Editor’s Note: This awesome star ceiling project article was written by my friend Peter who completed this project completely on his own. He explains how much it cost, how he did it and the time it took. He took all the pictures as well! I only edited it for formatting here and slightly for grammar and continuity. Great article and great job writing it! Thanks Pete! ~ Phil
Just getting started and looking for ideas? Read my introduction to ceiling stars first.
How I Made My Fiber Optic Star Ceiling
8ft round with 600 stars and ambient light for media room.
Total cost was about $635.
I have the 600 fiber optic strand version (Wiedamark 600 Strand LED Star Ceiling Kit) (pictured) which comes with 2 x 300 optic strands and a twinkle wheel with programmable twinkle speed.
The 600 star version has three sizes fiber optic cables: 0.75mm, 1mm and 1.5mm to create the effect of nearby and far away stars and the price was $369 when I bought it.
Star Field Dimensions and Coverage
Typically you can cover 150 sq ft with 600 stars and the 8ft circle in this project has a very high star density. Other options are 200 6.5′ Strand RGB LED Star Ceiling Kit and anything in between, based on your choice, preference and wallet.
Star ceiling kits normally come with a remote control that lets you switch the stars on/off as well as ‘freeze’ motion or twinkle and change intensity.The money I spent only includes materials, excluding tools.
If you want to mount this to the ceiling by yourself, you will need to spend around $60 more on two 10ft and two 6ft chains with more details later on how I used those to mount it by myself.
You can click on the supplier links above to see each item image. Notice that instead of standard ceiling hooks, I choose the more robust RDX 360 degree swivel punch bag steel ceiling hook from EBay (pictured right). Standard ceiling hooks may be sufficient but I just wanted the best possible and safest solution. Peace of mind is priceless!
- Jig saw – use the fine blade (also used for metal) which will eat through MDF like butter
- Dremel tool for the 0.75mm, 1mm and 1.5mm holes. No need for a drill stand. Hand control works great.
- Gyros 45-11253 Carbon Steel Wire Gauge Drill Bit No.53 (1.5113mm) (Amazon)
- Gyros 45-11258 Carbon Steel Wire Gauge Drill Bit No.58 (1.0668mm) (Amazon)
- Gyros 45-11268 Carbon Steel Wire Gauge Drill Bit No.68 (0.7874mm) (Amazon)
- Dremel 4485 Quick Change Collet Nut Kit to allow the smaller drill bits to fit (Amazon)
- Standard corded or cordless drill
- Standard Wood drill bits
- Working gloves
- Standard 6ft step ladder
- Philips screw driver(s)
- Vacuum cleaner (or take it outside!)
- Piece of rope and sharpie for drawing the half circle
- Paint roller tray set
- Jonard JIC-186 Kevlar Ergonomic Fiber Optic Cutter, 6″ Length (Amazon) hint: a sharp nail cutter works too.
- And lots of elbow grease.
- 3 weekends and some weekday evenings!
Fiber Optic Star Ceiling Options:
For my star ceiling I used the 600 Strand LED fiber optic star ceiling kit, but you can go as big or small as you like and for a good star effect you rally only need 4 stars / sqft so it all comes down to preference.
So, for my star field I went all the way with 600 stars over ~50sq ft and a density of 12 stars / sqft and a 32’ waterproof LED strip light for backlighting the entire starfield to make it look more dramatic and possibly more realistic.
How I Constructed My Star Ceiling
- Pick up the 4x8ft MDF plates from your local hardware store with your truck or rent a truck if you don’t have one (like me) from Home Depot (I did for $19.95). Use a sharpie and a piece of rope and measure the half way point of the 4×8 plate and tape the rope to the board. Hold the wire and sharpie and draw a half circle. This may take some practice and it took me a little while to get it smooth. Do this with both boards. Make sure you start exactly at the corner or otherwise the two halves will not fit properly! You can see the half circle drawn on the board in the picture if you look closely.
- Use a jig saw and follow the outline of the half circle from the sharpie. I started off in the middle of the circle and then proceed left and afterwards right and do little pieces at a time. Make sure you do NOT cut off anything from the end corners or you will not have a good fit when both halves are joined together. You can also choose to make a square star ceiling or any other shape or form. MDF creates a ton of dust so after the first half was done I had to take it outside. It took me an hour to clean the vacuum and my wife was mad at me for half a day. These MDF plates are very heavy. Get someone to help you move them around to prevent injuries.
- Place both halves on a carton box and use a roller to apply the primer. The primer is needed so the black paint layer is not absorbed by the MDF. Let it dry for 2-4 hours before applying the black paint. Let the black paint dry for at least 4h or an entire day before you move both halves back inside. Also paint the side of the boards!
