This is a project I’ve been wanting to do for a VERY LONG TIME! We’ll get into why it took so long for me to complete it later. My inspiration originally came from this light fixture sold by Pottery Barn:
I, like most other people who have seen it, shuddered at the price. Although it is a good price for such an amazing light fixture, I just didn’t want to drop $400 on a light (because I am a chronic cheap-ass). SO the search was on for a DIY version. I learned about and practiced electrical wiring in a few of my college courses so I had no fears about taking on a DIY light fixture.
I found several tutorials for such a chandelier. Some were awful, some were good but missing details, others were overly-complicated for no reason. I realized I was kind of on my own with this one so I took inspiration from some of the better tutorials and proceeded to make up my own plan. Well it SUCKED! This whole project was such a pain because I ran into obstacles at EVERY. SINGLE. STEP. Here is a breakdown of some of the trouble I experienced:
- There is not one piece of lumber in this state that isn’t all sorts of jacked and warped. If I had certain luxuries at my disposal I could have ran a decent piece through a planer but alas, I am not so lucky. I finally found an OK panel. It was still so warped that it made it very difficult to put the box together and the end result is obviously not perfect. But after a lot of distress, I decided it will just have to be imperfect and that will make it rustic…
- It also didn’t help that the only saw we have at the new house is a circular saw with a blade that deserved retirement many moons ago. If we had a miter box here, the cuts would have been easier to make and a lot cleaner…one day I will get all the tools here from the in-law’s house.
- The wood also split about 5 times when I was trying to put it together before I finally stopped acting brain-dead and drilled pilot holes (come on Alison, you know better!)
- The particular type of wood I purchased had some sort of waxy coating on it (in hind-sight I think it was paint grade but it was the ONLY piece of lumber that had the dimensions I wanted) so it took FOREVER for the stain to dry and it didn’t look right afterwards so I decided to faux-whitewash it…again imperfections=rustic right?
- There are 30 bagillion kinds of keyless sockets that I know of but according to many tutorials, one specific design would work best for this project. This kind however was not in the electrical area of ANY home improvement store I went to. Turns out they’re in a tiny nearly-hidden area near the ceiling fans…no help to any employees of said stores.
- The brass nipples that would fit into the sockets need to be 1 inch long. Well there are no nipples in ANY of the hardware areas that are 1in long AND will fit the sockets. After more tedious searching, it turns out they too are in that tiny area near the fans HOWEVER, they only come in 6 inch lengths. Which means we needed to buy an angle grinder and a cutting wheel to cut them into 1 inch lengths.
- Then after more frustration, it was obvious the ends needed grinding down because cutting them produced sharp jagged edges that made it impossible to thread them into the sockets.
- The hex nuts I needed were also in that area…which I only realized after several trips spent searching every drawer I’m accustom to finding hex nuts in. But these only come in 16-pack sets of various sizes so I had to buy 2 packs and sort out the ones I needed.
- I originally wanted all the jars to hang at the same length, therefore I cut all my wires at the same length….well all of the stress from this project must have been killing my brain and impairing my usually immaculate thought process because in order for the jars to hang at the same length, some of the wires need to be longer. Otherwise how would they all be able to meet in the middle to connect together? I realized this one night when I was laying in bed trying to go to sleep (ironically when I thought I finally got a leg up on this project and all the hell it was causing.) Rather than buying more wire, re-cutting it at the various lengths, and rewiring the sockets, I decided the jars would just hang at different lengths and although I like it better this way, it was still another problem encountered.
Because this project proposed infuriating difficulties at every turn, I did not take many pictures as I went along. I cursed it about 50 times and I constantly threatened to do-away with the whole thing and just buy one. Now that it is hooked up and mounted, I LOVE IT! I imagine it will be super straight forward and simple if I ever make another but I’ll admit, this first one was nearly impossible.
Before I continue on to the tutorial part, I realize this project was an ass and I definitely laid out a lot of anger up there. I did this because I either A.) want you to know what hell I experienced so you can try to avoid those issues or B.) convince you to just buy one if you’re not an experienced DIY’er. But either way, here is a reminder of how beautiful it is.
Okay so here is a supplies list:
- 8 jars of your choice (I wanted true vintage ones from the 1910-1920s rather than new ones. Prepare to be patient if you feel the same, most people charge way too much for them)
- Wood for the box (I used [one] 1”x12”x36” pine panel for the bottom and [two] 1”x3”x6’softwood boards cut into pieces for the sides)
- Wood screws, #6x 1.75”
- One 1”x2”x6’ piece of softwood for a frame to mount the box on to
- Self-Drilling Drywall Anchors with #8 x1.5” Screws (they’re huge and hold a lot of weight!)
- 18-2 Lamp Cord at 25ft length
- 8 Keyless Sockets (Portfolio brand Lamp Sockets, they come in a 2 pack)
- 8 (1 inch) 1/8 IP threaded brass nipples (The ones that will fit are also Portfolio brand but 6 inches long so they need to be cut, also come in a 2 pack)
- 8 hex nuts to fit nipples
- 8 candelabra light bulbs, 15W. I wanted LED bulbs because they don’t produce heat but they’re super expensive so it’ll have to wait.
- 4 wire caps (2 for wires in box, 2 to connect to ceiling wires). I recommend buying a multi-pack with various sizes so you’re sure you have the right size you’ll need.
- Wood stain of choice and white acrylic paint if you want to whitewash for a vintage look
- Black acrylic paint for cords. You could use whatever color you like or leave them unpainted. Get creative with whatever look you want
Fairly straight forward and simple when you think about it.
