Fast & Easy Sun Jar

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Introduction: Fast & Easy Sun Jar


There are many great instructables for sun jars, but by the time I decided to try making one myself, I realized that changes in solar garden light design had made it even easier to transfer from stake to jar.

No longer do you need to disassemble the lamp and battery case; the units of these small, compact designs can slip as is right into your jar. This means that the making a solar jar only takes a little more time than you need for paint and adhesive to dry.

Step 1: What You Need


The most important part of making the Fast & Easy Sun Jar is finding the right solar lights. This clean design by Westinghouse was on sale for much of the summer. I found them at Orchard Supply Hardware for $2 each, but even at the regular price of $4, they're the most economical solar lights available.

You will also need a jar with a glass lid. The tiny SLOM jar from Ikea is only $2.99. You may pay a little more for a jar from a kitchen store, a little less if you can find one at a thrift store. 

Finally, you'll need glass frosting spray, adhesive (I chose a clear silicone adhesive), a utility knife and some painter's or masking tape. A few sheets of newspaper (not shown here) are used in the painting process.

Step 2: Prepare for Painting


Frosting the jar helps diffuse the light and gives a nice glow to the entire jar, but I found it unnecessarily time-consuming to take apart the jar and frost the outside.

For much less time, you can make a newspaper mask and spray the inside of the jar instead. As an added benefit, you will not have to worry about paint scratching or flaking as it is moved around.

Place a quarter sheet of newspaper snugly over the mouth of the jar to create an impression and cut around the inside of the mouth using a utility knife.

Once your hole is cut, attach the newspaper with painter's or masking tape.

Place your jar (or jars) in a shady location for painting.

Step 3: Frosting the Jar


A few things to pay attention to when using spray paint:

Spray outdoors in a well-ventilated area. It's probably a good idea to use a mask and goggles, as well.

Be sure and thoroughly shake the can before using. This will mix the paint so you get more even coverage.

Hold the can upright or at a slight angle at the recommended distance from your jars.

Keep the can moving slowly but continuously. If you stop at any point, you'll get gloppy paint; ideally, you want a light, even coat. If you need to add more paint later, you can--but it's hard to fix a dripping finish.

The frosting spray goes on nearly invisibly, so have faith that it is covering and keep a light hand. I used two light coats to thoroughly frost the insides of these jars.

Step 4: Assembling


These solar lights simply unscrew from their plastic bulb. The entire solar unit is self-contained and can be used without further disassembly.

Be sure to remove the plastic covering from the solar cell, add your silicone adhesive if necessary, and fit the unit into the lid.

Note:it's a good idea to test the fit before using adhesive. After putting the first unit in, I realized this particular unit fits so snugly into the SLOM jar, no adhesive is necessary. This was a nice coincidence that allowed future sun jars to have a clean look without any adhesive showing through the top of the glass.

Step 5: Securing the Unit

Run a bead of clear silicone adhesive around the edge to secure the solar unit. You can smooth it out with your finger for a cleaner appearance.

Step 6: Using Your Sun Jar


Your jar is finished!

Just remove the strip of paper that prevents battery contact, close the jar, and place it outside in full sun. It will glow most of the night after charging.

Step 7: Final Thoughts


My cost breakdown on this project went like this:

$3 Ikea SLOM jar
$2 Westinghouse solar garden light
$10 Krylon Glass Frosting Spray
$4 GE Premium Silicone Glue

I already had the knife, tape and newspaper.

You can see that the cost to make a single jar is nearly $20, but if you make 15 at a time, each jar will cost you only $6. The spray and glue are good for at least 15 jars.

As has been mentioned, the jars make wonderful gifts--particularly in the summer, when sunlight is abundant; and in winter, when it becomes a way to extend the limited sun. Mine will become this year's Christmas/Chanukah/solstice presents, depending on the recipient.

Now the only problem is what to do with the remaining solar light parts. Anyone know of a project which uses stakes, stainless steel tubes and plastic bulbs?

2 People Made This Project!

  • We found we were abl...-LizW6

    LizW6 made it!

  • i had to disassemble...-imjasonc

    imjasonc made it!

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74 Comments

I just came across this, and it looks great. I was wondering about the lights are made for freeze thaw cycles I think, but they are vented. If you put it in an air tight jar wouldn’t it cause condensation? Then add the heat of the sun, pressure build up is ok? I am just asking I will still will make one cause they look nice, so I will find out I guess, was hoping if someone might have tried it out or not. Also could you put cellophane inside to change the colour? Keep making things.

Thanks for your comments and questions. I've had mine outside for 2-1/2 years now, and there has been minimal condensation. General weathering has been more of a problem, but I think it might have been different had I taken care to move and clean them more often.

I would think you could use cellophane--or a different type/color of paint, as well. I'd love to see what you come up with--thanks for taking the time to stop by.

Do you know how to make a colored version?

Wanted to replace the white led from a solar garden light circuit with a pink one. The problem I'm having is these particular LED's are 3.4V, and the battery used is 1.2V (AA rechargeable). Most white LED's are 2-3V so how does this circuit work?! There is also a 370R resistor in the circuit, so I am unsure what to replace this with, as the calculations do not work when the source voltage (battery) is lower than the LED forward voltage.

Please help!

In most of these I've seen, there's a portion in the circuit that is basically a 'step up' transformer. A transistor, resistor, and capacitor create an oscillator that drives a small coil; the output of the coil is around 4V which is used to power the LED. They do it this way (rather than have multiple solar cells and two or more rechargeable batteries) because it's more compact (and probably much cheaper, too). Most white and blue LEDs will operate happily at around 3.5 to 4.0 volts; red, green, and most yellow LEDs typically operate at a lower voltage so you would probably need a slightly higher resistance to use one of those colors.

I'm not sure what you'd have to do to replace the white LED. The easiest thing to do would be measure the voltage on the existing LED, then find a replacement with a color you like with the same rating.

I'm guessing here, but there's probably a voltage doubler to boost the 1.2v from the battery to something higher to drive the LED. Measuring a working unit would help tell you that.

You might be able to get some leeway if there is a resistor in series with the LED, but I don't know about this specific circuit or the one you might have. If you can measure that total voltage drop, and the current flowing when the LED is lit, you'll have a better idea what you might plug into the circuit.