A 14" ball of lights made from 9 oz clear plastic cups and 100 mini lights.
A surprisingly clean and easy project to complete for less than $12.00.
This is the project most of you came to find.
You'll need to invest in a hand-held stapler.


Materials Needed:
  • (50) 9oz clear plastic cups
  • (2) indoor/outdoor
    mini light sets of 50 lights each
  • (1) 2 1/4 inch "S-hook"
  • 5/16" staples
Tools Needed:
  • electric drill with 3/8" drill bit
  • hand stapler
  • paper hole punch



  • Use 9 oz clear plastic drinking cups...the kind that measures approximately 3 5/8" wide by 2 7/8" deep and can be purchased at your local grocery store.(I use Solo brand model TP-9.)
  • Put them together using a hand held (plier type) stapler. A desk type stapler is difficult to maneuver between the cups and may cause unwanted creases or cracks. Regular staples are not big enough. They must be heavy duty, at least 1/4".(I use the Arrow brand, model P-22 hand stapler with 5/16" staples.) This type of stapler can be found at your local office suppy store. Home improvement stores don't usually stock them.

    Jim Garner, a visitor to Snowplace, uses a soldering iron (not a gun) to attach the cups. He achieves this by holding the cups together to staple as in the Step-by-Step Directions below, but instead, poking the hot soldering iron though the cup where they are closest together (about 3/4" from the bottom of the cup). I tried this and found it worked remarkably well, but it took me twice as long to complete and I risked burning myself with the iron. Still, it's a great option. Thanks, Jim!
  • I recommend buying good quality light sets. You will want your Light Ball to last for many seasons, and although it is possible to replace bulbs in the ball, it is rather awkward to do so unless you have small hands.
  • I prefer to use solid colored sets or even clear lights, rather than multi colored light sets. Purchase light sets that connect at both ends.(You may use one set of 100 lights instead of two 50 light sets. This will make the project only slightly more difficult to complete.)
  • Multi-Functional Light Sets: Gail, a Snowplace visitor, asked about using multi-functional light sets. Because there are more wires and a shorter distance between the lights these sets are a bit harder to work with, but they make a wonderful display well worth the effort. You will need a multi-functional light set with 150 lights. Make the hole in the cup slightly bigger to accomodate three lights instead of two and I would suggest you take care to put same-colored lights in each cup in order to better show off the various functions. Thank you, Gail, for the suggestion.

[WARNING]When stringing two or more balls together follow the manufacture's recommendations. In most cases connecting more than 300 bulbs (or 3 balls) in series will cause a fire hazard.

STEP 1[Red Beads Pic]

In the bottom of each cup center a hole with an electric drill and a 3/8" drill bit. If desired, you will be able to drill four or five cups at one time by stacking them together. Remove any residue plastic that may look unsightly or prevent clear passage of the light bulbs.

STEP 2[Red Beads Pic]

[fig. 1]The first row consists of twelve cups. Lay one cup on its side on a flat surface. Place a second cup on its side next to the first. Position it so that the lip of the second cup is just under the lip of the first. Fasten one staple near the top edge at a point where the two cups meet.

Place a third cup next to the second with its lip just over that of the second and staple them together as before. You will notice that the cups are beginning to form a circle.

Keeping the cups on the flat surface, continue to add cups, alternating the position of each cup lip until twelve cups are stapled together. The lip of the twelfth cup should rest just under the lip of the first. Staple the twelfth to the first to complete the circle (see fig.1).

STEP 3[Red Beads Pic]

[fig. 2]The second row consists of nine cups that sit on top of the first row. Place one cup directly on top of a cup from the first row with its lip resting just over that of the bottom cup. Place one staple near the edge where the two cups meet.

Place another cup next to the previous one with its lip also located just over that of the bottom cup (or cups). Staple that cup to a bottom cup at a point where they touch, and also staple that cup to the one next to it. Continue in like manner until nine cups have been placed on top of the first row. The ninth cup will be a tight fit and may require a slight squeeze. Be sure to attach that ninth cup to the cup on both sides as well as to the one on the bottom (see fig 2).


STEP 4[Red Beads Pic]

[fig. 3]
The first half of the Holiday Light Ball is completed with four more cups. These do not exactly fall into place. Put one cup between two cups from the second row with its lip just over those beneath it. Staple it to both cups. Put another cup next to it. Attach that cup on the bottom and at the side.

Before attaching the remaining two cups, set both in place and experiment a bit to find the best placement. You will need to apply slight pressure to set them correctly. Once satisfied, staple each cup in two or three place. Half of the ball in now completed(see fig 3).


STEP 5[Red Beads Pic]

Repeat Steps Two through Four to make the second half of the ball.

STEP 6[Red Beads Pic]

[fig. 4]Add lights. Turn the "half-ball" over so the cup bottoms are facing up. Carefully poke two lights, one at a time, through the hole in each cup. The extra wiring will automatically gather in the center of the ball. Arrange it so that the end lights are in an "outside" cup. This will allow the plug to be placed outside the ball when the two halves are put together.

