No cord! Energy efficient! Great sparkle! Perfect for landscape lighting. Super-easy to make, and great kids project. Much improved solar minilights make this my new favorite sparkleball.
Step 1: What You Need
- 50 solo-style 9 oz plastic cups
- solar lights
CUPS - Solo brand cups work perfectly, but so do others. The cup must be squatty, soft plastic, and with a much larger mouth than base.
DRILL - You'll need to be able to make a hole about 3/16" or 5mm in cup bottoms.
PLIER-STAPLER - I use Arrow brand.
SOLAR LIGHTS - I bought mine randomly on Amazon. They are M&T TECH LED Solar Powered Mini-Light String, 60ct. They are working great so far, but they did not come with instructions which is frustrating. There are many others online, including 100 ct. strings.
Step 2: Drill Light Holes
Normal mini-lights need a 1/2" hole (see left cup in photo). Solar lights are much smaller. They need a hole just 3/16" (or 5 mm.) Lights must fit snugly, or they'll slip out. My string came with 60 lights. So 40 cups got one hole and 10 cups got 2 holes. If you have 100 lights, you can drill 2 holes per cup or make a larger hole. I used the tip of a step drill, but next time I'll try a 3/16" regular drill bit.
TEST DRILL YOUR THE SIZE OF YOUR HOLE on an extra cup if you can. Drill, then try inserting a light. You'll see the exact size the holes need to be. Hole can be smaller than you think. Lights will pop through because cup is flexible.
Step 3: Build a Basic Sparkleball
Divide 50 cups into 2 groups of 25. Because 10 cups had extra holes (for my 60 lights), I put 5 2-hole cups in each group and used them randomly as I assembled.
1. Make a ring of 12 cups. Staple together deep in the cups. (If your cups don't make a nice round ring, then they're the wrong size or shape.)
2. Staple a ring of 9 cups.
3. Staple 4 cups in pairs.
4. Set the 9-ring on top of the 12-ring. Waggle so it seats well. Staple at 12, 3, 6, 9 o'clock. Then staple all the way round. Do not overstaple.
5. Add pair into the opening atop the 9-ring. Add the other pair. Do not staple pairs to each other, only to 9-ring.
6. Side One is complete. Set aside. BUILD SIDE TWO THE SAME WAY.
7. Now you're ready to add lights.
Step 4: Add Lights to Side One
- Working from the inside of Side One, push solar panel out the top, between the two pairs of cups.
- Working from the inside, begin inserting lights. Start in the center.
- Push light through hole so it pokes into cup.
- Move on to adjoining cup. Insert light.
- Work in a spiral, inserting lights where there are holes, until you finish at outer ring (See B/W photo.)
Step 5: Add Lights to Side Two
- On Side Two start at opposite end of light cord.
- Insert light in center cup. Move on to adjoining cup and add light(s).
- Work from center outward, in a spiral until lights meet and sides pull together.
Step 6: Join Sides, Staple Tops, Add Hanger
- Staple sides together, being extra careful not to staple wire.
- Staple pairs at top and bottom, together. Reinforce any place else.
- Decide if you want the solar panel on top of the sparkleball or hanging down from it.
- Add a hanger to the chosen top of your sparkleball. I use a holepuncher (or drill) and a ziptie. This pinterest board will give you other ideas for hangers.
Step 7: Turn Lights On
- My solar lights did not come with instructions. (!?) Online I read comments that said the lights need to be turned "on" to charge. So I clicked once. There is no way to know which way "on" is. But I won the toss. My lights charged. They worked the first night.
- Solar panel needs directsunlight to charge. Mine gets just about 5 hours where it hangs.
NOTE: Thanks to a comment from Sitnah, I repositioned my solar panel so it sits directly on the roof and gets more sunlight. With luck, solar lights come with pretty long leader cord, so you can place the panel to get maximum sun. Also cool: the cords are black and pretty much vanish.
Step 8: Sit Back and Wait for the Magic
Solar lights are much improved since I first tried them. (And so is my Samsung 6 phone camera.) I am amazed at how bright the solar sparkleball is. You can't read by it, but it's a lovely strong glow.
NOTE: The solar minilights do not glow until full dark. No hint of light until then.
For more sparkleball photos and ideas, check out sparkleball.com :)