I can't stop making sparkleballs. I'm obsessed. Photos don't do them justice. You must see them lit. They're like tiny dancing ufo's, and what's brilliant is that the handmade ones totally are superior to the storebought. Below are some directions that worked for me.
TO START: you'll need 50 plastic cups (9 oz tumblers with slanted sides); 150 (more or less) christmas lights with function control ("chasing lights") and a soldering iron (you can find these at craft stores or hardware stores). AND you must have good ventilation. Do not make these indoors!
1. With a hot soldering iron, poke a hole (approx 1/2 in) through the bottom of all 50 cups. Divide the cups into 25/25. You'll make the sparkleball in 2 halves, each with 25 cups.
2.Arrange 12 cups in a circle.
Join each cup to its neighbor at the cup bottoms. Press the hot iron through the bottom-edges of two cups at once. A joint forms as it cools. You are "welding" the cups together.
3. The next layer has 9 cups. Build this ring on top of the first, one cup at a time. Join each cup to at least two neighbors-- working from the inside and close to the bottom. There may be small gaps between some of the cups in the second ring.
4. Fit the last 4 cups into the space left on top of the hemisphere. Once they're all in place, then join them with the soldering iron. Work close to the cup bottoms and attach each cup to as many others as you can.
5. Now you're ready to thread the lights. First, test them to make sure they work! This is a must. Now, depending on how many total lights there are, each cup will have 2-3 lights in it, each threaded through the one hole.
To thread lights: start at the prong end. Insert the two lights closest to the prong into a cup at the outside rim. (The plug will then hang out when you put the two halves together.)
Work your way around the ball half, zigzaging from outer cups to inner cups and back. You want to end up on the outer rim, at the cup next to one you started with. Work slowly, careful not to skip a cup or miss a light. If you crack a cup, that's ok. Work slowly, careful not to skip a cup or miss a light. If you crack a cup, that's ok.
6. Set aside the completed half. Build the second half just like you did the first. (Steps 1 - 4)
7. On the second half, insert lights working from the opposite end (the beginning end.) Start with any cup but make sure you finish at the outer rim.The last lights will be the hardest to insert as you juggle the two halves.
8. Press the two halves together, making them fit nicely. When you join them-- be very careful not to burn through to the lights or wire. You're almost finished. But go over the sparkleball, making sure each cup is joined to at least two other cups. I often "notch" any place two cup rims touch, for further support.
9. Make a hanger for the sparkleball. I use a bit of chain and two "s" hooks. But you can also use clear fishing line or wire. Attach the hanger through a hole that goes between two cups and forms a solid bond.
10. Plug in and enjoy. Change the light function dial to see the sparkleball dance. You can make a mini-sparkleball using 1 oz condiment cups, and I've heard of a giant sparkleball made of 10 oz. cups. I've used all kinds of lights. So be creative and post back with your own sparkleball creations.
For more information and photos, check out www.sparkleball.com