Pixel Columns

My house has three columns on the front porch, and I decided to light them up with pixels this year.

My original plan was to use pixel strips, but the strips themselves have been backordered and I wasn’t able to figure out a good way of mounting them, so I decided to go a different route. Of course- I’m using my favorite construction material- PVC pipe!

In this case- I’m using 1/2″ thin-walled PVC, although after building one- I will likely switch to Sched. 40. The thin-wall stuff is just too flimsy, and I’m concerned about any kind of longevity out of it.

I figured out that the fittings spaced the pipes 2.5″ apart, so I had planned on using 2.5″ spacing for the pixel holes on the pipes to keep everything nice and even.

Elbows and Ts glued close together for 1.5″ spacing.

I made a jig, similar to the one I used here:
Peace Stakes
I used a 1/2″ Forstner bit in my drill press. I chose to use this over my usual step bit because the step bit wouldn’t travel far enough to drill all the way through with my drill press and jig, and I didn’t want to drill everything twice.

Of course- I made a mistake…

While building my jig, I used a really old square to measure my hole spacing, and somehow manage to space the holes 2.25″ apart. So- the vertical spacing is a bit smaller, BUT I ended up getting three more rows of pixels than planned.

I also tried to make sure one side of each drilled pipe didn’t have any writing on it, but I messed up installing one of them- so I have one section with red letters on it. It won’t show up at night though. 🙂

Middle Section. One side is NOT glued.

I wanted to make it collapsible for storage, so I built a middle section using Ts and crosses. The bottom half is glued, while the top half is just press-fit. This allows me to separate the two sections and fold them up (with the pixels in them) for storage.

PVC assembly complete.

The problem with the 2.25″ vertical spacing I accidentally did is in the junction in the middle. Because of the size of the fittings- there is 2.5″ spacing there. From a distance- it isn’t very noticeable though. They will be roughly 50′ from the street.

Top section closer-look.
Bottom section closer look.

The pixels go in pretty easily. I may actually hot-melt some of them that are looser than others.

Pixels pushed and ready to go.
JST connector and power injection wire.

The pixels I buy have JST connectors and power injection wires already installed- so I just have to connect them together and supply power to the extra wires. This way I’m sure every strand of 50 5v pixels has plenty of power. I just dielectric grease in the JST connector to make them reasonably waterproof, and of-course solder-seal connectors for the power wires.

At the bottom- I have an X-Connect pigtail that connects to a controller, and an automotive-style power connector for power. (Similar to my other “props”.)

Completed column. Taller than the drop ceiling so I made a hole for it.

(Please ignore the messy basement.)

Here is a quick video of the column in action..

PVC pixel column video.

I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. I can separate it in the middle with the pixels attached to fold it in half to store. I should be able to fit all three of them in a larger tote, along with some other props.

I still need to build two more, and as I said earlier- I will probably make those out of Sched. 40 so they aren’t quite as flimsy. If that goes well- I may re-do this one. If that’s the case- I’ll try to re-use the drilled pipe as Pixel Sticks/Poles or maybe a variation of the Peace Stakes.

To mount them to the columns- I’m just going to use extra-long heavy-duty zip ties.