Zip Tie Starlight




About: Dutch guy who likes to DIY and, off course, bicycles!

Inexpensive and easy to make decorative light made from scrap MDF and zip ties!


Step 1: Tools and Materials


  • Fretsaw
  • Drill
  • Wood and construction glue
  • Tape (optional)
  • Triangular protractor
  • Clamps
  • Pencil
  • Compass


  • Zip ties
  • some thin MDF/Plywood (mine was 3mm)
  • pine trim
  • Light fitting
  • power cord

Total costs

I used a lot of left over materials for this build so I did not spend that much. In total I spend around 10 Euro on the fitting, power cord and zip ties. I think the pine trim costed around 2 Euro and the the MDF (+/-300x800mm) should not be more than a few Euro but usually can not be bought smaller than 1200x600mm.

Step 2: The Template (optional)

To get an idea of the size of the lamp I made a template. For this template you will need 12 equally sized pentagon's. I tried two ways to achieve the pentagon shape. One is very easy and the other was a bit more complicated. I had some variations in both of the ways so I suggest the easy one.

The easy pentagon: (360/5=72)

  • Draw a straight line of your specific length (I used 7cm)
  • Use a triangular protractor and set it on 72 degrees of your first line and draw another line with the same length.
  • repeat this 3 more times and you should end up with a pentagon.

The not so easy pentagon:

  • you can see a try of the more complex version in one of the pictures. I tried it a couple of times but always ended up with a slightly off pentagon and had slightly better results with the 72 degrees method. Given the extra time this method takes I recommend the first or next option. If you want to give it a try search for ''how to draw a pentagon'' and you will get a lot of helpful video's!

Print it:

I don't have a printer but if you do, just search for one and print it out in the desired size.

Ones you got all your pentagons stick them together with some tape and see if you like the size.

Step 3: Cut and Test Fit the Pentagons

I made my pentagons from some scrap MDF that used to be the back of a poster frame. I made another pentagon but this time I did not cut it out on the lines but slightly around it. This way I could push the shape point of a compass true the corners of the pentagon in the MDF. Then I connected marks with a pencil and could cut the pentagons out of the MDF.

I made sure all the pentagons fitted on my piece of scrap wood before cutting them out. The pentagon is a terrible considering the amount of wasted space/wood but so be it.

I cut the pentagons out with a fretsaw. not the easiest way to make straight lines but unfortunate the only way for me. a bend saw wound be the best option if you have one. After this a quick sand on the ages and the pentagons should be ready for test fitting.

I used painters tape to tape the shape together.

Step 4: Making the ''Stars''

I taped 6 pentagons together and drilled random holes in them. I used a single drill bit but you could use different sizes. At first I used my cordless drill. This works fine but you have to be patience. After a few holes I switched to my dremmel. This creates a lot more dust (especially with MDF) but it goes a lot faster.

The bottom ones needed some extra sanding to remove some of the drilling marks.

After sanding I looked for the best matching sides since mine where not perfectly straight due to the fretsaw. I marked the places where the hole for the zip tie needed to go and which sides fitted together.

Step 5: Zip Tie the Top Together!

To put everything together I used 60 zip ties in total but I recommend having a few spare in case something went wrong. I used zip ties of 2.5 mm wide.

The zip ties are placed between 1 and 2cm of the corners using some of the smaller holes as a guide for the bigger hole for the zip tie. Make sure that the holes on both pentagon's are lined up so the corners will line up. I had some minor gaps between the sides but because of the soft MDF I could close most of it with a little bit of extra pressure from the zip ties.

After the first 6 pentagon's were put together to form the top I cut the zip ties to length to make it easier to fit the next 5 pentagons. I put in all the zip ties and added the pentagons one by one to finish the top!

Note: Do not tighten the zip ties all the way! Look carefully if everything lines up and use the zip ties to make adjustments before you tighten them up all the way.

Step 6: The Base

I made the base using the remaining pentagon. Mine had holes in it but they are pretty point less unless you will hang in on the sealing. (in that case you only need to fit the fitting) I lined up the pentagon and sawed the peace of wood to size.

I lightly sanded the ends in an angle to match the pentagon's shape. (from 90 to +/- 72 degrees)

I drilled the holes for the zip ties and fitting. The one from the fitting is slightly narrower than the fitting itself. Because the soft MDF I used it to press and glue the fitting into place using construction glue. In the pictures you can see the final attachments to the base step by step.

