There are many great instructables for sun jars, but by the time I decided to try making one myself, I realized that changes in solar garden light design had made it even easier to transfer from stake to jar.
No longer do you need to disassemble the lamp and battery case; the units of these small, compact designs can slip as is right into your jar. This means that the making a solar jar only takes a little more time than you need for paint and adhesive to dry.
Step 1: What You Need
The most important part of making the Fast & Easy Sun Jar is finding the right solar lights. This clean design by Westinghouse was on sale for much of the summer. I found them at Orchard Supply Hardware for $2 each, but even at the regular price of $4, they're the most economical solar lights available.
You will also need a jar with a glass lid. The tiny SLOM jar from Ikea is only $2.99. You may pay a little more for a jar from a kitchen store, a little less if you can find one at a thrift store.
Finally, you'll need glass frosting spray, adhesive (I chose a clear silicone adhesive), a utility knife and some painter's or masking tape. A few sheets of newspaper (not shown here) are used in the painting process.
Step 2: Prepare for Painting
Frosting the jar helps diffuse the light and gives a nice glow to the entire jar, but I found it unnecessarily time-consuming to take apart the jar and frost the outside.
For much less time, you can make a newspaper mask and spray the inside of the jar instead. As an added benefit, you will not have to worry about paint scratching or flaking as it is moved around.
Place a quarter sheet of newspaper snugly over the mouth of the jar to create an impression and cut around the inside of the mouth using a utility knife.
Once your hole is cut, attach the newspaper with painter's or masking tape.
Place your jar (or jars) in a shady location for painting.
Step 3: Frosting the Jar
A few things to pay attention to when using spray paint:
Spray outdoors in a well-ventilated area. It's probably a good idea to use a mask and goggles, as well.
Be sure and thoroughly shake the can before using. This will mix the paint so you get more even coverage.
Hold the can upright or at a slight angle at the recommended distance from your jars.
Keep the can moving slowly but continuously. If you stop at any point, you'll get gloppy paint; ideally, you want a light, even coat. If you need to add more paint later, you can--but it's hard to fix a dripping finish.
The frosting spray goes on nearly invisibly, so have faith that it is covering and keep a light hand. I used two light coats to thoroughly frost the insides of these jars.
Step 4: Assembling
These solar lights simply unscrew from their plastic bulb. The entire solar unit is self-contained and can be used without further disassembly.
Be sure to remove the plastic covering from the solar cell, add your silicone adhesive if necessary, and fit the unit into the lid.
Note:it's a good idea to test the fit before using adhesive. After putting the first unit in, I realized this particular unit fits so snugly into the SLOM jar, no adhesive is necessary. This was a nice coincidence that allowed future sun jars to have a clean look without any adhesive showing through the top of the glass.
Step 5: Securing the Unit
Run a bead of clear silicone adhesive around the edge to secure the solar unit. You can smooth it out with your finger for a cleaner appearance.
Step 6: Using Your Sun Jar
Your jar is finished!
Just remove the strip of paper that prevents battery contact, close the jar, and place it outside in full sun. It will glow most of the night after charging.
Step 7: Final Thoughts
My cost breakdown on this project went like this:
$3 Ikea SLOM jar
$2 Westinghouse solar garden light
$10 Krylon Glass Frosting Spray
$4 GE Premium Silicone Glue
I already had the knife, tape and newspaper.
You can see that the cost to make a single jar is nearly $20, but if you make 15 at a time, each jar will cost you only $6. The spray and glue are good for at least 15 jars.
As has been mentioned, the jars make wonderful gifts--particularly in the summer, when sunlight is abundant; and in winter, when it becomes a way to extend the limited sun. Mine will become this year's Christmas/Chanukah/solstice presents, depending on the recipient.
Now the only problem is what to do with the remaining solar light parts. Anyone know of a project which uses stakes, stainless steel tubes and plastic bulbs?