Rig Up Chronicles 2010

Follow along with our 2010 Rig Up.  November 1st as our starting point. Check back and see how we progress.

Day 1 Rig Up…. Nov 1st

To start things off a couple of trips to our storage unit to bring home the lights and decorations. Two successful trips before the rain came. It will take two more trips to get all the mini trees and the rest of the lights, but there is enough to get started. The garage is getting pretty full with all the tubs and frames where I can hardly walk around. Need to start getting things up on the house to make some room.

Day 2  Rig Up… Nov 2nd

Installed four of the new window frames this evening and began putting in the C-9 LED bulbs. The frames were built over the summer, and wired custom to each window. They were built out of 2 x 2 treated lumber with steel braces in each corner. Painted to match house, and then added Colonade strips on inside. The Colonade strips enable the use of clips to hold each light in perfect orientation. The clips come in specific sizes to match your bulb. I’m using C-9 bulbs and the clips can be placed anywhere on the strip. We have four colors of lights on each frame (R-W-B-G). These really came out nice and give a clean look to each window with minimal wires exposed. This is the first year for these frames, and I am drilling holes thru the frames and into the brick with a cement bit to use a screw to hold them into the window. This takes a little extra time but is an easy way to secure the frames. There will be pictures posted later in a 2010 Picture section. Nice to get a little more room in the garage with the frames out of the way also.

Day 3  Rig Up… Nov 3rd

The weather turned bringing rain, wind, and cooler temperatures.  The C-9 LED bulbs were added to the four frames we put up yesterday.  There are three windows next to one another which work on the same channel, so they had to be wired in sequence, for each color.  This was done by making a short extension cord from window to window, for each color.  Tested all the lights and checked their orientation.  The clips and Colonade stripping make this very easy.  I really like the way the frames sit below the brick face, and the bulbs get full illumination.  Pictures follow:

You can see here the wire harness sits nearly out of sight, and the lights extend out beyond the window frame for good illumination.

Day 4  Rig Up… Nov 4th

On each corner of the house we have candycane columns with 4 strings of lights.  One string of Red, Green, Blue, and White C-6 LED lights.  These are made out of 4″ PVC pipe wrapped with red freezer tape to get the candycane effect.  These also work out wel to run wires down from the roof so that they will not be seen.  Today we checked the lights out first and then installed them.  This is the 3rd year these will be in use and are in expensive to make, simple to install, and give a big impact for minimal cost.  The biggest drawback is storing them in the off season since they are 18 ft. long each.  Pictures follow on completion of install.

Day 5 Rig Up, Nov. 5th

Made two more trips to storage unit to pick up mini trees and other materials.  This year we moving the large snowflakes from up high over the display to two new homes.  This weekend we will be constructing two panels which are 16 feet long and 40″ wide which will hang on each of the pine trees, one of either side of the sidewalk.  We are taking two old artificial Christmas trees and removing all the limbs from the poles and will be weaving these into the panels.  The panels are actually heavy wire hog panels which were cut down a little.  This evening we finished getting all the limbs removed and ready to begin the weaving in the morning.

Day 6 Rig up, November 6th

The weaving took much longer than anticipated.  This was the first time to take on a project like this scale.  The snowflakes were positioned first, then the process of taking limbs and wrapping, twisting when on for hours.  When the panel was covered in green we added large candy canes, and 10 large gingerbread candy pieces.  That last step was adding a couple of strings of LED lights around the outside boarder.  At the end of the day it was time to pick this up off the sawhorses and position in the front yard to pick up and hang ing the morning.  It took three of us to carry.  By the time everything was added the weight had grown.  This is going to require some chain to hang, so a trip in the morning back to the store is in order.


