I had a lamp with a paper shade that eventually disintegrated, and it hung around looking a bit ugly for the past year or so. I've wanted to do this to it for quite a while, after having seen people do similar things to this lamp with perspex tubs, etc., and tried to collect these bulbs, but we've been so on the ball with energy savers that I only managed to find a paltry 2 in the house at all. Eventually, I spotted a big tub of old style light bulbs at my local army surplus depot. Hooray.
(Some people look at this and worry about heat, assuming it's dangerous. The jar is vented though, and the lamp fitting holds an energy saving bulb so heat is minimal).
Step 1: Tools and Materials
Hole cutter (to match your lamp fitting)
Drill bit (for putting vents in jar)
Lighter fluid / other solvent
Old lamp base
Assorted old light bulbs
Plastic sweet jar
The light bulbs were all from my local army surplus place.
The plastic sweet jar was the hardest thing to get. I could only find them to buy in wholesale quantities, not individually. There were some on ebay, but they were either wrong sizes, or had red plastic lids (not good with green walls...).
I visited every corner shop and market stall I could see them at, and they all said they wouldn't give or sell me one because they refill them with things bought wholesale. It took me a week to spot an empty one anywhere, and I got it by asking about it, getting the same answers as everywhere else, and going back a few minutes later to offer them 5 pounds for it. They said "You're clearly desperate, here, you can just have it" :)
Step 2: Strip Lamp, Check Hole Cutter
Strip the lamp of fittings, ready to accept the lid, and check your hole cutter will make a hole of the right size to mount it.
First of all, make a small pilot hole in the centre to guide the hole cutter rather than having it move around the lid while you try to force the point through. Beware, plastic will bite as soon as your drill gets through it*, so go into it slowly and be ready to pull back. Don't push down too hard, and use a slow drill speed. Go into it like this until you've scored a circle into the plastic.
Second, turn it over and press it against a bit of wood to go through it. Score the circle into this side too, still being gentle. Keep going, and at a certain point the plastic within the circle will shatter, leaving you with a hole of exactly the right size.
If you do this fast, without scoring the edge of the hole on both sides first, the shattering could more or less go all over the lid.
Step 4: Clean Jar
Don't use too strong a solvent or too much, or you might melt the jar too :)
Step 5: Add Vents
Step 6: Fill Jar, Fix Lamp Base
Secure the jar lid to your lamp base and add the real bulb, then screw the lid on the jar and flip it over to see how the bulbs settle. It my require some tweaking to get them to look how you want.
I repacked the jar twice, then rearranged the topmost bulbs about 12 times before I was happy with it.
Step 7: Ding!
The shape of the jar means that there's a void around the bulb at the bottom (see second picture). It would have been easier to fill something with a wider neck, or a different shape such as a fishbowl. It could also be solved by putting the hole in the jar lid off centre, though this might cause the jar to lean a little in one direction. It would also be better to extend the lamp fitting upwards, to put the glow right in the centre of all the bulbs. Again, a fishbowl or other spherical enclosure might make this easier.
Overall I'm pleased with it though, as it's much better looking than the lamp base and bare bulb I had before.