Christmas In Kent

Journal

October 30, 2015 - Rented a lift from Sunbelt in Kent and that thing is amazing. Hydraulic self leveling outriggers and extending boom! Put up the gutter lights in record time. Dug out the Harley's and they all work! Found the spare bulbs and wire frame screws and few other key pieces that I haven't seen for some four years. I'm a happy guy right now.

October 29, 2015 - We are back this year. New elements, New songs, new energy! Today I actually put lights on the house. Tomorrow I pick up a rental man lift as mine is sick this year.

November 25, 2013 - I figured I better write something or you all might think I don't like Christmas anymore. That couldn't be farther from the truth! My sons and I watch TSO last Saturday and if that doesn't put you in the spirit nothing will. Good times and good visiting with my Christmas Crazy friends.

November 2, 2011 - Well my lovely wife mowed the front lawn real short for me today and just in time as it started raining about dark. Here's something you don't see everyday, I was out in that front yard with my head lamp on running the weed wacker looking for the green covers that hide the pole holders and tie downs. I found them all!

October 22, 2011 - Just got home from the LOR Jump Start clinic. Chuck "Planet Christmas" Smith led the charge and taught about ten of us the ins and outs of Light-O-Rama hardware and software. I must say there is always new stuff to learn and I learned a lot!

On the display side, the put up has started. The roof frames and sandbags are up and waiting for their respective elements  (Santa on the Harley, Bethlehem Star...). Starting hanging the gutter lights yesterday. Man it gets dark early!

September 10, 2011 - Re-painted the two big mega tree poles today. Also started adding red and green LED's to the gutter strings here.

September 4, 2011 - Painted the Bethlehem Star yesterday and built a roof frame today. About 12 trips to the roof to do layout, kill wasps and fit the frame on the peak. Pictures here.

August 11, 2011 - Darn job gets in the way for Christmas lights! Can't blame the job for everything as I do have a Camano Island job of sorts as well. Building stairs down a 200' bluff does present challenges but the stairs were finished last weekend!
This summer I've been to a couple of Bellevue Botanical Garden flower light building seminars. These lights are used for their Garden D Lights display in December. Since I have attended their classes I have assembled a few light flowers of my own that I plan to use this December.
Now I haven't done much else as far as the Christmas display except take delivery of some replacement LEDs for the mega trees and some LED rope light. I need to revise my to-do list.

February 10, 2011 - The MiniPLUS 2011 is set now for May 14th at Bill & Nancy Foley's place in Olympia. Of course we'll have the Friday Pizza gathering the evening before as usual.

January 31, 2011 - Things are mostly down except for a couple of smaller fir trees in front of the water feature. Ended up lowering the big 32' pole (for Mega Tree "A") with the help of Fran running the tractor, Conner spotting and me in the lift. The Lift has issues so it's time to rebuild it this summer. It needs new hydraulic hoses, new hydraulic oil and a basic going over. I'm still in Christmas mode getting some items I'll need for 2011 plans. I've been sending some of my LOR controllers to LOR for service. They have fixed them (for free!) and returned them good as new. Bad news is I have two controllers that mice made homes in last year and they destroyed the electronics. Call it mouse pee of whatever but it corroded the electrical components right off the board. I doubt LOR is going to repair these. But it never hurts to ask?

January 22, 2011 - Lights are all down (well except for a couple of real trees). Things are drying and being tucked away. Finished the roof today thanks to dry weather. 

January 16, 2011 - Happy New Year! It's all coming down but slower than I'd like. Too many meeting and questionable weather (snow) has slowed progress. Big tree will be bare today as will the middle tree. The roof will have to wait for drier weather.

December 25, 2010 - Merry Christmas. We celebrate on this the anniversary of our Savior's birth! We have now raised over $2,000 for the South Sound Dream Center. We have also collected more food. Thank you all.

December 21, 2010 - We have raised over $1,000 for the South Sound Dream Center. We have also collected over 60 lbs. of food. Thank you all for your generous donations! Lots of people still coming by. Arbor Village retirement center will be by again tonight.

December 3, 2010 - First three days going well! Most bugs are fixed. A couple small things to do tomorrow day. The glitchyness of the small mega tree is gone this year, must be the new firmware.

November 20, 2010 - Main power cables run, house hooked and tested!

November 19, 2010 - Finished the 55 minitrees. Tomorrow it's power run day!

November 18, 2010 - Almost done putting out first 55 minitrees.

November 14, 2010 - Finished arches (5) and put out stick trees (6). Finished layout for main mini trees (55).

November 13, 2010 - Started putting out the arches. Took a break and went to TSO!

