Introduction: Sparkling Concrete

Picture of Sparkling Concrete

I had only wanted a little accent lighting to help with night blindness. Originally I tried to use fiber optics and have the light source be a solar yard light. After struggling to get the right amount of light, and a QT to hobby lobby I decided to go with these battery operated LED string lights.
The obvious problem of "what do you do when the lights go bad" did criss cross thru my mind. The short answer is"I'll adapt to that problem when it arrives".
That part aside, we're very pleased with the project and it helps for backlight when we're stargazing
Are some videos of the lights in action

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

3'X2' piece of plywood
2 strings of lights
2 80# bags of quicrete 5000

Whole project about $20
Time is about two hours total but you'll have to wait about three days before step four

Step 2: Building Forms

Picture of Building Forms

Pretty straightforward: but my must do is;
1 use screws, it will make disassembly much easier
2 I made mine 3" larger than the column. I used cardboard templates and wood gauges to insure that I had the right sizes. When you are going to pour concrete, need to do it right the first time. Or if it's wrong blame it on your kids.

Step 3: Setting the Lights

Picture of Setting the Lights

I stuck the lights to the plywood using just a little bit of clear silicon. As you can see I had to use some screws to brace the bulb upright. Not to evenly spread

Step 4: Pouring the Concrete

Picture of Pouring the Concrete

When mixing the Crete i made the first bag a little thicker than typically done. This was because I packed it around the lights first. Gradually putting it in by hand from the lights out.
The wood blocks will leave a void for the light controller. The other intention is for a small rise in the brick wall for my stoop wall

Step 5: Breaking Bad

Picture of Breaking Bad

This is gonna make or break. Hmmm. Break is good? Whatever.
Taking the form apart was easy with one exception. The silicon I put in the corners. Still wasn't too bad. A little concrete sealer and take it to its resting place. For me the front yard. I put a pretty food size silicon bead to mount it to the bricks.

Step 6: Voila

Picture of Voila

I'm really enjoying the new lights and the twinkling is surprisingly my favorite. It really gets the job done well.


charlessenf-gm (author)2014-12-10

Very cool - finished product looks great.

I wonder if you could find brass or copper tubing such that you could slide LEDs into the tube, then the tubes could be part of the structure and the LEDs removable. If you had a diameter that would fit the LED and a larger one that the first would slide tightly into, the smaller tube would serve to insert the LED and hold it in place. While I would not shop Hobby Lobby, they likely have an assortment of tubing in a variety of sizes such that you can 'telescope' one inside the other.

Curious to learn why the fiber optics did not work out as that would seem to be the 'best' way - I can envision a thousand points of like per block!

Great project idea - may I copy it?

PS: If you want to leave a void in such a project, consider placing s Styrofoam block of the necessary size in the desired position. They, when the concrete has set, pour acetone over the foam and watch it disappear - leaving a nice void! And, given you can easily carve up the foam to most any needed shape . . . well, you see the possibilities!

Pet stores that cater for aquarium enthusiasts usually have various different sizes of plastic tubing. Use some of that as conduit for when your lights do go bad eventually and need to be replaced?

never thought about running conduit. Not a bad idea. The fiber didn't wofor my taste because I wanted to use some stuff I had already left over from another project. The light output never got high enough to suit what I was looking for. To change it would have made this an expensive project. When my main objective was to put some caps on my columns. Thanks

bettina-sisr (author)2015-01-24

I don't know what it is about sparkly lights in unique places. This is gorgeous! Thanks for sharing.

tm182 (author)2015-01-24

hey man, congratulations for be a winner. i did something like your instructable, maybe we can join them. check my profile and in there it will be my instructable

gaparkes (author)2015-01-06

First and foremost... excellent!!! I plan to build this, but I am surprised you didn't opt for a couple improvements.

Why not use electric powered lights instead of battery powered? Batteries eventually will get expensive.

Why not add a recessed block that would fit into the hole between the bricks? It would seem that someone could bump into the quasi loose cement pad, possible breaking your hard work.