- Saw (circular or miter/chop saw)
- Angle grinder with a cutting wheel and a grinding wheel
- 1/16” drill bit for #6 screw pilot holes
- 5/64” drill bit for #8 screw pilot holes
- 1/4” drill bit for holes wires go through
- Wire strippers/cutter
- Hammer & nail (for poking holes in the jar lids)
- A ladder
I spent about $50 on the jars (including shipping, which cost almost as much as the jars), roughly $13-14 on the wood for the box and frame, $40 on the electrical components (cord, sockets, nipples, hex nuts, caps), $7-8 on screws and anchors, $6 for light bulbs, and $30 for the angle grinder and cutting wheel I needed for the nipples. Everything else I already had on hand. Most mason jar lights I have found online range from $300-500.
I built this one for approximately $140-150, including the angle grinder purchase!
Here is how I made it:
- Make all cuts in wood (cut the sides to the length of bottom piece [36”] and then cut ends to fit), drill pilot holes and connect the bottom, sides and ends with the #6 screws. You should end up with a crate/box with the top open.
- Stain or paint the wood the color of your choice. To make mine look more worn, I lightly brushed on a faux whitewash made of 1 part white acrylic paint and 3 parts water.
- Drill holes with the ¼” bit in the bottom of the box- wherever you want your wires to come through.
- Let’s change gears and move on to making a frame to mount on the ceiling (your box will later mount onto this frame). Measure the inside of your box and make the appropriate cuts in the 1”x2”x6’ piece of wood to create a rectangle that fits snuggly inside the box. Drill pilot holes in the frame and attach the frame to the ceiling using the #8 size anchors (use the directions on the bag/box of anchors).
- Use a hammer and a nail to poke a large hole in the middle of each lid- big enough to fit the nipple through. The zinc lids are soft so after I poked 2 or 3 small holes in a tight bunch, I stuck a screwdriver through and rotated it around to make the hole big enough. Also poke 5 or 6 small holes all around the big hole for heat ventilation.
- Cut the nipples down to ~1in each and grind the edges to smooth out the jagged pieces left after cutting.
- Thread one hex nut onto the 1in nipple piece and push the nipple through the large hole you made in the lid, then thread the socket onto the end of the nipple (remove cardboard from socket but keep it to put back on later).
Okay now were getting into the wiring. I have to put the disclaimer out there that I am not a licensed electrician and it is highly recommended you consult with one rather than wiring it up yourself. You don’t want to accidentally burn your house down. With this being said, I will give very basic directions on wiring up the light. If you’ve never done electrical work before, please don’t attempt.
- Using wire cutters, cut a piece of lamp cord to the desired length (remember you’ll need a few inches extra for wiring.)
- Separate and strip the ends on one end (back to what I said earlier, if you do not know how much length to separate or how much rubber to strip off, don’t attempt this part of the project alone.) Push the wires through the nipple and separate onto both sides of the socket. I had clear lamp wire so the casings did not show black or white like traditional wires do. So to identify hot and neutral know that smooth casing is hot and ribbed casing is neutral. Hook the wires around the corresponding screws/terminals and tighten. After you’re done wiring the socket, thread it the rest of the way onto the nipple (so the lid is snug between the hex nut and socket) and replace the cardboard.
- I painted the lamp cords black with regular acrylic paint to make it look finished. Remember, spray paint will never cure on rubber so don’t try spray painting it.
- Push the end of the cords through the holes you drilled in the bottom of your box. I recommend not attaching the jars to the lids yet. You’re just making sure they hang at a good length right now, it would suck to accidentally drop one and break it.
- Separate and strip the wires on the other end. Gather all of the neutral wires in one bundle and all of the hot wires in another.
- Now make a pig tail to connect the jar wires to the ceiling connections. I recommend making a long enough pig tail so your box can sit on top of the ladder while you wire things together. I did not do this and it sucked making my husband hold it up while I connected everything.
- Attach one end of the pigtail to the wires coming from the jars (neutral with neutral, hot with hot) and gently tighten/twist them together with a wire cap. Attach the other end of the pigtail to the wires in your ceiling using the same method (your ceiling wires will be black coated for hot, white coated for neutral and bare copper for ground. Remember, lamp wire only has hot and neutral, no ground).
- After the wiring is complete, test it to make sure it works. If it does, push the box up to the ceiling and carefully position over the frame you mounted earlier. Drill pilot holes (in the side of the frame and the box) and use the #6 screws to attach the box to the frame.
- Screw in the light bulbs and then attach the jars to the lids.
And that’s it! Look how gorgeous it is! Definitely completes the space! I am 1 step closer to a house reveal post!
For more help, here are the 3 tutorials that inspired/helped me the most during my research stage-
- This is the tutorial I found that inspired me to use blue jars. I also love how she used 4×4’s instead of a hollow box but decided a hollow box would be better to hold the wires and would add less weight. But this tutorial is still a great start to gather inspiration! http://www.brandisawyer.com/2013/11/mason-jar-chandelier.html
- This tutorial helped me figure out the best way to mount a hollow box onto the ceiling. I almost gave up on having a hollow box until I found this site! Also, for those who want a lot less electrical work to do, she has a great method: http://www.sproutingoff.com/indoor-project-mason-jar-chandelier/
- If you want more of a hanging cluster of jars (which is super popular!) then this is a GREAT tutorial. She also has posted pictures of the materials which was helpful when I couldn’t find the specific sockets – http://karapaslaydesigns.com/diy-mason-jar-chandelier/
THANKS FOR READING! LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK AND SHARE YOUR OWN TIPS/TRICKS IF YOU HAVE BUILT A JAR LIGHT OF YOUR OWN!
If I was unclear on something in this post PLEASE let me know. I did not take many pictures for this project and I know it is hard to read directions without pictures. Therefore, if you think I could have explained something better or have any questions, just comment below 🙂
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