November 12, 2010 - Big tree finished. Saint Nick helped again yesterday and we kicked mega tree heinie!

November 9, 2010 - Finished the medium mega tree tonight!

November 7, 2010 - James came by to help stand the big pole. Managed to get three of the four colors on the medium tree today. Finished the last few strands in the dark with my headlight on. We might have gained an hour today but I lost an hour of daylight this afternoon.

November 6, 2010 - Nick came by and we finished the small mega tree and set the medium mega tree pole. Thank you Saint Nick!

November 5, 2010 - Roof items finished! Small mega tree pole is up.

October 31, 2010 - Upper C7 LED red done and ice!

October 30, 2010 - Lower gutter ice and green LED C7's up! The madness has begun! Had to repair many blue LED ice lights by soldering new bulbs on. Too expensive to throw away!

 October 18, 2010 - Doing rope light wraps and becoming a rope light surgeon in the process. Found all the Mega Tree tie downs yesterday under a year and a half of grass growth.

October 6, 2010 - Got rope light coming out my ears now but winding is progressing. Building minitrees as well. Days are getting shorter (and colder).

September 25, 2010 - Been doing mini trees, 12 done about 13 more? Started wrapping poles with mini lights but I think I'll switch to rope light. Only 16 of those to do. Am I behind a little - Absolutely!

July 17, 2010 - I started bending the conduit yesterday for the fan. I have all the angle iron and 1/4" round stock pre-painted. Bending conduit in an 8' arch is more of an art than a science.

July 14, 2010 - I attended a Garden d' Lights workshop tonight. This is put on by Bellevue Botanical Gardens. I made a primrose out of mini lights. If you go see their lights this year you'll see my primrose (among the other 500,000 lights there - Yup , that's right half a million lights). I know, why wouldn't I want to be involved in helping with "half a million lights"! So I might have some lights as flowers this year? Maybe...   Mines the one in the foreground left. Three groups of six frosted white lights around one gold light with six clusters of three green lights as petals.

Primrose 

May 9, 2010 - Happy Mother's Day! My fan lights showed up last week. I going to be doing a multicolor LED fan similar to Mark's (zman) . Here's some pictures of his.

April 28, 2010 - Well, we had a great Mini PLUS last weekend. Lots of new ideas. Great to connect with old friends and make a few new ones. Thanks again to Bill & Nancy Foley for hosting (and paying for lunch). I still building Lynx Express DIY boards. I'll have at least 10 done soon. I don't have a clue what the show will look like but no matter. It will be different.

January 3, 2010 - Happy New year all! I just realized by taking the year off I get three months off. I don't have take anything down. :-)  But I did have a chance to re-think some of the priorities. My son Conner and I also had time to visit some displays and come up with cool stuff for this year. We visited the Bellevue Botanical Gardens and their lights are amazing. There's no synchronizing to music BUT all their lights are built like real flowers and plants. So guess what - Yep we're going to have flowering lights this year. Oh and we're already planning things for the MiniPLUS in April. We've yet to contact Bill Foley but the wheels are turning...

October 18, 2009 - Well the decision has been made - no show this year. I'm giving my family the year off. Of course I get the year off as well. I apologize to all those that make the annual trek to the show but I needed a break. Next year we'll be back with lots of cool new things.

July 7, 2009 - We survived the 4th and we're thinking more and more about the display layout. Ideas ranging from fans to time tunnel to more mini trees. Lots of other projects pulling at me. A few new DIY controller projects will be winging their way to my house for soldering up. The LOR sale is in full swing this week along with lights and other things on sale. Waiting to hear from the guy from TLC to see if we're selected for the Christmas Light special in December. More on that later...

January 11, 2009 - We're in take down mode now. We decided to wait until after the monsoons were done before tackling the job. I don't know how rain we got but I had to take the only east/west road that wasn't flooded and it only doubled my commute. The trip home was worse as the weather quadrupled the commute. The yard display elements are down (except for the megas) and I made a good dent in the miles of cords. Today was a good day as it only drizzled all day and the temp was OK. I don't mind putting the display up in the driving rain but I draw the line during take down. Six weeks up, four weeks down sound good to me.

January 3, 2009 - The last show was on the 31st and it's that bitter sweet time again. Time to thank everyone who braved the weather to come out and see the display. This year was unique to say the least. We were lucky and only had a total of about 16" of snow and it didn't really affect the show except it kind of buried the snowflakes on the roof. The rest of the display faired very well and we only started getting glitches when everything melted. Note to self, do a better job weather proofing all the controllers. Things are pretty well frozen today so not much outside work can be done.

