Bistro Lights DIY


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.
Let’s go!

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 3: 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 4: 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 5: 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.

Depending on where you purchase your supplies from, and the quantity that you purchase, you may be able to get it for cheaper than the above prices. We used Lido Electrical in Strijdom Park. They’re friendly, helpful and do give discounts when you’re nice to them. 🙂

Good luck and if you try it out send me some pictures!

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  • Reply
    Chantel collins
    February 26, 2013 at 9:10 am

    this is fantastic! i will definitely be trying this!

  • Reply
    February 26, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    cool!!! I made some little ceramic bulb shades recently, with something like this in mind but hadnt got around to googling just how to do the ‘scary electrical part’ but this looks do-able 🙂 very helpful – thanks!!

  • Reply
    February 27, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Yes – Thank you! My back garden just got a little brighter.
    Will be attempting it this weekend – yaaay!

  • Reply
    March 5, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    I tried it! It was so easy! Thank you thank you!

  • Reply
    March 18, 2013 at 10:32 am

    I am so excited! I received my own “starter kit” for these bistro lights from my bf after going on and on about yours after seeing them on your blog.

    I can’t wait to make them and set them up <3

  • Reply
    August 17, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    It’s on! Pumped to get home and hang our very own bistro lights! Thanks for this, super helpful!

  • Reply
    October 28, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    I love this! I was about to buy boring old fairy lights for our garden but prefer these!

  • Reply
    Cleo Fitzgerald
    April 1, 2014 at 9:24 am

    I love this, thank you so much for the tute.. .. im busy buying all my bits and bobs at the moment. How far apart did you space your bulbs>

    • Reply
      April 2, 2014 at 10:08 am

      Put out your arms in front of you.. now take them a little but wider – prob about that far apart 😉

      I will go measure them when it’s not pouring outside!

      It’s up to you though… and how many you want to fit in. We did 3 strings so we didn’t do a lot of bulbs on each.

  • Reply
    Aaron Thomas
    October 21, 2015 at 9:13 am

    Hi there, where can i get the fittings ect?

  • Reply
    April 18, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    please where i can buy the parts?

  • Reply
    October 8, 2016 at 11:40 pm

    Dos tot jaar 15w or 40w bulbs?

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