Sparkleball (no-melt) for the Holidays!

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A sparkleball is a magical ornament handmade from plastic cups and mini-lights; usually displayed at Christmas or holiday time.

You'll need 50 soft 9 oz. solo-style plastic cups, a hole-puncher, a drill with a 1/2" bit, a string of mini-lights (100-150), and 200 small zip-ties or your choice of connectors like wire. (recycled clean cups will work perfectly as will an old string of mini-lights.)

NOTE: The "no-melt" refers to the old school method of melting the cups with a soldering iron. This INSTRUCTABLE has been so popular, even though there are new techniques in making sparkleballs, I've just left it the way it was first written.

Step 1: Drill the Cup Bottoms

Drill the cup bottoms of all 50 plastic cups. You can stack and drill 2-3 at a time. The holes should be about 1/2" or large enough to insert one or two mini lights.

Step 2: Punch Holes

With a hole-puncher (the kind for punching holes in paper), punch 4 holes evenly spaced around the top of all 50 cups. Place the holes just under the raised lip. Each hole should have a hole directly opposite, but just eyeball the placement.

Step 3: Layer One

Arrange 12 cups in a circle. Attach each cup to the cups adjoining, using a zip-tie through the holes. Do not tighten the zip-ties until all the cups are connected. Then tighten one by one, making sure the ring of cups stays flat.

Step 4: Layer Two

There are 9 cups in Layer Two. Place one cup on top of Layer One. Connect it to the cup it sits on.. Do not tighten zip-tie all the way. Now add second cup. Attach it to cup it sits on top of. When all 9 cups are situated on top of Layer One, forming Layer Two-- then connect each cup to those on either side. Every cup in Layer Two will be attached at three points. When all zip-ties are in place, tighten and trim.

Step 5: Layer Three

There are 4 cups in Layer Three. Fit the 4 cups into the space left at the top of the sparkleball-half. Once they fit neatly, then start attaching the 4 cups to each other and to the cups in Layer Two. The last 4 cups will be attached at 4 points. Punch new holes, if the holes don't align. Tighten zip-ties and trim. Half the ball is done! Time for the lights.

Step 6: Inserting Lights

IMPORTANT! TEST LIGHTS BEFORE YOU INSERT THEM.

To insert lights: start at the prong end of the cord. Insert the two lights closest to the prong into a cup at the outside rim. (The plug will then hang out when you put the two halves together.)

Put 1 or 2 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.

Work slowly. It's important NOT to skip a cup or miss a light. If you crack a cup, that's ok.

Step 7: Build Second Half

Set aside the completed half. Build the second half just like you did the first. (Steps 3 - 5) Same formula for the 3 layers: 12 - 9 - 4.

Step 8: Finishing the Lights

On the second half, insert lights starting from the opposite end of the cord (the plug end.) Start with any cup but make sure you finish at the outer rim. (But if you plan to hang more than ball at once, make sure the plug end hangs out between the cups, as well.)

The last lights will be the hardest to insert as you juggle the two halves. Some people use two strands of mini-lights, connecting them once the two halves are threaded with lights.

Step 9: Join the Halves

Press the two halves together, making them fit snugly. Line up holes and attach loosely with zip-ties, all the way around. Finally, tighten zip-ties and trim.

Step 10: Make a Hanger

Make a hanger for your sparkleball. I use a bit of chain and two "s" hooks. Choose the top of your sparkleball. (Will you want the electrical cord hanging out on top or at the bottom?) Punch holes between two cups. Insert an "s" hook into the hole and close. Add chain and second "s" hook.

You can also use zip-tie loops, clear fishing line, wire coat hangers, or ribbon to hang sparkleballs.

Step 11: OPTIONAL: Beads? Glitter?

My friend Erika likes to string plastic beads on the zip-ties, as she threads them between cups. Her sparkleballs look as pretty unlit, as lit. You can also dip cup rims in glue, then glitter, or use dollops of glitter-glue between the cups.

