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Hot Air Balloon light bulb

the finished productsStep by step instructions showing how to Upcycle an old unwanted light bulb into beautiful Upcycled mini hot air balloons.

Upcycle turns the lights back on!

Upcycle, run by Winnie McHenry and her team, have done wonders with their recycling knowledge.  You wouldn’t expect to have a use for old light bulbs, but after receiving a brief to create a corporate 3D invatation for an “Around the world in 80 days” year end finction, Winnie turned used bulbs into the most amazing mini Hot Air balloon to dazzle and inspire guests.

In a simple process, the light bulbs were coated with colourful streamers using an découpage technique and voila, a useless light bulb was transformed into a colourful base to work from.  Adding a little paint some string and a few extra touches and each light bulb was transformed into a mini Hot Air Balloon.

String was then fashioned into a basket by way of winding string around a suitably sized mould, gluing it and letting the whole thing set.

Trying this at home, you can add fantastic detail by using beads, coloured string, gold or silver chains and paint to decorate bulbs to your desired look

Your balloons will be fantastic as invitations, party decoration, Christmas tree ornaments and, no doubt, plenty of occasions we haven't mentioned.

What you will need to make your mini hot air balloon

Light bulbs
Pliers
Bench grinder
Modge podge
Paint brush
Serviettes
String
Glue and glue gun
Masking tape
Assortment of beading charms
Beading chain

Step 1

Start out by removing the base of the bulb and the internal filaments. This is important only if you are going for a clear or transparent design balloon. In this project we are going to cover the bulb with tissue so it is not essential to remove the internals but it does make it easier to store the bulbs between steps. To remove the base you can use a grinding stone / bench grinder to take off all the black sealing glass till it reaches the level of the metal of the bulb. Please ensure you are wearing protective goggles when you do this as the glasses will be hot and chip while you are grinding it.
grinding off lightbulbs bottoms

Step2

With a ball point hammer, using the ball side, break out the rest of glass by tapping it firmly but not so hard as to break the bulb. You may need to use needle point or long nose pliers to remove any scraps of glass left behind.  Now insert the pliers into the glass as deep as the internals will let you and with the side of the hammer gently tap the back of the pliers handles till the filament breaks free. Tip the bulb up and shake till you see the base of the filament peeking out and using your pliers again remove the filament.
lightbulbs with bottoms cut off ready to be painted

Step3

Next you need to make the basket that will be used at the end, this is so that it will give the wood glue sufficient time to dry. Find an empty pill container that can be used as a mould for your basket. Take a 30cm length of rough string make a spiral between two fingers the size of the base of the pill container. Press this spiral onto a bit of masking tape so that it retains its shape and then soccer it with a generous amount of wood glue so that it holds it shape when dry. The next step is a bit tricky as you need to hold the spiral against the base of the pill container avid getting the tape in the way and wrap the string around the container.
making lightbulb baskets for hotair balloons

Step4

With the spiral on the base, you move the tape away and let it dangle down away from the container. From your bottle put a generous amount of glue directly onto the container, not too much as it will squeeze past the string and give you shiny spots on your “basket”. Now spiral the string around the container till it is about 1.5 cm high. End off so that the end of the string is under a bit of tape as you fold up the ends of the tape against the sides of the string and onto the pill container to hold it all in place while it is drying.
little string buskets drying

Step5

Apply a little modge podge to the globe with a soft brush then place a bit of the tissue you have selected to the podge wetted surface and then with your soft brush, brush the tissue down so that it is flat on the glass and completely stuck. Make sure you have sufficient amount of podge on your brush when you do this so that it does not tare the tissue apart as you brush it. Set globes aside and allow too dry.
modge podge light globe

Step6

Decorate the base tissue with anything you want. In this project we are going to use a combination of dots, chain, beading charms and gold liquid lead. For the spots we used 2 methods; namely cutting the dots from coloured tissue and sponging the dots on with a template.

