Bistro Lights DIY

October 30, 2013

This is a repost from one of my favourite bloggers Emma Jane Nation, yes we share the same name whoop :) Her blog is a definite must-read! 

I’ve wanted to buy some bistro lights for my balcony for ages now but have never seen them for sale in shops, so as soon as I saw EJN’s post on how to make your own bistro lights I got so excited and simply had to share it.


What you’ll need

  • Illumination Cable (expect to pay about R12 per metre)
  • Quick Fit Lamp Holders for Illumination cable (about R15-R25 each)
  • Golf Ball Globes (R15 each)
  • Plug point (or wire it into a light switch).
  • Pliers, Screw driver and Insulation tape.
  • Drill, §§§§§Fisher plugs / Screw Eyes may be needed for more  permanent installations.

Step 1: Plan out your layout, you may want to string them between walls, or fit the globes onto the walls (Most lamp holders have 2 screw holes to allow you to easily fix them directly to a wall / roof / rafter). You could also try making up patterns or  words / letters in lights by experimenting with different patterns. We opted for 3 lines of about 5 globes each strung up over our garden. Each globe is about 1m apart.

Step 2: String up the cable. Depending on what you are planning to do, this may require some drilling, nailing or tying up. Make sure the cable is not too tight, and secure enough to take its own weight (plus a little more). You could also choose to secure the lamp holders later instead of the cable if they are going up against a wall or truss. Try not to twist the cable too much.

Step 3: Fit the lamp holders. These are quite nifty. They have 2 small, pointy conductors that pierce into the cable once the lamp holder is tightened. Its quite important to make sure that you have the cable flat and flush with the lamp holder back when tightening it. The holder is designed to push the cable onto the sharp conductors evenly, lining them up perfectly to allow current to flow. The pointy conductors are offset from the centre, so one pierces into the red core and the other pierces into the black core. Tighten these nice and tight.

Step 4: Insulate the far cable end. Using insulation tape,  tape up the red core. Then tape up the black core. Then tape them together. The 2 cores should never touch; if they do, you’re gonna make smoke. You could also use an insulation block or something similar.

Step 5: Wire up the circuit. You could just use a plug (bottom 2 terminals get wired in, the top “earth” terminal gets left empty) or get an electrician to wire it into a switch. This costs a bit of bucks, but if it ends up being a permanent fixture like ours, then it could be worth doing!

Step 6: Turn on the lights and throw a party!

If your cable got a bit twisted, you may have lights pointing in all sorts of directions. Try rotate them around and make them all point in the direction that you want.

xxx EJ

– Repost from Emma Jane Nation


  1. David Evans says:

    Hi Emma,
    I remember them using these quick fit lamp holders in my home town of Llanelli during Christmas time in 1963 and was fascinated by them then. However, the ones I had used were bakelite with a wedge push fit that clamped the cable in place and I thought, in these days of health and safety, that they no longer existed. When I saw your article I was glad to see that they are still available and this is the reason for me getting in touch with you, Where did you purchase them.
    Nadolig Llawen, David

    1. emmajanementeath says:

      Hi David,
      As you can see at the top of this post it’s originally posted by Emma Jane Nation ( best to leave a comment on her post asking her where she got it. I’m guessing Builders Warehouse.

      Hope this helps

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