Making your own marquee lights is actually super easy. This DIY shows you two options to make them via a metal or wooden letter. Because you can never have too much light. The letters I used can be found at most craft or home decor stores, then I used two different string lights – a larger raw-bulb version and then a smaller plastic LED version. Both patio string lights or holiday lights work.
Measure your light placement.
You’ll want to measure your letter and count your bulbs to determine where each one will be placed. I marked them on my letter by making a little paper template the same diameter as the bulb socket and drawing around it with a sharpie. You want to make sure to leave enough room for the bulb – if you just measure and space using the sockets you might not have enough room to add the bulbs in later – which are wider than just their sockets.
For the metal letter, the bulbs were single-file, but for the wooden letter, I created a double row on the vertical part of the letter since it was much wider than the horizontal parts.
Drill your holes.
You’ll want to just drill out the holes you previously measured using a bit that is slightly larger than your light bulb socket. You’ll be removing the bulb, pushing the socket through, and re-inserting the bulb on the other side. You want the socket to fit fairly snugly, but to push a little into the hole you drill.
For the wood piece, you can use just about any bit that is the right size, but a spade drill bit probably works best. For the metal letter, I used a hole saw bit. Other bits might work as well, depending on how thin your metal is. You want to make sure you’re not pushing down too hard when drilling your metal hole so you don’t bend your letter.
Step 03: Optional
Paint your letters.
The wood letters will probably need a coat of paint unless you’re going for a raw wood look (you could also stain it). I recommend painting after you drill your holes so that you don’t have any splintering since you’ll have to get out the paint again for touchups. You could also paint your metal letters if you wish, but I really prefer the raw look.
Remove bulbs / bulb covers.
For lights with actual bulbs, they should screw out of the socket. You’ll want to remove them all and set them aside in a place they won’t break. For LED lights, they often have a little LED bulb inside, then a plastic cover that is made to look like a light bulb.
Mine were like little balls that had an opening that went around the LED bulb and snapped in place, so I was just able to pull on them to get the plastic cover off. They look almost just like the ones in the image, except the bulb cover had a mercury glass look to it. Pretty sure they were actually Holiday lights from Target, but patio string light versions work too.
Secure the wires in place on the back.
I used duct tape to tape the wires down flat on the back. I started by inserting a socket into each of the holes I drilled, then taping it in place. After all the sockets were in place, I carefully curled the extra wire and taped it down flat. It took a bit of tape to get it all secure since I wanted it to be as flat as possible for hanging on a wall. I secured the wire with the plug off the bottom corner of the letter so it could be plugged in.
For the metal letter, I chose to have my bulbs facing what was actually the back of the letter so that the little “walls” on each side offered the bulbs a little more protection. You can actually do this either way so long as your letter is symmetrical. The nice thing about having the bulbs on the front or smooth side of the letter though is that you can use the space in back to hide and secure wires which will make them easier to hang.
Insert the bulbs / add bulb covers.
The last step is just to re-attach the bulb covers or screw in the bulbs. I actually did this with the wood letters as I taped each of them in place since the covers were plastic and they helped to secure the socket in the drilled hole before it taped it. For the metal letter, I waited to secure the wires before screwing in all the bulbs.
Plug them in to turn them on, or string them together to make a word.
What do you think? Did you give these marquee lights a try? Leave a comment below, or use #mydarlingdesign
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