Conner and I are already signed up for the PLUS 2009 in Louisville Kentucky. This year it's a four day event!

December 27, 2008 - I never thought I'd say this but it's finally raining. The mini trees are almost 42" tall again. I believe we had almost 16" of snow at the house. It seems it snowed every day for a week. Today is a light rain but the snow is rapidly leaving.
We raised over $400 and 100+ pounds of food for the Kent Food Bank so far. Thank you everyone who donated! We've met all sorts of great folks who have stopped by to see the lights. I think there's even a few who want to join the ranks of Crazy Christmas Addicts!

November 30, 2008 - It's all done (well except for a few small details) We are ready to turn it on tomorrow at 7PM! A few new item in the show this year are individual strobes on top of the mini trees, color wash LED's on the house, a couple of mega strobes and three new Harleys on the roof!

November 5, 2008 - Wow I guess I should update this more often... So long story short. New job, started a couple of weeks earlier. I have my three big mega trees up and lights on them. Thanks to Elves Nick, John and Jeff. Conner helped too. Things are on schedule and songs are being synchronized. Next project is the house roof and gutters.

October 3, 2008 - OK now I'm freaking out. The lift is completely dead! I somehow left the key switch on the batteries are completely dead. I replaced the batteries and the charger is dead. I fixed the charger and the controls are dead. I replaced the control board and tilt sensor and finally it comes back to life. What a relief! Do you know much Home Depot charges to rent their lift?

June 8, 2008 - I finished the enclosures for 14 Chauvet 200B color wash floods today. I also cut a few more pieces for my roof stands. I'm just about done with the basic layout for this year. Now should I weld or assemble controllers?

June 1, 2008 - OK I'm really trying now. I have finished mounting four DMX Chauvet 200B fixtures into plastic flower pots. They are programmed, installed and have 12" XLR cables pre-installed. I will still need to built stands for them but I now have a system for finishing them. Check out the pictures here.

I have my steel angle cut to length and ready to weld up for my three new wire frame roof displays.

I also finished one 16 channel LOR enclosure and one DC controller enclosure..

May 20, 2008 - Lots of things happening. I'll start with the DIY (do-it-yourself) items I have been building. I finished the LEDtriks and got it work (sort of). I have put it away for now and will concentrate on making a cover for my commercial of LED sign. I purchased 1/8" acrylic material and solvent welded it together to form a box to cover the sign. I still need to seal the upper edges and drill some mounting holes but it should be good to go. I'll post pictures in the "Progress 2008" section. Next project was a DIY kit called a LYNX. It's a 16 channel DMX controller dimmer. I can run it trough the LOR iDMX controller. I have built and tested one and it works great. I will build the next one with 12 volt outputs so I can control MR16 spots. I also completed a DMX (DYI) dongle so I can control/configure the Lynx controller with Vixen as well. I also finished my first matrix channel switcher. It consists of 8 two channel mechanical relays that allow me to switch banks of lights using one channel therefore using one only 16 channels of LOR to control 32 channels of lights. I plan on building five more and then using them to matrix between the six LLA (leaping light arches) and six other display items yet to be determined.

March 22, 2008 - I continue to test my LEDTRIKS. (DIY LED reader board). I don't know what's keeping it from working but it's driving me nuts!. I'm going try a different computer next.

March 17, 2008 - The MR16's from China arrived today

February 29, 2008 - It's done, the strobe chaser is done! Here it is LED Triks is next. What is LED TRIX? Click here to find out more. Oh and the Mini PLUS is again a Bill & Nancy Foleys House. Click here for more info.

January 29, 2008 - I better get busy. All the lights are down and all is put away except one big pole in the front yard. This weekend it will come down one way or another. I working on our big local gathering in April or May the NW WA Mini PLUS. Once we tally the votes we can make the big announcement. I'm working on another MR16 LED order and a few little electrical projects to keep the momentum going.

January 1, 2008 - Happy New Year. We ran the show through January 31st until about 10:30pm. I would like to thank everyone who stopped by to share their Christmas with us. The comments we received were overwhelming. We received a lot of great suggestions for next year and we will be gearing up to deal the traffic and parking situation. This year we will be selecting a charity and putting up a lock box so people can donate all through he month of December.

December 6, 2007 - The show has been running now for 4 days with minimal glitches. Tomorrow should be a good day for photos. Tomorrow will also be out first "Big" Friday night so we'll be ready with extra parking and our viewing area. Conner is extra busy syncing songs to add to the play list and I should have one to add by tomorrow.