A final suggestion is multifaceted; one of the Christmas lights I bought at Walmart has flat topped leds. Rather than making the form "upside down," create it facing upwards. Then place the leds in the form with wire. When you pour the cement into the form, keep the leds flush with the surface. As the cement begins to set up, rub/clean the surface of the led tops. now the lights will be flush with the finished surface. Some of the details would have to be researched. I remember this from doing projects with decreative stones in cement casts. The process would have to be the same.

dalegribble (author)gaparkes2015-01-07

well, the battery powered is electric. I charge them on a solar battery charger. It's been a couple months and still haven't had to charge them. They each weigh about 80 lbs and their held in place with a bead of exterior caulk. My soon to be four year old likes to go spelunking on them and it has not shown any signs of stress. As for the technique, shoot me some pics when you get yours done. That sounds like a pretty good idea. I want to see how it turns out. Thanks

pgraffenberger (author)2014-12-22

you can use melamine board then use car wax as a release agent to pop off easier.

kwright_420 (author)2014-12-13

another option would be to form a frame on plywood then cut a square of rigid foam a couple inches smaller than the form and half the height, then flip form over drill the plywood with holes in the pattern you want your lights, insert straws or dowels into the foam through the holes and pour your concrete, once it has cured remove the forms and foam, polish and seal as desired and insert lights from underside, that way it could be removed to service lights in the future. ps. I form concrete for a living, it is incredible stuff, great idea though, would love to do something similar with a sidewalk but would use fiber optics to bring the light through the concrete and mount light source in an accesable location.

tomatoskins (author)2014-12-06

That looks so cool! I've just started messing with concrete myself and it sure is an interesting substance to work with.

dalegribble (author)tomatoskins2014-12-11

Thanks. This has sparked my interest in other concrete projects

hmv4u (author)2014-12-09

excellent,it looks very effective-well done !

dalegribble (author)hmv4u2014-12-11


chrwei (author)2014-12-09

in step 4 is that a sander?

dalegribble (author)chrwei2014-12-11

yes. I use that to vibrate the aggregate. Gotta update the instruct

mikeasaurus (author)2014-12-09

Whoa, that is seriously cool

dalegribble (author)mikeasaurus2014-12-11

Thanks. Your table is incredible, by the way

iceng (author)2014-12-09

Very enjoyable.

Do you run them all night ?

Or when you want with a motion detect extra ?

dalegribble (author)iceng2014-12-11

usually turn them on at 5:00ish until my kids go to bed. Might add a photocell or motion for summer

pdriscoll4 (author)2014-12-09

Nice! As a minor hack what about replacing the LED lights and batteries with the luminescent resin used in this other instructable. Might help with the battery issue.

dalegribble (author)pdriscoll42014-12-11

That would have definitely been nice to know about 2weeks ago. Next time for sure

ac-dc (author)pdriscoll42014-12-09

Interesting idea but more expensive and glows for only "up to 20 minutes" meaning it's pretty dark by then so it's not enjoyable for long with the added burden of having to charge it up.

Since it only stays bright for under 20 minutes it's not like you could just leave it outside and have effective amounts of illumination once it gets dark enough. It would have discharged before it gets dark enough to appreciate.

DIY-Guy (author)ac-dc2014-12-10

Get the right glow powder and it lasts 12 hours!

Rare earth elements are the kind you want. (No, they're not radioactive.) I got mine at and the powders are still glowing all night long even after years of use. Do check for the compatibility of each kind of powder though, some are high temp safe for glass fusing, others are water sensitive and some are encapsulated for wet environments. The array of options is a techie wish list come true. :)
[Disclaimer: I am only a satisfied customer and do not represent the company or have ownership.]

audreyobscura (author)2014-12-10

This is a really good idea.


Taranach (author)2014-12-10

Very nice instructable. Simple yet effective. My only concerns would be having to change out the batteries a lot... with the hollow base under neath, I would have chosen to use a solar powered "yard light" and used lucite rods embedded through the cement to transmit the light from below. Solar would make it 'self powered" and a single source light that was not embedded in the concrete would be easily replaceable.... but that's just me... <G>

philclowes (author)2014-12-09

You might want to experiment with using acrylic rods to carry the light from LEDs held apart from the concrete. That way you can simply replace any failed lights without messing up the external lights
Take a look at this recent one that does it

schabanow. (author)philclowes2014-12-09

> ... acrylic rods ...

Optical fiber (desktop decorative luminaire)... Certain difficulties with precipitations is possible I guess.

schabanow. (author)2014-12-09

Sparkles should have pseudo chaotic location (like stars in the sky), different in diameter (SMD 0603 included), and much more larger in number... SMD must have some clear shield above (i.e. epoxy drops)...

And, damn it, your concrete slabs must REPRESENT a pair of REAL PIECES OF STARRY SKIES! WITH CONSTELLATIONS! ))

ps: Concrete must be tinted with lampblack or in dark dark blue.

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