Instructables
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Picture of Sparkleball (no-melt) for the Holidays!
A sparkleball is a magical ornament handmade from plastic cups and mini-lights; usually displayed at Christmas or holiday time.

You'll need 50 soft 9 oz. tumbler-style plastic cups, a hole-puncher, a drill with a 1/2" bit, a string of mini-lights (100-150), and 200 small zip-ties. (recycled clean cups will work perfectly as will an old string of mini-lights.)
 
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Step 1: Drill the Cup Bottoms

Picture of Drill the Cup Bottoms
Drill the cup bottoms of all 50 plastic cups. You can stack and drill 2-3 at a time. The holes should be about 1/4 to 1/2" wide, or large enough to insert one or two mini lights.

Step 2: Punch Holes

Picture of Punch Holes
With a hand-held hole-puncher (the kind for punching holes in paper), punch 4 holes evenly spaced around the top of all 50 cups. Place the holes just under the raised lip. Each hole should have a hole directly opposite, but just eyeball the placement.

Step 3: Layer One

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Arrange 12 cups in a circle. Attach each cup to the cups adjoining, using a zip-tie through the holes. Do not tighten the zip-ties until all the cups are connected. Then cinch each zip-tie tightly, one by one, making sure the ring of cups stays flat. Trim zip-ties.

Step 4: Layer Two

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There are 9 cups in Layer Two. Place one cup on top of Layer One. With a zip-tie, connect this cup to the cup it sits on top of. Do not tighten the zip-tie all the way. Now add a second cup. Attach it with a zip-tie to the cup it sits on top of. When all 9 cups are situated on top of Layer One, forming Layer Two-- then attach each cup to the cups on either side. Every cup in Layer Two will be attached at three points. When all the zip-ties are in place, go around the ring, tightening and trimming all zip-ties.

Step 5: Layer Three

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There are 4 cups in Layer Three. Fit the 4 cups into the space left at the top of the sparkleball-half. Once they fit neatly, then start attaching the 4 cups to each other and to the cups in Layer Two. The last 4 cups will be attached at 4 points. You may need to punch new holes, if the holes don't align. (AND you may end up leaving some holes unziptied.) Tighten zip-ties and trim. Half the ball is done! Now you start threading the mini-lights.

Step 6: Inserting Lights

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IMPORTANT! TEST LIGHTS BEFORE YOU INSERT THEM.

To insert lights: start at the prong end of the cord. Insert the two lights closest to the prong into a cup at the outside rim. (The plug will then hang out when you put the two halves together.)

Put 1 or 2 lights in each cup. Work your way around the ball half, zigzaging from outer cups to inner cups and back. You want to end up on the outer rim, at the cup next to one you started with.

Work slowly. It's important NOT to skip a cup or miss a light. If you crack a cup, that's ok.

Step 7: Build Second Half

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Set aside the completed half. Build the second half just like you did the first. (Steps 3 - 5)

Step 8: Finishing the Lights

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On the second half, insert lights starting from the opposite end of the cord (the plug end.) Start with any cup but make sure you finish at the outer rim. (But if you plan to hang more than ball at once, make sure the plug end hangs out between the cups, as well.)

The last lights will be the hardest to insert as you juggle the two halves. Some people use two strands of mini-lights, connecting them once the two halves are threaded with lights.

Step 9: Join the Halves

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Press the two halves together, making them fit snugly. Line up holes and attach loosely with zip-ties, all the way around. Then pull zip-ties tight and trim.


Step 10: Make a Hanger

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Make a hanger for your sparkleball. I use a bit of chain and two "s" hooks. Choose the top of your sparkleball. (Will you want the electrical cord hanging out on top or at the bottom?) Punch holes between two cups. Insert an "s" hook into the hole and close. Add chain and second "s" hook.

You can also use zip-tie loops, clear fishing line, wire coat hangers, or ribbon to hang sparkleballs.

Step 11: OPTIONAL: Beads? Glitter?