Step 12: OPTIONAL: Chasing Lights

Multi-function, "chasing" lights turn sparkleballs into mini-ufo's. The blinking, pulsating, rhythm-changing light sequences have to be seen to be believed. If you do use chasing lights, you'll need to insert 2 or 3 lights into each cup bottom. Experiment with drill and hole sizes and lights BEFORE you begin building your sparkleball.

Step 13: Plug in and Enjoy!

To see more sparkleball-making ideas and photos from around the world, check out sparkleball.com.

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121 Discussions

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Scotticus

3 years ago

I started one, but turns out I'd bought 12oz cups so the sphere was going to big for me, so I left as half sphere and put it against wall, added some rays. viola. looks like with minor mod it could be eye of sauron for Halloween.

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Sg573

3 years ago

Help! I thought this would be a simple project but it isn't coming together (literally). I am using the 9 oz cups but 12 of them will not make the first ring. It seems that I need to add at least 2 more cups. I can force the cups together but it pulls the staples out somewhere else. To me the cups seem too rigid. Any idea what I am doing wrong?

3 replies
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jeanniel1Sg573

Reply 2 years ago

It could be the angle of your cups' sides - the more wide they are, the fewer you'd need.

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MarlenL1Sg573

Reply 3 years ago

look for a youtube video

Much more instructional than this

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sparkleball_ladySg573

Reply 3 years ago

Hey Sg573!

A couple of thoughts. 1. There are 9 oz cups that are not the right shape for a basic sparkleball. If I knew your brand or saw a photo I could say for sure. But if 12 doesn't make a nice circle, good chance it's the wrong shaped cup. 2. BUT you can try a different formula for your cup. Check out my instructable for "Hot Glue Sparkleball." That one's made with 9 oz hard cups, but the shape may be similar to your cups. The formula is 14-11-6-1. 3. And if all else fails, try the "Any Cup" Sparkleball method on sparkleball.com, which shows you how to turn any cup into a sphere. This may be more trouble than you wanted, but there IS a solution. Good luck! S.L.

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allgaul

2 years ago

These are great! I am going to give them a try. I priced some lighted spheres and they are either @15-$20 and get terrible reviews or over $45 for one! This is a great alternative and look amazing. Thanks for the instructible!

1 reply
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sparkleball_ladyallgaul

Reply 2 years ago

Hey allgaul, Glad you like it. There's nothing commercial to match a sparkleball. Check out my other Instructables so you can choose the sparkleball you'd like most to make. There are several different techniques.

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DIY-Guy

2 years ago

A stapler may be used instead of the hole-punch and zip tie method.
These are beautiful!
Thanks to the author for writing this.

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ShelleyM6DIY-Guy

Reply 2 years ago

I stapled mine as well. Had to purchase a heavy duty plier stapler to make it work right. For added effect, I used a string of 16 function multi colored lights. So, it changes colors and patterns and speeds. Fun project!

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sparkleball_ladyDIY-Guy

Reply 2 years ago

Thanks, DIY-Guy. You're right. I made a new tute showing the stapler method. But I love the idea that there are lots of ways to do it. Truly DIY!

https://www.instructables.com/id/E-A-S-Y-Stapler-Sparkleball/

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YaënD

2 years ago

magic !

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RigoC

2 years ago

Looks awesome

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SophiesFoodieFiles

3 years ago

These are looking so pretty & amazing! Waw!!! festive too, indeed! :)

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Kryptonite

10 years ago on Introduction

I believe that you could make one of these out of plastic clear shot glasses, so you get a really small one. Could you? regards, Kryptonite

3 replies

Dear K, I've made a mini-ball out of condiment cups (like you get ketchup in at hamburger places.) But a man in Australia built a really beautiful smaller ball made out of red shot glasses. Not sure how he did it but you can see photos of his mini and mine at [http://http:..www.sparkleball.com/intro.htm sparkleball.com]. Alex

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satoko68koda1

Reply 3 years ago

Also available in dollar stores in their hardware section, making this even cheaper to make! I could likely buy ALL the things I need to make this at the dollar store including LEDs, cups, etc. You can also buy bulk glitter & pure pigments online for far cheaper than in the craft stores. Try TKB or even Alibaba. I'm envisioning this using plain, clear glass cups with metal beads & all sorts of other goodies!