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Backyard Imagineering - Fireflies
Building "Disney-like" Fireflies is really quite simple. All
you need you can find at any electronic store, such as Radio
Note: Since this project uses electricity, young children should
be monitored by adults when building this project.
- 12 volt transformer for up to eight fireflies
- Tiny hobby lamps (Radio Shack part: 12-v microlamps 272-1092), commonly
called grain of rice light bulbs, the kind used in miniature work that
have two wires extending from them.
- Insulated single core wire, the tinier the better (Radio Shack part:
blue wrapping wire 278-503). Allow eight feet per firefly
- Thin cardboard, 3" X 1.5" per firefly
- Black felt tip pen
- Black electrical tape
- Speaker wire of necessary length to reach
- 6' or taller ladder
- Electric fans, as many as needed to propel the fireflies
Always keep bare wires apart from each other so the will not short and
always unplug the transformer when connecting wires so you will not short
- Take the transformer and make sure that it is unplugged at both ends
- If necessary, cut off plug end that would normally go to calculator,
- Remove 1/2" insulation from the two low voltage ends.
- Repeat these instructions for each firefly you wish to display:
- Take eight feet of the single core, tiny insulated wire and loop it
in half tying a knot six inches from the two ends.
- Tie knots every foot or so to keep the wires together until you reach
the loop. Alternatively, you may tape the two wires together.
- Cut the loop, making two wires four feet long and tied together.
- Remove insulation 1/2" from the four wire ends.
- Blacken the cardboard card on both sides with felt tip pen
- Punch a hole in the center of card.
- Place one bulb wire through hole in card so that there is a wire on
- Tape down the wire on each side with a small piece of electrical tape.
- Connect the tiny insulated wire, that you tied together, to the bulb
wire, one end per side, by twisting and cover all exposed wire with electrical
- Repeat as you imagineer the right amount of fireflies for the scene
you are creating:
- Make sure the transformer is unplugged.
- Determine the length from where the transformer will be plugged in
to the firefly you are installing and cut the speaker wire accordingly.
- Remove 1/2" insulation from each end.
- Connect the transformer wires and the one end of the speaker wire together
by twisting and covering with electrical tape.
- Affix the speaker wire above the scene you are creating, using tape
or thumbtack, taking care not to short the wires. You can attach to the
ceiling, hang the wire from lamps, or tree branches.
- Cut speaker wire where you decide to hang the firefly. Remove 1/2"
insulation from both ends of the speaker wire.
- Connect speaker wire and firefly wires together.
- Use the electric tape around the first wire connection, and next around
the other wire connection, ending with one black tape wrap and a descending
- Turn on or plug in the transformer to see your lit firefly. If the
firefly does not light, recheck the wire connections.
- Sometimes, if an object is too near, they can "flashlight"
onto the firefly, spoiling the effect. To adjust the intensity of the fireflies
lower the voltage, if there is a switch, or to create a smaller light aperture
with electrical tape being applied over a portion of the bulb.
- Plug in small electric fan(s) and place them in as hidden an area as
possible, point the fan(s) at the fireflies in order to get the right amount
- If the air current of the fan is limited, a lighter material can also
be used in place of the cardboard.
- Wait until dark, or make it dark, and you have the best of Disneyland
in your own backyard...
Backyard Imagineer: Tim Carter
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