Happy Halloween everyone! Check out these spooky crystal balls that are made from old candlesticks and glass ornaments. They’re cheap, they’re easy, and they’re absolutely necessary when decorating a spooky house. I’ll show you how to make them and for an added bonus, the images are available for a FREE download at the end of the post.
A NOTE OF GRATITUDE
First, I would like to thank Bev from Flamingotoes.com for inspiring this project. I saw her crystal balls on Pinterest and instantly knew that I had to have some for my house. Her creation is truly ingenious (I don’t know how she figured out to smoke the glass balls for the perfect effect). So I’m grateful to her for sharing her idea. I’ve added more “old world” detailing to my crystal balls, as well as created my own images (which you can download for free at the end). To get started gather everything from the materials list:
- Candlesticks: big and tall, short or fat, new or old (a variety of shapes and sizes will only add to the overall design)
- Glass ornaments or glass globes: the size of bulb needed will depend on what fits your candlesticks. You’ll want a nice, snug fit, but also good proportions. Make sure the ornament isn’t too small for the body of the candlestick or it will look funny. I used two glass globe light fixtures on two of my crystal balls because the candlesticks called for something substantial in size. Be creative, but whatever you use, I strongly suggest glass because creating a smoky effect on plastic is not as effective or easy.
- Trim/Lace: this will be used for adding depth and detail to some of the plainer candlesticks.
- Hot glue gun
- Mod Podge
- Black Spray Paint, flat
- White Wax
- Rub’n Buff, European Gold
- Wax Candle
- Computer Graphix Transparency Film
You can see by the photo above that I didn’t actually use candlesticks for all of my crystal balls, I used vases. I loved the intricate details and the openings were small enough that they could support the end of a glass ornament. If you come across something at a second hand store that you like but it’s not a traditional candlestick, go for it.
First Step to Creating the Crystal Balls: Make Them Look Old
Clean all of your candlesticks or vases and make sure they’re dry. You may find that most of your candlesticks have plenty of visual interest. But if there’s one or two among them that seem too modern or a little plain then get out your lace and trim scraps, maybe some beads, and the hot glue gun. It was important to me that my crystal balls looked very old world, like they came out of an ancient castle or haunted mansion. Using the hot glue attach the trim and beads to the candlestick with the goal of creating the illusion that it’s always been part of the candlestick. It needs to look more organic than a newly crafted item. Don’t worry, it will look a little crazy until it gets painted and aged.
When the hot glue is dry then add a very generous layer of Mod Podge to the trim. Make sure the trim (or lace) is completely saturated and laying totally flat. Once the Mod Podge dries the lace/trim should become very hard and will take on the appearance of “belonging” to the candlestick.
Giving the Crystal Balls a Dark Side
When the trimming is completely dry, it’s time to give all of the candlesticks 2-3 coats of flat black spray paint. Let them thoroughly dry before the next step.
Adding Age and Depth
Now that the candlesticks are dry it’s time to add some aging. First, using white furniture wax give each candlestick a coat, working the wax into all of the crevices. Leave them alone for 20-30 minutes and then buff off the wax from the higher points and areas of the candlesticks. If you don’t like how an area is looking, then use a damp cloth to remove the wax. Keep working with it until you like the results. It should appear as though it’s aged metal. Let the wax set for a few hours before continuing.
Next, we will add the European Gold Rub’n Buff. This product goes a long way, especially if you use acetone (nail polish remover) to dilute it a little. Squeeze a small dab of the European Gold Rub’n Buff on a piece of paper or paper plate. Dip a small paint brush into the acetone and then work into a small amount of the gold. Add the gold to all the high points, or details that you would like to highlight. There are no rules for this. It’s all about your instinct and what you want to bring out on your piece. It’s great to work into the lace and trim to bring out the designs and details. I would caution you to use it sparingly, so as not to overcome the piece. Once the gold has dried, use your fingers or a cloth to buff until it creates a sheen. This will help the piece appear more authentic.
Smoking the Glass Balls
This is the cool part— ahem, really cool part: smoking the glass balls. Now, it is cool, but it can also be dangerous. Please use wisdom and caution when using an open flame. Keep away from children, pets, and anything flammable.
- This step requires a candle. Substitutes will not work.
- Light the candle and hold to the rim opening of the glass ball. As it heats you’ll see smoke begin to fill the ball. This smoke will stain the glass, creating the desired smoky effect.
- Please be careful because the glass will get hot, especially at the opening near the open flame. Let the glass cool and repeat the process and add a little more smoke until it looks the way you want.
- Be cautioned that if you go too dark you won’t be able to see the image through the glass.
- Once the ball has cooled, use a paper towel or napkin to clean all the “smoke” off of the opening, so that it doesn’t rub onto your image.
What if I have a plastic ball?
Okay, do NOT try to smoke the plastic ball with a candle, it will melt. It’s not ideal, but the best way I found to “smoke” plastic is to use a combination of black and brown furniture wax. Rub one color of wax on the inside of the ball with a brush. Leave alone until it hardens and then use a cloth to wipe most of it away, leaving a residue. Repeat with the other color. Work with the wax until you have a “smoked” effect on the plastic ball. It’s not perfect but it’s better than leaving it clear. I do have a plastic crystal ball in the featured photo and you wouldn’t know it.
Printing Out the Images
Here is where you will print out the images onto special transparent paper. The FREE downloadable images are available at the end of this post.
Because the pdf file will most likely not be the right size for your particular crystal balls, I would suggest printing onto regular printer paper first and testing for adjustments. Cut out the image, roll it up and stick into the ball to determine it’s size. The printer paper will not unroll nicely into place like the transparent paper will, so take that into consideration. You may need a pair of tweezers to get the paper back out if it’s not cooperating.
Adjust the images to the correct size and then print onto the transparent film paper. Roll up and insert into each glass ball. Using tweezers adjust the image until you are happy, then glue them to the stem of the glass with a hot glue gun.
The Future is Almost Upon Us
The crystal balls are almost complete. Now take the ball (with the image glued firmly to the stem), add hot glue around the edge of the stem, and insert firmly into the corresponding candlestick. Your crystal ball should be complete!
However, if you find that some of the balls don’t sit flush against the candlestick then here are a couple of suggestions for covering the gap and making the transition nicer.
- Add a velvet bow in a rich green, black, or purple.
- Or, hot glue trim around the neck of the candlestick (making sure to overap the crystal ball just a little). Let it dry, then add a generous layer of Mod Podge. After it hardens, apply some black craft paint. Then add white wax and a little gold Rub’n Buff, so it matches the rest of the piece.
Free Downloadable Crystal Ball Images
Click on the images below to download.
Halloween is so fun and there are so many great projects to work on. I have several projects that I didn’t even get to this season, but there’s always next year. Hopefully you’ve been able to make some spooky delights to add to your collections this year and I really hope that you’ve enjoyed these crystal balls. I wish you a fun, safe, and super creepy Halloween! Until next time! -Jayme