Pole-Mounted Mason Jar Garden Lights




Introduction: Pole-Mounted Mason Jar Garden Lights

About: I've been self employed most of my life, with the curse of a seemingly unending stream of ideas. One of my best skills is brainstorming and problem solving, utilizing an extensive knowledge of novel technolo...

Mason jar lights are fairly common, but typically in a configuration where they are hung in an upright postion. I had an idea to create a lighting installation in a darker area of my condo building's courtyard, and in my case, using mostly repurposed materials. I wanted to create the effect of multiple points of lights at varying height and depths, and with the fixtures and supports less noticeable. Mason jars make really great light globes for exterior use because their excellent at keeping precipitation, bugs and everything else out, as well as being super affordable! This Instructable will teach you how to create a pole-mounted mason jar light that can be used inside or out in any configuration you can come up with. In my example configuration, the lights at their varying height and depths, almost floating in space as you walk around them.
Be sure to watch the 30 second video above to see how nice these look at night.

Step 1: Obtain Your Materials

For each light, you'll need the following:

1/2" diameter conduit cut to your desired length. Be sure to add roughly 16" to the length to accommodate the portion inserted into the ground.

Pre-wired lamp socket kit or the parts to create a wired lamp socket. There are a variety of options you could select for this including more vintage style, but for this example we'll use a basic black plastic socket. The most important aspect is that it must have two components:

>Exterior threading that will accommodate two threaded socket rings
>A threaded base where the wire exits the socket.

Two threaded socket rings. (If your lamp socket has a wider base than the exterior threaded area, you'll only need one).

Nut with threading that matches the threaded base of your socket. Most likely a metric A2 Thin Jam M10 x 1.0, in stainless steel if you plan to use them outdoors.

Epoxy adhesive. We used J-B Weld original steel reinforced epoxy

Mason Jar. I suggest 16 oz. /Pint size. At minimum, they'll need to be large enough to accommodate the lamp socket and the bulb of your choice. A variety may look nice together as well.

UPDATE: For outdoor use as I've illustrated, I suggest using plastic mason jar lids and optionally a silicone gasket. If you prefer the aesthetic of the aluminum lids, use a silicone gasket and consider lubricating the threads with a water resistant lubricant. All of these suggestions are to aid in changing lightbulbs later as needed.

Light bulb. I've used inexpensive S14 11 watt clear sign bulbs, but choose what you'd like.
Optional items:

>Paint for the conduit.
>Multi-channel flicker generator. I've used a 5 channel random flicker generator to create a subtle "firefly glow" effect among all of the lights in my installation. It adds life and another dimension of "movement" to them without being obnoxious.

Step 2: Cut a Hole in Your Mason Jar Lid

Measure your lamp socket diameter. We found that 1 5/8" was a perfect hole size for most sockets. You'll need to cut a hole to accommodate the threaded socket in the center of your metal lid. There's a variety of methods to achieve this. We began by marking a circle on the lid with a marker, then using a larger drill bit, creating a hole large enough to work tin snips in to cut the full circle. A graduated drill bit or a Dremel tool may also be of help with this. Please be careful when cutting the sharp aluminum lid. The edges don't need to be especially perfect as the threaded socket rings will cover the exposed edge.

As suggested in the previous step, use a plastic mason jar lid, trace your hole pattern with a marker and carefully cut with a razor or x-acto blade.

Step 3: Prepare the Conduit

Drill hole for electrical wire:
If you plan to use these lights outdoors, pushed into the ground, you'll want to drill a hole into the side of the conduit, about 16" or so from the bottom edge. It should be the diameter of the electrical wire from your lamp socket.

Affix nuts to upper end:
Epoxy is super strong, but it takes a while to fully cure. Begin by placing your conduit vertically supported in an undisturbed location. We used an inverted milk crate to support the conduit. After mixing as much epoxy as you will need for up to a few sections of conduit at a time, apply it to the end of the conduit and center the nut on top. It should look like the example image. After the curing at least over night, you can handle the conduit.

We've gone with a "go-away" green/gray exterior paint to make them less visible in the garden, or use a clear coat or other color to protect them from corrosion outdoors.You can opt to leave them unfinished for interior use. This can be applied with a spray can, brush or roller.

Step 4: Assembly

Use our included diagram to help assemble your fixtures.

Begin by feeding the electrical wired through the nut end of the conduit and out through the hole you created in the side. A paperclip or other small tool can help you guide the wire through the hole. Another trick is to feed the wire until the end is aligned with the hole, and rotate the wire. This typically results in the wire pushing itself out the hole just enough to continue feeding through.

Once the wire is pulled through up to the socket, carefully thread the lamp socket into the nut affixed to the conduit. It should be secure, but not over-tightened which could potentially torque the nut from the conduit.