Day 7 Rig up, November 7th

After getting back from the hardware store with some serious chain ladders were put up, and a rope thrown over a limb to pull up the first panel.  While a bit awkward, and dang heavy, we managed with two of us (thank goodness for a helpful neighbor, Kong) we positioned the panel on the tree.  I climbed up and wrapped the chain around a limb and used to quick clips to attach to the panel, we slacked off on the rope and were about done.  I’ll be securing the panel mid way down and at the base also.  Then is was back to working on the other panel to get finished.  Construction time was much faster on the second panel as a learning curve kicked in and it was done by noon, and hung.  The base ring for the large mega tree was bolted down to the new concrete base in 8 places.  Over the last three years the mega tree has grown as the time on display increases, the PVC pipe that I used to drive down in the ground for the base ring would work its way loose as rains came and the ground softened, and tree swayed.  So this year since we are adding a couple of concentric rings for the spiral effect we are going to try, I decided to sink concrete and build a  steel pole base ring, using 1″ galvanized pipe. Pieces about 2 feet each were bought with a “T” at the top, and a flange at the bottom.  A couple of weeks back I had dug the holes and leveled the ring.  The yard slopes and to get the ring level it took some work.  The pipe ring was suspended level and with the “T’s and then I marked each pipe if it needed to be cut, so that after I set concrete 1” below the grass line it would be the correct height.  Then we took the pipe back to the hardware store and had them cut and re-thread each pipe.  Back home, re-assembled, and threaded the bolts into the bottom flange, and poured 60 pounds of concrete into each hole.  We let the concrete set enough and then removed the nuts holding the flanges and stored away until today.  So today we screwed in the pipe to the “T’s” and aligned the flanges to the bolt threads sticking up out of the concrete and bolted them all down.  Finished by painting the poles, and bases ring a new coat of flat black.  The last things completed we  hanging out “TURN YOUR RADIO TO” sign and placing the new www.christmaskaty sign in the yard.  It was a long day.

Day 8 Rig Up, November 8th

Made another trip to storage unit for the Katy Tiger and Bengal Brigade Signs which light up with LED’s.  It’s getting dark early now with the loss of daylight savings.  Will have to break out the lights to work into the evening going forward.  Took a look at the new Mega Tree and with a height of 16 ft. the base will be 7 ft across.  Need to work up calculation to see how many spirals this will give us.

Day 9 Rig Up, Nov 10th.

Well I missed a day getting anything physically accomplished.  Needed to do some shopping for supplies and this darkness coming on so quickly in the evening is hampering with my activities so we are officially one day behind.  The storage unit is now empty, and one of the storage sheds I have is empty.  Now its time to empty out the Command Center and start making piles of what goes up first.  Went by the rental company and signed the paperwork for the 60 ft. boom that will be delivered Friday.  Unfortunately rental equipment prices have gone up nearly 20% from last year.  Ouch!..  Still cheaper than a trip to the ER, and more efficient use of time when you’re working alone and in a time crunch.  Finished up getting the wire tie down cables assembled to the top of the mega poles.  There will be four cables on each mega tree.  There will be dead man anchors used of the smaller tree right into the ground and the base ring for that tree will be attached directly to the guide wires.  The larger mega tree has the new steel and concrete base support system.  I came up with a neat bolt on clamp with a tension adjustment which should work out well.  In three days we will know.  Forecast is rain all weekend, which is a bummer.  Searching for my Frog Togs as there is no re-schedule in the mix.

Day 10 Rig Up, Nov 11th

With impending weather calling for rain all weekend today we worked late.  The Mega Tree pole on the left side of yard is up, and four ground anchors put in with 4 new guide wires securing the pole in place.  In addition to the base ring about 4 inches off the ground three additonal spacer rings were put in to hold the guide wires in place.  These will aid in creating the spiral effect we are going to try.  Calcuations show we should be able to have two full rotations in the 16 ft. of height.   The Circle of 8 mini trees were put out and secured on the right side of yard with 3 more mini trees in the middle of the circle.  The 15 mini trees for the left side of yard were also put out in a triangle shape. There are 5 rows of trees and getting them all in good rows at all angles took some time.  Todays efforts have made up for the day lost earlier this week.  Tomorrow the 60 ft. Boom is delivered and a big rig up weekend is in store, rain or shine.