- Now it is time to get the plates back inside (game room or media room), roll out the plastic sheet to protect your floor and transpose (draw) your star map from paper onto the backside (not painted side ) of the two MDF plates. Place both halves together as shown below.
By now you should have worked on a star map on paper and know exactly which star layout you want and how many stars you will create. If you want to look for your own star map, google “september sky star map” or just “star map” (check out images for the results of that search here) and you will be offered hundreds of options. It may be nice to include your own constellation. You will need to remove (or add) stars to match the number of fiber optic cables in your kit of choice.
I included the star map that I used for my star ceiling which has ~600 stars (I believe it may be 627 actually) and found a neat trick to translate that into a drill map on the two pieces of MDF:
First of all, divide the star map in 12×12 squares and do exactly the same on the two MDF pieces as shown. I used one of the 2×2 by 8ft wood pieces and a sharpie. It matched exactly the lines in the drawing after taking accurate measurements.
Once that is done, you grab a cup of coffee and look at one square at a time and draw in the stars one at a time just by looking at the estimated place in the square on the drawing. Use a blue sharpie for the blue dots (Milky Way) in the drawing and red sharpie for the red dots in the drawing (constellations).
The Milky Way stars (blue) will be drilled with the 0.75mm drill bit. The constellation stars (red) will be drilled with the 1mm drill bit.
If you choose the same 600 fiber optic lighting kit as I have, you will have 440 strands of 0.75mm, 140 strands of 1mm and 20 strands of 1.5mm. The drawing will actually have roughly 330 Milky Way stars and 270 constellation stars. Just pick 20 random constellation stars on the two MDF boards that will become nearby 1.5mm holes and some of the red constellation dots will get the left over 0.75mm strands. It doesn’t need to be totally accurate, no one will notice!
- Now that all the stars have been drawn on the MDF pieces, it is time to drill. I found out that all holes drill faster by hand than using the stand so no need to spend money on a stand. If you do, it’s under$45.00 at Lowe’s. I did not break any of the drill bits and the drilling is smooth as butter at 30,000 rpm.
- This part is easy and fast! I counted the number of red and blue dots in each square and wrote the number in the middle of the square. This way I found out that I still had a few too many and randomly removed a few.
- Now the two halves are drilled, it’s time to move them into the media room . They did not fit through the double doors when assembled together. lay the pieces on the floor as they will be installed on the ceiling.
- Cut the 2×2 by 8ft poles and position them as shown. Try to avoid going over stars but you may have to move a couple of stars over, that’s what I had to do as well but you will not notice it in the end. Do not go all the way till the edge so the 2×2 are hidden out of view when you look up to the star ceiling once everything is done. (4-6″ clearance). Mine laid out at 58″ square.
- Use the 1/4 inch 20×3 inch flat heads. Drill a hole through the 2×2 and through the MDF. Make sure the flat head is a little recessed into the wood and doesn’t stick out. Later on you will use putty to make it all flush and paint it over. The only nuts visible are the big 7″ long corner hooks that go through two 2×2’s and the MDF board. These carry the entire weight and I decided to go for maximum strength instead of best cosmetics. I’m sure there are better ways to do this. The image shows after the flatheads have been recessed and painted. I used eight 1/4 inch 20×3 flatheads for each 2×2 and another four for the two extra small 2×2’s near the edge.
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- Now you are ready to start routing the fiber optic cables. Install several and then place a drop of glue where the fiber enters the holes in the board to lock them in place. This is tedious work. Allow the cables to be pushed through the board by up to 6″. See images. Use tape and tie wraps to manage the cables. Take your time and be careful not to make sharp bends in the optic fibers.
- As you add more fiber optic strands the star ceiling will slowly start to look like a real star field. Mount the LED illuminator to the MDF plate.
- Now we install the LED strip and then we are ready to start with installation process after we verify that everything is working as it should. This is also a good time to start cutting the fiber optic strands to 1/4″ with the cutter tool.
Everything should be working by now and it will look like a giant spider web!
The following method allows you to install this ceiling by yourself, without help from a friend. Buy two 10ft chains and hook them up to the ceiling hooks and to the two remaining board hooks. Lift the board up a little and tighten the chain. Do this one step at a time until you have the board perfectly horizontal. Count the number of shackles for each of the for four chains.
Use your ladder as you move clockwise around the disk, one shackle at a time (no more than ONE!). If you move more than one link at a time, you may create stress in the disk and one of the other hooks may inadvertently become loose and unhook which may cause the whole thing to come down.
It is recommended to have a friend help you out but I was able to do it by myself and in an hour or 2 I had it all the way up to the ceiling. Make sure the fiber optic cables are not crushed against the ceiling.
Best of luck!