How To: Ping Pong Ball Lights

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Introduction: How To: Ping Pong Ball Lights

About: Hi, I'm Steven from the Center for the Advancement of Mischief. I'm a junior at Penn State University studying Electrical Engineering.

At some point last semester I realized that ping pong balls make great diffusers and look really cool when they are glowing. Next we concluded that a hundred glowing ping pong balls would look even cooler. It was at about this point I decided that my apartment was in dire need of some ping pong ball lights.

In this instructable I'll show you a quick way to turn an ordinary string of Christmas lights into a great party decoration.

Let It Glow!

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Step 1: Gather Materials

For this Instructable you'll need a few things.

Parts:
  • A string of Christmas lights
  • A ping pong ball for each light on the string

Tools:
  • Drill and drill bit (or other implement to make a hole in a ping pong ball)
  • Hot glue and glue gun

When researching this project I found that you can get a gross(144) of ping pong balls for under $20 including shipping on eBay.

Make sure the string of lights you use is in good condition. Check for any electrical shorts or overheating bulbs before starting.

Step 2: Prepare the Ping Pong Balls

Drill a hole in each ping pong ball.

There are several ways to do this such as a drill, exacto knife, or by poking a hole in it with a nail. A nail is the quickest method, but you will need to spend more time later gluing the balls to the lights. With a clean hole just smaller than the bulb the ping pong ball will stay in place without needing glue.

To drill the hole in the ball you will need a drill bit that is slightly smaller than the Christmas light bulb. Approximately 3/16" should be good, but make sure to test fit a few before drilling the rest of the balls. You will need to prepare as many ping pong balls as you have lights, if it's a long string it probably has 100.

A quick note on drilling holes in ping pong balls:

The best method I found for putting holes in the ping pong balls uses a c-clamp, some paper towels, and a drill. First fold a 1.5" wide strip of paper towel over on itself several times so that it fits on the plates of the c-clamp and tape one on each side of the clamp. Next adjust the clamp so that it holds the ball just enough that it doesn't slip when you drill into it. Because of the give in the paper towel you can pull the ball out and press another one in without needing to readjust the clamp. If anyone finds a better method please share in the comments.

I found I got the cleanest hole by first pressing the bit against the ball so it depressed slightly, then running the drill at medium to high speed while applying light pressure. A drill press would be very helpful at this step, but is not necessary. As always, please exercise care when using power tools.

Step 3: Building the Lights

Slide a ping pong ball over each light.

If the holes are too loose or you choose to use a nail to puncture holes, run a small bead of hot glue around where the base of the light meets the ping pong ball. If the holes are tight enough that they won't be easily knocked off, you can leave the ping pong balls press fit without a problem.

Step 4: Hang the Lights

All that's left to do now is to hang up your new set of ping pong ball lights and enjoy.

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    146 Comments

    i found an easy and quick way to SECURE, PUNCH HOLE in the EXACT CENTRE with respect to the seams in the ping-pong balls.

    Cardboard centre of toilet rolls/ tapes (i used duct tape centre) - secures the ball and allows u to align the ping-pong ball seam horizontally so that the hole can be placed right in the centre with a ..

    Hot poker - heat it with a candle flame and place the hole viewed from the top to the desired size

    I hope this makes this instructable even easier

    20170124_143700#1.jpg

    These are lovely! I think LED Christmas lights would work too. That way you won't have to worry about a light (or lights) burning out. :)

    I found that Amazon has 144 ping pong balls for $7.94 and free shipping with Prime right now!

    I've seen this idea elsewhere but didn't know how to make the holes: i'd thought of cutting a small + cross, pressing the pieces inwards as I put the bulb in, then push the cable in far enough for the pieces to close up as I pulled the bulb back up . i'm visually impaired and not very handy with electrical tools or small projects, but this looks worth a try!

    You can hold the ping pong in your hand and then use a small awl to poke a hole. Then use a pair of needle nose pliers to make the hole bigger by twisting them while inside the hole the pliers are tapered so you just go deeper slowly until you get the desired size. That's much easier

    Quick question. Will the heat of a strand of light melt or cause warping of the ping pongs? LED lights are more expensive and I'd rather use the cheaper traditional lights for our upcoming Prom...making a Marquee sign :) If you'd let me know how they held up and if the heat was an issue I'd be greatly appreciative :)

    Hi cynicalifornia, You could use patterned duct tape or colored electrical tape as well as yarn, instead of embroidery floss, which would be pretty but tedious to do.

    I think these lights look really great! Now we just gotta make the strand look as good as the lights. I know the sell white strands, but could the strands be painted easily, such as with spray paint?

    6 replies

    you could wrap the cord in embroidery floss. It's a lil time consuming and labor intensive but it looks great and there are tons of colors to choose from : )

    To paint the light strand wires: before putting ping pong balls on, push the glass bulbs (only) into a sheet of styrofoam, then spray paint the rest. When dry, rearrange so that you can spray any spots you missed the first time. The embroidery floss sounds clever, but wouldn't you then have to worry about wire breakage > fire? Still waiting for someone to translate POI for us. Wish I could take credit for this idea, but I saw it on HGTV or something similar a few years ago on a holiday special.

     ...not enough to actually melt it to the light. It's not like it's a hot melt either. It just gets soggy like bread basically. The styrofoam is temporary so that really shouldn't matter. o.0

    If the melting thing is a worry, just poke holes in a cardboard box and push 'em into that instead. This is a *fastastic* idea, btw, and I'll be doing this. Thanks!

    Use straws it to size with slits on the length of the straw. They. Ome in all sorts of. Colors, some even bend.

    Very cool project, I've done it today, for my boyfriend's birthday :) It was cca. 15-20 minutes, I bought glue pistol, but I didn't even need to use it, cutting an X shape on them hold it just as well! Thank you for the idea, and for the others too for making it easier to complete!!

    1 reply

    I used the X also and it worked well and was fast!

    Great project.  I saw this somewhere else and we did a bunch of orange ones for Halloween.  Very cool glow on the front porch.

    For drilling, I put the balls in an egg crate and just slid it around on the drill press work surface.  Worked great and I could just throw a handful into the crate and then dump them after drilling...no need for careful handling.

    2 replies

    good idea...