An option for outdoor kitchens that most people don't know about is casting fiber optic cables directly into the concrete countertop. The creative design effects are only limited to your imagination and will make your outdoor patio a one of a kind that will impress your guests.
What are Fiber-Optics?
Most people hear about fiber-optics whenever people talk about telephone lines, television cable and the Internet. Fiber-optic lines are thin strands of optically pure glass or plastics that are capable of carrying light and/or digital information over long distances. In this application, we just need to use it for it's light carrying properties. How it works is the light is refracted internally through the cable which allows it to bend and still pass the light from it's source which is the illuminator.
What is an Illuminator?
The illuminator is a box with a bright halogen light and a bundle of fiber optic cables held in place directly in front of the bulb. The bright white light is carried down the cables to create hundreds of points of light from just the one bulb. A typical illuminator will hold 250-350 fibers depending on how thick the fiber strands are.
Options for different color wheels or sparkler wheels will make different effects as they spin in front of the white light bulb which changes the colors at the other ends of the fibers. Standard colors are green, white, magenta, and blue, but can be special ordered in custom color blends to get a unique look. Sparkler wheels are used to create a twinkling starry sky effect because as it turns, the amount and location of the white light varies so the fiber ends fade and glow like the night skies.
Unique Effect: Why Fiber-Optic Lighting Does Not Produce Uniform Results
Because of the process and the variability of the materials used, homeowners must be aware that each countertop will be unique and original. The differences in the glass pieces and the fiber cables can make some areas brighter than others and the effects can't not be 100% predicted. Homeowners must be comfortable beforehand with this because once it's done, it's hard to change.
There are two primary approaches to lighting counters with fiber-optics. The first is to place the cables through the finished surface so that at the end of the polishing process, the exposed cables are nice and bright. The issue with this can be that the light can shine directly into the viewer's eye which can be uncomfortable. The other method is to glue the ends of the cables to pieces of glass which diffuses the light to produce a subtle glowing effect.
Step 1: Set Your FormsSet your forms in place and prep the counter.
Step 2: Glue Fibers To Glass PiecesRun fiber-optic cables up through the bottom of the forms and spread out the ends of the cables randomly. Use a hammer to blunt the ends of the cables to roughen them. There are two reasons for doing this. First is to helps the cables stick to the glass pieces and secondly it diffuses the light at the end of the fiber. With a hot glue gun, attach strands of cable to chunks of glass. For smaller or lighter pieces of glass, use 1-2 cables and use 2-4 cables for larger or darker pieces of glass.
Step 3: Set Cabled Glass To Counter HeightUsing a very dry, low slump concrete mixture with acrylic fortifier, place the cabled chunks of glass on cones of concrete just slightly higher than the counter finish height. Repeat the process until all glass chunks are set securely in place. Whatever the placement, either random or formal, be sure that is the final desired design.
Step 4: Cast the concrete counter
Pour and cast the counter.
Step 5: Cure the concrete
Let the concrete counter fully cure between 7-18 days.
Step 6: Grind Off Any Excess Glass
Remove the excess glass using a single head grinder above the finish grade of the concrete counter.
Step 7: Finish
Grind, hone and polish the counter to the desired finish.
Step 8: Seal the counterSeal the counter for easy cleaning and durability.
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The author is an entrepreneur and freelance digital nomad based in Bangkok.