How to Make Rope Lights

Written by cathy conrad
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How to Make Rope Lights
Rope Lights (wikimedia)

Rope lights were first noticed among children at fairs and carnivals. Now, uses for rope lighting can be seen everywhere. Businesses use rope lights and so do campers and gardeners. Rope lighting can be made at home and used to line the driveway or flower bed, decorate for the holidays or to use indoors as subdued lighting. Because the lighting comes in many different colours, it is easy to have it be exactly as you want it.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • ¼-inch transparent vinyl tubing
  • 3mm ultra-bright 4-volt LED lights, any colour
  • Straight wire
  • Speaker wire
  • Outside cutters
  • Tape measure
  • Black marker
  • Knife
  • Glue gun with glue sticks
  • Small flashlight

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  1. 1

    Determine how long the tubing needs to be for the desired lighting that will be used. Then, calculate how many lights will be used, evenly spaced along the length of the tube. Purchase this amount of tubing and lights.

    How to Make Rope Lights
    LED lights
  2. 2

    Trim the wires on the lights to a sharp point with the outside cutters for easy insertion into the speaker wire. You need to trim only approximately 1/4 inch into a sharp point.

    How to Make Rope Lights
    Outside cutters
  3. 3

    Measure the speaker wire a little longer than the tubing. Make evenly spaced marks along the length of the speaker wire with the marker. These marks will be where you place the lights.

  4. 4

    Push a light into one end of the speaker wire as tightly as it will go without bending the metal wire on the light. Cut two small parallel lines in the outer sheath of the speaker wire, one in each side of the wire, and carefully push the light wires into each hole and along the length of the wire, not all the way through. It will not go in very far. That's what you want, for it to be snug, but push it in as firmly as possible without bending the wire.

  5. 5

    Repeat Step 4 until all the lights are evenly spaced.

  6. 6

    Remove the lens cap and cover from the flashlight. Pull the bulb out. The circuit board is on the back of the bulb of all flashlights. Strip some of the wire coating off of the end of the speaker wire that does not have a light attached approximately 1/4 inch. To do this, cut the covering of the wires, pull the cut piece of rubber cover off of the wires, exposing the bare wires. Hold both bare wires against the threads of the flashlight, and screw the cap back on to hold the wire in place. Turn the flashlight on, and the lights should light up. If not or some do not, turn the flashlight off and reverse the metal wires of the lights in the speaker wire by pulling the light back out and turning it in the opposite direction as it was in. Continue turning the flashlight on and then back off and reversing lights until all the lights are lit up.

  7. 7

    Remove the small wire that is protruding from the flashlight circuit board to keep the flashlight bulb from lighting up. Strip enough rubber sheath from the speaker wire and attach one wire to the end of the spring that is on the light circuit board. Wrap the other wire around the threads of the flashlight base where the cap meets the base.

    How to Make Rope Lights
    Attaching Wire
  8. 8

    Set the light circuit board back into the flashlight base. Screw the cap back on without the lens. Turn the flashlight, on and the lights should light up. If they do not, unscrew the cap and reverse the wires on the flashlight.

  9. 9

    Place a small drop of hot glue around the base of each light and allow to cool. When cool, push the end of the wire with the light attached into the tubing. Wrap the speaker wire around the end of a straight wire, such as a straightened coat hanger, to push it through the tubing. Continue pushing until the light at the end of the speaker wire is almost protruding from the opposite end of the tubing. Apply hot glue to both ends of the tubing and allow to cool.

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