Monday, 12 January 2015

diy lighted glass block {christmas decoration}

This year we made these wonderful lighted glass blocks. We seemed to see them in every home that we visited in when we were in the US last Christmas. I love them!

They are very simple to put together once you have all the bits and pieces. That's the trickiest thing about making one of these - getting all the bits required (in Australia anyway!).

There are only four items required to make a lighted glass block; the glass block (are you surprised?), battery operated lights, a silhouette for the front and a piece of ribbon. Easy peasy.
I think that sourcing glass blocks at a favourable price must be much easier in the US than in Australia. I was able to track down some blocks in a variety of Bunnings stores for $3.95 each. They are called Mist and are not a regular item at Bunnings. If you live in Australia and would like to make your own I would suggest that you call your local Bunnings store first. Some of the large Bunnings warehouses had none while some of the small stores did. They are a promotional item that come and go, so you just have to try your luck.

If you are willing to pay more (I wasn't!), specialty glass block suppliers sell blocks that start around $8.
This is probably a good time to mention that if you are going to the trouble of making one, you make as well make at least six. Or more. Because as soon as you start you will think of ten more people that you would love to give one to.

So, once you have your glass block you will need to drill a hole in it.
Eli was very excited about this part. He wasn't as excited about driving around to all the Bunnings stores picking up the glass blocks. I wasn't really too fussed on that part either. I know Eli was excited because he continued to wear his safety goggles for hours after I had finished drilling.

We put our glass brick in our vice to keep it still during drilling. I know not everyone has one of these, but don't worry. As you'll find out very soon, you don't actually need one of these.

We taped off a very small area on the side of our glass block to help prevent our drill bit from skipping around. With safety goggles on (and Eli standing well away) the drilling commenced. And went on and on and on.

Don't bother using a glass/tile drill bit. Totally useless. I think it would take you 17 years just to drill one hole.

What you need instead is a diamond encrusted core drill bit (about $20 at Bunnings). I used a 15mm bit and it was perfect!

 The only drawback is that this type of drill bit gets very hot when in use, so it can only be used when wet drilling.
See? I told you that a vice wasn't necessary - not when you can hold the block with your feet!

Oh how I wish I had skinny ankles!

This is a good time to tell you that I used a cordless drill. Don't use an electric drill for wet drilling!!

Each hole took no longer than 90 seconds to drill.
My tip when drilling: Don't go too slow. Find a medium fast speed and your drill bit won't skip along the top of the glass block.
When the drill gets all the way through the thickness of the glass block a 'plug' of glass will drop to the bottom of the block inside. Use the hose to put some water inside the block. Swish it around - this will collect any fragments of glass that came away with the glass 'plug' - and tip it out into a bucket covered with a stocking.
Let the glass blocks dry out completely for a day or two. If there are still a few glass fragments inside once the blocks are dry - you'll be able to see them clearly - just give the block a few gentle taps and the fragment(s) will fall out through your drilled hole.

Once your hole is drilled the rest is fast, easy and fun.

Choose your vinyl silhouette and peel off the thicker paper backing. I purchase my vinyls from Candice at Vinylized Crafts on etsy. I was ordering more than 30, so upon enquiry, Candice was able to reduce her regular price for me.
 For friends or family who I wasn't sure would feel comfortable with a nativity I made a word Christmas tree lighted block.

Make sure that your drilled hole is at the bottom and rear of your block before you apply the vinyl. Also give your block a quick wipe and ensure the surface where the vinyl will be applied is dry.
The Bunnings glass blocks came with a chalky, white paint around the outside edges. I scraped it off one block - it took a lot of effort and a lot of time - but left it on for all the others. You don't see it when the ribbon is tied around the outside.

Place your vinyl on the front of the block. Hover over the block first to help centre the vinyl before allowing it to contact the block.
 Peel off the front paper covering the vinyl.
I told you it was easy, fast and fun!

Insert a 20 LED string of lights through the drilled hole. The battery end will stay outside the block; just tuck it behind the block so it isn't seen.

I used white lights for the nativities and coloured lights for the trees. I bought these at Bunnings and Masters (hardware stores) for $2 and $1.50 respectively. I preferred the Bunnings lights, as they came with the two AA batteries required. They're great - they have a switch to turn the lights on and off.
 Tie a bow around the outside of the block and trim the ends of the ribbon. I found that 1.3m of ribbon was a perfect length. I used wide, glitter ribbon for the trees and red hessian ribbon for the nativities. I found both of these at Red Dot for $3 or $4 for a 3m roll.
 And you are done! Isn't it pretty?

I can see myself making more of these. Provided I can find some more glass blocks!


  1. Wow, these are so clever and fun. Thanks for showing us how they are made. They could be fun as a nightlight for a childs room too, with their name perhaps.

  2. These are so cool, Jeneta! What a fab tutorial. Thanks for ironing out all the kinks in the "how to" making it easy for us. Oh......and about your ankles....alas...... I have cankles!!!

  3. Such a detailed tutorial - anyone wanting to make one will have no troubles. They look wonderful, especially all lit up - clever you!!

  4. Jeneta . . your creativity never ceases to amaze me!
    And I love how you write! . . your stories are always amusing.
    Dear little Eli . . what a cheap Xmas idea - goggles!

  5. I love these! I'll have to remember this idea for next Christmas! :0)

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