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Dark sky panels - DIY project

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#1 Solar Ken

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Posted 05 October 2009 - 09:35 PM

After reviewing the many DIY dark sky panel projects in the "Carol's Picks" thread here on Cloudy Nights, I decided to make some of these panels to shield myself from the neighborhood lights when observing in my driveway.

Details of the project:
Each panel measures approx. 6' x 4'
Constructed from 3/4" sched. 200 PVC pipe and fittings
(sched. 200 is the lightweight, thin wall PVC)
11 yards of 16 oz weight Duvetyne fabric, 54" wide, obtained from filmtools.com
125+ screws

I chose not to glue the PVC pipe fittings, as I didn't feel it was necessary with the fabric attached to the PVC, it won't come apart. I did use a rubber mallet to be sure the fittings were seated completely.

For the slight overlap of fabric on the top of the PVC frame, I used Seamless Stitch glue on the fabric above the screws that secure the fabric to the PVC frame. The glue worked great to secure the extra 1/4" - 1/2" of fabric to the PVC.

The individual panels are held together with large 11 inch long velcro "cord organizer grip strips". Part number 45-V11BKW. www.gardnerbender.com. I obtained these locally in the hardware section of a department store.

I used velcro straps rather than spring or ratchet clamps...
#1 to keep the cost down.
#2 to avoid the extra hassle of storing these large clamps.
#3 because it allows two panels to remain attached together, simplifying the movement, storage, and set up of the system.

Total cost for all materials for 5 panels was approx $127.00 (about $25.40 per panel).

The panels are very lightweight and easily moveable. The Duvetyne fabric is very black and dense and allows virtually no light through it, significantly reducing the effects of neighbor's porch and driveway lights.

I also attached eyebolts to the two outer panels, so if necessary I can tie them down to a weighted object like a gallon water container to minimize wind effect on the panels.

I gathered a lot of my ideas from CAROL'S PICKS - LINKS OF INTEREST on the Equipment forum.

Any questions I'll be happy to answer or share more details.

An additional note: For a real nice finished look, clean the factory markings off the PVC pipe before assembling, using Acetone and paper towels. It easily cleans the PVC so it doesn't look so much like sprinkler pipe.

Another minor detail: After looking in the hardware section of several home improvement stores I found these screws. They have a built-in washer on the head, which should prevent the fabric from ripping through the screw head.
Also I pre-drilled the screw holes in the PVC pipe before attaching the fabric.

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#2 b1gred

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Posted 05 October 2009 - 09:44 PM

WELL DONE! BRAVO!

#3 csa/montana

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Posted 05 October 2009 - 09:54 PM

Wow! Great job, in fact, so impressive, I've added it to "Carol's Picks"!

#4 Solar Ken

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Posted 05 October 2009 - 10:50 PM

Carol,
Wow... now I'm impressed, having my project added to Carol's Picks. I tried to check it out just for fun, but with the recent renovations to the Cloudy Nights Forums and the "archiving" of old threads, I kept running into dead-ends attempting to access any of the links in Carol's Picks.

Hopefully I'll find it. Thanks for adding my project. The ones you link to Carol's Picks were certainly informative and an inspiration for my project. Several years ago I actually considered purchasing these from DarkSkyPanels.com.

Apparently they've gone out of business as their website is no longer active. Not surpising considering the cost of their panels compared with making your own.

#5 Phil Frederick

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Posted 05 October 2009 - 11:07 PM

Hey Ken,

Nice job. :bow: Very difficult issue for many of us.

I've fabricated some panels using 1-1/2" insulating foam, duct tape for hinges and black-out paint that also work quite well. Not to hijack your thread but will post some pics.

MODS: Maybe a suggestion for our mods (Carol?? :D) might be to set up a thread category for light block panels and other solutions (short of shooting them out!!! :lol:).

We're all desperate here!!!

Phil

#6 helpwanted

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Posted 05 October 2009 - 11:22 PM

nice work! looks better than my pvc pipe and 'red hot blue glue' with a tarp on them!

#7 csa/montana

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Posted 05 October 2009 - 11:50 PM

but with the recent renovations to the Cloudy Nights Forums and the "archiving" of old threads, I kept running into dead-ends attempting to access any of the links in Carol's Picks.



The Moderators will have to go in & manually change all the archived links so that members can access them. This will take time, so bear with us. I've changed a couple in "Carol's Picks" for the Light Block Panels; but it's slow going.

#8 Midnight Dan

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Posted 06 October 2009 - 06:02 AM

Nice job on those panels! Very professional looking! :waytogo:

#9 jetsfan122

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Posted 06 October 2009 - 09:38 PM

Sweet looking panels ! Would come in handy against my neighbor's annoying light ( not you Jerry ! ) . Unfortunately I could never get those past the wife .

#10 Solar Ken

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Posted 06 October 2009 - 10:01 PM

jetsfan122:
I'm curious, what is your wife's objection to having a set of dark sky panels? My wife happily helped me build ours. Of course, she's my observing pal so maybe that makes a difference. :)

#11 MacDougal

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Posted 25 July 2010 - 12:42 PM

I really like your dark screen and have ordered the material for the screens. I am guessing you gained 2 to 3 inches if you use 2 foot sections on the sided since the adaptors would add some spacing? Why are the lateral support pieces at different heights? Does the spacing need to be closer at the bottom? Nice job and I hope mine turns out half as good as your pictures. Thanks for a great article... Ron

#12 hammerhead

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Posted 25 July 2010 - 12:56 PM

Ken, well done. These look really great... nice clean professional looking job. Any chance I could get a close-up pic of where the fabric actually attaches to the pipe? At your leisure, of course. These really look good.

#13 GeneT

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Posted 25 July 2010 - 01:14 PM

Great solution!

#14 Solar Ken

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Posted 25 July 2010 - 09:29 PM

I really like your dark screen and have ordered the material for the screens. I am guessing you gained 2 to 3 inches if you use 2 foot sections on the sided since the adaptors would add some spacing? Why are the lateral support pieces at different heights? Does the spacing need to be closer at the bottom? Nice job and I hope mine turns out half as good as your pictures. Thanks for a great article... Ron


I'd seen some others including some commercially made panels which had the extra lateral bar lower to the bottom, so I made mine that way. It seems to give it a little extra support.

Ken

#15 Solar Ken

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Posted 25 July 2010 - 09:46 PM

Ken, well done. These look really great... nice clean professional looking job. Any chance I could get a close-up pic of where the fabric actually attaches to the pipe? At your leisure, of course. These really look good.


As my original post mentions I used screws that have a built in washer. After assembling the PVC pipe sections, I drilled small pilot holes in the PVC every 8 to 10 inches, then laid the fabric along one edge, poked a hole throught the fabric into the pilot hole in the PVC and attached a screw. Working my way around the PVC frame, stretching the fabric tight for a nice looking fit.

I used fabric glue from a sewing store to secure the loose fabric edge to the PVC.

Here's a photo of the screws holding the fabric to the PVC. Note that after putting all the screws in, I painted them black with a paint pen.

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Let me know if you have any other questions.

Ken


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