Do you want to learn how to make a mason jar lamp that looks as good as the fancy “designer” jars at the store, but at a fraction of the cost, with easy to locate materials?
Great, because I did too! I learned how to make this beauty you see here, back in 2007, one fine day I was bored and looking for something to do that was artistically challenging.
I saw an actual ball mason jar lamp filled with seashells at a local antique shop and of course I was thinking “I could make that!”
Now here she is, 10 years old and this baby still works like gangbusters with semi-continuous use!
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Not only will you have a real working lamp made out of inexpensive materials but you can also fill the mason jar up with cute treasures! I chose a bunch of my childhood miniature trinkets, but the sky is truly the limit!
To create this illuminated beauty, you need a quart-size Mason/Ball jar with respective lid – it’s a 64 oz to be exact. Try to find one that big or your lamp may be closer to “nightlight” sized!
A “make-your-own lamp” kit – this one I found to the left is pretty close to the one I bought from Lowe’s at the time. Some kits include a brass harp and finial to support the lampshade or you can purchase those separately.
You can paint your jar; I recommend acrylic enamel paints for this part…OR objects to go into the jar if you want to make this lamp super fun! Object suggestions include: Seashells, wine corks, miniature building playset bricks, candy, or heck, you can steal my miniature toy idea 🙂
Other tools you’ll need include:
Small needle-nose pliers
A glass drill bit (one half or one fourth inch size)
Water spray bottle
Marking tool like a Sharpie pen
Small or medium sized lampshade – somewhere around 12″ in height will work fine.
Your “make your own lamp kit” contents may vary in appearance overall, but they should include:
- An 8 foot electric cord
- Light socket base/cap
- Threaded “nipple”
- Check ring
The kit I bought back in 2007 also came with 3 bottle adapters and some kits today also include those. You may not need them for this project – I think they were intended for use with bottles or to re-wire an old lamp.
Decorating Your Mason Jar
First decide if you want to paint your jar or fill it with cute objects. If you’re opting for the former now is the time to do that part! You can tint your mason jar in a translucent color or give it a nice opaque look with a solid color.
You can use a brush or sponge or distribute it by squirting a little and rolling the jar around in different directions. This post will give you some ideas on getting started with that if you need a few pointers.
It’ll probably need a few days to dry before proceeding with the rest of the lamp.
Image credit: MRHoffman
Drilling Your Mason Jar
OK – step one! If you are like me and a stickler for neatness, I recommend drilling a small hole through the jar so the electric cord can pass through easily. and there’s less of it exposed.
Get prepared – you’ll need your painters’ tape, special diamond drill bit, and water bottle for this. Tear off a piece of tape and “mark” a spot close to the bottom of the jar on both the outside AND inside for extra protection.
Using your pen, draw a small hole about the size of a dime. (about three-fourth’s of an inch from the bottom.) Are you ready? I’ll admit – this part can seem scary. Just remember:
Thankful that my ex at the time performed this task as I was a little apprehensive about doing it myself. If you feel uncomfortable about it, though, don’t worry; as the lamp kit socket base has a small opening that the cord can thread out of.
Assembling the Lamp Wiring
Take the jar lid and make a mark with a permanent pen or similar, right in the middle. Cut or drill a small opening (about a fourth of an inch). This opening will be for the threaded “nipple” from the kit to go through.
This step here must be done before the assembly of the lamp socket. Your included electric cord has a plug on one end and an “unattached” end with two slightly exposed wires.
Thread this wire side through the jar lid opening and then through the “nipple”.
Thread the check ring over these parts next. Thread the metal harp over the check ring. The metal harp is the device that will support your lampshade. Next push the socket cap into place over the lid, nipple and check ring.
Check out my follow-up post to see what I experienced when I decided to remove the lamp harp -I decided that I didn’t need that part after all!
The electric cord separates and each end has a golden look to it. There are two inner screws inside the socket base. One is gold and the other is silver. Wrap the non-ribbed wire part around the gold screw and the ribbed wire around the silver screw.
Don’t worry if this sounds confusing, when you’re looking at the parts up close it’ll become clear. The needle nose pliers will come in handy for this to secure the wires down snugly.
Attach the socket cap part (this is where the light bulb will go) into the base firmly.
Final Assembly Steps
Now comes the most fun part – if you want to put some cute objects into the jar now is your chance! When you’ve got them arranged the way you like them then go ahead and screw the jar lid back on.
Attach the lampshade you have chosen. The shade can be as flamboyant or plain as you want, but the important thing is to choose one that’s kind of small-ish and complements the lamp in a pleasing way.
If you want you can decorate your lampshade too; I did so with the use of some crafting stencils.
Secure your lampshade (if you don’t have the kind with the metal clamp) using a finial, which can also be decorative, and goes into a threaded area on top of the metal lamp harp. And I think you know where this is going….
Grab a bulb and now switch ‘er on to make sure she is working!
Bravo! … Give yourself a pat on the back as you have learned how to make a beautiful mason jar lamp that is unique, one of a kind and will grace your end table, desk, or nightstand.
Have fun! If you get stuck at any point don’t hesitate to drop me a message in the comments.