How to Build a Ferris Wheel With Christmas Lights

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How to Build a Ferris Wheel With Christmas Lights
Create your own outdoor holiday decoration. (Christmas tree image by Horticulture from

Are you setting up Christmas decorations and thinking of a new twist to display alongside Santa, Frosty and reindeer? Consider a Ferris wheel made with Christmas lights. You can create a base frame for the outline, arrange the lights to outline the form of a Ferris wheel, and synchronise the lights to blink so it appears as if the attraction is moving. Depending on the size you want to create, you can use large cardboard pieces with straws for spokes or larger wood and dowels that you can purchase at a local craft or hardware store. There are three primary parts needed to construct the Ferris wheel: two frames, two wheels, and two sets of spokes and cars.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Cardboard boxes or plywood
  • Straws or dowels
  • Box cutter
  • Hot glue gun or nails
  • Christmas lights
  • Computer software
  • Controller board
  • Solid state relays
  • FM transmitter
  • AD/DC power source
  • Data cables

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  1. 1

    Collect several large cardboard boxes and straws or small dowels. With a box cutter or other cutting device, make two frames. These can be in the shape of an "A" (like an A-frame home).

  2. 2

    Cut out two circles for the wheels that will sit in between the frames. Make a hole in the centre of each circle; this is for the pivot and for connecting the frames.

  3. 3

    Cut out little "cars." They don't need to be elaborate, since you will use lights to emphasise the shape of the Ferris wheel.

  4. 4

    Attach the straws or dowels to the two wheels to create spokes. Fan out the spokes in equal sections from the centre of the wheel on opposite sides. The cars will go in between the spokes. Attach the cars to the top of each section. One way to secure the pieces is to use a hot-glue gun.

  5. 5

    Attach the Christmas lights. The lights can be either large or small, depending on the size of your Ferris wheel. You can choose to make the lights static or have them move to make it appear as if the Ferris wheel is moving. To do this you will need to synchronise the lights, which requires a computer program. There are several programs available on the Internet that provide the software to create the animated lighting effect. Depending upon your budget, you can pay about £130 or more, or if you are handy with electrical wiring, you can create your own set-up and program from your computer. If you are already running a computerised light display, simply add the Ferris wheel to the program. If this display is to be outside take steps to protect it from the elements.

  6. 6

    To create a larger display, replace the cardboard and straws with plywood and large dowels. Measure the height and width you want for your Ferris wheel and purchase the wood pieces to create the frame, wheel, spokes, and cars. Sand the pieces if necessary to create a smooth surface. Take time to draw out your Ferris wheel as a scaled down version so that you can have an accurate measurement when it is time to buy all the materials.

  7. 7

    Attach the pieces as described in Steps 1 through 4. Instead of using a hot-glue gun, attach the pieces using appropriately sized nails. You can spray-paint your design or leave it a natural wood colour.

  8. 8

    Set up the display in your yard. Use the Christmas lights to create colour effects. Connect the lights to the display and to your electrical source.

Tips and warnings

  • Never use indoor lights for outdoor displays.

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