Introduction: Pole-Mounted Mason Jar Garden Lights
Mason jar lights are fairly common, but typically in a configuration where they are hung in an upright postion. I had an idea to create a lighting installation in a darker area of my condo building's courtyard, and in my case, using mostly repurposed materials. I wanted to create the effect of multiple points of lights at varying height and depths, and with the fixtures and supports less noticeable. Mason jars make really great light globes for exterior use because their excellent at keeping precipitation, bugs and everything else out, as well as being super affordable! This Instructable will teach you how to create a pole-mounted mason jar light that can be used inside or out in any configuration you can come up with. In my example configuration, the lights at their varying height and depths, almost floating in space as you walk around them.
Be sure to watch the 30 second video above to see how nice these look at night.
Step 1: Obtain Your Materials
For each light, you'll need the following:
1/2" diameter conduit cut to your desired length. Be sure to add roughly 16" to the length to accommodate the portion inserted into the ground.
Pre-wired lamp socket kit or the parts to create a wired lamp socket. There are a variety of options you could select for this including more vintage style, but for this example we'll use a basic black plastic socket. The most important aspect is that it must have two components:
>Exterior threading that will accommodate two threaded socket rings
>A threaded base where the wire exits the socket.
Two threaded socket rings. (If your lamp socket has a wider base than the exterior threaded area, you'll only need one).
Nut with threading that matches the threaded base of your socket. Most likely a metric A2 Thin Jam M10 x 1.0, in stainless steel if you plan to use them outdoors.
Epoxy adhesive. We used J-B Weld original steel reinforced epoxy
Mason Jar. I suggest 16 oz. /Pint size. At minimum, they'll need to be large enough to accommodate the lamp socket and the bulb of your choice. A variety may look nice together as well.
UPDATE: For outdoor use as I've illustrated, I suggest using plastic mason jar lids and optionally a silicone gasket. If you prefer the aesthetic of the aluminum lids, use a silicone gasket and consider lubricating the threads with a water resistant lubricant. All of these suggestions are to aid in changing lightbulbs later as needed.
Light bulb. I've used inexpensive S14 11 watt clear sign bulbs, but choose what you'd like.
>Paint for the conduit.
>Multi-channel flicker generator. I've used a 5 channel random flicker generator to create a subtle "firefly glow" effect among all of the lights in my installation. It adds life and another dimension of "movement" to them without being obnoxious.
Step 2: Cut a Hole in Your Mason Jar Lid
Measure your lamp socket diameter. We found that 1 5/8" was a perfect hole size for most sockets. You'll need to cut a hole to accommodate the threaded socket in the center of your metal lid. There's a variety of methods to achieve this. We began by marking a circle on the lid with a marker, then using a larger drill bit, creating a hole large enough to work tin snips in to cut the full circle. A graduated drill bit or a Dremel tool may also be of help with this. Please be careful when cutting the sharp aluminum lid. The edges don't need to be especially perfect as the threaded socket rings will cover the exposed edge.
As suggested in the previous step, use a plastic mason jar lid, trace your hole pattern with a marker and carefully cut with a razor or x-acto blade.
Step 3: Prepare the Conduit
Drill hole for electrical wire:
If you plan to use these lights outdoors, pushed into the ground, you'll want to drill a hole into the side of the conduit, about 16" or so from the bottom edge. It should be the diameter of the electrical wire from your lamp socket.
Affix nuts to upper end:
Epoxy is super strong, but it takes a while to fully cure. Begin by placing your conduit vertically supported in an undisturbed location. We used an inverted milk crate to support the conduit. After mixing as much epoxy as you will need for up to a few sections of conduit at a time, apply it to the end of the conduit and center the nut on top. It should look like the example image. After the curing at least over night, you can handle the conduit.
We've gone with a "go-away" green/gray exterior paint to make them less visible in the garden, or use a clear coat or other color to protect them from corrosion outdoors.You can opt to leave them unfinished for interior use. This can be applied with a spray can, brush or roller.
Step 4: Assembly
Use our included diagram to help assemble your fixtures.
Begin by feeding the electrical wired through the nut end of the conduit and out through the hole you created in the side. A paperclip or other small tool can help you guide the wire through the hole. Another trick is to feed the wire until the end is aligned with the hole, and rotate the wire. This typically results in the wire pushing itself out the hole just enough to continue feeding through.
Once the wire is pulled through up to the socket, carefully thread the lamp socket into the nut affixed to the conduit. It should be secure, but not over-tightened which could potentially torque the nut from the conduit.
Thread the first threaded socket ring, flat side up onto the socket, followed by the mason jar lid and another threaded socket ring, flat side down. The socket rings should be hand-tightened down on either side of the lid.
If you are wiring plugs directly to the end of each light's cord, you can wire those on now. If you are using a flicker generator, leave the wires as is until the fixtures are installed in place.
Step 5: Install Fixtures and Connect Electric
We haven't added the light bulbs, mason jar screw band or the mason jar yet for safety reasons. Just prior to pushing each light into the ground, be sure to "thread" the mason jar screw band from the bottom end, over the wire and conduit.
Using a level to keep your light(s) upright, and gripping only the conduit, push it into the ground where you want it positioned, only up to- or just past the electrical wire exit in the side of the conduit.
Install your light bulb, followed by the mason jar, secured with the screw band. These should be tight, but not over-tightened, being careful not to torque the more sensitive epoxy'd nut connection. It's very strong, but not invincible.
If you have a plug connector, you are all set to plug each light in, If you are wiring multiple fixtures up to a multi channel flicker generator, follow the directions that come with it. You can have many more lights than you have light channels, but be sure to distribute the lights among them as spread out as possible. You'll also want to place the flicker generator under an open container, etc... for protection from the elements.
Step 6: Alterations
Use your imagination with these instructions!
These lights could also be supported in a wooden base.
A thick wooden base with 1/2" holes drilled in it could make for an effective base if there is no ground to install them into. This would also work for an indoor installation.
No electric supply? Try Solar power!
If you want to create the same level of illumination, you'll need more than the most basic of solar panels or solar landscape lights, which don't output much. For starters, there are some really nice 2200K filament LED bulbs that use as little as 1 watt each that would look pretty much identical to my example. They however require 110v, so you would need an inverter to convert your solar panel's 12 volt. There are also 12V filament bulbs, in a slightly cooler 2700K color temperature which are still reasonably warm in color. And, of course you'll need a solar panel and battery setup, along with a photocell or timer for automated control. With a smaller solar panel, I recommend a timer, as photocells will often turn solar lighting on before it's very dark, lessening the time and or intensity your lights will operate in the dark.
Enjoy, and share your own MASON JAR post light ideas and photos of your results!
Participated in the
Outside Contest 2016