HINT: Plug the lights in while placing them in the cups. Bulbs can easily come loose in this process. It is almost impossible to find loose bulbs if they are not discovered until after all are in place and the set in plugged in.

STEP 7[Red Beads Pic]

[fig. 5]

Attach the two halves together. First, be sure to run the "plug" end of the mini-lights outside of the ball. Now, place one half-ball on top of the other to form the shape of a ball. The cups of one half will naturally rest between the cups of the other.

Staple the two halves together by putting two staples in each cup where they touch the cups of the other half. The two halves are now one whole and you have almost completed the project.


STEP 8[Red Beads Pic]

All that remains is to attach the hanger. With a paper punch, punch a hole in two cups along the edge where the two half-balls came together, perhaps near the protruding electric cord. (You may need to remove a staple in order to punch the hole.) You can punch a second hole on the opposite side of the ball so the electric cord can either go out of the top of the ball or fall out of the bottom. Slide one end of the S-hook through one of the holes and your Holiday Light Ball is ready to hang.

NOTE: I've found it much easier to use a soldering iron then a hole punch.


The following "options" were submitted by Jennifer Zurschmeide. I thought you might find them helpful. Thanks, Jennifer!

Option 1: If you can find the true "twinkle" light sets, those that blink in random order individually (vs. 1/2 on/ 1/2 off flashing), mix with either set of steady burning lights of same color or contrasting color. Each cup being outfitted with one twinkle light & one steady burning light. Amazing motion effect.

Option 2: If clear plastic cups are not available you can use the hard plastic, "crystal" cups. Though I had to heat up the back end of a drill bit with a propane torch to melt the holes for the lights -I recommend doing this in a very well- ventilated area!- and hot glue gun the cups together, the light effect was absolutely PHENOMENAL!!! The rigid plastic cups refract the lights soooooo much better than the soft, flexible cups. Make sure the dots of glue are kept minimal & toward the bottom ends of the cups. If the cups are glued toward the rims then the spots are more obvious but only at close range. They are still very sturdy when glued at the back & the glue is almost completely invisible when the lights are on or off!

However, take care not to drop light balls made w/ the rigid cups as they are more fragile. Though cracks are not likely to be noticed, shattered missing pieces are hard to disguise. Should this calamity occur, all is NOT lost; it IS possible to repair if care is taken. First, if the lights are already inserted in the ball, push the lights out the back of the damaged cup to the center of the ball. Using a hair blow- dryer on high, direct air at glue points inside damaged cup til soft enough to remove cup from the ball. It is important to do this INSIDE to damaged cup only since high heat can cloud the plastic. DO NOT attempt to heat from the outside of damage cup; heat may cloud the surrounding undamaged cups. Do this repair with care & it is wise to wear leather work gloves when holding the blow dryer into cup. Hot air will be flowing back at your hand & may cause a burn. Then, with large, bent paperclip, secure the lights through the hole from inside the replacement cup, loosely position cup, pull lights back through hole, and secure cup with minimal glue. Carefully secure lights INSIDE of cup rather than in back. Trying to DRIP hotglue into project is rather difficult & HIT/MISS at best!

Option 3: I found that when using clear multifunction lights one can customize bits of color by either replacing just a few of the bulbs scattered around the orb or simply placing decoratively cut "reflecting doilies" inside the bottoms of some/all cups. These embellishments can be made from plain aluminum foil or from colored foil wrappings. Obviously the caution should be noted to ensure that the bulbs are secured into place so that none can slip back & allow the bulbs themselves to touch the foil inserts or the cups. I personally found it necessary to glue the sockets in place regardless to prevent any lights from sneaking back into the center of the orb or sticking too far forward in the cups. Plus, I have greater piece of mind that with the sockets secured there is far less chance of a fire hazard.

NOTE: Since multifunction light sets come in the 100+ number of lights lengths, it may be helpful the note that it is easiest to begin placing lights in the center of one half & spiral out to the edge. Then leaving the lights designated for the last 2-3 cups from the 1st half loose to allow for movement, facilitating the ease of placing lights in the 2nd half. The 2nd half lights are spiraled from the outside edge to the center. Thus it is wise to wait until the plug on the lights is positioned to secure the final cup in place with glue. Trying to wiggle the bulky plug out between the rigid cups is difficult & may crack some cups. Position the lights left loose on the edge cups for slack & then join the two halves.

NOTE: I tried to outfit a ball with the multifunction, multicolored light set of 150 lights/4 colors. When placing 3 bulbs per cup, even if you group the colors (one color per cup) there are going to be moments in the lighting sequence when the ball looks "muddy" due to the mixing of the colors. It is a REAL PAIN to try coordinating what color bulb to what socket to what cup so that only one color or coordinating colors are lit at any given time evenly around the ball BUT IT CAN BE DONE!!! Bone up on your Calculus & Geometry before attempting this feat & have a big bottle of Advil on hand Remember that any imperfections apparent to the crafter are likely NOT EVEN NOTICED by anyone else. This includes, but is not limited to, cracked cups, glue "hair" or slightly unevenly place cups!!!