Day 11 Rig Up, Nov 12th

This afternoon the 60 Ft. Boom was delivered and was able to install the Quad harness (R-W-B-G) C-6 lights along the top of the ridges on the roof.  After testing it was dark and found one string of C-6 had a capacitor go so will have to remove that section ( 16ft) and redo tomorrow night.  Can’t get up till tomorrow as it got dark, and don’t want to waste daylight on that project.

Day 12 Rig Up,  Nov 13th 

Started off before daylight getting out the gingerbread and positioning.  Waited until 8:30 AM to start up the Boom as it makes alot of noise and don’t want to upset the neighbors to early in season.  This day included adding the trim C-9’s clear across facia, putting up Multi light harness with plugs every 8″ that cover the walls of house and dropping the Multi LED lights for those, adding the Gingerbread trip as we went.  Installed new window frame unit up high, and the Brigade girl on right side.   Also installed the large widow frame unit and decided we needed to add a reef at the top, which at the time I did not have.  After completing the right side lights on house it was time to pick up the large Mega Tree Pole.  Lifted into postion and bolted into ground plate.  Installed the four guide wires to turnbuckles.  I wanted to see what the spiral would look like so I took two strings of C-6 and installed.  It was evident that the smooth spiral look was lacking and that some circular rings would be needed to help smooth things out.  I added three and it helped but still not what I wanted.  I also was able to get alot more twist than the calculations showed?  Will need to get more flex tubing tomorrow and work on this more.

Day 13 Rig Up, Nov 14th

Started off at 4:30 AM in garage to rebuild the Quad harness section and re-install first chance.  Finished this at about 7:00 AM and then moved wire bundles into position that needed to go up to higher areas.  Made a quick trip to hardware store to get more tubing and then started up the Boom at 8:45 AM.  Re-installed the Quad harness first and then worked on left side of house adding the Multi harness, Multi LED’s, and Gingerbread.  Added Star to top of left Mega tree and dropped the Power leads for it, and then installed the strobes to that tree.   Added power leads to the Snowflake panels on left side and installed the last window frame.   Moved Boom back to center and added new 36 inch reef over large window which Super Elf DJ made on short notice.  Then over to right side to install power leads to windows, Brigade girl, and C-9 facia lights.  Finally it’s to the Mega Tree on right side.  Added the Star and dropped Power leads.  Had to re-adjust the cable on the collar at the top to level out and then worked on adding more spacer rings.  It looks like we need one every 3 ft to get a good sprial.  This took alot of time and then the rain came.  It was getting dark and there was no way to finish.  It was evident that next weekend I would need to get another smaller boom and focus on the Mega Tree.




Day 14 Rig Up, Nov 15th

Completed the circular spacer rings for both Mega Trees.  These were deemed necessary in order to get a  good spiral look to the trees.  Spent the later hours updating the internal software that the 12 controllers use.  A Primary PC sends out all the commands over a network to all of these controllers.  Each of these has 16 channels, or additional power distribution points which make all the lights work on the commands of the Primary PC.  The two Cosmic Ribbon controllers will have to go into two separate waterproof enclosures because of their positioning on the Marty Fan.  Altogether now there will be three controllers mounted up in the air on the back of the Marty Fan.  There is alot of work left to pull this together.  I had to remove one controller from an enclosure which was mounted in the Control House to use for one of the Cosmic Ribbons.  Also removed the controller for the Marty Fan from the Control House where it was positioned last year.  It is more economical to move the Enclosure up in the air than to run all the wire from the Control House 16 times for each circuit.  This way I can use short 5 ft. wire leads to go from the Controller to the Marty Fan light ciruits.

