Introduction: Wall Mounted Sparkleball (half the Work- Twice the Fun)

You live in an apartment,,,,with no balcony
You live in a house with no trees
You live in a neighborhood that frowns on outside Christmas decorations..

Whatever the sad case is, you can't hang a fully round Sparkleball at your domecile.
Not to fear, with this Instructable, you will be able to make and install a Sparkleball that fulfills all your needs for a fully 'round' light feature, without the hassle...and heartache

So lets get started..

The basics of this Instructable will be fully explained with plenty of links to other great information, but we need to discuss the "concept' behind this style of Sparkleball. This is not as time consuming or confusing as the "Godzilla Sparkleball" in our last Instructable.

You've seen the Magic tricks, and other eye trickery, to make you think your seeing more than you really are, and this is no different. We are going to build 1/2 of a Regular Sparkleball, only it will look like a "Fully" round unit..

We will build our sparkleball, and mount it on a reflective surface, that in effect makes your unit look fully round.

Confused?  You wont be....

Step 1: Tools and Supplies

I suggest you go to a store like Smart and Final to buy your cups. You are able to buy in bulk, and their cups are heavy duty clear plastic. We do NOT use or recommend the flimsier cups (aka Solo Cups ) as they do not stand up well to the welding method of construction we use.

You will need:
  *   25 -  9 ounce 'tumbler' cups
  *   One 16 inch plastic serving tray (again, from Smart and Final). We bought ones that are bright and shiny. They have both Chrome (looking) ones and Gold ones as well.
  *   A soldering Iron _ Weller is a decent name brand ( a "Gun" will not work as well)
  *   A pretty good Hot Glue gun, and CLEAR glue sticks
  *   A selection of light strings. Some solid strings, some flashing, some with multiple functions, Its your choice! You will need at the most 100 lights in this Instructable
  *   Electrical cords to power your Soldering Iron, and your Glue Gun
  *   Good ventilation (outside) or a fan to blow the fumes away from you
  *   Wooden Clothes Pins
  *   Lots of elbow room to work

Step 2: The Basics.. Sparkleball 101

Here we go, the first step is to start laying out your cups. I use wooden clothes pins to keep the cups in position as we make our first "base" circle of cups. The standard sparkle balls use 12 cups for the base circle.

Using the (and by nowHOT )  soldering Iron, reach into the opening of the cup, and push the hot tip through the side near the bottom of one cup and through the adjacent cups side. This in effect melts a small piece of each up cup together, creating what we would like to call a plastic weld joint. Now move the hot tip up and do another weld closer to the clothes pin. Now you should have two welded areas on your cup, and two cups welded together. Continue around the circle, welding the cups to each other, until you've done twelve cups for the base circle.

When to put the holes in the bottom of your cup for your Christmas Lights to come through is up to you. Some people (using the hot Soldering Iron) will stack 4 or 5 cups and then push through all at once. I find this makes the holes too large in the first one or two cups, as the proximity of the hot Iron causes the opening to keep expanding. I prefer to just build a circle of cups, and then melt my holes, build the next circle, and melt. It is another option for your assistant(s) to put the holes in a half circle while you complete the other half. Notice the picture of the soldering iron, as it has a 'step' where the hot tip is narrow (like a pencil) and then gets wider (like a sharpie). Push (gently) on the cup allowing (not forcing) the hot tip to go through the bottom, up to the stepped area, then go ahead and push that through as well. this gives you a hole large enough to insert a single light easily. If you are thinking two or more lights in the hole, then make the hole larger still. I have heard of the option of putting multiple holes in the bottom of the cup, for the additional lights (if so desired). I have not tried that, as I think the more the holes, the less the structural integrity of the cup. And I build mine to last a long - long time, not just one season.

(EDIT:  I found while making my latest sparkleball, that if you make a keyhole shaped opening in the BOTTOM of the cup with your soldering iron that it is easier to insert the additional one or two lights, and greatly reduces the potential of cracking your plastic cup! See step 5 for what a keyhole opening looks like)

The next row consists of nine cups . You weld one cup on top of the base row, and using your clothes pins, start building our second row. After you get the cups all lined up all the way around, THEN start welding them to each other, and to the base row. Any place they touch, you should provide a weld. Do NOT force the connections, but if they touch, you weld ; its that simple.

The third and final row of cups consists of only 4 cups. There is no perfect way to get these last cups installed. I place one in the opening at the top of the ball, and pin it in place, then the next, and the third. Depending on how your first two rows worked out, sometimes the last fourth just falls into place, most times not. Do not force them, they will crack and break. Just nudge them where you want, weld them, and your done with this part!

There WILL be gaps between your cups, it is inevitable. Not to worry, for when your light (aka sparkleball) is hung outside and turned on at dusk or in the dark NO one will know!

