By Daniel Mac
Rope lighting is highly versatile, but most people don't typically need all 100+ feet that come on a roll for a single area. However, you need to know how to cut it properly. Otherwise, you may damage the product, waste money, or even accidentally harm someone via electrocution.
So today, we're going to go step-by-step on how to shorten an LED rope light without damaging it and making it work for your specific needs. For 120V rope light, you can find our cutting guide here for 120V rope light.
Keep in mind that if you intend to shorten LED rope lights for outdoor purposes, you may need extra materials such as sealant.
Note that this guide was created with a specific rope light kit and its corresponding parts. If you use this guide for a similar product or different options, please understand there might be slight differences in the steps and/or images.
Also, shortening an LED rope light (whether you, a staff member, or anybody else does it) voids any certification the product may have had in its pre-modified state.
BEFORE YOU START:
You'll need a few tools to cut rope light properly. So here's a list of the items/tools you'll need to follow this guide. Make sure to use 2 wire parts with 2 wire rope light and 3 wire parts for 3 wire rope light:
- 12v 2 wire Rope Light Spool (clear or color, the steps are the same)
- Power Cord (12v)
- Power Connector
- Rope Light End Cap
- utility knife (or equivalent cutting instrument)
- Wire Cutter or Scissors
- Cutting Board or Hard, Flat Surface (use something you don't mind scratching in case you miss)
Locate a workspace that allows enough space to work comfortably and have the rope light stretched out so that the section you are cutting is straight.
Never plug your rope light into a power source while it is coiled on the spool. This will melt the rope light and render it unrepairable. At best, it will melt in less than 1 minute; at worst, it will cause a fire! NEVER EVER, EVER PLUG THE ROPE LIGHT TO A POWER SOURCE WHEN IT IS STILL ON THE SPOOL!
Got it? Good. Let's get started with what you came here to do.
- Uncoil the desired length of rope light from the spool. Measure the appropriate length for your application and locate the closest cut mark. Most manufacturers of rope light design their product to be cut every 18-24". Some 3-wire (chasing) rope light can only be cut every 36". Locate the OTW mark as that an estimation on where the cut should be made.
- Take your utility knife and make a clean, straight cut through the dotted line printed on the plastic of the rope light. Make sure to keep the knife/cutting instrument perpendicular to the cutting board. Try to keep the cut as clean and straight as possible.
Great, now the rope light is cut but that's not the end of the job! A cut piece of rope light must have a few more things before it will work: a power cord, power connector, end cap and transformer. Most manufacturers include an installation kit with your purchase containing these parts.
Installing End Caps and Power Connectors On Your Rope Light:
- Take the power cord and attach it to the rope light power connector. Make sure to keep the plastic nut on the power cord as it will secure the power connector to the power cord.
- Open up the plastic flanges of the power connector and line up the pins to the holes in the cut piece of rope light. Thread the other plastic nut over the end of the rope light (as shown).
- Slide the rope light onto the pins, ensuring the connection of the pins of the connector and the wire inside the rope light is secure. Too much force may snap the connector, so be careful. Ensure the rope light is all the way down on the pins.
- Screw the plastic nut down, securing the rope light to the connector. For outdoor use, you can apply a bit of silicone sealant to create a better seal from the elements (make sure to test the rope light before applying the sealant).
Now that everything is connected to one another, now we have to get power to the rope light.
Connecting the Rope Light to a Power Source
- The wires on the end of the power cord must be separated and stripped to allow it to connect to a transformer. Take the utility knife and place it between the two wires and cut (there should be a small valley between the two wires). Give yourself enough wire to work with but you can always give yourself more later.
- Strip the ends of the wires.
- Perform Steps 1 & 2 to the transformer (the side without the wall plug).
- Join the stripped wires of the transformer to the stripped wires of the power cord. Twist a wire nut over each of the pairs. Polarity on the 12v doesn't matter so
- Plug it in.
Congratulations! You now have your very own custom cut rope light!