Building an Antique Canning Jar Light

| 3/29/2011 1:49:00 PM

GRIT Editor Hank Will at the wheel of his 1964 IH pickup.As part of the kitchen make over at our 104 year old farmhouse, my Partner In Culinary Crime and I decided to build an antique canning jar light to replace the shabby 1970s vintage fixture that dangled over the sink. We sourced an old Mason jar with a tin screw-on lid at the local antique store and I dug through a box of outdoor electrical junk I had collected over the years and came up with a plan. We did stop at our local big-box home improvement store for a pull switch and small-diameter 40 watt bulb to help it all come together. We opted for a rigid stalk-mount on our antique canning jar light but you could just as easily make it a pendant if you use electrical cord rated to bear sufficient weight.

Antique Canning Jar Light -- on 

After rummaging around for a bit, I decided to use parts from a motion-activated outdoor light that came from the old mud room as it was torn off the house. This fixture included a weather-resistant surface-mount box and with two light stalks and one motion sensor screwed into its cover. The parts were black so my PICC spray painted them with heat-resistant paint to more or less match the antique canning jar's weathered tin lid. Since the old light fixture was hard-wired without a wall switch, I knew I would need to install a new pull-switch in the unit or tear out a bunch of wall. Surprise, surprise, I opted to drill the cover for a new pull switch. Basically, I relocated one of the light sockets to the cover's center hole, installed screw-in plugs in the other holes and drilled a 3/8 inch hole to accommodate the new pull switch. The surface-mount box was plenty large to contain the switch and wiring.

Since the canning jar's lid had a glass liner, I smacked it with a hammer to crack it (safety glasses a must) and it came out without damaging the tin lid. Next I took my 1.5-inch diameter hole saw and chucked it into my trusty Milwaukee 1/2-inch chuck Hole Shooter and slowly and carefully cut a 1.5-inch diameter hole in the center of the tin lid. You need to be a little careful here because it is tough to clamp the lid without distorting it  but if the hole saw grips while spinning fast, there's a decent chance for some serious rash on your hand. I have lots of experience cutting holes in sheet metal with hole saws so I managed to make the cut with no damage to my hands or the lid.

Antique Canning Jar Light - off 

I needed to remove the light stalk from the box to slip the canning jar lid down over the inboard socket end. The socket was molded with a flare and small flange, so I carefully pressed the canning jar lid down the taper to rest against the flange. After reinstalling the stalk, I wired it up (power was off to that circuit), buttoned it up, flipped the breaker and voila, light. This project was quick, fun and didn't cost much. If you had to purchase the parts you would be out a minimum of about $20 depending on the antique canning jar market in your area.

Hank Will_2
3/31/2011 1:55:07 PM

Thanks for your kind words, Sherry.

Sherry 'Woodswoman'
3/30/2011 9:47:44 PM

Thanks for sharing Hank~! Love it!

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