Thursday, 30 October 2014

Building a Star Field Ceiling

This is the end result of about 3 weeks solid work on the theatre room by my self. I'm going to focus on the star ceiling build process for this post.

I decided on a 328 strand star ceiling kit that had a dimming feature and a twinkle wheel. There was also 3 different sizes of fibre so I was able to pick out some of the brighter stars and use larger optic for those. At the end of it all you really can't see the difference between the .5 and the 1.5mm fibre when it is lit up. I wouldn't bother with the different sizing if I were doing it again. 

The first thing I had to do was to cut my 5/8" mdf panels to size and prep them so there would be a gap between the sub ceiling and the panels. I went with some helpful tips I found on the internet and made a few changes to make it better. The actual width was just under 8 feet and the front end had a curve.

Each end panel would have a 2 inch wide border on three sides while the centre panel would have the border on the sides only. The remaining ends of the panels would have a type of tongue and holder affair so one panel would bolt to the ceiling and the next one would rest on that one and wouldn't require any screws through the facing.

Suffice to say 328 stars was the right number for a 10' by 8 foot ceiling. I also decided pretty early on to be true to the constellations and actually have them laid out so when you look up you can pick out a bunch. I can't remember where I got the star map from, but it was big and had everything I could need to lay out my pattern. Shoot me a line if you want a full size copy of it reversed for drilling. It took 128 sheets of 8-1/2" by 14" legal paper to print out the whole star map.

I used a countersink bit to drill the holes from the back side as I knew that I would have to use hot glue to hold the fibres in place and this way there would be a cup to fill so to speak.

Once the panels were drilled and painted in black on the down side, I used spray adhesive to stick a fake suede material to them. This is where an electric stapler comes in handy as there was an ass-load of staples used all around the perimeters of the panels to hold the fabric in place.

As it turns out the hot glue was too hot and kept melting the fibre. I had to come up with a way of letting the glue cool a bit which ended up being pumping it out above the fibre and using a stick to push it into the hole around each fibre. I also had to use an awl to pre punch each hole as the fibres wouldn't go through the fabric without it being pierced.

I ran 4 inch deck screws diagonally through the soffit down panels up through the star ceiling borders and right into the sub ceiling. With 4 screws on each edge this was not going anywhere.

I used a drywall panel lift for installing the fibres as well as holding the panels up until I could screw them in place. If you don't have one... get one.

You can see here the first panel in place with all the fibres running out of the 5/8" gap. I had to do one panel at a time as the fibres are only 12 feet long and the longest run was just under that.

All said and done it took me 3 full days to build the star ceiling from start to flipping the switch. The whole thing material wise cost about $600 cdn plus all my time. Now, the value when we sit in the theatre room with the lights dimmed down and the stars twinkling above our heads... priceless.

The black suede material disappears in the dark and the ceiling looks as if it is a huge skylight opening out to a pitch black night with only stars in the sky.

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