Step 3: Electrical Lighting Theory Class

No, not really.. This is the basic  "what kind of lights should I get" section...
Lights are , well,,, whatever you want them to be or have laying around. Obviously you can't use the old standard "C7" lights (too big, and hot,,, will melt the plastic), but who uses them anymore anyhow? There are some really excellent lights on the market now, and LED are a good energy way to go, With LED (aka LOW Wattage) you can probably put 10 or 12 of these Sprakleballs on the same electrical circuit! (disclaimer,, I am NOT an electrical engineer, so this is not necessarily accurate, but I've done it )

I like to use a variety of choices, some flash, some are solid on. I have found some that 'twinkle' which gives a nice effect. You are NOT limited to stings of lights, you can use the 'icicle' light stings, or the light nets. Any of them will work, so look long and hard at your options!  You can also use those rather cool strings with 140 or 150 lights, that have 16 functions, or multiple built in flashing options. Remember to buy on sale just after Christmas and stock up for next year!

So, if you have 25 cups, and twenty five holes, what do you do with the bulbs that have no cup?  One option is to put the extra light(s) in an existing hole, making two (or three) lights per cup. Another choice is to hot glue the lights into a gap between cups. A third option is just to let the bulbs 'hang' on the interior of the light ball. (as I did on this second example) A fourth option with this Half Sparkleball, is to hot glue the spare lights to the back reflective surface..

If you are planning on using more than 50 lights per ball  then your hole needs to be large enough at the bottom of the cup to insert two (or three) lights. This is accomplished by letting your hot soldering iron spend a bit more time in the opening, as the heat will cause the hole to expand.

Step 4: Square Peg in the Round Hole, or How to Put in Your Lights!

This is the most time consuming task of the entire process. Take your light string out of its packaging, and gently stretch it out so the wires are pulled taut. This is like you in the morning, needing to get all the kinks out.

Number 1, most important!  Plug your lights in, make sure they work. It is no fun to be all done with your light ball, only to find you installed a faulty light string.

Start at the prong (plug) end of the cord. Insert the light closest to the prong into a cup on the outside rim.  Put one, two or three (depending on your final preferred outcome) lights in each cup. Work your way around the ball half, zigzaging from outer cups to inner cups and back.

Now, if you want to make your ball a bit more professional, is the time to use the hot glue gun. One thing that drove me crazy when I started making these, would be the lights falling back into the inside of the ball as I worked on it. Or worse yet, after all done, and I have 'welded' the two halves together, to find holes with no lights in them. So now, as I put the light(s) into their holes, I put a small dollop of hot glue on the socket of the light where it comes through the hole in the cup. This keeps the light where you want it!

***BEWARE*** Hot glue guns are just that   HOT GLUE GUNS!!
They will burn your fingers, and since its glue, it sticks to you, and continues to burn. Be careful.

Experiment with how you install you lights, you can put them in so they flash in sections. Or you can mix them around, so that the sparkleball has no pattern to the lights as they flash.

Step 5: Finishing the Construction

Ok, at this point you should have 1/2 of a sparkle ball, with lights installed, tested, hot glued into place, and all done.

Put this part aside, and get out your plastic serving tray, the soldering iron, and the fan!
First thing we will do is make a "keyhole" for hanging your Sparkleball. Press your hot iron into and through the serving tray, about 2 to 3 inches from an edge. Now continue to push through until the 'fat" part of your iron has gone through the serving platter.

Pulling the iron back out until just the skinny part of the iron is touching, slowly push the skinny part towards the edge of the platter, about 1/2 of an inch in travel distance. Look closely at the pictures, it shows you what shape you are trying to achieve. With the larger and then smaller hole, your Sparkleball will slip over about any nail or screw head, and then 'hang' without threat of falling!

Using the same hot soldering iron you can make a hole near the opposite edge of your tray, that is large enough to put your plug (prong) end of the light string through. Option 2 here is to cut the wire before it exits the tray, leaving the longest possible section in one piece, make a small hole for the wire to exit, and then using your hot soldering iron, solder the ends back together, wrap the connections with electrical tape or shrink tubing, and you have a more professional looking power cord configuration. Here is a link for basic wire soldering 101.
In this example, I opened a hole using the soldering iron, then with a sharp knife I cut an additional "X" that I could force the plug through. It worked out OK!

Once you have the Hanging system figured out, and your electrical connection worked out, you can start attaching your half light ball. I place the tray flat on the work surface, using our clothes pins clip the plastic cups to the tray, and where they touch, we use the soldering iron and weld once again going through the cup and toughing the tray long enough to melt it. We found that the area actually welded did not seem adequate for us, so using the clear hot glue sticks we put a healthy bead of hot glue all the way around the tray where the cups touched the edge. Now this light is going NO where!

Step 6: Final Step, Hang It and Enjoy It!

Your Half sparkelball is complete, and ready to hang and enjoy. It is deceiving because from a distance in the dark, since the 'chrome' plastic tray reflects the lights, it looks fully round!

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