The team from Journey Christian Church in Greeley, CO brings us this big Jesus sign and triangles above.
For this stage design they wanted to create a lighted letters marquee you would see at an old fashioned theatre. Their pastor wanted to focus on “Jesus” for the Christmas holiday. They searched around several online retailers and hobby stores but they couldn’t find the right letters or size they needed to get the effect without spending a small fortune. So they decided to create their own.
They decided to use MDF (Medium Density Fiberboards) as the base of their design because of the consistency from piece to piece, unlike plywood. They started with 2 pieces of 4’ x 8’ MDF and had the hardware store cut them into 2’ x 4’ sections for transport.
Initially, they decided to do rounded letters with their design but found the cutting the curves would be more difficult to create than anticipated. So they changed the letters to be block rather than the rounded lettering. They traced out each letter using the edges of the 2’ x 4’ pieces as the outside boundary of each letter.
Once the letters were cut out, they went about creating a grid for their lights. Because it’s Christmas, they had access to Christmas lighting at all the local stores. For their design, they used C9 large traditional incandescent bulbs. Depending on the size of the lettering, you can select a smaller size bulb. For their grid, they used about a 3”x 3” section between each light. Simply draw the lines across your letters with a T-square, and the intersecting sections is where you will drill a hole and run your light bulb through.
Make sure to check your lights and bulbs to make sure they work before starting the process of mounting your sockets into the board. Remove the bulbs and start mounting the sockets one at a time in your boards. For their C9 bulbs they used a 7/8” bit to drill the holes. Due to the bulbs sockets flaring out at the ends, they also had to run a chisel inside the hole to widen it just a bit more. They did not want to run a 1” size bit or the socket would slip through the hole.
You will have to use a bit of force to slip them through the hole. Each socket should mount by hand, so don’t use a hammer or mallet if it doesn’t fit. You can break the housing, and then your whole light string will be ruined. Again, if it doesn’t mount by hand use the chisel to widen the hole and repeat. Once you have mounted all your sockets you can screw in all the bulbs and plug them back in.
Just follow along each of your holes until you have completely filled the board. For the last phase they mounted each letter on some pallets with brackets. Lastly, they used zip ties to clean up any loose wires.
Total cost for their set came in around $200 total, less the cost of tools and man hours.
Notes from Isaiah on the project:
The traditional incandescent light bulbs we choose to use for the project use a lot of power when you compare them to LED bulbs. We had an electrical engineer at our church help us with the design to make sure we had the correct wiring and power requirements to run the display and not trip a breaker during service. If you are worried about this you could try using LEDs as an alternative. The LEDs, however, may not put out as much light so check before you go this route.
Second, the incandescent lights throw a ton of light and use a lot of power, but they also get hot. With so many lights in close proximity they sign creates quite a bit of heat. Make sure the area is clear and away from anything that may catch fire. Safety should always be a priority for any stage design.