Step 1: Tools and Supplies Needed
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 will not stand up to the weight or abuse of the monster sparkle balls own weight!
You will need:
* 400 plus 10 ounce cups
* A soldering Iron ( a "Gun" will not work)
* A pretty good Hot Glue gun, and a good number of CLEAR glue sticks
* A selection of light strings. For our Godzilla ball, we used over 500 lights, in various configurations. Some solid strings, some flashing, some with multiple functions, Its your choice!
* Some heavy gauge plastic coated wire for hanging the beast when completed
* A large round plastic tub to place the ball in as it goes together, This is to provide necessary support to the beast.
* 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
* Wire Rope Connectors
* Lots of elbow room to work
And a couple of hours to construct the Godzilla. It helps if you have some assistance (you will see my grand daughter in some of the pictures).
Step 2: Step One... the Basic Circle
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. In comparison to the standard sparkle balls that use 12 cups for the base circle, we are going to use 30 - 10 ounce cups to start with.
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 all thirty 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 easeir to insert the additional one or two lights, and greatly reduces the potential of cracking your plastic cup! See Below for what a keyhole opening looks like)
The next row of cups (@ least with Godzilla) was NOT rocket science. 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.
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: The Lights - What to Use ?
Lights are , well,,, whatever you want them to be or have laying around. Obviously you can't use the old standard "C" 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 lights 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!
This first example below uses two stings of 25 LED lights, one string changes from red to green, the second from blue to white. The lights were bought at Rite Aid Drug Store, and ALWAYS ask for a discount, you'll be surprised. To install these, the faceted cover is removable; so unscrew it, put your light up to the hole from the back of the cup, and then screw the cover back on.
The second example uses a sting of 60 LED lights, and these bad boys are BRIGHT! Again, insert the lights from behind, and then I use the hot glue gun to "set" the bulbs in place. You can see how the clear plastic cups really reflect the light, making it very cool at night. You will also notice that you cannot see the green wire. Some people have indicated a preference for the white wires, but I find in the dark, no one knows the difference.
So, if you have 50 cups, and fifty 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)
If you are planning on using more than 50 lights per ball (on the smaller light balls) 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: The Lights - How to Install
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(s) closest to the prong into a cup on the outside rim. (The plug will then hang out when you put the two halves together.)
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. You want to end up on the outer rim, at the cup next to one you started with.
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 whole half's at a time. Or you can mix them around, so that the sparkleball has no pattern to the lights as they flash.
Step 5: Putting the Pieces Together
So, you've got these two half's of a sparkelball laying there, connected by wires, and looking very much like an autopsy gone bad.
Now, take one half of the sparkleball, turning it over, and placing it on top of the other half. Since you used the same number of cups per half on the base circle, they will sit nicely on top of each other. This is where the large plastic tub comes into effect.
Since Godzilla was 32" across, all the weight (25 pounds) would be sitting on just a handful (two or three) plastic cups on the bottom of the Sparkleball. So, I placed the first half upside down on the tub, which gives good support around the ball. Placing it on the tub also gives me the ability to easily turn the ball around without damage, and keeps me from having to walk around and around it multiple times to make welds, connections, or whatever finishing touches I needed to do.
Next, use your clothes pins, and clip together every cup and every connection around the sparkelball where the two halves touch, get out your Soldering Iron, and start the final assembly (welding) of your sparkelball. Every place the plastic touches another cup, weld it.
Do not force the connections, as they will weaken, or even crack the cups.
Step 6: Supporting the Beast (how to Hang It Up)
In the standard construction of sparkleballs, the use of metal coat hangers, 20 lb fishing line, or even simple ribbons have been used to provide a hanger for the final product.
None of which will work on a Godzilla ball!
We inserted four pieces of heavy gauge plastic coated wire (from your local OSH or Lowes) about 6 cups apart from each other (as shown in the image) in the area we determined to be the bottom of Godzilla, went all the way thru and exited out the top a good 18 inches.
We then bent the four wires together, and then using wire 'rope connectors" we made a loop of the four wires, and used connectors to keep our loop closed for hanging the Sparkleball from. This is rated at 250 pounds capacity, so Godzilla is safe from falling with this setup.
Step 7: Enjoy Your Lights
Hang them outside
In the front (or back) yard off the trees..
Hang them off your patio, or off your eaves..
Or, you can get the entire neighborhood involved at Christmas, and do a major street decoration like these folks in Fullerton California do every year.
The main thing is to enjoy your creation(s)
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