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Every time I think I have the curve modifier mastered, it throws me a another curve ball (no pun intended).

Why in this blend file can I not get the lights to follow the spiral curve? When the modifier is activated, the lights are stretched and distorted along the curve.

I created the curve by converting it from a mesh (string of verts). Why does it not display like a normal Bezier? Is that related to my problem?

I am following all the "rules" that I am aware of, as detailed here: Understanding the Curve Modifier. The curve seems to run in the correct direction. The origin point is at the first point of the curve. The curve modifier on the lights is set to -Y which is the local orientation of the curve's direction.

What am I missing?

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First you should sanitize up your lights object. Correctly place your lamps exactly at the origin of the curve, clear its rotation, and then rotate it again so it faces the desired direction. After that apply the rotation.

Clear object transforms

There are a few types of different curve objects in Blender, Bezier Curves, NURBS Curves, or Poly Type curves. Since you converted from a mesh object it is by default a Poly type curve, which has no curvature and hence no handles. It can only contain straight "poly line-like" segments.

This has absolutely no influence in your curve modifier bad results, and can easily be fixed by changing curve types. Under curve edit mode use the button on the toolbar that reads Set Spline Type > Bezier.

Change curve type

After that make sure you then change all handle types to Automatic or something other than vector to get a smooth curve.

Then you can finally activate the curve modifier. Switch its direction to Xaxis.

Anyway, the root cause of the weird results you are getting in this particular case are caused by having your curve vertex with a very small Radius factor, causing the mesh to be scaled along the curve. You can fix this by entering edit mode on the curve, in the Properties Shelf > Transform > Radius set it to 1 on all vertex. You can quickly override all selected vertex with the operator Set Curve Radius.

Curve radius

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    $\begingroup$ Perfect, thank you. Very comprehensive and well explained. Also leads me to believe that the information in that article I linked to in my original question is totally inaccurate. $\endgroup$ – Lewis Oct 22 '16 at 6:14

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