Thread the first threaded socket ring, flat side up onto the socket, followed by the mason jar lid and another threaded socket ring, flat side down. The socket rings should be hand-tightened down on either side of the lid.

If you are wiring plugs directly to the end of each light's cord, you can wire those on now. If you are using a flicker generator, leave the wires as is until the fixtures are installed in place.

Step 5: Install Fixtures and Connect Electric

We haven't added the light bulbs, mason jar screw band or the mason jar yet for safety reasons. Just prior to pushing each light into the ground, be sure to "thread" the mason jar screw band from the bottom end, over the wire and conduit.

Using a level to keep your light(s) upright, and gripping only the conduit, push it into the ground where you want it positioned, only up to- or just past the electrical wire exit in the side of the conduit.

Install your light bulb, followed by the mason jar, secured with the screw band. These should be tight, but not over-tightened, being careful not to torque the more sensitive epoxy'd nut connection. It's very strong, but not invincible.

If you have a plug connector, you are all set to plug each light in, If you are wiring multiple fixtures up to a multi channel flicker generator, follow the directions that come with it. You can have many more lights than you have light channels, but be sure to distribute the lights among them as spread out as possible. You'll also want to place the flicker generator under an open container, etc... for protection from the elements.

Step 6: Alterations

Use your imagination with these instructions!
These lights could also be supported in a wooden base.
A thick wooden base with 1/2" holes drilled in it could make for an effective base if there is no ground to install them into. This would also work for an indoor installation.

No electric supply? Try Solar power!
If you want to create the same level of illumination, you'll need more than the most basic of solar panels or solar landscape lights, which don't output much. For starters, there are some really nice 2200K filament LED bulbs that use as little as 1 watt each that would look pretty much identical to my example. They however require 110v, so you would need an inverter to convert your solar panel's 12 volt. There are also 12V filament bulbs, in a slightly cooler 2700K color temperature which are still reasonably warm in color. And, of course you'll need a solar panel and battery setup, along with a photocell or timer for automated control. With a smaller solar panel, I recommend a timer, as photocells will often turn solar lighting on before it's very dark, lessening the time and or intensity your lights will operate in the dark.

Enjoy, and share your own MASON JAR post light ideas and photos of your results!



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26 Discussions

For indoor use, any idea how to soften the light so it's more comfortable?

3 replies

You also could spray a glass-frost paint on the inside of the mason jars for a more muted, glowing effect which would be pretty.

Thanks. I'm lucky that's an idea I can actually do I think.

Hmmm... In my example, I use a very low watt 11-watt S-14 style incandescent bulb that, is also dimmed. They are very "warm and cozy", not harsh at all. I have a similar setup in my living room and they are equivalent to having candles lit.


2 years ago

Really great build!

To alleviate some of the concerns: This could just as easily have been made using lov voltage LED's. There are some quit nice ones on the marked.

If this is running on mains power 120v US or 240 UK you need to ground the conduit. This should not be attempted by anyone not understanding why this is necessary

4 replies

This was my first thought when I saw that a non grounded plug was used. Simply sticking the conduit into the ground is not enough protection against electrical shock.

The electrical connections are not at risk of coming into contact with the conduit.

Regardless of your aqssessment of risk, the outlet for this must be protected by gfci, its specifically noted in the NEC and in local codes. Remember that a ground is not to protect persons, it is a protective device for equipment. A human can only withstand a small amount of current passing through the heart before the results are fatal. The current leaking through a small crack in the insulation of the wire can easily be enough to cause a disastrous event.

All exterior outlets should be GFI by code, as they are in my courtyard. The same potential risks apply to all line voltage lamps, interior or exterior. My Instructable isn't a good starting point for basic electrical wiring education.

I'm concerned about the heat the lightbulbs throw off. I've made pendant lights using mason jars and always vent the lids for the heat to escape.... Thoughts?

1 reply

That's a good concern! The bulbs I've used are only 11 watts emit very little heat. The mason jars are never too hot to touch. In addition, my example installation uses a flicker generator, which randomly dims each of the lamps in a sort of firefly effect. Another option is using an LED bulb. I've also made a recommendation at the end of this Instructable for vintage style LED bulbs that give off almost no heat.

which type and where from flicker generator do i use on 110vac

1 reply

I'm sorry, the source link was accidentally deleted from the Instructable. I use and recommend those from simflame.com. In my example installation, I've used the 5 channel version. Most are 110v.

Yes, the illustration is what caught my eye too! The old school look is really great!

Thanks! The complement means a lot :)

HI, very nicely done and was impressed with your drawing diagram of the Mason jar connection. Did you draw that yourself?

1 reply

Thanks Anthony!
Yes, I did draw the diagram. I'm happy with the way it turned out as well. Maybe I can get some work making technical illustrations :)