Friday, November 20, 2015

DON'T THROW OUT OLD CHRISTMAS LIGHTS! Turn Them Into Jewelry!

Last week I was about to throw out a few sets of old, unsalvageable Christmas lights when I had a minor brainstorm.

So naturally, I immediately abandoned the other half-dozen projects I've been working on (naturally!), and spent the next few hours making my new favorite upcycle:

DANGLY LIGHT BULB JEWELRY!

This was a zero cost craft for me; I had the colorful enameled copper rings left over from a chain mail kit, and the silver bracelet is one of those $3 deals from JoAnns, which I also had stashed away.

The copper wires inside the lights really stand out, so I'd love to make my next one using bright copper rings.

Since this is a bracelet, the glass bulbs fall like bugle beads when you put it on, which I think is super fun:

And I like how the clear glass lets you see the rainbow rings underneath.

PLUS you get this delightful tinkly sound when you swish it around, like a little wind chime.

Of course these are glass, so be careful not to smash or crush them against anything too hard. They seem durable enough to clank against each other for gentle daily wear, though.

(I'll show you a few tricks for twisting the bulb wires at the end of this post.)

I still had a ton of lights left over when I finished the bracelet, so next I put together a quick matching necklace:




I scrounged up some leftover silver chain links for the center, and a length of anodized burgundy chain for the rest. (This is why it's nice to save the excess chain when you shorten a necklace!)
 

 You can see a few of these bulbs have the inner scorch marks from when they burned out.

The necklace is a safer option if you're worried about bulbs breaking, but I still like the bracelet best for sheer drama:




Once you get the hang of making the bulb danglies, they only take about 30-40 seconds each. It's also an excellent mindless activity to keep your hands busy during another Stargate:Atlantis marathon. ;)

Here's how:

Once you pop the bulb out of the light strand, bend the two little base wires out:


Then slide off the plastic base.

Next, grip the very ends of the two wires with small pliers:


And use your free hand to twist the bulb:


Occasionally one of the wires will snap off at the base at this stage. If so, discard and start again with a new bulb; you need both wires for strength.

Use the pliers to finish off the very tip of the twist:



Then use chain nose pliers to bend the twisted wire into a loop:


If you want to go the extra mile, try tucking the end into the tiny space between the two wires at the base. (I find this helps keep the loop closed.)

And you're done!

If you really yank that copper loop will pull apart, but overall I've found it's surprisingly strong, all things considered. And of course if you do lose one, they're easy to replace.

Hope I've inspired some crafty upcycling out there! I mean, just imagine the possibilities with colored lights. Ooooh. Aaaaaah.  :)



If you're a fellow Pinterest user, please share!



*john's safety update: So I was curious just how easily these break. I put 10 in a little box and shook it. No broken bulbs. Then, I shook it like crazy and again, none of the bulbs broke. Finally, I shook it and banged it on the floor and scared my cats and one bulb broke. So yes, they are breakable. If you make a necklace, don't shake your head rapidly and bang it against the floor.

39 comments:

  1. And of course the bulbs are totally Steampunk! Brilliant idea! Is it terrible that I want to buy some cheap bulbs off e-bay to do this with? Our Christmas lights are LED ones and are sealed into the cable so I'll never have old lights to recycle :-7

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    1. Dollar store, my friend. Dollar store.

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    2. You can get old used lights at Goodwill.

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  2. Super cute but I know I'd smash a bracelet to bits. Best left to the not-so-dramatic-gesturers!

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  3. I have some small link chains I never wear... I think I know what I'm going to do with them now... And I'll be using colored lights.. I have *so* many loose ones! We save the healthy bulbs from dead strands, sooooo.....

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  4. DAMMIT. I was just getting things done around here. Now I have to stop and try this. THANKS, JEN.

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  5. Do you have any idea what would happen if you dipped these in clear resin like you did the Halloween candy? There's no way I could wear glass like that. Too clumsy by a mile.

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    Replies
    1. Oooooh that's a good question!

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  6. How did you remove the red tips??

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    1. Usually one or two red-tipped lights come with a set; I can't remember why they're special but I think subbing one in for a standard bulb makes the set flash or something (I could be totally off there!). In any case, I think Jen just used a red-tipped one for her tutorial, but used regular clear bulbs for the actual craft (so no removing of the red tips).

