Making Light Fixtures Out of Mason Jars

I have exciting news.  Our favorite handyman is back with our monthly* How-To.  You may remember last month my talented carpenter built me Pottery Barn’s Vintage Lockers I had been pining over for months but couldn’t justify the price tag for.

This month we’ve got another Pottery Barn knock off.  What can I say?  I found a lot in the catalog that day.  I’ve always found charm in mason jars, so from the day I spotted this I strategized over where we could hang this in our house.  Since we needed a light fixture in our new Back Room bathroom (whoops, guess I need to post about that), I realized this would be perfect in there.  The $129 price tag wasn’t a total deal breaker for me, but when I showed the picture to John I think his problem solver side came out because he quickly told me he’d build it himself.  Color me excited.

Before we get started, John (and I) want you to know the only thing more dangerous than electricity is electricity you’re trying to harness in a light fixture.  That being said, this tutorial is not meant to guarantee you a perfectly safe light fixture.  My handyman knows quite a bit about electricity, so we feel confident that what we did works for us (and good news – it has been hanging for over a month and has yet to burn down the house), but you should always bring in an experienced electrician if you’re not as knowledgeable in electrical work.

Disclaimer over –  on with the (light) show.

1)      First, you need to buy some Mason Jars.  These are from Michael’s and I believe they cost $1.99 a piece.  Not bad, eh?

Next we headed to Home Depot and wrangled the tools we’d need from various corners of the house.  Oh and FYI, these next steps 2-26 (yes, 26…hang in there, it’s detailed but not as difficult as it sounds) will be narrated by the man himself.  A rare occurrence indeed, so get excited.

2)      As for the tools you will need: a drill/driver with ¼” drill bit and Philips bit, a wire stripper, three wire nuts and a flat head screw driver (and apparently a red Sharpie…I’m having a hard time remembering right now what that was for).

3)      The supplies you’ll need are: Three keyless sockets, a canopy and lamp wire (ideally the lamp wire has two individual wires and a ground wire in the casing). We bought the last two items in a larger package because the store was out of them individually.

4)      Now that you’ve got your tools and supplies, drill a ¼” hole in the center of each lid – this will be where the wire passes through. Drill three more ¼” holes in each lid for ventilation. Cut the wire into three pieces of equal length.

5)      Next, strip one end of each wire about ½”. Make sure to twist the wire casing as you pull it off in order to bind each smaller strand together.

6)      Pull through the hole in the lid and carefully separate the wires from each other – use the knife to start it.

7)      Pull the wires through the hole in the top of the keyless socket so they are roughly aligned with the screw terminals.

8)      Using the flat head screwdriver, tighten the terminal screws over the wire. It’s important to make sure there’s as much wire under the screw head as possible.

9)      Pull the lid down the wire so it is tight to the socket.

10)   Insert a clear round light bulb of your choice. I would not recommend exceeding 40 watts but I do not work in the Underwriters Laboratories nor am I an electrical engineer so feel free to take your own risk at overheating the fixture and causing everything to come crashing down in a fiery blaze.

11)   Complete the first assembly by screwing the lid onto the jar.

12)   Repeat three times (or as many times as you want – PB’s light fixture has 5, but 3 was sufficient for our space).

13)   Hold each jar by the wire in order to gauge the proper length.  Here is where you use the sharpie (I knew it would come to me eventually).  Mark each wire where you want it to meet the canopy, and ultimately, the ceiling.

14)   Cut the wires about 8” longer than the mark (you can vaguely make it out in the picture).

15)   Slide the canopy over the bundle of wires, past the mark.

16)   Tie a knot on each wire so the end of the knot is at the mark.  Strip the wires using the same method described in step #5.

17)   There should be a faint mark on three of the six individual wires you have passing through the canopy.  Twist the three together that have the marking on the wire and the other three together.  If your wire has a ground wire in the bundle, you should connect these together as well.

18)   This is the mounting bracket. It is mounted with two screws that should have come with the box in the ceiling. If not, good luck at matching the screws!  (A hint – usually they are 10/32 or 12/32 machine screws). Take the round “nuts” off and put in your back pocket.

19)   This picture shows the installed mounting bracket with the screws that are used to secure the canopy protruding. The wire in the ceiling should be stripped back ½”. If your ceiling box looks uglier than this, you may want to consider hiring an electrician to complete the install. When there is more than one wire in the box, it can be very confusing and ultimately dangerous when you are choosing which wire goes to which.

20)   Hold the fixture with your non-dominant hand and connect one of the twisted wire bundles to the black wire, and the other one to the white wire. The black wire is the “hot” and the white is the “neutral”.

Note: This is where I (Maggie now) recommends bringing in a cheerleader of sorts.  Holding that fixture up for the length of time needed to secure it to the ceiling is exhausting.  I’m pretty sure my support from the sidelines was crucial to taking this project across the finish line.

21)   Twist the wire nuts onto the each group of wires. Make SURE you position the wires in your hand so the ends are all the same length.

