Like cousins No-Melt Sparkleball and Sparkleball Mini, Solar Star Sparkleball is a handmade light ball made of plastic cups and Christmas lights. The big difference: the lights are little icicles powered by a solar panel. Arranged in a sparkleball, the icicles make a star shape and give off a starry, snowy light. Lovely in trees! (For a kid's project, adapt directions using the No-Melt method.)
Step 1: What You'll Need
1. 50 Solo-style 9 oz tumbler-size plastic cups (with slanted sides)
2. A string of solar holiday lights. I used icicle lights (25 to a string) from Target
3. clothes pins (optional)
4. soldering iron (or for a no-melt version adapt using No-Melt Instructions)
5. zipties to make hanger
6. hot glue gun to anchor lights (optional)
7. outdoor work space; fans for ventilation
Step 2: Light Holes
Using a hot soldering iron, melt a hole 1/2 - 3/4" in the bottoms of 25 cups. Test first hole to make sure you can slide icicle light through.
Divide 50 cups into two groups of 25, distributing the cups with holes equally into the two groups. You're ready to start building.
Step 3: First Layer
Arrange 12 cups into a circle. Clip together with clothespins. ( Scatter the cups with holes. ) With hot soldering iron join the cups to form a ring. The best method is to melt cups together at their bases (through cup walls). Hold joint til cool. Work around the ring.
Step 4: Second Layer
Using the clothes pins, space 9 cups on top of and around the 12-cup ring. (The photo shows the second layer in blue cups just to be easier to follow.) Again, scatter cups with holes equally around the ring. Solder the nine cups, at their bases, to each other and to the First Layer. You should see the ball-half forming, like a dome.
Step 5: Third Layer
In the space open at the top of the dome, insert the last four cups. Fit them into the space at the same time. Hold them with clothes pins. Solder the cup bases to as many other cups as you can. The more joints the sturdier the sparkleball. When the half is complete, you can reinforce it by melting joints wherever the cup rims touch. (See notches in photo) You have half a sparkleball.
Step 6: Build Second Half Same As First
Set the completed sparkleball-half aside, and build a second one just like it.
Step 7: Insert the Lights
Start with the light at the end of the string. Insert it from the inside of the sparkleball-half, out through a cup bottom so the light sits in the cup. Wherever there's a hole, push a light through. When one half is done, pick up the second half and start with the light closest to the solar panel. Work your way around the second half. When all the lights are in, clip the two halves together, making sure the solar panel and cord hang out between them. Solder the cups to join the halves. Be careful not to melt the wire.
If the lights are loose in the cups, you can hotglue them into the center. The effect you want (if you use the icicle lights) is like a star, with the icicles pointing outward from the cups.
Make a hanger for the sparkleball by melting holes in three of the cups, and looping zipties through.
Step 10: Charge Up the Sparkleball
The icicle light directions call for 8 hrs charging in sunlight. Make sure you read the directions for your solar lights and follow them carefully. If properly charged, your sparkleball will shine all night long. The panel will need a new rechargeable battery once a year. In the photo, the little solar panel is resting on top, but it can hang down.
Step 11: Great Kid's Project
In the photo you can see a solar sparkleball made with the No-Melt method. The children who made it used twistie ties (like from bread bags) and worked together. I made one half and showed them how, and they finished the solar sparkleball themselves. I really like the free-form twisties. For more sparkleball photos and free instructions check out sparkleball.com.