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    2. Yep, it's the "flasher" bulb! :) If they're painted on the outside of the glass, you could try paint thinner, or rubbing alcohol to remove it. YMMV.

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  7. Next attempt-string the wires together and run them off of a battery.

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  8. P.S. I would love an Amazon Canada link. (I've been Christmas shopping and purposely using your link, and it would be easier if there was a button from here!)

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  9. Oh my! John's safety update literally just made me bust out laughing! Luckily no one was in my office to wonder what about *work* was so amusing!

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  10. How cool! At first I thought that bracelet was a choker, and I think if I did this that's what I'd make. I'm clumsy as all get-out and I think I'd be that ONE person that managed to break it (I once astounded an REI employee by accidentally breaking a pair of kevlar shoe laces by walking fast).

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    1. I thought it was a choker too! Must make.

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  11. Earrings would be awesome! Especially if you layered them like the photo of the bracelet held up by your hand.

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  12. Two words: Colored bulbs!

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    1. She already said that.

      Two words: reading comprehension!

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    2. four words: don't be a dick. Anonymous1 wasn't necessarily suggesting, maybe she was exclaiming, or agreeing. Try not looking for reasons to be an anonymous jerk on the internet (she said ironically, with plans to post as anonymous).

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  13. Now I really wish I hadn't thrown out that string of dead Halloween lights. It had orange and purple bulbs. That would have been so cool.

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  15. I have already planned a dollar store trip today and will be adding colored lights so I can make this. I make chain maille often and have a huge selection of colored rings to work with, so yeah, PERFECT craft. Also, as I work in a library and the holidays are coming I need pieces that live up to that specific cultural expectation of what librarians wear. (Honestly I could come in with a cat sweater covered in bells and no one would think it was out of place.)

    Jen, would you be ok if I taught people how to make this? I've got a jewelry class planned already but I'd love to teach this too. I would of course tell people where to find this tutorial and more.

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  16. I love this! These may be on my list to make for folks next Christmas. It's so fancy looking, but also a bit kitsch. Who doesn't love that? You're so creative :)

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  17. Love it! This is going on top of the very long list of things I've seen on Epbot that I need to try.

    Oh! And my son found a tiny My Little Pony on the beach that he gave to me. Now I can try the doll hair fixer you posted about ages ago. Her little pink mane is really bad, though. We'll see how it all works out.

    And thank you, John, I was going to test the necklace while wearing it. Now I know...test the bracelet first! ; )

    -Just Andrea

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  18. I started a necklace like this a few years ago, but got too frustrated with the wires snapping off. Maybe I'll try it again with this method!

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  19. This is a really neat craft! I would love the sound of the bulbs tinkling together but it would drive people in my office nuts. Hmmm, maybe that is the best reason to make one! Revenge for when they wear smelly cologne and perfume.....

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  20. For safety reasons, I wouldn't dare wearing a bracelet, but I think I'll dig out an old set of colored bulbs and try making a necklace.

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  21. OMG!!!! I have a whole strings worth of coloured ones from a string my cats chewed on last year. I took out the bulbs and threw away the rest. I'm thinking making earrings!!!!! I'll have to post a pic when I make them. Oh and Stargate Atlantis FTW!!!!

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  22. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0133DUVIG?keywords=clearance%20art%20supplies&qid=1448145804&ref_=sr_1_3&sr=8-3

    Jen! Steampunk cogs and gears in all kinds of metal finishes!

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  23. "scared my cats"
    "no headbanging"
    A+

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  24. Khalysta from VersaillesNovember 22, 2015 at 2:19 PM

    The best part of that tutorial? John's safety tip.
    Thank you, for both the craft and the laugh

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  25. Okay, the necklace and bracelet are super cool, but John's safety warning was my favorite part of the post. I am pretty clumsy, so banging my head on the floor is a possibility.

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  26. how awesome! I really want to see one with colored lights now :) But the clear is so elegant--I do love these!

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  27. I want to replace my old strands of lights with LEDs. I'm going to have to remember this. I love it!

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  28. The clear bulbs with the colored rings are gorgeous! I've used colored bulbs, gold rings and tiny jingle bells to make earrings, pins and holiday barrettes. I'll have to find some clear bulbs -- I have a huge package of copper rings to use! (Gleefully rubbing hands together!)

    -Zippy

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  29. This is definitely on my to do list! Thanks.

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