One of my most popular posts is my tutorial on making your own tumbled sea glass using a rock tumbler. I love seeing the projects people are creating using the glass produced with the described in the tutorial. From vase filler to aquarium decoration and all kinds of beach-inspired crafts, it’s fun to follow the comments and the images I’m tagged in on Pinterest as people create using this method. Today, I want to show you one of the projects I’ve made using faux-sea glass from my own tumbler. For a while, I was actually integrating tumbled glass into my resin and acrylic art pieces, but this is a more traditional DIY – I’m breaking out the good old hot glue gun and having a blast!
I can’t totally take the credit for this idea for a sea glass pendant light- I first spotted something similar at a sushi restaurant in downtown Seattle, and the rest is history. I experimented a little and worked out my own method for making a lamp or light that filters through a cylinder covered with tumbled sea glass gems. These instructions are for a pendant light, but you can also convert my method shown in my Tripod to Floor Lamp conversion to create a floor lamp version of this light. The thing I love about this light is that it is lovely to look at whether it’s switched on and illuminated or turned off. A single light is great for illuminating a dark corner, but a few of these could be perfect lighting for a sunny beach house kitchen or a beach-inspired washroom.
Supplies you’ll need
tumbled recycled glass or beach-combed sea glass – thin pieces work best for this project
hot glue for a “pretty good” hold, or quickset epoxy (you’ll need a multi-pack) for an even more secure hold (I recommend the epoxy the light will be placed over people’s heads, or if it may be bumped frequently after it is mounted, OR if you don’t have thin glass and will be using thicker, heavier pieces. The hot glue works but takes a lot of glue to get it to about 97.5% secure)
hardware cloth or sturdy wire mesh – 1/4″ – 1/2″ inch grid width works best. You may wish to spray paint white with an enamel based paint to reduce the show-through of dark metal wires.
A light socket with cord (just like we used in the vintage tripod to floor lamp DIY)
- hot glue gun
- protective gloves
- needle nose pliers
- (OPTIONAL) a basic soldering kit (below, I use a dirt-cheap $10 soldering gun kit. It’s inelegant, but gets the job done and is hands down the best way to secure metal to metal)
For the full tutorial keep reading, but here’s a quick video overview:
To begin, cut hardware cloth, roll, and secure in a cylinder shape
Visualizing the typical size of a pendant light fixture, choose your light size, and cut your hardware cloth to size. Remember that hardware cloth covered with Sea glass will make it about 5% bigger in circumference, and also keep in mind that the glass adds quite a bit of weight. Keeping it a bit on the small side will help make it easier to handle and to hang.
Once cut, roll your hardware cloth into a cylinder. You will need to secure the wire so that it doesn’t unroll during the next steps. There are two ways to do this:
By folding wire:
To secure the cylinder by folding, cut the squares so that straight, exposed wires are left at their longest length. Bend those wires down and insert them into the squares of the opposite edge of hardware cloth. Using needle-nose pliers, fold each of those wires in and back upon itself, forming a secure link between the two edges.
or by soldering:
The bending method above can create a cylinder that is just slightly not-quite cylindrical. Basic soldering can secure the wire cylinder faster and with a more even curve.
If you’re like me, soldering probably sounds a little bit intimidating even if you’ve already got some basic tool know-how and DIY prowess. I promise, learning basic soldering was so much easier than I thought it would be! And starter kits are cheaper than a can of good spray paint. With a cheap little kit that I bought, I’ve been able to repair headphone cables, splice electrical cords, and, like in this project, join two pieces of metal for crafting. Soldering kind of works like a glue that joins metal, but instead of glue it uses metal with a very low molten point.
Whichever method you choose, once your cylinder is sturdy, you can start adding sea glass.
Step two: place wires for the fixture
Before jumping into adding the sea glass baubles all over the soon-to-be pendant light, take a minute to cut three links of wire, bend them in on themselves at each end, and affix them at three-points evenly placed around the cylinder. The wires should extend inside and will be the anchors for attaching the light socket later in this tutorial. For now, just tuck them inside the cylinder and keep moving.
Step 3: affixing Sea glass to your pendant light frame
Honestly, it’s not the easiest thing to attach relatively heavy glass to an extremely porous surface like wire mesh. Be prepared for drips (which eventually, as they drip onto already mounted Sea glass on the opposite side, help create stability in the arrangement) and work on a protected surface. You’ll also need to protect your hands, as burning hot glue, glass, and wire are a sure
If I did this project again, I’d probably switch from hot glue to quickset epoxy. Like hot glue, quickset epoxy has a relatively thick viscosity which makes it suitable for joining and filling the space between uneven pieces of Sea glass and thin metal wires. Quickset epoxy creates a more permanent adhesion than sea glass, especially on a surface, like Sea glass, that’s covered with tiny scrapes and gaps where the hot glue can’t reach.
Keep Gluing Glass On
Work your way around the cylinder, gluing each piece of Sea glass individually. With hot glue, it may help to place of a big glob of glue on a piece of glass and then wait 10 to 20 seconds before pressing it onto the metal frame. Adding the glass isn’t a fast process, I recommend putting on a podcast or favorite TV show as you work your way around the cylinder.
TIP: Cleanup of Hot Glue “Strings”
Hot tip on hot glue cleanup: One of the big complaints about using hot glue on a project like this is the unsightly filaments of glue that remain after the glue has cooled. My trick for removing these thin threads of glue is to take a medium-sized stiff paintbrush and briskly brush down the surface of the project I just completed. The stiff bristles collect and remove the filaments. To remove the filaments from your brush, just swirl it on a towel.
3. Affix Sea glass “shade” to the light socket
Unpackage your light socket and test with a lightbulb before you move on to the next step- just to make sure everything is working. Once you’ve confirmed that your light socket is functional, hold it in place in the center of your cylinder of sea glass and grasp the loose wires put in place and step two. One at a time, wrap each of those wires just above the base of the socket, making sure the wires are snug enough to hold the weight of the Sea glass cylinder.
Once all three wires are secured to the base of the light socket, your light is complete! Hopefully, your light socket came with mounting hardware you can use to mount your light on the ceiling or from a bracket. If you’d like to put your new lamp on a switch, check out my article on wiring a lamp to a switch on the wall wirelessly. If you’d like to turn your news sea glass pendant light into a hardwired fixture that wires and directly to an electrical box in your ceiling, you’ll probably need to consult a licensed electrician who can install a base plate, cut the cord of your lamp, and splice it directly onto existing wiring in your home.
That’s it! Except for gluing the sea glass – which took a little over an hour – this project is incredibly fast – maybe just 5 to 10 minutes! I love my new sea glass lamp and it has me thinking of all sorts of other things I can make using the tumbled glass gems that I’ve created from recycled glass using a rock tumbler.
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Lindsayanne is a professional artist, writer, and serial-DIY-er with a knack for solving problems creatively at home, in the studio, out in the garden, and even online. Learn more about Lindsay, her training, and her background here.