With this Instructable I’ll teach you the techniques for turning any shape you’d like into a disco ball. I will show you how you can make one, which can be hung at the ceiling. And I will show you, how you can make one which you can put on a cabinet or something. Both versions will be spinning (duh) and make every party (obviously) better.
When you have all the tools and materials at hand, this project will - depending on the size of your ball - a few hours to complete. The most time consuming part is the cutting of the glass and the glueing of the pieces. So take that in account when you think of turning something really big into a disco ball.
This Instructable is divided in the following sections.
- Required tools
- Required materials
- Making the disco ball
- Gutting the microwave oven
- Make a real (ceiling) disco ball
- Make a fake (desk) disco ball
So lets get started!
Step 1: Tools
The best part of making your own disco ball, is that you do not need to have a lot of special tools. Besides the laser cutter (which is not really required anyway), all tools can be bought fairly cheap and are universally handy to have anyways. The items you most probably do not have at your workspace are the glass cutter and the associated running pliers. But all other tools you most surely have laying around already.
The ruler is required to measure the sizes of the mirrored rectangles we are going to cut. The length of this is not really important. Cause it is only meant to mark the side edges of the mirror. While the minimal length should be the width of the square you'd like to cut. The longer the ruler, the faster you can mark your pieces.
The marker is used to mark the sides of the mirror so you know where to put the square when you are going to cut it. It is important that it stays on the glass and is not swiped away easily. A permanent marker or acrylic marker would be perfect for this. Note that you are marking dots which are 1 cm apart from each other. So the sharper the tip, the more useful it will be.
This tool is used to scratch the mirror. So you can break it with a pair of running pliers. Since it is my first project, working with glass. I have no expertise related to this tool. I used a slightly more expensive glass cutter which has oil in it. But I am pretty sure any glass cutter which is meant to cut straight lines will suit the job for this project. I have no idea why this thing has oil in it anyway.
The square is used to help you cut straight lines. I say "help to cut straight lines". Do not underestimate the value of this tool. Trying to cut straight lines on glass without any guidance tool is nearly impossible. Even with a square it quite often goes wrong.
This tool is meant to help you break the glass mirror across the scratched line. While it is theoretically possible to break it on the edge of your table or something. Do yourself a favor, and get one of these. It goes way faster, is more secure and you can break smaller pieces of glass.
Pretty straight forward. Used to glue the glass mirror tiles to the object you want to turn in a disco ball.
Use this to get rid of the accidents you make when you are glueing the mirrored pieces of glass on your object. If you are working really clean you won't need to use it a lot. But you are going to need it for sure.
Used for gutting the microwave. You probably need to have multiple ones of this. Depending on the construction of you microwave oven and for extending the electrical wires.
Laser cutter (optional)
I used the laser cutter together with the Makercase website to make a box where I fit the motor in. It is optional - cause there are plenty of alternative ways to make a box for this purpose - but very useful if you have one. Also if you want to make the plateau for a standing disco ball.
Wood glue (optional)
Only required if you need to put the laser cut wooden case together. But even then it is not even mandatory. Cause you can also just use hot glue. If you are also going to use it for the wooden plateau. It will be better to use this rather than hot glue.
Step 2: Materials
If you want a disco ball, you'll need a mirror. The size of the mirror is determined by the size of your object. Obviously you could measure it. But hey, math is boring. So just pick something which you believe is big enough. Just make sure that it is an actual glass mirror and not made of plastic or something. The easiest way to check if it is glass is to drop it. If it shatters, it is glass. If it bounces it is plastic. But you can also check the weight. If it is heavy, it is most likely glass. The best way to get yourself a suitable cheap mirror is to buy one from a second hand store - without frame are the cheapest - or by scavenging the streets. You'll be surprised how often you'll see mirrors at garbage bins around the city if you pay attention to it.
Nuts & Bolts
These are required to assemble the mechanical parts to the case. You probably need half a dozen of these to make sure everything will be assembled. The size of these depend on the holes of the bearings and motor. But can probably also just be scavenged from the microwave.
I used the laser cutter for this section but if you do not have one. With a bit of imagination you can make one yourself fairly simple. The requirements for such a casing are fairly simple;
- It needs to be big enough to fit the motor in.
- It should be strong enough to hold some weight (if you plan to hang it on the ceiling at least).
- It should be made of a material which you can drill holes in.
Just make sure it is strong enough for your purpose and just use common sense. Metal and wood are the materials best suited for this job. But a well designed plastic (3D printed?) container might work just as fine.
Old microwave oven
This is probably the most challenging part to get your hands on. While it is theoretically possible to get all these parts loose. It is a lot easier - and way more fun - if you destroy a microwave and get these parts out of it. But in reality we need a slow turning motor (5 or 6 RPM), bearings (if you'd like to make a standing disco ball) & electrical wires (to power everything). And a microwave oven simply has all of this.
But... If you are this single individual human on this entire website who does not like to tear stuff apart. Just search for "microwave oven motor" on your favorite electronics part website to get a "6rpm" (or "5rpm" when you're in the US) motor. These run directly on the main power net and only need a power plug, which can be bought on the same store. The bearings can also be bought somewhere. But come on, just buy an old microwave. They are not expensive anyway these days.
