Old Tyme Glass Lights...




About: Professional work in various electrical and mechanical fields, obscure sense of humour and typically willing to help... Currently under contract designing environmental monitoring equipment.

I inadvertently stumbled on this while making a Newton's Cradle.

LEDs fastened to marbles create wonderful illumination...


Step 1: Answers and Challenge

1: I dislike blue LED simply for the fact that they hurt my eyes at night.

2: I use them because I have a surplus of 200 of these demon lights and I do not want to waste something that I like on an experiment. OH... and they tend to photograph really well.

3: You cannot drill a hole deep enough into a glass marble to accept an LED! They always crack at less than 1/8 of an inch

4: the interface between the cut LED and Ground Glass is optically good and gives excellent light transfer to the Marble.

5: The Glass marble is a lens which diffuses the light.

6 This is an LED modification and is used wherever you would use a standard LED. You will connect it as you would any other LED.


So certain I am that you cannot drill a hole deep enough into a glass marble to accept a 5mm LED... that I will gift the first person that can show me a picture of 2 working drilled glass marble LEDs, drilled using supplies available to a regular person at a minimal cost... a 1 year PRO membership to Instructables ( if that is acceptable to the overseers of this excellent site)

Step 2: Materials

You will need:

Glass marbles
Cyanoacrylate glue
and an abrasive cut off tool

Step 3: Make the Light

Carefully cut the tip off af the LED

Be sure to leave enough material above the internal workings. I just remove the rounded tip. This is done with a Dremel with an abrasive cut off blade.

A grinding stone is used to create a rough spot on the glass marble.

Place a drop of Cyanoacrylate glue on the marble then place the cut LED to the glue. Press for recommended time then leave to cure.

Step 4: After the Cure

Once the glue has dried....

I found that boring a hole slightly less than the diameter of the marble in the interface will allow the marble to act as an indicator when lit.

I had unusually good success with this one despite my absolute hatred of blue LEDs...

Enjoy the old tyme feel of the light...



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    59 Discussions


    6 years ago on Step 4

    I like the blue,its the red that I cant stand.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Demon lights,thats funny.I have a mouse I call a demon,how about a working steam punk mouse trap.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    At comunity center glass blowing classes, the first thing made is glass blob marbles like the ones show. I am willing to bet thatyou could talk a few motivated newbie glass workers to fire you off a few marble with the impresion for a LED already in it for little to no cost...


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Wrap in ducktape then drill ducktape should give a sum what equall pressure around it also they make rubber pads to use with vices you can cut up a junk tire and layer strips using vinyl or rubber cement to bond also watch out with water and hot glass
    finally take it slow
    i would like to know what y'll think of my ideas

    @Random, Thanks for turning this into a challenge. I'm somewhat new here, but have a few ibiles coming soon. However, I couldn't help rising to the challenge, so this is my grand entrance. Here are some pics, as requested, of LEDs in 2 marbles I "drilled". So you know, I don't think drilling ever would work...but grinding will sometimes give you better results, if you're patient (extremely patient) -- I just used my dremel with a round grinding head and some water. Patiently start your hole, holding the marble in your fingers the whole time. Two reasons -1) I think that holding it with a vise or other mechanical means might place too rigid a frame on it. When you hold it, there's a LOT of vibration, so let your fingers absorb some of it. And 2) when you can feel the heat through all that glass, you KNOW it's time to let it cool a bit. I'd never tried this before, but I work with a lot of different materials all the time, and glass is one of my favorites. I love working around corners, especially to accomplish a near-impossible seeming task. Here's a link, too, to the last moments of my very first attempt to drill a marble. http://youtu.be/QmATMHFX8kM I figured "wth"..may as well go all the way. Both marbles have held up now for 5 days, and I've even dropped one of them twice from a few inches onto a glass table and they're both intact. I used some marbles left from my childhood...the ones with the twisty colored designs through the middle, and started at the tip of one, drilling straight through the design. I did crack the second one, however, and after success on my 3rd one, tried a few much larger, completely clear marbles, and cracked every single one of them, so I'm sure that smaller ones will give you a much better chance of success. The rest of my "techniques"... not so much...I pretty much went on determination and intuition, so I'm sure there's room for clarification and improvement... but hey, it worked!! I don't mess around with LEDs much, so I just popped the bottom off of a solar light for these pics. One more thing - this takes quite a while to do. I have a cheap dremel, and can only get about 20 minutes or so of use before having to recharge, so these two marbles took me 3 days to do, between other things (total work time was probably around 3.5 hours) Good Luck, and Peace out. PS- I see that you've awarded the prize already to the "best answer"...I hope this qualifies to settle your challenge and puts me into the elite rank of a pro member, but either way...I got 'er done.