December 2, 2007 - Well the snow should be gone by this afternoon because it's been raining since early morning. Time to put out the nativity scene. By the time I'm done with it it will be time to check control boxes for water.

December 1, 2007 - Wow has it really been two weeks. The display it up (well 95%) of it. My son and I treated ourselves to a TSO concert at 3pm today. I left the computer in charge in case we didn't get back for the 7pm start. It started snowing today and by the time it was done we had three inches of the stuff. The good news it that the lights look really cool under all that snow. The bad news is that I can't find anything now if I wanted to troubleshoot anything. The show ran OK but with the snow we had very few people see it.

November 18, 2007 - Nick came buy to set Mega "B" (see progress 2007) The big is done except for about 8 strings (miscalculated quantities so Paul is sending more). Almost done with LLA #5.

November 10, 2007 - Finished the small (16') mega tree (yesterday). Today I had a major work party. Nick and John were here for six hours so we set the big mega pole (32') we finished the twig (stick) trees and we tested and de-tagged about ten cases of LED lights. Another wonderful day for lights. It rained in the early morning but by afternoon it was sunny. Check out the pictures.

November 5, 2007 - So far so good! John stopped by this weekend and helped a bunch. The snowflakes and Santa are on the roof. I've decided to have a controller up on the roof to control 16 of the 20 snow flakes (down from 22 last year). I've got a status light wired to the outside of  the control box so hopefully I won't have to climb up there to work on it after the wiring is done. John got seven of the stick trees put together and yesterday we got 8 of last years reindeer working. I don't think it's good to leave the reindeer outside lying in the grass for months. I think they'll go in the barn after the show. So far the weather has been pretty good. It drizzled all day yesterday so we worked in "Santa's Workshop" (the tent garage). Today it looks like I'll be on the lift doing the upper gutters!

November 1, 2007 - Today's the day! I started by putting up the C7 white and blue LED icicles on the lower gutters. It was a great day to start. Partly cloudy and no rain!

October 31, 2007 - Nativity is done and I need to build the stable (frame) for the display. I turned half a LLA today. I now have 3-1/2 LLA done (leaping light arches). Only 2-1/2 to go. I constructed the two additional hoops for the small and medium mega trees. I used 3/4" white schedule 40 PVC. The small one didn't want to stay in that tight a hoop so a little Gorilla Tape was in order. Regular duct tape just tore and didn't hold the hoop together. I've got Santa's workshop (the garage tent) setup to turn LLA's and rewire reindeer. I'm now using an old ice cream maker motor to turn the arches as the BBQ rotisserie motor was painfully slow. The ice cream maker motor does a pretty good job. 1,600 lights per arch with 16 channels! I start putting up lights tomorrow!

October 17, 2007 - Our Nativity set is coming along. I have one more piece to glue and cut out. I'll start painting the backs and edges today and maybe get a coat of sealer on the fronts tomorrow. Finished the big mega tree pole and top ring that holds the light strings.  The pole for the big mega is finished and painted. I welded extra tie downs near the welded joint in case the pole seems to wiggle too much once it's up in the air. Here's a picture of the top pieces. The smaller piece is for the medium Mega and it's 8" diameter.

Large Mega Top 8" diameter top

It's a 3/16" piece of steel plate, 12" in diameter with 12 hooks welded to it. A 1-1/4" rigid electrical conduit union welded top and bottom.
My stars for the top have the same union welded to them and whole thing screws together and slides into the top of the 2" pole.

October 14, 2007 - Finished the first LLA (Leaping Light Arch). I'm using an old BBQ rotisserie motor. I don't think it's up the task. It's a bit slow and bogs down after you get half the strings on.

LLA winder

Here's a pic of just 3 of the 16 strings wound on. Note the foot switch bottom right for turning the winder on/off.

LLA with three strings on.

September 28, 2007 - Well I got off my heinie and built a star for the top of my (big) mega tree. It's 36" diameter and has 6 segments. Now it's figuring out what kind of lights to put on and how (rope light or minis). Tomorrow I'll probably build the topper star for the medium mega which is 30" diameter. I will probably only do 5 segments for it. Other must builds are 10 more minis and repair all those poor reindeer with only three legs. Oh and those leaping light arches aren't going to build themselves.