If you going to use the first method you just cut round dots from different coloured tissue and podge them on to the globe dispersing them evenly as we did here with 5 dots. We made a template that wrapped around the light bulb with small holes cut in it so that we could with a markign pen make a small dot on the bulb to help with placement of the tissue and also to help keep all the dots in a line
marking spots for circles on a lightbulb sticking on the decor wraping the lightbulb with colourfull circles

When you use a template you cut a circle from a section of acetate make it so that the border around the dot is a minimum of one finger width. We used a 50c piece as the size of our dot on the cut out, the best way to check if it is too big is to place it against the side of the bulb and then held in place it should fit snugly all way round the hole to avoid the paint “bleeding” under the edge of the template. Then take a sponge and touch it gently to the pain and then dry it off a little against a bit of plastic, this is to make sure that there is not too much paint on your sponge when you apply it to the decoupage bulb. Gently dab the sponge to the bulb till you have completely covered the open area of the template and made the spot on the bulb.
sponging colourful dots on a lightbulb

Set aside to dry for a short bit between making spots on your globe to prevent smudging by accidently touching the wet paint when you place the next spot.

If you do make a little mess do not worry you can take a sharp craft knife once thoroughly dry and cut the messed up spot off and stat again by adding base tissue to the exposed area.

Set them to one side now and let dry.
lightbulbs ready to dry

Step7

Take your gold liner and starting from the top dead center of the globe draw a line down the side so that it runs between 2 of the spots stopping in line with the center of the spot. Complete all the top lines first then from the end of one line draw an arc with the gold liquid lead over the top of each spot to meet up with the end of the neighboring line.

Set aside to dry

Step8

in our example we took fine gold coloured chain, starting from the end of the gold liquid lead lines attached one end of the chain to the end of the line on the globe with a small spot of hot glue. Next you attach the chain to the neighboring point on the next line, leaving enough slack in the chain so that it hangs underneath the spot that you are crossing. When you get to the last point and now have to attach the chain to the start point, before you glue it into place measure the length you need cut the chain and then attach it to the start point.
being creative with the decor

Step9

Hide all the hot glue we used to hold the chain in place we then took little star shaped metal beads and attached them over each of the points where the chain was glued to the light bulb. We did this also with a tiny spot of hot glue.

Be careful not to burn your fingers when working with the hot glue gun, of you are making several globes at once we find it a good thing to turn off the glue gun and let it cool every now and then so that the gun and glue does not get too hot. When it gets too hot you will find that too much glue come out of the gun and you end up making a mess.

Step10

Take your basket that you made in previous steps above and attach the 4 “rope” bits to the basket and then these to the balloon to replicate the look in the real hot air balloons. To do this you will cut 4 bits, 4cm in length, of the same string used in making the basket. With hot glue place a small line of glue on the side of the basket and press the string into this line. Then do the same with the other 3 bits each one opposite the other. Give it a few minutes to cool before going onto the sext step.
gluing on strings on the baskets

Step11

To get the stings all even and at the right length we attached the top part of the string temporarily in place with an elastic band. You can now adjust the length and position of the strings so that they are evenly spaced and of equal length. Once again glue into place with hot glue. If you have use nice small elastics you can just leave it in place as we shall hide it in the next step.
attaching the baskets to the lightbulbs

Step12

Cut a length of braiding or ribbon about 40cm long. This you then going to attach again with hot glue at the top of one of the stings on the bulb. Now spiral wrap it around he exposed metal part of the light bulb so that it hides the metal and the string attaching the basket to the bulb at the same time. Every now and then place a small dot of hot glue so that it keeps the string or ribbon in place. You should end off with the last bit of sting just hiding the bottom of the metal of the bulb, place a dot of hot glue and tuck the string up and into the opening of the bulb we created in step 1 and 2.
adding a colourful string to the bottom of the hotair balloon waiting for the hot air balloons to dry

In this example we did not suspend the balloon but placed it in a box that was then sent to people with an invitation to join them at an event.
packaging the hot air balloon with the invitations done and ready hot air balloon

If you wish you could have taken a silver / metallic bead like the one used to hid the chain, threaded a length of gut though the bead and used a crimp to stop pulling though. This you can then hot glue to the top of the hot air balloon so that you can suspend it.

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