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
This pretty much the whole “kit and kaboodle” right here. Don’t forget there will be an instruction sheet included too – I did the best I could here with this post to “reverse engineer” but you may have to refer to something on paper which I understand.
You may not need all three of the locknuts (the white stopper looking parts) 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, like this example to the left.
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.
Getting the Lid Ready
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 the size of a nickel, maybe close to an inch). Use whatever instrument feels comfortable for you here and is sharp enough to do the job correctly; you may also want to put down a wood block or something to put under the lid as you cut.
This strategy helps me out a lot since I don’t have a “workhorse” or anything! Also, don’t worry if your hole doesn’t look perfectly round either – just make sure the opening is big enough for the lamp kit apparatus to pass through it. Also, be sure and sand around the opening since the edges may be sharp, too (I use an emery board for this).
Assembling the Lamp Wiring
The opening for the lid above will be for the check ring, locknut and 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.
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. Here is a close-up of both socket parts. You can see which part has the “switch” that will make the light turn on and off.
Filling Up the Jar
Now comes the most fun part – if you want to put some cute objects into the jar now is your chance! Try to be strategic about it if you can. I know I took a few of my toys out and moved them around before I was happy overall with the look.
Also there were some in particular I wanted to show off more. I grew up in the 80s and the most iconic characters included Strawberry Shortcake, Alf, E.T., Care Bears….you can tell I’m kind of going off on a nostalgia tangent here. Sorry about that 🙂
When you’ve got the objects arranged the way you like them then go ahead and screw the jar lid back on.
Final Assembly Steps
Still with me here? Great! Don’t worry, you’ve got the hard parts behind you, we are just about to cross the finish line. There are a few more parts to put into place, but they will only take a minute to do.
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 (a standard 50-60 watt is what I use)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.
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!
Here is the video of my lamp as it looks now:
Have fun! I know that was a LOT of steps…It was worth it, though, right? I think my cat will agree….this lamp is one of a kind!
If you get stuck at any point don’t hesitate to drop me a message in the comments.