Float How To :: Float Building 101

  1. Lay sheets of plywood on top of the pallets to create a smooth standing surface.
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  2. Fasten the sheets of plywood to the pallets.
    NOTE: If you plan on having people stand on the float make sure to include stanchions where the float riders can stand or sit. Once you have created the base you will now have to create a skirt frame.
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  3. Using 1”x1” or 2”x2” thick pieces of wood fasten a frame around the trailer. This will help disguise the wheels.
  4. Make sure to leave 16” from the ground to allow room for the tongue pulling the float.

Decorating the Float

There are many materials you can use to decorate a float. Most stores sell float skirt sheeting that can easily be attached to the skirt of the trailer by using a staple gun. This type of fringe is also known as float away fringe. You can also create cardboard objects and wrap them with paper or paint them.

Chicken Wire Frames

Float building 101 03Chicken wire frames allow you to build and create a 3-d object without many tools.

Staple gun chicken wire to a wooden frame. Attach any 3-d or pop out features to the chicken wire using either bendable wire or zip ties. Fill in the individual holes of the chicken wire by taking individual sheets of toilet paper (approx 5 sheets) and layering them one on top of another in a diagonal form.

Stuff the toilet paper into each of the holes. This does take time to stuff them into the holes. You can then spray paint the design as desired.

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Chicken wire stapled to a wooden frame commonly built out of 2×4 pieces of wood.

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Finished product, stuffed and spray painted.

Basic Guidelines To Light Your Entry

This document is provided as a fundamental guideline for those participants that want to use “standard 110vac” Christmas Lights either on or in their vehicle for the Holiday Light Parade. Obviously, every application is unique and somewhat custom to the individual’s creativity and desires. This technical sheet is solely provided as a introduction and a guideline to possibly enhance you participation in the Arlington Holiday Light Parade. Basic electricity rules apply to this application whether the lights are to be installed on a FLOAT or on/in a single vehicle. The number of light strings and the type of light bulbs L.E.D. verses filament type bulbs) will determine the basic size of the generator or the inverter that will be needed. General statements: the larger the bulb, the more current is required. Use heavy gauge wire for the supply line, use good connections (bolt/screw verses clips when possible). Buy lights with heavier wire verses small gauge wire. The new L.E.D. technology is the best choice – low watts, no heat, durable!!


Float building 101 06For most FLOAT applications, it is desirable to utilize a gasoline powered generator to provide the necessary electrical voltage and current needed to supply the number of lights on a typical FLOAT. If you need to purchase a new generator, look for the NEW technology of QUIET. Honda and Yamaha makes three small sized, very QUIET generators that are perfect for FLOAT installations (see vendor list). Again, please note the total amount of amps/watts of your fully loaded line so that you can purchase sufficient power, without buying too much overhead. You will not hurt anything except your wallet by buying too large of a generator. Power overhead is a good thing opposed to being under powered. Price ranges from $199 to $3,500.

ALERT: You must have a fire extinguisher on-board if you use a generator!

Float building 101 07One of the concerns with using a portable generator is the noise. These two units are extremely quiet, 56 decibels at 20 feet (that is normal speech). For this application, use STANDARD 110vac Christmas lights, plug directly into the unit, a power strip, or a heavy duty extension cord. The common rule of the recommended number of Christmas Light strings that you can plug together (serially) applies. Again, this rule is based on the type of lights, the number of lights in the string, the quality and gauge of the wire used.

Power Inverters

The alternative to the generator is the simple power inverter. This device inverts standard vehicle battery 12vdc into an alternating current of 110vac. A power inverter can be connected to the vehicle in two (2) different methods.

  1. The power inverter is connected directly to the existing vehicle battery post (observe correct polarity – positive-to-positive (red) and negative-to-negative (black)). In this connection method, the vehicle’s alternator will continue to charge the vehicle battery while the engine is running. If the lights are ON and the engine is OFF, the lights could possibly drain the battery to the point of failure when you try to start the vehicle. If the power inverter is OFF, there is no drain on the battery.
  2. The power inverter is connected directly to a separate (free-standing) battery. The advantage of this environment is that you have zero impact on the vehicle battery. The disadvantage is that there is no “charging” wire connected, so there will be a drain on the battery with no replacement source. Typically, a small motorcycle 12vdc (drycell) battery will maintain sufficient charge for a parade event. The key here is to conserve the battery until you actually start the parade route. DO NOT run the lights for the two hours in the staging area!!

Again, this solution requires some planning as to the number of lights that you intend to operate from the inverter. Sizing is strictly a factor as to the current/wattage being drawn from the device. Typical applications can be supplied with 750watt – 1,500watt power inverters. The same statement is true for power inverters… excess power overhead is a positive, so if you think you need 1,000 watts, purchase a 1,500 watt power inverter, or use multiple power sources. Prices range from $20 – $500.

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Product & Vendor List


  1. Honda EU1000iA – Northern Tool, Home Depot
  2. Honda EU2000iA  – Northern Tool, Home Depot
  3. Honda EU3000iSA – Northern Tool, Home Depot

Power Inverters:

  1. Vector 750 Watt – On-line
  2. Super Start 200 -3,000 Watt – O’Reilly
  3. Cyber Power 1,000 Watt – Wal-Mart
  4. DieHard 200 – 1,000 Watt – Sears