we will be outlined a bit later.
The original intent was to have multiple vases to complete the decoration – multiple sizes and shapes. This gave an opportunity to learn from my mistakes. Out came the drill press. This would address the difficulties in getting the bit started (prevent the walking) and hopefully allow a bit more control to prevent the chip out at the end. Same concepts apply for the water dam but needed more clay to stabilize the vase on the stand.
This ended up being a lot easier… the second time hehehe. See that vase on the right in the shot above – that attempt left a huge crack in the glass because it was a) too thick and b) due to running out of patience accidentally applied too much pressure. Most of the vases were bought at Hobby Lobby at 50% off so it dampened the failure sting a bit.
With that lesson firmly lodged in the brain the second attempt went muuuch smoother. Go slow people, go slow.
Remember when I mentioned the original idea had a light execution issue. The answer to this was to wrap the lights around an inner bud vase. After filling up the first vase full with glass marbles it was decided that I could lesson the weight and the cost by buying a very cheap bud vase (for a $1.50) and hide it in the middle. It was a logical next step to simply wrap the lights around the inner vase to get the light to extend up the entire length of the vase. I did leave an extra loop in the bottom to make it a bit brighter there.
Here you can see what I was talking about with the light diffusion. The vase on the right is the original version and the left is the start of the new approach – much better. Now for problem number four. I can now see why Menards had the LEDs 50% off (originally $40). The connector concept is cool, the implementation part just plain sucks. I won’t go into the detail on this, but it took me forever to get three vases hooked up together using a single power source. The clips are not strong enough, once the connectors are pierced it cannot be change or the connector tape won’t make a solid connection and they assumed you would cut the tape which I didn’t want to do opting instead to connect inline – this allowed me to have single tapes into the vase rather than worry about bringing out an end to continue the connections.
Here are the three vases sitting up on the dormer ledge.
… and as you saw in the intro, here is the finished product!
and all the colors in between through white and yellow as well.
Problem number 5 is I had to build it in place because I didn’t want to take the time to get a splicer box so I could cut the wires on the connector and tie them down on a stud allowing me to connect and remove at will without disturbing the connector on the LED tape in.
This project had a few more failures than I usually have but I did learn a lot. The two most important aspects were achieved. The first being that Linda seems to like it and the second … no trips to the emergency room – a feat seeing as how I was literally cutting glass. We now have a little bit of Vegas to remember how we celebrated the New Year.
Disclaimer Repeat: I do not recommend you try this project yourself do to the dangers involved!