Sunday, October 21, 2012

Christmas Light Ball

Many years ago I was taught how to make Christmas light balls. Of course I gave them as Christmas gifts that year.  My Mom left her’s behind when she moved, so she asked me for another one.  Since we are putting up my Mom’s Christmas lights this coming weekend, I sat down and got another one made, and this is how I did it. 
50 9 oz. clear Solo cups (they need to be very bell shaped, $4 a package of 40)
120 1 inch brass fasteners (we use to call them brads, $4 a package of 100)
String of 150 Christmas lights (+/- $12 a string)
Soldering iron with ½ inch tip (have had it a long time)
Box knife
 This is the type of cup we need to make Christmas light ball.  I did NOT buy this kind.  The ones I bought were good enough cups but they were not wide enough at the top.  I did not discover this until after I did the next step.
Step 1. Heat up the soldering iron and used it to melt a half inch hole into the bottom of each of the 50 cups.  Used the soldering iron to kind of ream out the hole (you need a hole a little larger than ½ inch diameter for 3 lights to fit through the hole).  Let them cool then then used a box knife to chip away some of the excess plastic left from the melting process. (Holes melted-too late.  I am too cheap to waste the cups so I punted.)
Step 2. Using the awl, poke a hole in the side of one cup. 
Poke a hole in the side of another cup and use a 1 inch brad to connect the two cups together. (Here is where I punted by switching to 1.5 inch brads and separated the cups more by using the extra length of the brad to separate the top of the cups.) 
 Poke a hole in the next cup and poke a hole in a previously attached up (try to make it level) and use another brad to connect the new cup to previous two cups.  Keep up this process, until you have 12 cups connected into a circle.  That is the 1st row of cups.
Step 3. For the 2nd row, connect 9 cups into a circle.  They will not lie flat, until you lay them onto the first row.  Our goal is to create a sphere, and once you lay the 2nd row on top of the 1st row, you can see where the 2nd row almost completes half of a sphere.  Use the awl to poke holes where two cups touch between the 1st and 2nd rows.  Each cup in the 2nd row should be attached to at least one cup in the 1st row, and every cup in the 1st row should be attached to a cup in the 2nd row.  This means that several cups in the 2nd row will be attached to more than one cup in the 1st row.  This will make a stable ball.  If you pick you the almost complete half of a sphere, it will feel solid. (Even with the brads making space the ball felt solid). 
Step 4. Now for the 3rd row, there are only have 4 cups left, attach them so that they form a square.  Then, put them in the empty space on the top of the semi sphere. 
See where the 3rd row cups touch cups in the 2nd row, and use the awl to poke holes and use brads to attach the 3rd row to the 2nd row.  This time you will not have very cup in the 2nd row attached to a cup in the 3rd row.  If you try to attach every cup in the 2nd row to a cup in the 3rd row you will have a warped shape, not a round half sphere.

Repeat steps 2-4 to make the second half of the sphere.
Step 5.  Now get out the string of lights. Plug in the lights to make sure they all work.  If you want you can leave them pluged in while you insert them into the cups.  Start with the light furthest from the male outlet and stick the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd light through one of the 4 cups in the 3rd row.  Put 3 lights into each of the other 3 cups in that row. 
 Now move up to the closest cup in row 2 and start putting 3 lights into each of the 9 cups in row 2.  Watch that you don’t skip any lights as you fill the cups.  Taking the lights out and then redoing them can be a pain. When you get back to where you started in row 2, move up to row 1 and then work your way around. 
Step 6.  Now, start inserting the lights into a cup in the 1st row of the second half of the sphere.  Next cup to receive lights is the closest to the first cup in the second row then the closest cup in the 3rd row.  Then put 3 lights into each of the other 3 cups in that row.  Now move up to the closest cup in row 2 and start putting 3 lights into each of the 9 cups in row 2.  Again watch that you don’t skip any lights as you fill the cups.  When you get back to where you started in row 2, move up to row 1 and then work your way around to the last cup.  You have 50 cups and 150 lights so you should come out even.
Step 7. Now put the two halves of the spheres together and use the awl to punch holes through two touching cups and connect them with brads.  Be sure the light plug is outside the ball. Pick it up, does it feel solid? No?  Take the time to tighten some of the brads where it feels loose.  Now does it feel solid?  Great! Done!
Plug it in and see how it looks.  I used a string of lights with a variety of possible motions. These can be, and many times are, outside lights. Enjoy!




  1. Brilliant! And beautiful to boot!

  2. Thanks for this great share. This site is a fantastic resource. Keep up the great work here at Sprint Connection!

    christmas lighting

  3. We have made these for every holiday out of different colored light strands.

    We don't use the brads to connect the cups though, we melt them together with the soldering iron, using clothes pins to hold the cups together until they are melted together (which just takes a second).

    Lay out the first row of cups in a circle, hold them together with the clothes pins, melt at the bottom of the cup wherever two cups touch, then remove 1 clothes pin, melt a small spot, put clip back on, move to next two cups and repeat the process. By the time you're back to the first cup everything is cool to the touch and all the clothes pins can be removed. Then just repeat the process with the next layer. You'll end up with the 4 remaining cups for this half and we wait to put those on. Attach the first two layers together, the smaller layer will nest (for the most part) in the first layer. When they are attached put the 4 cups on the top, hold in place with the clothes pins securing them to the existing layer (the spacing won't be even on this layer which is fine- it's not noticible when it's done) then melt them in place like you did with the other layers. Repeat the process for the second half. We have been melting the two halves together after we put the lights in but I really like the idea of using the brads for that part so that if the lights need fixing you can replace the whole strand if necessary.

    We use strands of 50 lights so one bulb per cup. We have also found that if a hole gets melted slightly too large to hold the light securly putting a little hot glue on it will hold it in place quickly and easily without affecting the look of the finished ball.


    1. My Mom's new light ball was stolen, so I ended making another one, this time no brads so I used a stapler. It worked really well. I will try the melting process next time I make one. MErry Christmas.