As I am currently killing time waiting for the Vienna New Year’s concert to start, I thought I’d document my process for creating the JOY sign as featured in a very inspiring post on Design*Sponge.
I will say this up front: it is super tedious (albeit very rewarding!) And there is a risk of inhaling some not-so-good-for-you fumes from soldering. But, if you’re obsessed with the sign like me, here is what I learned in the process of reproducing it.
First, materials. I got the following from my local big-box hardware store and from around our house:
- 170’ of galvanized tension wire (entirely too much, but this is how I found it in the fencing section of our store)
- 3-in-1 mini torch
- metal work acid core solder
- water-based flux paste
- flux paste brushes
- heavy duty wire cutters
- sand paper (120 grit)
- steel wool
- work gloves
- craft paper
- masking tape
- measuring tape (the fabric kind used for sewing)
- about 4 sets of 100 white indoor/outdoor lights
All told, about $100. A bit on the pricey side, but now I can solder many other things, mend fencing, AND make creme brulees! I’m quite happy that the hardware store guy recommended I get the mini torch - it was easy to work with, and as he pointed out, very precise.
Before things got serious (i.e., before I committed by removing packaging on anything from the hardware store), I made templates on craft paper to see how I liked the size of the letters in my space:
To get the proportions right, I actually took some measurements in milimeters of the original image on my computer screen then scaled up.
Next, I started cutting the wire. I had hoped to keep the number of pieces as few as possible but after some trials, I realized that there was no way to get the sharp angles needed for the letters by bending the wire.
Tip 1: Before making the cuts, I used the measuring tape to determine the lengths to cut by measuring around the edges of my templates.
Tip 2: If you look closely at the original, there are eight spokes in the ‘O’ of the original sign. Reducing this to six spokes helped in a couple of ways: fewer cuts (and thus less soldering!) and later, winding all of those lights around the ‘O’ would have been a lot harder if the open spaces had been smaller.
After cutting the wire, I again used the paper templates as guides to bend the wire. (Those templates were quite handy!)
Tip 3: Bend the wire by laying it flat on the ground against your template, and keep it laying flat while you work on it with pliers and such. I found that trying to bend in the air lead to the wire getting very warped, such that it would be hard to align all the pieces for soldering later.
Onto the soldering. I followed some basic instructions for soldering galvanized wire from eHow, so I won’t go into details.
One precaution: soldering galvanized metal and inhaling the fumes is not good for you. I leave it to the reader to do additional research regarding safety here. Be safe!
For this project, try to mitigate inhaling zinc fumes, we made sure to sand the areas to be soldered until the metal was nice and shiny. Like this:
This supposedly signifies that you’ve removed the zinc coating. As an extra precaution, we also did our soldering with the garage door open, and wore dust masks whenever we were heating up the wires and solder.
A few other snaps of the process:
We found that waiting until the flux starts to sizzle and bubble when applying heat and then touching the solder to the wire made for some nice joins. (See instructions on the flux container for info.) Don’t rush. You want the wire itself to be nice and hot.
We used masking tape to keep things from rolling all over the place.
So proud of the above join. Yes, even ones at weird angles like this were perfectly sturdy!
After about 2 hours of winding lights around the letters whilst listening to Christmas tunes. And….
I hope this was useful. I’d love to hear if anyone has made their own version. We’ve been enjoying ours all through December and it will be back next holiday season for sure.