Picture of Beautiful acetone lamp from reused materials.

I must confess it, I have a weakness for lamps, basically I feel attracted to anything that emits light, I've made oil lamps, gas lamps, I've used LED's, neon bulbs,... I've tested many forms of creating light, but very few as beautiful as this one.

In this instructable I'll show you how to create an acetone lamp out of reused materials, in my case, I haven't spent a single penny, and didn't took me more than 10 minutes to finish it all.

Some friendly suggestions before we start: We will be working with glass, that means caution and common sense must be applied, if you're not used to work with glass or you're a minor, seek for supervision, protective gloves are highly recommended. As any other lamp that burns fuel, it can't be left unattended, specially if you're using it outdoors, near a forest, or other easily flammable materials.

Well, let's get to it:


  • A dead lightbulb (I used a 60W one)
  • Copper wire (thick, about 2mm)
  • Copper wire (thin, about 0,5mm)
  • Acetone

Try not to use enameled wire because the enamel will burn, you can find thin copper wire inside solid cables.

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Step 1: Getting the lightbulb glass.

Picture of Getting the lightbulb glass.

To get the glass you'll have to remove the shell, there are many ways to do this, using pliers and having a lot of patience is one, you can also dip the shell in hydrochloric acid and wait until the shell and the glue have dissolved completely to start working from there.

In my case I used a thin Dremel disk to cut through the shell, then I used the disk to make a slight mark around the neck of the glass and with some taps here and there and some patience I ended with a bit rough cut, but it's fine enough.

With wet 240 grit sandpaper placed over a flat surface I sand the edges until they're flat and don't represent a threat anymore.

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Very cool!


Very cool, it creates relaxing atmosphere at night...

raeann716 months ago
my teenage boys and I made this but we could not get the reaction to occur. any suggestions?
Victor8o5 (author)  raeann716 months ago

The opening seems to be very small, try making it bigger so the combustion gases can be exchanged for fresh air to keep the reaction going.

pquijal made it!6 months ago

I didn't exactly make "it", but I made an acetone lamp using an olive jar. I didn't know about these, and your Instructable inspired me to run out to my workshop and try it as quickly as possible!

Of course, your lamp is very nice looking. I like your use of a light bulb for the glass.

jwells167 months ago

Just as a warning, this lamp *can* make ethanone and methane under certain circumstances. Ethanone is very toxic, about as bad as hydrogen cyanide, and even a small amount will make breathing temporarily hard. Do not get close to the top of the lightbulb and inhale the exhaust.

krazykane7 months ago
very cool indeed!
chrismajda made it!7 months ago

Really awesome. Tried it the same day I read this. Did it quickly so it did not turn out as pretty as in the instructable. Maybe I will make something better one day.

Tazo7 months ago

I've got to try this ASAP... great

cmn10227 months ago
Can you use nail polish remover or where do you get acetone, does ammonia work?
Light_Lab cmn10227 months ago

Victor8o5 is right about the ammonia/platinum reaction, it is used commercially to produce nitric acid, but in this mostly enclosed light arrangement the acid is neutralized by the ammonia solution so it is not a problem.

For the platinum/ammonia oxidation you need concentrated ammonia so
wear eye protection and gloves when dealing with the ammonia solution.

for the hazards handling the ammonia itself the oxidation of ammonia
with platinum presents surprisingly few dangers by comparison to the acetone.
At least the aqueous ammonia solution is not flammable like acetone is.
The by-products are nitric oxide which is further oxidized to nitrogen
dioxide. Nitrogen dioxide is toxic but under these conditions should fairly quickly react with water and oxygen to form the nitrate ion and some nitrogen. Nevertheless be careful
with ventilation.

Victor8o5 (author)  Light_Lab7 months ago

I haven't tried the platinum/ammonia reaction because I don't have platinum wire, and I don't think I'm going to buy it in the near future. I guess it will be brighter if the wire is thinner as it happens with copper.

As you said, with this kind of reactions it's very important to have a good ventilation, but with ammonia, since it's quite a simple compound it's expected to give off less dangerous products than the acetone.

Victor8o5 (author)  cmn10227 months ago

Nail polish remover can work, but I think the concentration will be lower so you won't get as much efficiency as you would with industrial acetone. Ammonia works with platinum.

I got my acetone bottle at a brico depot, at the paint section, along with the other solvents.

Victor8o5 have you ever done the ammonia/platinum with thin platinum wire? I have done it with thick platinum wire and it is not very bright, only about red hot. If it glows brighter with thin platinum wire it would be a good to know.

