Sunday, April 22, 2012

Tutorial: Simple (demi)globe pendant light

Right now we're just lampin', but we're gonna get lit. Kidding. Don't go calling the cops.

 I call it a Demi-globe. Since the bottom part is missing, ya dig? And let's face it, Demi could use some love these days.

This classic fixture is so basic and timeless and goes with everything. Dress it up, or or keep it casual. You can make it any color, glue embellishments, whatever your fickle little heart desires. And it's so cheap to make that you can have as many as you want. You only need one pre-wired light setup (I'll explain in a minute), and the globes become removeable/interchangeable.
For the sake of the tutorial, I'm showing you how to make a plug-in fixture. If you're interested in wiring to a chandelier adapter, you probably already know how (if not, email/comment me and I'll help you however I can, but keep in mind that this modification will make your fixture cost an additional $6ish and make the globes less interchangeable).

The estimated cost for materials, per fixture on this tutorial project: A whopping $3 (USD). Assuming you have the tools already. For a custom, handmade piece, I'd say that's a damned bargain. How, you ask? The globes are... *drumroll bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzt* Beer Ping-pong balls!! I recently found a box of 24 on sale somewhere (can't remember, perhaps Wal-Mart?) for about $3.

Let's get down to the nitty-gritty.

Here's what you'll need, no frills:

-Ping pong balls (May I suggest more than one, as backups in case the saw goes awry...)
-A razor/jeweller's/gentleman's saw. They all do the same thing.
-Sandpaper, medium to medium-fine grit. I used 100 followed by 220, to further smooth the surface.
-A sharp awl/pick, or a really small drill bit.
-Pliers. Needlenose/jeweller's style work best.
-Pre-wired and plugged screw-base type bulb setup. You can usually buy these anywhere you can buy dollhouse electrical supplies (and online, obviously). Hobby Lobby sells them for about $5/pair (use your smartphone to download the 40% off weekly coupon for a real deal). I buy a pack every time I go, to keep stocked. I go through them like crazy. Lights are my favorite to make. You can buy these from cir-kit here. Make sure you opt to get the round bulbs, not the candle flame for this fixture. They're cheaper anyway. Score.

You may also want, just for looks:

-Super-Glue. Like duct-tape. Just a good friend to keep hanging around.
-Paint. I like aerosol spray paint, the finish wins every time if you do it right.
-Metal tubing, 3/32". To hide wires, define fixture height. I like the 3/32" size for this application. You can buy it at the craft store, usually in a 3/4/5 pack. Comes in all finishes (brass/aluminum/copper).
-Brass brad. In the pictures you see here, I'm using cir-kit 1023-2 large hollow eyelets, but you could use up to a 1/8" scrapbooking brad if you wanted (you'd just need a 1/8" drill bit).

Get started:
Grab your saw and start hacking.
Take as much or as little of the ball off as you prefer. I usually just cut the logo off. Try to keep the saw super-straight and steady as you cut straight through. Longer, deeper strokes are better than short, choppy ones ("that's what she said"). Be patient, and expect to fuck it up a time or five. As you see below, you can expect a jagged edge here and there. That's permissible.
 Let's go ahead and fix it though.
Hold your sandpaper down with one hand and rub the new flat edge of the ball back and forth (turning occasionally) until it has a smooth, uniform shape. If you have sanding blocks, all the better. I'm sure I don't need to tell you how to use them.

Next, you'll poke a hole for the wires to pass through on the top of the globe. My method is very scientific. 
I stick my pick inside the globe against a surface I don't care about. In this case, my workbench. God, I'm stupid. Hindsight's always 20/20, they say.
 I get my eye level on the edge and move the pick around until it looks centered. Genius.
Take a look inside the globe, hold steady, and make sure you're at least eyeball-close to center, then gently punch through the plastic. And the paint-job on your workbench. Whatever.

Time for paint if you're interested.
In Lilly's dollhouse, I opted to match the existing imaginary fixtures with teal paint I had on hand, because I was lucky.

 The inside got a couple of brushed coats of a pale yellow acrylic craft paint. To give it a bit of glow.

 Then I stuck the brad through the hole (using the pick, my fat fingers would've never got the job done). Maybe a little super-glue between the eyelet-hub and the inside of the globe. If you want, not necessary.

Now you unravel and disassemble the lighting setup. Double-check and screw the tiny light bulb finger-tight into its socket. Often these come loose in shipping, and you'll go bat-shit crazy wondering why the hell your light doesn't work. Not that that's happened, or anything.

Take the plug off: Pull out the brass plug pins (pliers help), set aside and pull off that plastic piece, too. Save everything (says a certifiable hoarder). I'd cut the wires clean, keeping them as long as possible, just get rid of the frayed copper ends. They'll cause you more frustration than they're worth.
 Thread the wire through the brad (or bare hole if you decided to skip the brad altogether, just mind that you don't strip the wires in this process) from the inside of the globe.
 Pull wires through opening until light bulb is entirely inside ball. Don't pull too tight though, because you'll probably bust a wire and then be pissed that you've ruined the most expensive supply of the project. Not that that's happened, or anything.

Don't worry about my short wires here. I'm just using what's convenient for pictures. Make sure your wires are long enough to reach their respective outlet before you finish the fixture. Or better yet, before you purchase your pre-wired light assembly.

Now reverse the process and put the plug back on the wires. Here we go, another photo montage:

 Use your fingernail to strip about 1/4" of insulation off each wire, twisting it as you pull.

 Use pliers to push in the plug pins. They're a tight fit (usually).
If you want the rest of the words that accompany the above pictures, they're here, somewhere between the middle and bottom of the post. Apologies for my laziness.

Then you plug it in, and any frustration you felt along the way was worth it, right? I know.


I hope this was somewhat helpful, and I hope you can see how you can adapt these ideas to make a light fixture out of just about anything.
I just got an idea for how to embellish one of these in a fun way, so I'll give it a shot one of these days and be sure to show you the results (as long as they aren't too embarrassing).

If you try this tutorial and happen to write about it, please link back to my original post. Thanks!
You da bomb.


  1. What a great tutorial!! Thanks for sharing. Question: does the plastic not get warm from the bulb/melt? Isn't it dangerous?
    Greetings, Ilona

    1. Sometimes it gets warm, but I never leave my lights on for long periods of time, so I can't speak to the fire-rating on these things. I've not had any issues with them getting warm enough to melt.

  2. Thanks so much! I've been chicken sh*t to try lighting my stuffs. Going to try it now.
    Thanks for all the grins too, love your sense of humor.

    1. Glad to help (and make you giggle)! Lighting is a cakewalk, you've just got to take the leap :)

  3. I'm gonna do this! Really. Soon!
    Thanks for sharing how you did it!

  4. nice bLog! its interesting. thank you for sharing....
    Pendant Lights