Day 15 Rig Up, Nov 16th

The grid frame to support the Marty Fan was attached to the suspension bar which is threaded with 3/16th cable.  This is elevated by a winch to raise and lower the assembly from ground level to viewing height.  After adding the grid the two sections of the fan were attached.  The overall width of the fan is 20 ft. and a tight fit between the two trees.  The Snowflake panels actually over lap a bit, so I am going to need to address if the fan goes in front of the panels, or behind.  First test was to raise the complete fan and see how it looked.  Well it did not go high enough to clear the view of the gingerbread trip or house lights behind it.  Lowered the fan back down and formulated a plan.  Tomorrow will be test two after we change things up a bit.  Secondary plan is to remove the grid from the suspension bar with the fan still attached to the grid, and then lower the suspension bar about 5 feet to a new attachment point.  Secure the suspension bar and do some additional structure improvements to the fan with conduit to strenghten the lower base bar.  Before adding the three controllers to this assembly, and the two Cosmic Ribbons full testing has to be done to assure viewing height is acceptable and things are not going to come apart.

Day 16 Rig Up, Nov 17th

Lowered the Marty Fan down to move the Suspension bar lower.  After removing the bar keeping the fan and lowering it four feet it was re-attached and added another two more pieces of conduit to re-inforce the frame.  Picked up to get it off the ground and the tie wraps did not hold.  Domino affect of tie wraps snapping and the fan fell over.  Rose bushes got one side, but suffered some damage.  Off to hardware store after dinner to get stronger tie wraps.  Came back with bundle of wraps rated to 125 Lbs each and used 10 to hold to the suspension bar.  Added additional backup of black freezer tape also.  This was done on the ground which was a nice change, but still needed to pick up and test strength.  That wass sucessful, but after raising back off the ground it was time to check out the damage.  All the strings checked out OK, but alot of re-wrapping of lights to get them looking like a fan again.  Raised up 5 ft. off ground to double check hold over night.  Tomorrow we need to get the controller added for the fan, and then add the two Cosmic Ribbons and there controllers.

Day 17 Rig Up, Nov 18th

Completed installation of the two Cosmic Ribbons across the top of the arch, and wired up the two controllers, tested, and then waterproofed the two control boxes and installed  on the back of the fan.  Installed the controller for the arch and ran 16 power  channels to the fan segments, secured wiring to frame.  Fan only needs the strobes added and ready to raise up into position.  Plan on doing that Saturday morning in full daylight.

Day 18 Rig Up, Nov 19th

Picked up another lift this afternoon and positioned in drive way to reach the large mega tree.  started pulling the wire harnesses out and cutting the ties since most are going to be re-assigned this year.  All the labels on the ends need to be updated.  I have a small lable on each wire which tells me what controller it goes to, and what channel.

Day 19 Rig Up, November 20th

This is being posted late as I’ve been really busy and not had time to update Chronicle, so here goes.  All day in the lift with help of the Gary the Cable guy on the ground working on the big Mega Tree.   We started off getting the two strings of stobes inside the canopy and also added the 12 Mega Balls, which have 100 lights each.  These Mega balls are the only incandescent lights I have, total cout of 1200 in display of over 50,000 LED’s.  This took us about an hour and a half.   Doing a Spiral tree with two colors this big is not something you want to do.  This was a very exhausting exercise and I will think many times before trying this again.  A first trial of three strands, one circuit was giving us a wrap of 2x.  Getting the spacing on the bottom of the tree to come out required measuring the the outside length of the base ring, which was 360 inches and dividing by 36 ( the number of strings) of one color.  So we got a number of 10 inches.  We cut a small piece of flex tubing to use as a quick measure.  For the top sections of the tree I used the primary support cables as a guide also.  Since there were four, I knew that evenly divided I needed to get 8 strands evely spaced in each quadrant.  It became very evident that we were going to have to cable tie every wrap, at each level of the spiral to hold these into position.  We still have to come back and add another color between this first wrap and it was already really tight up on top.  Doing all the tie wraps was painful, had to re-adjust the lift repeatedly.  After starting this at 10 AM, it went on until 6PM before we finished.  Not be done again on this scale.