Picture of OPTIONAL:  Beads?  Glitter?
My friend Erika likes to string plastic beads on the zip-ties, as she threads them between cups. Her sparkleballs look as pretty unlit, as lit. You can also dip cup rims in glue, then glitter, or use dollops of glitter-glue between the cups.

Step 12: OPTIONAL: Chasing Lights

Picture of OPTIONAL:  Chasing Lights
Multi-function, "chasing" lights turn sparkleballs into mini-ufo's. The blinking, pulsating, rhythm-changing light sequences have to be seen to be believed. If you do use chasing lights, you'll need to insert 2 or 3 lights into each cup bottom. Experiment with drill and hole sizes and lights BEFORE you begin building your sparkleball.

Step 13: Plug in and Enjoy!

Picture of Plug in and Enjoy!
To see more free sparkleball expertise and photos of sparkleballs from around the world, check out sparkleball.com.
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Scotticus 2 months ago
I started one, but turns out I'd bought 12oz cups so the sphere was going to big for me, so I left as half sphere and put it against wall, added some rays. viola. looks like with minor mod it could be eye of sauron for Halloween.
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sparkleball_lady (author)  Scotticus 1 month ago

I think you could decorate it for any holiday. Very versatile!

Kryptonite6 years ago
I believe that you could make one of these out of plastic clear shot glasses, so you get a really small one. Could you? regards, Kryptonite
sparkleball_lady (author)  Kryptonite6 years ago
Dear K, I've made a mini-ball out of condiment cups (like you get ketchup in at hamburger places.) But a man in Australia built a really beautiful smaller ball made out of red shot glasses. Not sure how he did it but you can see photos of his mini and mine at [http://http:..www.sparkleball.com/intro.htm sparkleball.com]. Alex
Where do you get the ties from? Can you buy them separately? Thank you.
satoko68 koda12 months ago
Also available in dollar stores in their hardware section, making this even cheaper to make! I could likely buy ALL the things I need to make this at the dollar store including LEDs, cups, etc. You can also buy bulk glitter & pure pigments online for far cheaper than in the craft stores. Try TKB or even Alibaba. I'm envisioning this using plain, clear glass cups with metal beads & all sorts of other goodies!
sparkleball_lady (author)  koda16 years ago
Koda, You can buy them at any hardware store or Home Depot. My husband introduced me to them, and they come in very handy for a variety of uses. I can't live without them now.
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one coudl use thimbles too
Hey Yeah, that dude in Australia did what I'm thinking about, which is good cause I live in aus too so I can probably get all the stuff. Thanks for the reply, Kryptonite
sparkleball_lady (author)  Kryptonite6 years ago
Well, Aussie Kryptonite, if you do make a shot-glass sparkleball, I'd love to see how you do it. So I hope you post it here and let me know. The one Rob made is one of the prettiest ever. I know he used like 100 cups, but the trick is always making the ball come out round and it's harder when the cups have straight sides. . .
Rightio then! I may or may not make this, I'm a bit busy with school at the moment. Although, for the good instructable, nice attitude and quick replies I'll give you a 4.5/5. Thanks for posting! Kryptonite
Ward_Nox3 months ago

2 suggestions

one use a string of solar powered/activated lights then you don't hve to wory about them turning on and off and it keeps your power bill down

Two use spray adhesive and spray crystal glitter on it then hit it with a layer of either spray paint or matte clear coat it will keep the glitter from comming off on your hands

satoko68 Ward_Nox2 months ago
Just a thought....matte clear coat would affect the reflection of light off the sparkles. Why not just use an acrylic spray clear coat?
catspooh3 months ago

For round shape start with a Styrofoam ball about 4-6 inches. I have made smaller globes this way and hot glued them to Styrofoam ball in circles. For outside globes I like the idea of zip ties best or staples. Lights can be mini lights pushed through melted 1/2" holes in bottem of plastic glasses, you can even use portable lights that come in small sets with battery pkg. attached. If you can get a larger Styrofoam ball you could eliminate the 12, 09, 04 layers and just hot glue them to the ball and maybe staple them to each other for more security.