JayGeeBSE8 months ago

Could we please not use the word 'spiral' when we mean 'helix'? A spiral is flat.

Victor8o5 (author)  JayGeeBSE8 months ago

You're right, a spiral occupies only a two dimensional plane, while the helix revolves
around a central axis through three dimensions. I'm editing it now.

Please note Victor8o5 that I was not criticising you - the comment was aimed at everyone in general, as most make that mistake.

I love getting people with that one too; when people say their house has a spiral staircase, I say, "Wouldn't it be more useful to have a staircase that took people up to the next floor." LOL

BTW Victor8o5 your English is better than you give yourself credit for.

Victor8o5 (author)  JayGeeBSE8 months ago

I didn't have that impression, if someone
makes a mistake, the best thing someone could do is to correct him.
That's the way we learn.

Thank you for correcting me. Also
English isn't my first language, so this is the best way I can learn how
to speak and write it properly.

jbauer47 months ago

Really cool lamp and idea! I may have to give this a try.

Richard Horse8 months ago
Great instructable! I have to try this.
trenzalorian8 months ago

The only problem I see with the lightbulb is that they have murcury. I'll just use a small jar or something.

Victor8o5 (author)  trenzalorian8 months ago

Incandescent lightbulbs don't have mercury, at most, they can have a layer of phosphor, or aluminium to reflect the light.

Mercury is only used on fluorescent lamps where the mercury vapors get excited emitting ultraviolet light (mostly), the ultraviolet light is converted to a more visible and less energetic wavelength thanks to the phosphor coating (that's why fluorescent tubes are white).

You're thinking of fluorescent lights. Regular incandescent bulbs don't have mercury.

zenTaurus8 months ago


"Copper is a very good heat transmitter, the hanger and other parts might
get quite hot, so don't use your bare hands to grab the lamp when it's
been running for a long time. A good solution to this is to use a longer

might using an insulator between the hook and the hanger also help?


Victor8o5 (author)  zenTaurus8 months ago

Yes, for example a piece of wood to hang the lamp would be safe to touch.

bizzycrafter8 months ago

Beautiful!! Interesting that platinum might work, but unfortunately, I have more copper kicking around my house than platinum. re: Christmas balls, the heat required to liquefy and blow the ornament shape is more than the heat of a light bulb, so it should be OK because the thinner the glass the more quickly it will heat to an even temperature (breakage occurs when glass heats unevenly and there is nowhere for the hot part to expand to). [*anyone trying to learn proper English please disregard the form of that last sentence]. Having said that - experiment outside, and wear your safety glasses. Remember, it's easier to remove a piece of glass from your goggles with a soft brush than from your eye with tweezers (Red Green{p}). For anyone worried about the helix vs spiral thing, may I recommend using "coil". This lamp is beautiful!!

jpad18 months ago

Works beautifully! I did have one idea. To make it slightly more portable you could soak cotton wool or mineral wool in the acetone and stick it to the bottom of the container. That way there is no liquid to slosh about and if the filament was also prevented from swinging then there would be no way for the acetone to directly contact the copper, thus making it easier to carry without risk of fire.

Victor8o5 (author)  jpad18 months ago

I was thinking the same thing, but with a fine gravel. Maybe acetone evaporates more quickly thanks to the larger surface area.

Holy crap is that cool!

Victor8o5 (author)  The Green Gentleman8 months ago

I've checked your instructables and your lamps are very cool too.

Thank you!

longwinters8 months ago
I love this project, I have never seen this reaction "knowingly"
The next logical step seems to be that the filament is brought up to temperature with current
jsoleil8 months ago
I tried this, but the moment I remove the flame from the coil, it stops glowing and won't work in the light
Victor8o5 (author)  jsoleil8 months ago

Maybe the concentration of the acetone isn't high enough or there's a factor that doesn't allow the necessary amount of vapors to reach the copper piece, like a very exposed container, a copper burner placed too high...

Cambenora8 months ago

I understand you can get the same reaction from platinum immersed in methanol vapour.

Victor8o5 (author)  Cambenora8 months ago

Platinum is a very good catalyst too, I saw it doing the same thing as copper with ammonia.

And now, I must find a lightbulb...
mworrall8 months ago

In my dictionary a helix is a spiral is a helix.

Exocetid8 months ago

This is just excellent! You've got a bit of steampunk going here, a little Myst, and definitely a beautiful lamp regardless of what genre you want to stick it in. Great instructable.

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