Step 7: Choose Your Light Source

The light source will determine the looks of your stars. My stars look long and double. This is because I used a halogen lamp that has 2 glowing wires on the inside. The holes make a tiny projector and will project a mirror image of the light source you use. If you really want 'stars' I suggest you go with a single (powerful) LED. By using a single LED you will have one light source and one ''star''. I do not have to knowledge to make something like that and I did not want to over complicate the built. If you have different types laying around I suggest you play a bit and see what the results are!

I used a 20 Watt halogen light (235 lumen) and I know some of you prefer LED because of the heat. Yes it gets warm, but no ware near hot. I guess all the little stars help with some airflow.

Step 8: Enjoy!



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    18 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Good job. It is very important to have the halogen inside. No other lamp provides such a bright point of light source, which is required for your result. As far as i know there is no LED subsistute for the brightness of halogene inside. Perhaps to note: the halogen projects the bright structure of its wire due to the relative small holes (the first camera origines from small holes), which the LED will never do (perhaps magnifiers on leds or small holes may give the sand structure in future, which might than be common;)

    Again nice instructable


    2 years ago

    Very cool; I tried to make something like this in third grade for a jr. science fair and it flopped! It was the light source. (but I was like, 9? I didn't know!) I feel so vindicated seeing yours all lit up and shooting stars onto the walls! :-D

    Thanks, great post.


    2 years ago

    What's a fretsaw? Could I use a jigsaw or skilsaw?

    5 replies

    Reply 2 years ago

    A fretsaw is apparently what he had. It's a specialized tool.You can use a jigsaw, yes. Just use a blade appropriate for thin wood (many fine teeth) and you'll probably get better results running it along a straightedge. A big power saw like the kind people call Skillsaw would be the wrong tool, it'll tear up thin wood. This is a small object, and your saw needs to be right for small pieces and small thicknesses.


    Reply 2 years ago

    It's another name for a small and very thin hand saw that is usually
    stiff-backed to prevent flexing of the saw. They are often used for
    cutting the slots for frets in stringed instruments fretboard/fingerboards. This is because they do NOT flex and can be very precise. Most coping saws can flex some when used which isn't good for frets(bad musical notes).

    Some versions are often found in the larger hobby knife kits sold at
    hobby/modeling stores.

    The Dutch cyclistMyrian1

    Reply 2 years ago

    It should be fine with most saw's ;) I used a fretsaw (what my translation said) coping saw is the same I guess. As long as you can make a cut you should be fine :)


    2 years ago

    Super. I have one of those things but not like that. Thanks for sharing!


    2 years ago

    This could be made with an Epilog laser.

    spark master

    2 years ago

    with experimentation I bet you could do constellations , then make them for 4 seasons!

    pretty cool


    2 years ago

    drilling smaller holes will give more realistic stars. also using a frosted bulb/led well make it look better.


    2 years ago

    I really like it, and I think it's fitting that you used a dodecahedron as according to some it is representative of the universe.

    A suggestion based on what you said about light sources might be to use a "pearl" bulb which has a white glass to diffuse the light.

    1 reply
    The Dutch cyclistJamesW33

    Reply 2 years ago

    Thank you!

    I considered it but I have my doubts is they would make stars. As you can see in the picture of the door the stripes are around 30cm from a distance of +/- 2.5 meter from the source. If you would use a pearl bulb the stripes will be circles of 30cm. I'm sure it will look nice but won't give a star sky if that is what you are looking for. To accomplish this I think you would need a smaller light source and/or thicker walls.

    What I would really like to try is a decorative LED bulb with multiple small LED's inside and a clear bulb. I think this would give the best result if it is bright enough. Unfortunate I haven't seen one in the shop yet.

    surya raju

    2 years ago

    A 20W warm white led with a lens kit(sand the flat face of the lens first)might be sufficient?just a suggestion for others.

    1 reply
    The Dutch cyclistsurya raju

    Reply 2 years ago

    I think that would be a bit over powered. I have 235 lm of a 20W halogen. 20W led will be around 1800.. It will be more like the sun instead of a star sky. But hey, the sun is also a star :)

    I would say 3W is really the max you can go if you want to keep it as decoration.

    2W = 200 lm
    3W = 300 lm
    6W = 400 lm (40W standard light bulb)