    2 replies

    meant to say also that the one that appears brighter was not drilled completely through. Oh, and for cooling, I would just blow on it a couple of times and just dipped it into the water..probably around once every minute or two, and when it started getting hot


    7 years ago on Introduction

    You're just not going to drill into a glass marble. If you look at the manufacturing process, it's the best tempered glass around. The outside of the glass cools before the inside, creating a hard shell, and when the inside cools it contracts against that shell creating crazy high tension. It will shatter almost every time. For fun, look up Prince Rupert's Drops for a more dramatic version of the forces at play.

    1 reply

    When you drilled the glass ball was it in a vice and did you cool the glass as you drilled?
    In a vice the pressure on the glass ball will increase at two focal points as it heats up from the drilling.
    I am going to try to drill a glass ball and see what happens.

    1 reply

    I lightly clamped it between 2 pieces of soft wood. I tried to spread the pressure out evenly. The spruce wood wrapped around the glass slightly.

    I drilled one about a 16 of an inch deep without it cracking then let it cool for a couple of hours. It seemed fine but the next morning it too cracked exactly the same as the ones pictured.

    Good luck and keep me posted on your progress.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Can you help me please? i want to have LED lamps in serial

    power supply 3V
    forward voltage 3.2-3.4

    How many leds can i light up with 3V? Do i need a resistor for that, and how many OHM? Im a really beginner and i need help.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    You may find that diamond drill bits available at Home Hardware are just what you need. I used three sizes when cutting through 3/8" tile and 1/2" marble. The smallest I had was 10mm, but they may have smaller available. The hole is very smooth, no cracking or chipping. It is hollow so you will have to snap off the centre.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    When I was a machinist we had a project that req'd. drilling into glass, after many failures we contacted the drill manufacturer and were told, although it is not a common practice to drill the glass under water. What we found was that the use of a small (please use a quality HSS bit not some hardware store junk) 1/64" bit running around 3000 rpm. under water did actually work. We went progressively larger to 5/16.Also be aware that this was a large shop with professional equip. and very skilled people.The glass we drilled into was flat so a good idea to use a center drill and as we all know power tools and water don't. mix.Good Luck

    4 replies

    I regularly use a roto-zip tile cutting bit for drilling into glass. I drill bottles and plate glass all the time with very few failures.

    I have tried both fast and slow speeds in addition to numerous types of bits and techniques for drilling marbles but there seems to be an internal stress that fractures the glass marbles in the exact same manner every time.

    I have tried many different methods and bits with the same result every time.


    Hey, I spoke with some other retired machinists and one suggested using oil as the submersible medium another said to anneal them similar to"needs-more-to-do" said. I believe that the internal stresses may cause them to crack due to the vibrations caused by the drill hence the medium. My father reminded me that he used to hunt squirrels with marbles and they would boil the marbles then drop them into cold water to cause them to fracture,then (they used slingshots) use them he said it was much more deadly.Have you tried to heat them and poke a hole in them? It sounds like fun if nothing else. I will try it and report back. Here's to more fun.

    Have you tried everything yet? Im being serious though.
    Marbles of larger and smaller diameters? Marbles by other manufacturers? Using water like shorepatroll suggested? Using a drill press (if you aren't already)? Torching the marbles enough to melt them then cooling them over a really long time period (hours maybe?)

    I dont recognize your picture as a glass cutting bit. maybe try this kind: http://www.xenostone.com/xenostone_store/images/uploads/ceramic-glass-bit-set.png

    But you've got it working the way it is so do yo thang

    I think that the time consuming methods like slow cooling may defeat the purpose for most but give it a try and report back to see if it works...

    I am sure there is still more methods to try.

    For regular glass, as I said the tile cutting bit works more reliably for me than any of the glass bits that I have tried . It also has the added benefit of being able to enlarge a hole as needed.

    I have repeatably been able to put 1/2 inch holes into glass bottles without failure with this bit. I am just shy of 20 bottles in a row without fracture.


    7 years ago on Step 4

    by the way, just wanted to let you know that this idea inspired a huge project for me. thanks for taking a way a large chunk of my life and giving me a million ideas for art projects :)