DIYdiy projects

diy project: whitney’s mason jar lights

by Grace Bonney

growing up in the south, i have a special place in my heart for mason jars. i enjoy them filled to the brim with icy sweet tea, but this fun project from d*s reader whitney gaylord may be my new favorite way to enjoy them. unlike most of our other diy projects, this one will require a bit of professional help (installing anything involving electricity is no joke) but the majority of the steps are easy to handle and will require only a quick call to your local electrician (home depot offers these services, too) to install the final project. click here for the full instructions or just click “read more” below – thanks to whitney for sharing!

mason jar lights

what you’ll need:
-vintage mason jars
-hanging lamp kit with low wattage bulbs (try your local lighting store, home depot or lowes)
-ceiling light plate

1. punch holes in each mason jar lid, large enough to fit the light bulb cords through (appx. 1 inch). as always, be safe and use gloves and a steady hand when punching holes. to punch the hole you can use either a hammer and nails (which you’ll need to then widen for the cords) or a larger tool that you can tap through.

2. unscrew the lid, insert the bulbs into each jar, feeding the cord through the holes in the lid. whitney suggests using a lamp kit that includes tension clasps to keep the bulb from sliding.

3. tighten the lid back on the jar and adjust the bulb to its desired height (using the tension clasps).

4. using a store-bought ceiling light plate- drill holes into the plate to pull all of your cords through (depending on how many jar-lights you will be hanging). pull the lights through, allowing enough cord to hang the lights at your desired height, and then tie a knot at the top to keep them from falling back through the ceiling plate.

5. contact your local electrician to install the lights into your ceiling- we do not suggest trying to install these yourself unless you’re a trained electrician.

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  • This project is wonderful. My boyfriend’s grandma just passed away and she was known for her wide use of old (and often rusty) mason jars. This will be the perfect DIY project to remember her by!

  • These are so simple and clever. I love it! Is there anything a Bell jar can’t make better? Thanks for sharing great stuff everyday(:

  • i love the project! i too have a soft spot for old mason jars…

    is it okay to have jars closed up like that with lighting in them? don’t you need to cut off the bottom of the jars?

  • Anyone have a link to someplace where I can find a “tension clasp”? Sounds like exactly what I need for another pendant lamp project I haven’t been able to complete.

  • Cheryl, I saw this in Anthropologie too, in Baltimore! I loved it; there were around 50 jars and they “washed” the jars in yellow paint so it gave off a lovely golden haze. They flipped the jars though and cut holes in the bottom for the lights. No lids.

  • Is there some kind of creative mindmeld going on in the universe right now? This is the second idea that I have had recently that I thought of and then within 2 or 3 days – see it on a blog! Unbelievable.

  • That is so awesome. We use all of our old spaghetti and jam jars for drinking glasses. They are the best. And totally green! I love that lighting idea.

  • hello! i absolutely love this and want to know if i can get my hands on some beautiful vintage mason jars from somewhere on the internet, ive tried ebay but it doesnt come up with much!

    reason im asking is i live in the uk.

  • These are really beautiful! It seems like you could reduce the potential “heat build-up” issue by punching more vent holes in the lid- maybe the light escaping onto the ceiling could be a design feature!

  • How fun! Those would be awesome for an outdoor event / party or even a casual wedding reception for an overhead lighting treatment…very, very cool.

  • Too kewl!
    I am imagining them hanging around my deck at nite. Maybe in the old blue jars? Or clear jars with yellow bug lites?
    Low wattage, would that be 25 watts?
    Would heat from the bulbs cause the class to break?
    Has anyone tried and used them for a significant amount of time?

  • Would there be anyway to put strands of those new cool to touch LED christmas lites inside the jars so that it more closely resembled fireflies?

  • Would there be anyway of putting strands of those new cool to the touch LED christmas lites inside the jars? So that they more closely resembled fire flies?

  • I LOVE this project!!!!!! Thanks for sharing.

    (((cat))) I love your suggestion as well (led christmas lights) – that would be awesome too… hmmmmm – how to do it?

  • i started using mason jars as lamps when i graduated from college in 2002. it’s definitely a cheap way to make a beautiful light.

    i never had a problem with using the this kind of lamp for a long period of time, as it was my only light source in my bedroom. i’d try it with compact fluorescent light bulb too. they emit less heat.

    what’s great is if you can get ahold of some lighting gels and insert them into the jars. these are heat-safe, and you can get them from theater supply companies (many you can directly order from online)

  • oh! and you can also install these lamps like you would install a paper lamp. hang it from a hook in your ceiling and run the cord (a black one works best aesthetically imho & clear or black cable tacks) along the ceiling to the wall, and then run it to the outlet. it makes for a pretty minimal “line” addition to your room.

  • This is cool, one idea I saw in an old restaurant once was a wagon wheel with bulbs and the mason jar lids were glued to the wheel and the jars screwed on, the lights hung into the jars through the wheel itself.
    I imagine a light kit, and drill for holes in the wheel and the lids, and voila’

    I thought that was a cool use of old mason jars, but any way of hanging them is cool.

  • Thanks for the great idea! I’m thinking of using 25 volt colored party light bulbs for Christmas lighting also.