Day 20 Rig Up, Nov 21st

Well today is Sunday and less than a week left.  Feeling alot of pressure whether this is going to make it by Thursday.  Working solo again and will try and do the smaller 16 ft. Mega Tree from the ground.  Made a wrap and saw that I needed to add some extra cables running down between the guide wires to hold the shape better.  To reach the top of the tree and slide the wires onto the top ring hooks I use a neat little tool that is designed for hanging cloth hangers up high in stores.  It is an aluminum pole about 6 ft. with a great hook design.  I have this taped onto a longer paint extension pole that gets me up to the 16 ft. level.  Thanks to me wife for this Tool.

Wrapping this tree by myself took most of the day.  I am happy to say the two mega trees are done, both spiraled as planned (for this year only).  As a break during the day I went back and worked on getting the fan ready to raise.  Added to ropes to the frame to hold it from swinging in the wind.  Eased this up.  It was heavy and a winch is the only way to go if your doing this alone.  Got it all the way up and secured the two tension ropes.  Starting to look more what I had hoped for.


Day 21Rig Up, Nov 22st

Time to get the controllers installed on side of house, in the yard, and run 7000 ft. of power cable.  The wind is making it hard with the labels blowing away and I also need to solder some of the wires to tin the ends prior to installing into the controllers.  Finding which wire I needed for each component’s new home in 2010 is running rather slow.  After spending the entire day ( I’ve taken vacation time so this is a full day) the Mega Tree on right is done, and 50% of the other components to right side.  Still a done to do in two days.  Wish me some luck.

Day 22 Rig Up, Nov 23rd

Today was a long day.  Started at 6 AM and worked until 10 PM running the cables and hooking up the controllers.  Rain in the morning was a minor problem and warm temperatures made short pants the best route.  Alot of cabling was moved and had to be re-labeled.  I’ve got one spool of wire (1,000 ft.) in case of additions needed but have been pleased how the older cable has been re-used.  Finally finished running all the new cable routes and have some final terminations to take care of tomorrow.  The left Mega tree still needs to have all the connections made at the base of the tree and that will be focus in morning.  The giant leaper arch still needs to be assembled and wired also from each end.  After dinner it was time to add all the lights to the bushes in front yard.  I used an average of 700 C-6 LED lights per large plant, which there were 5.  For the smaller bushes I have used the M5 lights which are lighter in weight and don’t weigh down the branches.  Not sure if the border will be up by opening night, but I can live with that one.  Early tomorrow before light I will update the Show PC computer with software and upload all the songs, then create the actual show.  ONE MORE DAY LEFT!

Day 23 Rig Up, Nov 24th- We Made it!

Very busy day updating the main show computer, loading the sequences, and building the the show program.  Powered up all the controllers and completed the wiring to the left mega tree, the small trees on left side, and the plants around the house.  Had to make a new wire harness with 24 runs to the new mega tree on left side.  At 6 PM the  show schedule started up and everything began flashing, except the fan up high.  Since nothing was working I first thought it was the power, but double checked and it was good.  After a while I was able to determine a bad network plug was blocking the signals.  Fortunately this was on the ground and a quick cable change corrected the problem.  Man that fan up hight with Cosmic Ribbon is my favorite.  The spiral trees are a nice change, and without knowing it, there is a nice web pattern that comes out in alot of the sequences due to multiple colors which I have not seen before.  A true surprise and should be a crowd pleaser.  Testing went on for an hour, then shut it down.  Still have a few loose ends and the huge arch to get up.  Still working on this one, it’s so big I can’t figure out how to keep it into position.  Come by, we are up and running!  This will be the last post to the 2010 Rig up Chronicles.  We hope you have enjoyed it.