Only required if you want to make your disco ball hang from the ceiling.
Otherwise you can not use your glue gun to glue pieces to the object.
Faux fur (optional)
This one is only if you (just like me) like to choose the easy way out. In order to finish the wooden casing I could have just painted it. But than you will need to sand it... And than paint it... It's way easier to wrap the container in some fake pink fur and it makes it look way more fabulous as well.
Your disco ball!
You will need an object which you would like to turn into a disco ball. Of course you can just buy a plastic soccer ball. But hey! Go crazy! Get your hands on a skippy ball, an American football, bicycle, wooden chair, whatever. You are only limited by your own imagination on this one. Go nuts! Bigger IS better. Just make sure that your hot glue sticks very well to it, and that it won't be to heavy for your desired purpose. A hanging ball can be more heavy than a standing one, cause it has less friction. But this implies that the box should be more strengthened. To support the weight better.
Step 3: Discoballifier: On.
Lets get Funky!
Before we can get this party we need to prepare. In this case, that means we need to cut our mirror into tiny pieces. The bad part of this is that this is really time consuming and very boring thing to do. The good part is, that this doesn't have to be done very precise. Ofcourse, the more precise you are. The better the outcome. But in practice it does not really matter that bad. As a matter of fact. It comes in really handy when you accidentally crack a piece diagonally, since these parts will become useful when you are working on the curved sections of your object.
Cutting the mirror
To cut the mirror you first mark two sides of the mirror with dots evenly spread across. I used a distance of 1cm for this. Which turned out to be a really nice size for the bottle I used. Making them bigger and it will be harder to glue them on sharper angles on your object. Making them smaller will increase the details of your end result, but will take you way more time to complete
After marking the glass, use the glass cutter to cut straight lines with the help of a square.
And embrace that you will make mistakes.
No seriously, it does not matter. That is one of the best parts of this project. Because of 2 reasons. One, you'll probably will cut more than you actually need in the first place. And two, you need non-rectangular and/or slightly smaller pieces anyway. Cause your chances of fitting all 1 by 1 centimeter pieces perfectly around your object are as good as 0%.
Now you have cut all the desired lines upon your mirror. It is time to break it into small pieces. For this you'll need the running pliers. I have no picture of using this tool - cause I can not take a picture and hold two items in both hands at the same time - but it is a fairly simple tool to use. Just make sure that the right side is up. The right side is the side which will break the glass nicely over the scratch with a light gentle press. Or the side which has a mark on it. If you need to apply a lot of force and it shatters everywhere, you have the wrong side up.
Have two buckets for all your pieces. One where you have all the pieces which have the - sort of - correct dimensions. And one where you have all the other "wrong" pieces. Those which are angled pieces and which are bigger/smaller than the "right" pieces.
Glueing the pieces
Now we have all the pieces cut, we can start with making the disco ball. I used an empty bottle for this. But you can should use any other object you'd like.
As with everything else which you apply something on. The object first needs to be degreased (and/or sanded). In order to make sure that the glue sticks and the pieces won't fall off. Also it is worthy to try beforehand, if your hot glue sticks to the material anyway, before realizing that it doesn't and all your pieces fall of after 12 minutes.
When the glue stick and the object is degreased, you can start glueing all the mirrored pieces on your object. Don't worry to much if the pieces don't fit perfectly. It will look better if they do are arranged in a nice grid. But in practice no-one will notice when it doesn't. Also don't worry to much if glueing all the pieces becomes a mess. While it will saves you time if you're able to prevent it. It is not anything to worry about, with an small knife you can easily clean up the glue. I believe it is inevitable that it will become a bit messy anyway.
I started myself with glueing all the rectangular shapes first and than filled in the gaps with the triangular shaped pieces. And again, don't worry when everything is not perfectly fitted. This is the last time you look to your disco ball from this close. Unless you are designing a disco ball for insect. But then we are running into whole other issues. If this is the case, please contact me, or see a doctor. Depending if you want it to be done or be resolved.
When everything is cleaned up, you should first enjoy its sparkling beauty. It makes you feel good after all those hours cutting, breaking & glueing. You deserve it!
When you're done, perishing its beauty. We can work on the rotating mechanism. But first, lets gut a microwave.
Step 4: Lets Get Twisted!
For this section we are going to take the microwave oven apart. But since there are thousands of different microwaves out there. I will not guide you through the process of taking one apart. Besides, it is way to much fun to explore this process yourself anyway. So why should I spoil all the hidden secrecies of a microwave oven. It is exciting to discover what part makes your microwave so heavy and what the microwave generator (if that is how you call it) looks like. But because it does is important to understand which parts you need - so you do not damage those - I will guide you through them in this section.
The most obvious part of the extraction is the motor. This part is exactly located where you expect it to be. At the center bottom of the device. When you have disassembled it, you end up with something like this:
The description of the module says it can be powered directly via a wall plug. AC220/240V. This means that we will need something to power this bad boy.