satoko68 catspooh2 months ago
Those are all great ideas that I'll keep in mind when I make this myself. I'm imagining one of these as a gorgeous light fixture suspended from the ceiling.....the possibilities with these are endless!
I made two over the weekend useing Led lights turned out nice
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swinner3 months ago
took about an hour and cost about $20 in materials. but it was fun and my 6 year old was able to help.
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Very pretty... is this likely to blow up...being plastic

We still have my grandma's from the 60's and it works well! Never had any problems with melting or other damage, even with the old style bulbs in it.

unlikely to blow up unless you use explosive s
kirkb1503 months ago
I've wanted to make one of these for 30 years. Half way done. Using white 50 light LED strand that cost $5. Making another with multi-color strand next.

So so so pretty!!

jcannizzo3 months ago
I'd love to see a green sparkle all from cut wine bottles. I bet that would beautiful.
Raitis3 months ago

Nice one! I think I may try to make a glass one eventually.

markn54 months ago

MY grandma made me one of these 20 years ago (it still works, never had to replace a bulb). It never gets hot, and I have never had a problem with it. Using todays LED bulb will produce even less heat. As always you need to make sure that your set up is safe. I can only say that mine has never been hot or affected the cups at all.

lotta.skogberg made it!5 months ago

Hello from Finland!
This is an amazing idea! Just got my 11.8oz cup ball made.102 cups the ball contains. Stapled instead of using zip-ties. I am going to hang it as an bedroom lamp from the ceiling, with a led light bulb inside the ball. A led light bulb does not get hot in use so it is safe. :) Thanks again for this brilliant idea! Looking forward for x-mas to make even more balls to give away maybe even as gifts :) Loving it!!

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ErwinM7 months ago

May i ask if this is safe? Will it not melt the cup if lights are on for hours? Thanks!

reltorro10 months ago

I have a question. Once one half is completed, do you start the other half with nine on top of the first half, or a whole new twelve? Is it 4-9-12-12-9-4 or 4-9-12-9-4?

sparkleball_lady (author)  reltorro10 months ago

Hi! You make both halves exactly the same. first layer=12, second=9, third=4. Then when you put it together, you put the two layers of 12 against each other. Make sense?

wlillis1 year ago

Informative tutorial to make your celebrations more enjoyable and special.

prachilele1 year ago
thank u so much 4 such a beautiful tutorial :) i loved it.
sparkleball_lady (author)  prachilele1 year ago
My pleasure!
monkeymays1 year ago
Great project for Christmas, and ever so pretty! My mom made me one in the late 80's and I had that thing for years. She used the multi-funtion light set but after several years use eventually only one color of lights were left working.
She used hot glue to secure hers, but I sure like the one pictured that had beads strung in with the zip ties.
Thanks for the great tut!
FrozenStar4 years ago
Pretty cool concept.
It would be awesome if you hooked some of these up into a sequencer so they could flash in a pattern.
sparkleball_lady (author)  FrozenStar4 years ago


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-Ku3tmXg-4&feature=related
GroggDog4 years ago
I don't recomment this for people where it's cold in the winter lol. Tried this last year and after the christmas when I were going to take in back in it collapsed and all the cups cracked and all. If you wan't to do this where's cold then wait untill the summer or something
sparkleball_lady (author)  GroggDog4 years ago
Interesting. I know there are people who use them where it snows alot and in places like MN. Maybe it's the kind of cups or the method of putting it together you used? I've heard HotGlue won't hold in cold weather. But this is the first word I've heard of the cups shattering. :-(
Sparktacular! Love the idea, :)
Dr.Bill4 years ago
Well its December 10 and I am goimg to RAID the christmas light stores in a few weeks for the cheap lights. I like to use LED kine lights for long lasting display.
The SparkleBall me and my sis made for an Indian festival of lights called Diwali...
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