Introduction: How To: Ping Pong Ball Lights

Picture of How To: Ping Pong Ball Lights

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.

Step 1: Gather Materials

Picture of Gather Materials
For this Instructable you'll need a few things.

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

  • 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of Hang the Lights

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


lianhoe (author)2017-01-23

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

Diamonds_OnTheInside (author)2016-11-08

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. :)

Breed1985 (author)2016-08-08

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

HelenaTroy (author)2015-10-18

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!

Msflutterby (author)2015-08-14

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

finkbeiner1 (author)2015-02-24

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 :)

Teresa.Kibbe.Riddle (author)2014-12-17

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.

CYNICALifornia (author)2008-11-30

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?

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 : )

Lisa Fla (author)mabeline652008-12-18

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.

doesn't styrofoam melt when spray painted???

 ...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

ysabet (author)komecake2014-11-20

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!

blackweb (author)Lisa Fla2014-03-24

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

Tumbleweed (author)2014-05-22
zani87 (author)2011-11-09

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!!

lolson1 (author)zani872013-09-23

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

jeff_whitmire (author)2009-12-04

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 need for careful handling.

lolson1 (author)jeff_whitmire2013-09-23

good idea...

shellyrae (author)jeff_whitmire2012-01-18

Great idea!

lolson1 (author)2013-09-23

Love, love, love it!!! Love the fact that it is a diffused much softer. Thanks a bunch!!

rutwikzapake (author)2013-09-06

goood idea

Macon Bacon (author)2013-08-15

I think the best way to hold the ball is to drill a hole into a 2 by 4 that is smaller than the ping pong ball & just hold the ball with 2 fingers to drill the hole.

random123outburst (author)2009-11-27

 they would be cool if they had an LED throwie in them so that you could throw them

The L.E.D. Pingie!

rrrmanion (author)2011-05-14

if you have the equipment, you could blow-mold the ping pong balls, then just file it into proper shape or something like that. might look nicer

vincent7520 (author)2011-01-20

Nice !
Very nice iii… :))

applesaucemodifier (author)2009-11-29

DON'T try to burn holes in them, leaves a disgusting scent that lingers for days.

heh, sounds like you're speaking from experience ;-)

You have no idea, the smell is like no other. At the very least don't try it inside. I feel like i lost a few days of my life every time I split one open.

komecake (author)2009-11-15

  Woohoo! I randomly decided I would finally do this today for my mom for her back porch. I bought LED lights instead as they are brigther and less of a fire hazard. I got them at Home Depot for $11 for a 60 strand that has 16 different functions. Excessive? Yes, but fun. :D

 I bought the ping pong balls at Wallie Mart for $8 for 36 of them and a 15 pack of golf balls with holes for $2. Obviously that's not quite enough. I need another 15 pack, but I like how it's turned out so far! :)


komecake (author)komecake2009-11-15

  I forget to mention that we also did not drill holes. We found that cutting a small "X" with an exacto knife and pushing it on was much easier to glue on and faster than drilling holes.

craziemutant (author)komecake2010-09-06

Hmm. Sounds like you made an easy I'ble into an even easier I'ble. haha. Nice. I want to do this. Don't even have a use for them. Just want to do it. Haha.

Dudeyowuzup (author)craziemutant2011-01-05

yeah! I like your $2 holey golf ball idea! The holes are already there, and from the pic, I can see it makes a cool, almost disco ball effect!

alxg37 (author)2010-12-08

Do ping pong balls come in colors or did you paint them? You show all white ping pong balls.

Dudeyowuzup (author)alxg372011-01-05

The cool thing is you don't have to paint them. They glow they color of the light that's inside them.

nickabc123 (author)2010-12-12

soldering iron to make a small hole- emphasis on small- then using a drill bit about the same size as the light (drilling in reverse). you push the light through then pull to tighten. dont even need glue.

mecenia (author)2010-11-03

Your decoration with ping pong balls are so amazing!! so cute and beautiful *-*
i'll do one tomorrow and one i'll give to my friend.
Another.. i'll put in my bedroom for light in the night.
thanks for the idea and guide!

yellow2121 (author)2010-09-05

Don't know if this has been mentioned but this needs a big be careful warning. Most ping-pong balls are made from celluloid. Celluloid is highly flammable. Just like movie film from the 20's and 30's, touch a match to it and whoosh, even water won't put it out. Dollar store balls may be made from plastic and a safe choice, if you test by burning one watch your eyebrows.

mojo13 (author)2009-12-13

 Hey, I just made these! They worked out so well! thanks for th instructable!

DasBus (author)2009-11-28

 I just put one of these together today, using a battery operated light set.  Looks AWESOME!!!!  Thanks for the idea!

brain_bomb (author)2009-10-13

 If you go as cheap as possible on the lights and balls you have an extreme fire hazard on your hands and you've spent $5 more then the store bought version.  If you do it right and buy LED lights you've spent $25 more than the store bought version.  I have to say that when an instructable costs more than the store bought option and is more dangerous than the comparable store option it's not one to do.  If you are intent on doing this, make sure to use the LEDs.  More expensive but you can leave the room for bathroom breaks and not have to worry your house will burn down.

komecake (author)brain_bomb2009-11-15

  LOL @ leaving the room for bathroom breaks. I agree though. And LED lights aren't $25. I got mine for $11. They had a good set for $6!!! But I wanted the ones that had 16 different blinking functions to satisfy my ADDness. Hahaha.

brain_bomb (author)komecake2009-11-16

 Sweet, the prices are going down.  I thought $25 was a little ludicrous for christmas lights.  And I absolutely know what you mean about the blinking functions.

HeidiJJJJ (author)2009-10-28

Use add random google eyes and use as a Halloween decoration.

aksaks (author)2009-10-26

Thanks for the wonderful idea.
I got 'my balls' from a Dollar store (he he he), 6 for a buck, used a power drill and selected a drill bit size such that I did not need any hot glue at all, just some twisting of the ball to push the bulb into the hole (lots of squeaking noise though). I used regular (colored) Christmas serial lights (incandescent).

Initially I was concerned about over heating and a potential fire hazard, so tested couple of them while gradually increasing the time they were on; nothing adverse happened. Now I leave them on for about 5 hrs. I use them in the patio so I am not overly concerned of a fire hazard. Also mine stays exposed to direct sunlight during day time.
PS: The seams on the ping pong balls give it an exotic look or are distracting depending on the 'eyes of the beholder'. I purposefully randomized the seams while I was drilling holes.

Since there is a great variation in the lights, ping pong balls, duration of use and location, I recommend each user to test it before leaving it on for long periods. Its better to be safe than sorry.

illdoyourdrugs (author)2009-10-15

Great idea. Creative, cheap and easy.

thalden (author)2009-10-11

Just did this. I salvaged a fully-functional 35 light string, which worked out nicely for buying a 36-pack of balls.
I reduced the risk of fire by aiming a fan at the light string. Since cellulose isn't a great insulator, this keeps the lights themselves cool as well. It also induces a swaying motion that can be quite hypnotic, in addition to making a nice sound if hung on a wall.

Remember, though: Christmas lights shouldn't be left running for long periods of time, or unattended, regardless of any modifications you may have made.

Ev (author)thalden2009-10-14

Get LED lights. Use a fraction of the old, hot incandescent bulbs, evenin the small size.
I use a string of LED holiday lights as a night light in my store room.They use so little power I never turn them off!

About This Instructable




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