Luckily we have a microwave at our disposal. Which happens to have a power cable. So lets use this cable directly and connect this to our motor. As far as I can tell, it is not possible to reuse these transparent white connectors. By pulling the cables out and put new ones in. But if you are just as lucky as I am. You'll find one of these standard electrical connectors in your microwave which you can use for this purpose.
While this is actually only required if you want to make a standing disco ball. It is a fun part to have laying around anyway. I do not have a picture of these bearings loose. Only assembled, but it is pretty clear which part this is when you come across it. It are the wheels which support the rotating glass plate in your microwave.
Step 5: Hanging Disco Ball
As mentioned before, in this Instructable I'll show you two variants of rotating your disco ball. A real one (hanging from the ceiling) and a fake one (standing on a desk). First I am going to start with the real - hanging - version. Because it is closer represented to the real deal and because it is simpler to assemble.
Additional material might be required:
Making the case
I used a laser cutter for this. But like I already said, anything could be used for this. As long as it is strong and you can attach it to the ceiling. Because I am stupid from time to time and I forgot to edit my box before I laser cut it. You can see the marks of me drilling a hole in the center of the box manually. But I have modified the file - see bottom section - so you do not have to manually drill a hole in the center and a gap on the side for the wires. I am not going to talk you through how to assemble these pieces of wood to form a box
Just make sure that whatever type of box you make. You drill a hole in the center so you can put the motor through it, that it is strong enough to hold the weight of your disco ball and that you can attach it to your ceiling.
Mark the holes manually for the motor and attach it with 2 small bolts. This could be done with the laser cutter but measuring the where these holes should be located is harder than marking and drilling 2 holes manually.
Now our box is ready, we only need to attach the metal chain to the motor with the help of a piece of metal wire. To attach the chain with the bottle I used the materials as shown in the image below. I have no idea how this curved metal thing with threads is called. But the picture is pretty much self-explanatory. Just please do not use hot glue to attach the metal wire with the disco ball. It won't hold the weight and you do not want anything made of glass, drop on the floor from 2 meters high. In case you use the imperial system. You do not want anything made of glass, drop on the floor from 2 meter high. Seriously, just don't use hot glue for this.
That's all. Now you only need to figure out a way to permanently fix it to your ceiling and find a nice way to finish the box. But that's outside the scope of this project. If you foresee a lot of problems with assembling the disco ball to your ceiling or you just don't wanted to make a disco ball hanging from the ceiling in the first place. But just read this section because of politeness. In the next section I will show you how you can make a standing disco ball.
Step 6: Standing Disco Ball
In case you have thrown away the plastic thingy which fits on the motor like I did. You will most likely need a laser cutter to work around that issue. I say most likely, cause you can also just use a 3D printer or use the metal lid of a jar and attach it with hot glue or apply any other creative solution you can come up with. Its all possible. If you have not thrown this piece away you might be in luck, or not. I have really no idea actually at this point, since I can't remember how big this thing was and having a laser cutter at my disposal made me not reconsider using any alternative methods really.
Either way, with a laser cutter you can make a nice plateau which can support whatever you'll put on. I used three layers of 3mm plywood for this. Two of which have a shape cut out in the center, which - sort of - matches with the shape of that on the motor. The third one is just a circle without this hole. All three layers are glued upon each other with wood glue and it works super well. The plateau rests on the bearings. Which makes it nicely balanced.
In case you have access to a laser cutter yourself, the pattern I used for this can be found at the bottom of this section.
If you do not have assembled a casing at this step I'd like to refer you to the previous section.
To put the bearings on the casing you use some small bolts. Two bearings share the same holes as that of the motor. The other one is solo. It is all pretty straight forward, really. When everything is put in place it is actually done.
The glass bottle disco ball I made can be just put on the plateau, no glueing required. If your disco ball can't be put on the plateau because it has a curved bottom, you could glue it to the plateau. If you need to glue it to the plateau because the center mass of your object is not aligned with center of the plateau. You preferably want to strengthen the plateau with the axle. Metal wire? Hot glue? Or make the center mass of your object align with the center of the plateau, so it won't tip over.
The last thing you can do to finish your disco ball. Is to finish the casing. I decided to work with a pink faux fur because it looks fabulous! And... It meant I did not have to sand it and paint it and all the other boring parts related to painting something. As an added benefit, the long fibers of the faux fur hide a big section of the bearings. Which would otherwise needed to be accomplished by redesigning the case and in case you have not yet noticed it so far. I like to work fast and take the easy way out where possible.
Step 7: My End Result
This fabulous wine-bottle-disco-ball is my personal end-result. It is done messy, with glue all over the place and mirrored pieces which do not align nicely. But with a bit of clean-up and when put in an environment where it really shines (a dark room). You won't notice this at all. Especially since all these details are only noticeable when you look at it from a distance less than 3 foot.
I hope this project gave you the confidence and inspiration to make your own disco ball and I am looking forward to all the wonderful, creative objects you can come up with to discoballify!
Second Prize in the