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PLEASE HELP w/rope lights

Discussion in 'General Advice' started by lights11964, Mar 18, 2004.

  1. lights11964

    lights11964 Member

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    We are in the proces in preparing for our musical Jesus christ superstar. I am on the lights crew and we are having a huge problem.

    Let me explain. there is a 4 stair set all the way across the stage. we wanted a cool chase effect with ropelights lining the top of each stair. We bought all brand new strands of 18 ft lights. They are this different type called "ice" or something. basiclly they are ropelights that are defused a liitle bit.

    But any way we are hammering these metal staple things in. but! if u hammer too tight the light will shortcircut and abot 16 of the bulbs in one section will go out. Today we were having much progress and then i just barely touched a strand, and many lights went out. Thus making that strand useless and i had to rip the whole thing out.

    this can not be happening. we are about three weeks until tech week. if actors are on stage and walk over it and a sections go out. We will be replacing strands after every showing.

    Please some one respond with your suggustions. Thankyou
    - lights11964
     
  2. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Location:
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    They just don’t make them like they used to. I have some rope light I acquired off a set in about 94. Used to use it as a whip in swinging it around while lit, installing it where needed etc. Years upon years of use, installation and dismantling, never once a problem - it’s running now in fact. I get rope lights of three separate brands from three different distributers, plus what is bought at the store and none lasts long without malfunctioning. Found some 240v rope light that was ancient. Wired it up for 120v and while it’s half as bright, it also lasts without sections of it going out or going blinkie light as you move it unlike any of the other stuff.

    When I find the brand that lasts beyond being installed permanently and not moved, I’ll be sure and tell you. For the most part, I think all rope light is bought cheap somewhere in Asia and the quality of the old rope light just is not there. Instead it’s more of just a tube with the lamps inserted within the rope light and shorting themselves out. That would be as opposed to a solid core surrounding the lamps or better quality in a way I’m yet to figure out.

    Vista it would seem was once a supplier of the good stuff. They were too expensive last time I priced them out and I think also changed their name. This is given they still offer the good rope light. With all the rest of the competition selling the cheap stuff, it’s hard not to follow suite. American Lighting is the most known amongst suppliers. Their prices are about average. It might be possible for them or other - many other companies to special order a better grade given your problems - after all most ropelight comes with something like a 20,000 hour guarantee which I’m sure you don’t qualify for since it’s not permanently installed under a counter. Still given the old stuff is not available anymore, you might be able to return your broken rope light for a replacement. It’s not very feasible especially if you did not save your recipt and packaging but the intent from the vendors would be there. Oh’ gee, our rope light had a problem, well since you did not save the receipt and packaging, and this just does not happen there is nothing we can do.

    Anyway, this happens all the time. Don’t hammer your fittings by the way, use a pair of linesmens pliers to force them into position but do not hammer anything about rope light. Treat it gingerly in fact. Cut out the sections that are bad and install the splice kits available from most suppliers. Also available but not usually stocked at your local supplier is invisible splice kits. This would be something like clear heat shrink put over the double prong splice kit. If it’s seen doing a splice around the bad section is well worth it. Look for the scissors mark or the gold/silver line that is printed on the wire and cut at that point. Read and follow the instructions on any splice kit you get. This will at least allow for a few more months/weeks of a somewhat serviceable rope light - or at least one that’s 16" shorter. Be glad you only have one section dying. I frequently have two and three that are no good. At that point I just throw it out. The other stuff I bandage up as best I can and it’s constantly dying out. Must have at least 50 pieces at this point between 15' and 25'. None is dependable except for the stuff that’s too dim to be used in most instances. Tours send someone out to the nearest Home Depot to get more, but it does not help either. Rope light when permanently installed is great. Depending upon it for a show is worse than a Christmas tree light string where at least you can replace the bad bulbs - if you can find them. Same basic concept and now that the cheap has taken over, not much better.

    Anyone today that says they don’t have these problems is fooling themselves, they are not using it to the same extent. It’s all made the same, nothing besides possibly chasing multi-circuit rope light will be more dependable. You can use chasing rope light for normal rope light - it just has more than one circuit and you will have to special wire it if you don’t want to pay for the control gear. So far of the multi-circuit stuff I bought for some tour, it is yet to malfunction that I have heard about yet. Much more expensive but in the end you are at least hopefully getting what you pay for.

    Since you are already doing a chase, I wold assume you are using the multi-circuit stuff. Given that’s the case, purchase double the amount you usually do plus plenty of splicing units. This way you can always have at least one string working with another in for splicing.

    Things to check. If they are going blinkie light than it’s most probably the installation of the staple like thing or plug. Re-install the plug this time to insure the barbs are well contacting the wires. Otherwise, cut a fresh area within ½" of the place it was first installed and attempt it again. You have about an inch to work with before installation of the next plug will short out the first circuit. After that, cut the circuit at the next cutting mark and attempt again for better contact.

    That’s about all that is safe to do. Good luck, rope light is a pain to deal with when you have to depend upon it for more than just backstage lighting or some installation that will not be touched or move.
     
  3. soundman

    soundman Well-Known Member

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    Location:
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    I too have had problems with rope lights a dancers was fooling around and kicked the rope lights so with the house open I was soldering in a new peice and testing. Every one else was eating candy in the freen room as we got our pre show speach. That was 3 years ago and I still get teased about those damn rope lights.
     

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