Mason Jar Solar Lights

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Power up in the sun during the day for “free” lighting at night.

RM made these energy efficient solar lights last week-end to use on the tables at the Ashland Memorial Day Fish Fry.  The lights give off a nice glow and serve in a bonus capacity as a weight  to hold down the tablecloths if you are dining out on a breezy night. This easy project uses wide-mouth mason jars, with each lid’s metal insert replaced by a piece of plexiglass to allow the sun’s rays to power the solar cell through the lid. RM sandblasted the interior of the jars but you can  coat the interiors of the jars with Rust-Oleum’s Frosted Glass Spray (about $9; rustoleum.com) to give the lanterns a hazy, aged-patina look, and glued the solar-cell assembly of a mini pathway light from the home center or Walmart (less than $3 each) to the underside of each lid. Once assembled, leave the lights in a spot where they’ll get direct sun, and you’ll never be left in the dark again.

Step 1: Remove the lids from the mason jars and set aside. Spray the interiors of the jars with a light, even coating of frosted-glass spray. Place the jars right-side up to dry.

Step 2:  While the jars are drying, remove the metal inserts from the lids. Use a permanent marker to trace the shapes of the inserts onto the plexiglass sheet.

Step 3:  Use aviator snips to cut out the plexiglass circles. (We found it easiest to cut a square around each circle and then trim off the corners.) Smooth rough spots with sandpaper until the circles fit inside the lid rings.

Step 4:  Remove the top portion of each stake light, which houses the solar cell and lightbulb. Apply glue to the perimeter of a solar cell and press it onto the center of a plexiglass circle. Repeat for the remaining lights.

Step 5:  When the glue is dry, assemble each lantern by inserting the circle into the lid ring and screwing the ring to the jar. Set your finished lights where they’ll receive direct sun, and watch them glow in the dark later on.

Shopping list:

  • Three wide-mouth mason jars in various sizes
  • One 8-by-10-inch plexiglass sheet, about 0.05 inch thick
  • Rust-Oleum Frosted Glass spray
  • Three mini stainless-steel solar stake lights, about 2.5 inches in diameter
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Super glue

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