Clear glass Christmas ornaments are really popular, and part of that is because they’re so easy to fill with your own creative embellishments. Add sand, or glitter, or trinkets, and instantly you have your very own, personalized, custom-designed Christmas ornament.
You don’t have to buy those clear glass ornaments new from the store, however; an incandescent light bulb is a perfect substitute. It’s just as beautiful, it works just as well as the store-bought clear ornaments, and it costs absolutely nothing to obtain. What’s more, by choosing to upcycle this light bulb rather than buy a new ornament, you’re removing not just the old light bulb from the waste stream, but also the packaging for whatever you now don’t have to buy.
Here’s how to turn an incandescent light bulb into a hollow light bulb Christmas ornament:
NOTE: This is an excellent kid craft, so don’t hog all the fun for yourself!
1. Hollow out an incandescent light bulb. This part is NOT an excellent kid craft, so grab your safety goggles and your needle-nosed pliers and do it yourself. Here’s my tutorial for exactly how to hollow out a light bulb.
2. Want to paint the metal socket? Do it now! Lay some painter’s tape across the edge of the socket, so that you don’t have to scrape dried paint off of the glass bulb later.
3. Set the light bulb in a base. We generally use egg cups, but a cardboard egg carton turned upside-down, with the bottoms of the egg holders cut out, also works really well, and would be a better solution in general if you’ll be crafting with several hollow light bulbs in one batch.
4. Fill the bulb. For the particular project in these photos, I let the kids fill the light bulbs with sand and glitter, just as they do when making colored sand art in upcycled glass containers.
To make this part of the project easier, lay a large terrycloth towel underneath your work space (spilled sand and glitter particles won’t bounce off of it the way they will off of other surfaces), and then make a funnel out of scratch paper and some tape. For the kids, I even tape the funnel to the light bulb, or else they’d be funneling sand and glitter all over the place.
I wouldn’t recommend letting your kids do this exactly the way mine are, however, unless you also plan to get a pretty sturdy Christmas tree–a light bulb full of sand is heavier than your general run of ornaments. If you do let them fill the bulb like this, then make sure that you fill it all the way up, or the sand/glitter will get shaken around as the ornament is moved, and it won’t be long before it’s all just a muddle. I top off every ornament with either sand or salt, all the way to the top of the socket, to make sure that nothing will ever shift inside.
5. Make an ornament top. The only real trick to turning this hollow light bulb into an ornament is making a topper for it, and that’s easy. Collect a beer cap, paint it so that it’s pretty, then use a hammer and nail to punch a hole right in the center. Cut a length of wire and poke both ends through the top of the bottle. Twist the wire together, hot glue it so it won’t come loose, and you’ve got an ornament top!
Hot glue the ornament top to the top of your light bulb ornament, and it’s ready for your tree.
These ornaments also look great filled only slightly, perhaps with sand from your last beach vacation, or iridescently-dyed Epsom salts, or even a couple of small, treasured toys from someone’s childhood. I don’t think they even look like light bulbs once they’re finished, but I can’t decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing… Can you?