August 10, 2007 - So much to tell in the last few weeks. I'll start with the bi-annual gathering of Christmas Lighting Enthusiasts or PLUS (Planet Christmas Lights Up Symposium). It was August 2nd through the 4th. There were about 200 people plus their families who attended. My first big impression was driving through Pigeon Forge (not sure of why it's named that) at 1 AM and seeing all the activities along the park strip. The park strip is about 5 miles long and covered with at least 6 go-cart tracks, dozens of arcades, shops and hundreds of activities. Definitely a family friendly town. Then about 15 miles away was Gatlinburg where the convention was to be held. Set right in the Smokey Mountains almost Bavarian looking. I checked into the hotel at 1:30AM and set the alarm for 6AM.

Registration started at 7AM and right out front of the convention center was my good friend Mark Zembruski from Woodinville, WA. After I received my badge and a bag full of goodies (mouse pad, multitool, light clips, zip ties, CD with all the presentations) we got our bearing and readied our selves for the opening ceremonies. Marty Slack welcomed everyone and then Chuck Smith (Mr. Planet Christmas) welcomed and told us his story (wonderful stuff). After a short break it was off the your choice of sessions. I choose LOR (Light-O-Rama) with Marty Slack. He had his three animated characters with him. Rudy, Winston and Bruno. I learned so much in that session that was worth the trip alone. Well there was a "Blink Off" where the three manufacturers (Animated Lighting, Light-O-Rama and D-Light) picked a person to take a song and an hour and sync the lights using their software and controllers. Animated Lighting was the clear favorite but I heard they had synced the song earlier and used that finished version.

Other sessions I attended were Display Design and I helped in the two Soldering Labs (as an assistant). The banquet was a blast with two guest speakers. Mary Edsay gave a presentation  based on her book "The Best Christmas Decorations in Chicagoland" Judy Pancoast sang some of the songs she wrote and her song, "The House On Christmas Street" was the song they used for the Blink Off! It was awesome! Of course I got one of Mary's books and few of Judy's CD's!

Oh and did I tell you there was a vendor room with over 20,000 SF of  Christmas stuff. Of course I had to hit up my friend Paul Sessel with Creative Displays for some more LED's. I also got some really cool trees and a wire frame.

There was so much to do and see that I didn't have time to visit Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge. Maybe I'll be back? I'll be back if the next PLUS is there for sure!

July 20, 2007 - The Mini PLUS was great fun. So many new friends and seeing old friends. We gave away special (nail) aprons with a PC logo on them and so many door prizes were given out we think just about everyone got one. Since March I've been busy building the barn, falling off a ladder and working on controller enclosures. Not to worry, I'm all healed up now. The barn should be mostly done by the weekend. Then I can start on Mini trees and our new nativity scene. I'm off to PLUS in a week!

March 30, 2007 - Well finally got my permit for my barn so construction can begin (continue). Barn for alpacas and Christmas light storage! I've got a few stacks of tomato cages (100) and will begin building mini trees soon. I've collected all the items needed for my new DC controllers and will be assembling them in April. I'm getting ready for the Mini Plus on April 28th! and sending out reminders to the presenters.

February 27, 2007 - Hey it snowing right now - really! Time to start planning 2007! I've starting building more control boxes and this year I will using DC control to handle LED flood lights. Also this year we will have three mega trees and they will be mostly LED's. I've also go some really cool Christmas songs this year.

January 7, 2007 - Happy New Year! - It's all over now. Most of the cords are put away. Minis are stacked and put aside for now. Still to take down is the Mega (It blew down again anyway) and the house and trees. Already have some great ideas for this Christmas. More lights on the house, more strobes, more mini trees, more mega trees?, more channels... I'm waiting for my Pinnacle Video upgrade so I can finish my videos. This Christmas I'll definitely do a better job video taping.

December 21, 2006 - Conner and I got about 1/3 of the mega tree back up today. We should have it all up by tomorrow night. I think we know how it came down. Three major factors: winds 80-90 MPH lasting 10-12 hours, a three section pole, and finally guys wires what worked loose at the top. Most of the strings still work and I learned that next year we will have a one piece pole or tower of some kind. I can make the tower wind proof but I don't know about the light strings. They can take a real beating in the winds.

December 20, 2006 - WOW Was that a storm or what! I think they called it a tornado? It's a good thing I had six days (without power) to think about what to do next The Mega Tree came down (again) during the worst storm in eight million years. BUT my son Conner and I were back at it again today putting the lights back on the Mega Tree. The show must go on!

December 10, 2006 - The show goes on. We're firing on all cylinders now. The computer runs the show completely. When the shows not running the computer plays Christmas music. Thanks to Logan Moore and his "Frosty Player".

