Light Arch

Finally got around to assembling my light arch last weekend.

Light Arch

A light arch tutorial (Part 1, Part 2) made the rounds around DAHGS a month or so ago, and a couple of the guys followed it with success. I’d just had one of my LED lamp die (the light wouldn’t come on and I’d smell burning), so following the crowd was pretty easily justified.

I am incredibly satisfied with it. The photos really don’t do it justice at all.  It’s amazing.  Good lighting is key to a successful paintjob, and I suspect that the light arch will be almost as big of a hobby milestone for me as moving to a wet palette.

Light Arch (9)

(Really, the photos don’t do it justice.)

I followed the linked tutorial pretty closely, with a couple of deviations.

My shopping list:

I also ended up with a bunch of T, L, and X connectors that simply didn’t get used in the build, but I’m sure they’ll be put to use later this year: now that Mrs. Rushputin has seen me do stuff with LEDs, she’s threatening to make me do the Christmas lights this year.

What’s nuts is I could have gone brighter and done the 5630 LEDs.  I didn’t, because I was concerned about length and needing to double up on power adapters. In the end, I think I could have made it work, but really: not complaining.

Anyway: the tutorial talks about termination bars: that’s not a thing that gets used here in Virginia. Fortunately, Brett found these 8′ long aluminum bars at Lowes (but not Home Depot) that are thick enough to be sturdy but thin enough to be simply hand-shaped. I could have gotten them in 6′ lengths and probably would have been OK, but when I lined everything up I think they turned out more like ~6’8″, so the extra couple of bucks and a minute with a hacksaw turned out to be worth it.

Honestly, the hardest part of the entire build was bending the feet. I’m sure there’s an easier way to do it, but I just used pliers and brute force. If you can figure out a more effective way of doing that, I’d recommend it.

After getting the arches together, I sprayed them with white enamel paint. I should have give that paint longer to dry than I did; there are a few spots where it’s crackled, thanks to a second coat applied either too late or too early.  Then, I bolted them to my desk; I have a dedicated paint station, so I can do that.  Other folks have bolted it to pieces of wood, or you could just have it sit on your workspace.

Light Arch (4)

Otherwise, the build followed the tutorial fairly closely.  Hopefully, this is a legible articulation of how I wired it:

Light Arch Annotated

I used a connector wire to bridge the top bar at the intersection.  This would have been easier with a shorter cable, I suspect, but it worked out okay.

Light Arch (2)

Instead of just running LED along the edge, I used the 3′ connector wire to bridge the one arch to the other, and hid the cable with the cable concealer.

Light Arch (7)

The LED strips are self-adhesive, but he’s not kidding when he says it’s not great. So, at every  point where I could cut the strip (every 3 lights or so), I hot glue gun’d across the arch to hold it in place. I also reinforced every point where there might be some extra pull with zip ties.Light Arch (3)

The remote is key.  The tutorial might claim it’s optional (but Highly Recommended).  It’s not.  Spend the $5 on it, or plan to fish around behind your desk to plug and unplug stuff when you want to turn the light off. The remote is little, though, so I mounted it to the side of a shelf with some velcro.  It’s not going anywhere (but, like, if it had to it could).

Light Arch (8)

Finally, I deliberately used a long-ass bolt to hold the arch together. This might seem counter intuitive (if I’m a picky enough pain in the ass to paint this thing, why wouldn’t I use a less obtrusive, more elegant, smaller thing to fasten these arches?), but I wanted the long bolt there so I could do stuff like this:

Light Arch (1)

Mounting stupid crap to the top of the arch.  I’m not saying I’m going to decorate it seasonally or anything… but I’m also not saying I’m not, if you know what I mean.


This was unbelievably easy to build, and the result is far more effective than I’d expected. If this is something you think you can use (and if you do work that requires good lighting), DO IT.

  • Sean Parker

    I dont think Beholders enjoy that much light…

    • The light’s below it. Not directly in its eyes.