Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How to Put Christmas Tree Lights on a Christmas Tree: Part Ten


Bubble Lights

You're probably not going to believe this, but some people think bubble lights are tacky.  What?  I know.  LAVA LAMPS are tacky.  Bubble lights are wonderful.

I remember a time when the land was barren of bubble lights.  I don't remember any store carrying them throughout the 1960s.  If you had bubble lights you either inherited them or you bought them at a garage sale or junque shoppe. So, these strings of the real deal bubble lights are highly prized and if your are lucky enough to be the owner of some antique strings of Christmas tree lights, hold your head up and be proud.  There are actually clubs out there for bubble light lovers.

So, if you have heard of bubble lights and thought they might add a unique touch to your Christmas tree?  Now is the best time ever to indulge.

I'm not  sure exactly how old my bubble lights are, but the bubble Christmas tree light hay day was from around 1946 to the early 1960s.  It's not uncommon to find the early sets at Good Will or thrift shops.  Most folks don't want to mess with any kind of old Christmas tree lights including bubble lights, because they think the old wiring will cause a fire.  I keep my eyes open for them all year round because I want the bulbs themselves for replacement parts.  Oh, you can buy replacement parts, but I just like the colors on the old ones better. 

The Anatomy of a Bubble Light
Most strings of bubble lights that are being manufactured today are 7 feet long with one foot of lead in wire.  In most circumstances, the lamps are 12" or 24" apart.  Most of the strings of bubble lights have 7 lamps on them with clips so they can be clipped vertically.  The strings of bubble lights plug in end to end.

While back in the earlier days of bubble lights, some of the manufactures filled the glass vials with an oil, today methylene chloride is used.
Bubble lights are made over an incandescent C7 bulb.  The C7 bulb gets hot enough to start the methylene chloride to bubbling.  The C7 bulb is covered with a bowl and cap, and the vial (which is no longer made of glass but plastic) is inserted into a hole in the cap. Most of the completed lamps are about 4 1/2 inches tall.  The original versions of bubble lights had vials that were red (my favorite), yellow, blue (my other favorite) and green and the liquid was clear.  Now days you can find bubble lights that are clear, amber, blue, green, red, pink, purple and the some with silver or gold glitter suspended in the liquid.

I've noticed that some of the bubble lights sets have not been getting very good reviews across the Internet, but I would take that with a grain of salt.  When it comes to putting bubble lights on your Christmas tree, there is A LOT of room for user error.  First off, the vial must be as close to true vertical as you can get it.  Some of the lights need at least 5 minutes to heat up.  Sometimes you need to tap the vial a little bit to get it started. 
If you are in the market of bubble lights, take a moment to read the box.  Brite Star is manufacturing a set of 5 "bubble lights" that are LED and battery operated.  The lamps are 6" tall.  And there is a message right on the box that says:  "Please note: these lights do not actually "bubble."  They are filled with gel and have the LOOK of bubble lights."  I haven't tried these out yet, but I can already see some promising projects that they would be well suited for.
What I am really loving is that you can now get a night light that is a bubble light.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that Santa will put one in my stocking this Christmas so I can enjoy it all year round -- not just in November and December.  And January.  And maybe February.    

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