December 2, 2006 - Well tonight was much better. The show started by itself and run without a hitch. I do have a few lights to fix tomorrow and some other items to add. I added a couple of inflatable items today. Homer Simpson, Sponge Bob, Scooby Doo and Santa on a Harley

December 1, 2006 - Is it December already? Well we're ready (I think). We'll find out tonight at 7pm! I put up an inflatable 10' nut cracker and a 12' inflatable snowman.
Well the show went great. Only one hitch. I forgot to copy the files for the voice overs. Oh well tomorrow (and every night) will be better!

November 29, 2006 - Crunch time now. Two days until live. I have eight trees left but will keep working even after the show starts. The weather has been just nasty. The photographer for the newspaper couldn't even make it out to the house so I had to send in my own picture. The pictures are posted here.

November 26, 2006 - Major work done now. Mega tree is done and functioning. 32 of 50 mini tress are up and functioning. The "Merry Christmas" sign is functioning. Been running cords for four days now. I'm learning soooo much I wish I done differently. I'll have to start a page of lessons learned. I spent two whole days trouble shooting controllers and connecting them together.

November 19, 2006 - I love being on the roof in the rain! - NOT. I did get a bunch of upper house lights done this weekend. The star and custom chaser lights are up on the big fir tree.

November 17, 2006 - Mega back with bigger pipe and more bracing. Another storm last before last was a good test and the pole didn't move. Only have 48 strings of white on it but should finish the blue and red today. Finished the roof last night with 20 snowflakes and did all the wiring down to the panels. Dark but dry and it seems easier being on the roof when you can't see down. Next time I'll make a custom control cord for the roof and save me about 30 trips up and down the ladders.

November 13, 2006 - Bad storm last night. Mega tree came down. Lesson learned - bigger pipe and guy wires at every joint. Down came over 10,000 lights. The good news is that we only lost about 6 strings of lights, most of  the ornaments and a few strobes.

November 12, 2006 - St. Nick was here and we got 48 strings of blue up. Also finished the lower gutters of the house with C-7's and blue icicles.

November 11, 2006 - John was back for yet another day of lights. John put up another 300 red Led's on the fence and we got started hanging strings on the mega. Got all the white strings done (4,800).

November 10, 2006 - John was here today (in the rain). We wrapped trees and put 500 LED's on the fence. Oh and John put out the last reindeer and the C-7's around the island. I got the strobes and large ornaments on the mega tree. 30' up with the wind howling and the lift holds steady. Man I love that lift! (see picture)

November 8, 2006 - Mega tree pole (28' high) is up after some slight modifications. My man lift is sure coming in handy. I can't imagine being up on a thirty foot ladder - yikes! Today was first day without rain and I should have been on the roof. I have been synchronizing lights to music for about a month now. The computer is setup in the shop to control all the lights.

November 4, 2006 - Much progress has been made since my last entry. I finished my "Merry Christmas" rope light sign and it's 48" X 24' long! Also complete are my two sub-panels. Only need final hookup to my main panels. I received the balance of my rope light snowflakes yesterday from Novelty Lights so they are ready to put on the house. I received my voice overs from Kevin Dunn and they are awesome. I starting using the announcements today for the December 1st start of the show.
My first Elf Festive was today and my two good friends showed up at 9AM sharp. Nick Barta (St. Nick) and John Busse assembled reindeer and trees and then we placed them in the front yard and tied them down. About 4PM today we had one of those frog drowners and it blew sideways. Good test for the trees and reindeer. We put up the "Merry Christmas" sign and generally got real wet. Oh and I have a car full of cardboard to recycle from all the boxes!

October 9, 2006 - Notice anything new? New Christmas in Kent Logo! Thanks to Scott Hardin who I met on Planet Christmas Chatroom. I'd give you his email but you better go to Planet Christmas and do a search and find him (else the spam bots smite thee). His screen name is "Scott_Hardin". Oh on a side note I finished welding my Santa on the Harley roof support. Now just finish the paint and it's ready to ride!

October 1, 2006 - 50 mini-trees done!!! That's 50 trees times 300 lights per tree or 15,000 lights just for mini trees! I also built a tree topper for my mega tree today. But I'm doing some ruminating on the mega tree. Right now the plan is for 30' tall and 8' wide at the base. I know I know, the base is too small. It should be at least 12' wide and by the "Planet Christmas" official calculation it should height/1.75 or my 30' tall tree should be 17' wide at the base. Yikes! that means the light strings need to be over 31' long just to reach from the top to outside edge of the bottom. Maybe I'll go 20' high. The base on that should be 11'-5" so I'll just go 10' and call it good. Tomorrow I'll start building the Santa on the Harley roof support.

September 30, 2006 - Made cords today for the "special" light chasers. More on that later.