22)   Gently pull on the wires to make sure they are screwed into the wire nut and are all touching each other.

23)   Fold the wires so the whole mess can fit into the box and under the canopy.

24)   Slide the canopy over the protruding screws.

25)   Take the “nuts” in Step 18 out of your back pocket and install them onto what is left of the screws.

26)   Tighten, and tighten some more.

And with that, you should have a new, functioning light fixture.

And hopefully yours is secured tightly to the ceiling and illuminating the room with the flip of a switch.

Again, no guarantees for you…but ours has been working like a charm ever since.

I’m a huge fan.  Especially since the total cost of the project came in right around $40-50.  Nice job, John.  Unfortunately, you’re now 2 for 2 in Maggie’s DIY furniture/accessory demands, so I’d say you have more of this kind of fun in your future.

I promise, one of these days I’ll remember to do an update on the current state of the Back Room.  In the meantime…go forth and build!

*I guess we’re doing this monthly now.  I just told John that means he better start thinking about next month’s How-To project, and he mumbled something about a chainsaw and a skid steer…so I suppose that means you better stay tuned.


Filed under Back Room, How To..., Pottery Barn Knockoff

39 responses to “Making Light Fixtures Out of Mason Jars

  1. Love it! We are trying to work on the Pottery Barn milk crate/bottle light fixture. 🙂 We’ll definitely do this one, though!🙂 Thanks for the how-to!

  2. Pingback: Find More How To’s Here | The Cheney's House to Home

  3. Great job! Your lights look great!

  4. Great idea and tutorial! I found your tutorial on The Lettered Cottage How To. So glad I did, I love the look. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Jenn Hoff

    YES! Finally a tutorial that goes through each step in plain English, and with great detail. I’m sure I will be reading and re-reading this little baby 50 times! 🙂 Thanks!

  6. Mel

    I think you could use a bigger sized bulb if you cut the bottoms off the jars with a glass cutter…I don’t think it would detract from the looks at all…I think the only thing stopping you would be the size of the would have to fit inside the jar..those jars are made to be boiled so I think they would stand up, but the build-up of heat might make them explode if it got too hot inside them…I think you might be able to drill holes into the lids also, just in case.

  7. No way! This is genius!
    I’m totally pinning this. 🙂

  8. Pingback: Back Room Update | The Cheney's House to Home

  9. Amy

    He did a great job! Wonderful having a handyman around the house.

  10. gilly

    where did you get the canopy? I’m having a hard time finding one that doesn’t look cheesy

  11. genny

    don’t the jars need to have their weight supported by somethign other than the lamp cord itself? I heard that you should not put any weight onto the electrical cord. Do you know if this is true?

    • Generally speaking, you’re right – it’s good practice to support the weight by a chain. However, our jars are pretty lightweight and the wire has thick enough plastic surrounding it that we felt safe with our method!

  12. Brittney

    what size mason jars did you use? 1 qt?

  13. This really looks good with the blue mason jars.

  14. Karen Leist

    I want to make one for next to my bed,but i planned on hanging it from a plant hanger or something like it & have a switch to turn on & off on the cord. Is this possible, if so advise what type of cord to get. Thanks

  15. Judy Russell

    I think this is a wonderful idea. I have seen this before in a new manfactured home. It was a three jar cluster hanging in the middle of a pot handing rack over the kitchen island. I am in the process of building a country style home and that is was I am using over my island in my kitchen. Thank you for the step by step instructions.

  16. Diane

    We are working on this project right now. Can’t wait to see it done. Thanks for such great directions.!!

  17. Linda

    I just saw the Pottery Barn one at my sister-in-laws – yours looks great – on my to do list with a little help from my guy – thanx so much for sharing!!!!!!

  18. Cat

    I’d suggest some type of grommet in the metal hole to reduce the potential for the electrical cord casing to be cut.

    • Electrician

      I agree on the grommet. Any electrical supply house or good hardware store will have them. Though you might meed to go up to a 3/8 hole. No good having that lamp wire in contact with that drilled hole. I hope he at least reamed it so it’s less sharp?
      Also, I’ve never seen an electrical box come with screws, usually they come with the device you’re installing. If not, 8/32 machine screws are what you use with lights, and they’re easy to find at any hardware store.

  19. Thanks for this…love your sense of humour.

  20. Jen

    Love it! I have been trying to find some simple plans for this light fixture for months. We bought a lakehouse over the summer and have a shoestring budget to decorate it. I can’t thank you enough. I’ll send a picture when I get done!

  21. Pingback: Green Living: 8 Mason Jar Craft Ideas to Try Around Your Home | Casa Diseño

  22. belinda

    on hgtv i saw a light fixture/chandelier using dozens of mason jars. the fixture was long like the long dining room table it hung over. any ideas on how to make that at home?

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  26. lindsay larose

    does anyone know if this idea would work with a pull chain fixture?

  27. Pingback: » Blog Archiv » What Can You Do with a Mason Jar?

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