  • thoughts on heat build-up:

    with low-wattage incandescents like large xmas tree light bulbs, it probably wouldn’t be too bad, but you could punch some extra holes in the lid for more ventilation. flame-tips seem to generally be about 40w, so that probably would get hot, but then again mason jars are made to be boiled over and over again in the canning process, so they probably would be fine?

    compact fluorescents do emit less heat and (obviously) use less energy, but they are more susceptible to damage from heat build-up than incandescents (shortens their useful lifetime), and above a certain wattage they aren’t recommended for enclosed fixtures, like these jars. they do make smallish candelabra-type CFLs now that are unfortunately pretty hideous but only use about 4-5 watts and would probably be safe with some ventilation holes.

    these really are pretty!

  • Wow! I have some old Blue mason jars which would be gorgeous as a light fixture in my entryway. Beautiful…

  • You may want to put a caution on this one! These get extremely hot even if you use very low wattage. On one of the forums I read years ago about putting Christmas lights (which are very low wattage) into jars on your mantel. They got so hot with the lids on that I was worried they would catch something around them on fire. Evidently the glass heats up really easily. If you leave the lid off it’s much better. Perhaps for the hanging ones you could either drill lots of holes in the tops or replace the lid with screening. Either way it would be a lot safer – there must be air able to get into the jar to keep it from overheating. Thanks!

  • I really like this look!
    I would like to see the top (ceiling) where the light is attached, so I would have a bettter idea of how that was done

  • Wow. I love the mason jar look! Too bad I live in an apartment. I don’t think they’d appreciate me messing with the electrics!

  • I went to Ball State so we use as many Ball jars as possible around the house. This is too cool

  • I used mason jars as lights in my kitchen. Now, six years later, it’s time to change the light bulbs and the jar is stuck to the inner lid. Any ideas on how to break the seal?

  • I LOVE this!!! I really want to do this for my kitchen, but I’m having the hardest time finding the light kit… I’ve tried Lowes and Home Depot, and, as far as I am aware, we have no local lighting store. I also can’t seem to find any online… HELP!

  • Magnifique ! Une magnifique idée pour décorer 2 grands arbres dans le jardin pour un mariage estival et champêtre ! Merci pour cette idée … Je regrette qu’en France, nous ne connaissions pas les pots Mason … mais je vais chercher à me rapprocher de ce design. Top cool !

  • Wonderful! A beautiful idea for decorating 2 large
    trees in the garden for a summer wedding and rural
    ! Thank you for this idea … I regret that in France we do
    Mason jars not know … but I’ll try to
    get closer to this design. Top cool!

  • I’m thinking of making two of these with only 3 jars each to hang as pendants over my kitchen island – anyone have any issue with the light glaring in your eyes? How is the light distribution/spread? I’ll probably hang them high enough so my 6’2″ hubby won’t bonk his head on them, and I’m hoping they’ll add a nice homey touch to my new kitchen. Thanks for the how-to!

  • Drake – I graduated from Ball State U also. There is no shortage of Ball jars in Indiana. Now I’m in Florida and I have two big boxes of vintage Ball jars my Mom got me right before she passed away. I’ve used them with candles (sand in the bottom first) and they make very pretty Christmas lights – inside and outside. Best of all they are best for canning !! LOL

  • Love this look!

    Does anyone have any wisdom about how to get the glass liner out of the zinc lid (if you choose to use that lid)? I totally want to do this when we buy a home. Sad the things you can’t really do when you’re renting :-(

  • This is a fabulous idea. I have so many vintage and new jars that I have had to pass some up at recent sales…I use them for everything!

    For those of you concerned with safety issues, the jars are made for canning and freezing, so they should withhold the temp of a small bulb if they can sit in boiling water. As far as heating up, just make sure it is not anywhere near a place you would bump into.

  • This is a must to for me…I love Mason jars! I am getting married in 2 weeks and Mason jars are my main decor. Love Them!!!

  • Love all the ideas. I’m new to the DIY stuff though, but can’t wait to get into it. I love Mason jars and love the chandelier idea. But I, too, am having a hard time finding a hanging lamp kit. Any help? Thanks! =)

  • hi, did anyone in UK manage to find a hanging lamp kit? I am also struggling to find one?

  • Should I leave my jars with the cloudy look that is on the inside of the jar or should I try to clean it up? Wasn’t sure which way would look the best. What is your thought on this?

  • These do look wonderful in the blue mason jars! I have made 2 using pendant light fixtures and drilling a hole into the lid of the jar to attach the fixture to. Unfortunately, THEY GET EXTREMELY HOT!!! I had to take them down in fear of them exploding. The lids are pretty small and the fixtures that you find in the stores are pretty large in comparison. Therefore, I was unable to drill holes into the lid. I am currently researching how to drill into the bottom of the jar. Wish me luck!

  • I made two and they get hot too…i bought 25watt bulbs to see if that would help but still get hot…think i might try and punch a bunch of holes in the lids

  • I’m using it with a 40W chandelier bulb for looks. I drilled about eight 1/8 or so holes in the top, and a 1″ hole in the bottom using a diamond hole saw (for tile). It’s not much more enclosed than a normal shade. So far it’s working well (about 2 hours), I can touch it without a problem, just a little warm. We’ll see how it goes, I can always put a CFL in it…

  • I found the hanging light cords for these at Ikea for less than $7 each. I put LED bulbs in mine but they are really bright. Wondering if regular low wattage bulbs get too hot?