September 24, 2006 - Man do I have too many mini-trees. I've got about 12 left to do. Today I planted four Mega Tree seeds. Actually I dug and set four guy wire anchors into concrete in the front yard. I covered then with those 6" round irrigation covers. Photos to follow. I'm also ready to build my Santa on the Harley steel support for the roof. I changed the FM transmitter to 98.7 FM because I found there is nothing at all on that channel. My broadcast reaches about 1/2 mile now! Such is the life of a crazed Christmas light fanatic.

September 9, 2006 - OK it's crunch time. I've got about a third of my mini-trees done. I did four sets with lights today. I'm thinking there is a easier way? Probably not. I still have snow flakes to do. Monday it's off to the steel supplier for the snow flake steel. Oh and I have a roof stand to make for Santa Harley! Hmmmm how many days left?

August 18, 2006 - Found out today that our new neighbors are light junkies too. Maybe a synchronized neighborhood is in our future?

August 6, 2006 - Working on tomato cages, posted a how-to on the site. Organizing and putting away lights and cords. Just started my final LOR box. Board #26 (Box #16). I will have 16 D-Light boards and 10 - 16 channel LOR boards for a total of 288 channels!

July 18, 2006 - I've been programming the LOR software and the channel configuration. I've got 288 channels to setup in the animator as well. Jingle Bell Rock is the first song and it's almost there. I've got my AutoCAD layout almost done. Check it out here. I better get busy with those mini trees. 100 tomato cages lie in wait.

July 17, 2006 - I received the Light-O-Rama order last Friday. I've got two units in the boxes. Here's a picture of the first one:

I used the Fibox's I purchased for the D-light units. I also used the cords from LOR. They are great with pre-tinned leads. I numbered them using "liquid electrical tape" white. I like the choice of using one cord (circuit) to power both side of the LOR (20 amps total) or separating the sides to get 20 amps per side.
I tested the wireless "Easy Light Linker". Sweet!

May 21, 2006 - Ordered 10 CTB16WHS Light-O-Rama controllers!!! The Sale is on! I also ordered the wireless controller linker and short power cords for each. I have enough Fibox boxes to enclose them all.

May 19, 2006 - Tonight I just finished D-Light boards number 11 and 12. Yesterday I finished assembling box number 5 (boards 9 and 10). So I have 80 channels in the five boxes. But I have 96 channels built. Only 192 channels to go! Actually I'm not building all of them my self. The Light-O-Rama sale starts in two days so I'm going to pick up a few them. Plus they have a device to connect controllers wirelessly. I also picked up some goodies off EBay. 200 feet of 10-4 cable for building a mega extension cord. I also picked a few 100' extension cords (10 gauge!)

OK - I have been remiss in my duties here. I really have been working on lights... But on April 22 I traveled to Bill Foley's place on beautiful Lake Saint Clair. Bill is the Yoda (Jedi Master) of Christmas displays (but much better looking). He does LOR, wire frames (animated of course), servo control... He showed us many cool things including cutting rope lights, integrating servo control, laser lights, the list goes on and on. I met many great people from the area and Jerry Plak from southern Cal! I took three pages of notes only after I realized that two hours had passed and I was still sitting there with my mouth open. Bill and his wonderful wife Nancy were great hosts. They served us a wonderful lunch and we all got ball caps - just for showing up. THANKS BILL & NANCY!!!

Here's Bills' shop transformed into Mini Plus NW

Note the flat screen on top of the tool box. Bill uses the "Big" screen to program LOR.
The wire frame Santa is Bill's creation. It's rope lights of at least 5 different colors.
Of course it's animated. Santa is patting his belly.

Here are the door prizes - just for showing up! (That's Bogart looking for food)
Not shown is the fully assembled 16 channel LOR!!! (Doug Kramer won it!)
I came away with 20 boxes of 50 minis!!!

 

March 19, 2006! Building extension cords. I used to purchase 100 foot orange extension cords from Wal-Mart for $8.88 but they raised their prices to $9.98 so I was getting them from Discount Office for $9.99 but now they raised their prices to $10.99 BUT they still offer free shipping and no tax. The Wal-Mart cords come in at $10.86 with tax plus I have to go get them. I think I'm done buying cords for now. I am however making some of these 100' cords into "Two" channel cords by splitting the ends and sharing the neutral and making the ground a second hot. I found 8' cords with polarized male plugs for about $1.89 each. I cut the male plug and two feet off and use the remaining six foot cord (which has tinned ends) and mount it two and polarized female plug. I splice the zip cords into the 100' cords and shrink wrap the soldered connections.
Here's pictures of the zip cords and finished two channel extension cord:

This way I've got two six foot cords at the ends and I can hook them up to lights that are 12' apart without adding more extension cords. The cords will marked "A" and "B" to distinguish the channel (and tested). I used the paint on Liquid Electrical Tape at the joint where I striped off the outer orange jacket as I want these to last many years. I also wrapped the soldered connections with high quality electrical tape. Since these cords are now rated at 5 amps per channel I will use accordingly.


