I discovered this Atomic Pendant Lamp by Jeff Schneider on one of my virtual strolls through Apartment Therapy and was immediately drawn to its bubbly nature — thanks to over 400 ping pong balls and a hot glue gun. Jeff was kind enough to share his DIY instructions with anyone looking for a crafty light on an even lighter budget.
Step by step instructions from Jeff himself (with fab green tips thrown in):
1. Have a handyman install a hanging bulb (how about an energy-saving compact fluorescent) on a plastic arm, spray painted silver with a hoop above it to support a lampshade.
2. Purchase a spherical paper Chinese lantern with wire as the base of the structure. Wood will not work as you will have to remove the Chinese lantern after you have created your ping-pong sphere. the wire unravels easily.
Make certain that the hooks on top of your lantern will attach to the spider or hoop attached to your hanging arm. If not, leave more space at the top of your lantern for the hoop and you will attach hooks later.
Take into account how the size the ping-pong balls will add to your lantern. An 18″ round lantern worked well for me as my foyer is high and rather large.
2. Buy seamless ping-pong balls (or try collecting recycled ping pong balls from your local rec center or online at gigoit). Although they say they are seamless, there is a seam on the inside, which will be visible (i’ll let you know how to deal with these in step #3). I needed a bit over 435 ping-pong balls for my 18″ lantern and purchased them from Robbins Table Tennis.
3. Glue the ping-pong balls together around the bottom of the Chinese lantern. Continue to glue, using a small amount everywhere the ping-pong balls touch. starting at the bottom, you can determine if you would like a small opening or if you would like the sphere covered completely. In addition, by starting at the bottom, if you end up with an odd space at the top… who cares? Who’s going to see it?
If you do not want to paint the ping-pong sphere after assembly, color test some of the clear glues. I used superglue, which yellowed as it dried, but made for a very strong sphere. If you do not paint, your shade will be have a yellow hue as the ping pong balls themselves are off-white.
Make certain that the seams of the ping-pong balls are parallel to the sphere so that they won’t be visible. this sounds like a pain, but it’s really worth it. I learned as I went along and didn’t match up the seams or make certain they were parallel to the sphere and you can see them. In other words, look at the ping-pong ball from the direction it is facing out… you shouldn’t be able to see a seam from that angle. once you get going, the process moves along quickly, especially with a fast-drying glue.
4. When the sphere is complete:
start delicately removing the wire from the lantern. The wire and paper will come out easily.
If the top ring of your lantern (with the hooks) attaches to your spider or hoop, keep that top ring and glue it to your top ring of ping-pong balls.
If the opening of your shade is still too small for your spider or hoop, do what I did. take an exacto knife and start removing ping-pong balls, cutting at the glue between them until you have a gap large enough to place over the hoop or spider. Take that top ring of the chinese lantern, cut it with wire cutters and size it to your new opening and glue it to your top ring of ping-pong balls
5. If you want to paint the sphere buy some type of high heat resistant paint meant for radiators, etc. (hmm, anyone know a green alternative here?). I was lucky enough to be able to use an empty apartment in my building that was being renovated.Iif you don’t have a space available, find a large box, buy some clear plastic. Hang your sphere inside the box attached to a dowel so you can turn it. Spray in very light coats, multiple times. Maybe you can find an auto body shop? I’m certain they could do a great job.
Feel free to e-mail Jeff if you have any questions about the project. Thanks Jeff!