February 26, 2006! Finished the first two D-Light controllers and have them mounted in my new Fibox boxes I found on-line. The pictures are here. Received the software and serial port adapter from Light-O-Rama and will test soon.


Continuing to organize. I ordered 30 each 20amp GFCI receptacles from www.theexitstore.com. They were only $5.25 each. The Home Depot was the cheapest local source at $10.00 each. I have my doubts about them being actually 20 amp GFCI's but I'll confirm that when I receive them. 15 amp will be fine as well. The price was certainly right.

Probably will purchase two 125 amp sub panels from the local McLendon Hardware. Found the Siemens brand at $33 each with no breakers. I'll put two GFCI outlets on each circuit as each LOR board is planned on being about ten amps (for each branch). I scoped out the access to my two 200 amp panels and found an excellent access box that the electricians put below the meter adjacent to the shop where the controlling computer will be. I'll be able to pull two sets of  #3 feeders for both sub panels. Between both 200 amp panels I have 21 spares but since I don't plan to wire individual circuits I have opted for two sub panels. You can never have enough power.

Started planning my master LOR plan. Using an Excel spreadsheet I have mapped out each channel. Once I have each channel mapped out I will start the rough LOR programming using the graphical interface.

Oh and much to my chagrin I'm still putting things away.

I received four kits for building D-Light boards but Mouser.com ran out of one of the resister networks so that is on hold.


Time for a February entry: It's February 4th and it's still raining (big storm today!). Since my last entry I have received the final shipment of blue mini lights needed. I've started planning my sub panels. Looks like I'll need two 100 amp sub panels. Not that I'll be drawing 200 amps! It's just more prudent to plan ahead and oversize. I don't want to be blowing breakers come December 1! My CAD drawing is somewhat complete for the front yard. I also received my new metal cutoff saw form Harbor Freight (on sale) so I can cut the 1/4" round and 1/8" X 1/2" for snow flakes. I joined the Inflatable Club so I'll be getting a new inflatable with my membership! Check out the links page!


Wednesday January 18th. Received all 71 cords from Joe at Holiday Lighting. I also got the 1,000 C7 translucent red and blue bulbs and two 1,000 foot spools of c7 cords at 12" spacing. Started the CAD drawing of my front yard. Tomorrow I'll go outside and measure where all the trees are.


Wednesday January 11th. Spoke with new best friend Joe at Holiday Lighting. He's a lighting pro from Michigan. He sold me a bunch of stuff but what's really cool is he has all these really great ideas that he's shared. This is going to be so cool! I'll try not to say that to much....


Saturday January 7th. Cut a great deal with Joe from Holiday Lighting in Michigan. That should do for lights. I showed a friend yesterday some of my ideas and after he stopped laughing he came up with some good ideas as well. I'm going to start welding up the pieces for the Mega-Tree with weekend. I'm using threaded electrical conduit (heavy wall) 1-1/4" to 1-1/2" and I'm expecting the wind to blow this coming December (like it always does) so the mega-tree will have guy wires on four corners into substantial ground anchors.

I've decided to get a jump and try my hand at building some D-Light controllers. 32 channels for about $200. You can use LOR (Light-O-Rama) to control them too. Check out D-Light. They have a pretty cool way to order the other components you need from Mouser.com.


January 6th. Got two more 1,000 light metal trees at K-Mart. Regularly $70 for $17! 75% off is pretty cool.  Their other lights are gone.


January 5th and I've finished the kit built FM25B. Our very own FM radio station is ready! I plugged it in and it worked! Woo Who! Check the links page for Ramsey kits.


It's January 3rd and it's raining so the house lights will just have to wait. I continued to put away all the lights I got on sale. Found a ripping deal today: An 8' wreath with 1,000 lights on it for 75% off.

Working on my master spreadsheet and calculating amp draw for the various strings.

I was able to snag some rope light off eBay today.

I'm waiting for my new buddy Joe to send me a final amount for the various items he found for me. Joe is a commercial light guy and does this stuff for a living. He's sending me all  the cords he doesn't use (both new and slightly used) for pennies on the dollar. I'm also getting some c7 bulbs and strings from him.