Introduction: DIY USB Magnifying Lamp

Picture of DIY USB Magnifying Lamp

I am a columnist at Science 2.0 and in my column, The Square Root of Not, I demonstrate how to build an alcohol burner for a home chemistry set. In my article, I mention that "second-hand stores like Goodwill, Salvation Army, and local mom & pop shops are treasure troves of things to hack or repurpose." I would like to mention too that close-out stores like Dollar General are also fertile ground for modding. I found a USB lamp with a fan at a close-out store in Albuquerque for under $5.00 USD and decided to make it a magnifying lamp.

Parts needed for the Magnifying lamp:

USB lamp with fan
lighted magnifying glass
3 rubber bands

Step 1: Remove the Magnifying Glass From the Lighted Magnifier.

Picture of Remove the Magnifying Glass From the Lighted Magnifier.

Use a small flat blade screwdriver to remove the magnifying glass retaining ring. It's really easy to pry the plastic ring off the magnifier.

Step 2: Attach the Magnifying Glass to the Lamp

Picture of Attach the Magnifying Glass to the Lamp

You can temporarily attach the magnifying glass to the lamp with the three rubber bands.

Step 3: Another Use for Sugru

Picture of Another Use for Sugru

For a more permanent solution I decided to use Sugru to attach the magnifying glass to the lamp. Why Sugru? I just wanted to see if it would actually work and, besides, my Sugru was past its use-by date so, I really needed to find a use for it. I was able to restore only two of the packets and it took a lot of kneading to get it back to its original consistency. Unfortunately the third packet couldn't be fully restored no matter how much kneading I tried and it ended up looking like dried out dough. No, it ain't too pretty but the sugru seems to hold the magnifying glass to the lamp fairly well.

Step 4: Optional "helping Hands" Made From Lego Pieces

Picture of Optional "helping Hands" Made From Lego Pieces

I also added "helping hands" made out of lego to my lighted magnifying usb lamp. I used the awl blade from my multitool to make a hole in the base of the lamp just big enough so that a Lego Technic pin will fit snugly.

Get 2 1 by 4 swivel top hinge plates and a 1 by 4 Technic brick with holes and snap them together. Snap these onto the Technic pin in the base of the lamp. Get a second 1 by 4 Technic brick with holes and snap it to the bottom of the hinge pieces.

Step 5: Optional "helping Hands" (continued)

Picture of Optional "helping Hands" (continued)

Get two 1 by 4 locking hinge plates and snap them on to the 1 by 4 swivel top hinge plates. Get another two 1 by 4 locking hinge plates and snap them on to 1 by 4 locking hinge plates.

Step 6: Optional "helping Hands" (continued)

Picture of Optional "helping Hands" (continued)

Get another two 1 by 4 swivel top hinge plates and snap them on to the locking hinge plates. My alligator clips fit snugly into the 1 by 1 Technic bricks. Insert the alligator clips into the 1 by 1 Technic bricks and snap the on to the ends of the 1 by 4 swivel top hinge plates. Snap a second 1 by 1 Technic brick on to each hinge plate and cap them with 1 by 2 plates.

Step 7: Completed Magnifying Lamp With "helping Hands"

Picture of Completed Magnifying Lamp With "helping Hands"

This is the completed lamp with the "helping hands."  My first test was to see if my "helping hands" would hold a printed circuit board.

Step 8: "Helping Hands" Test

Picture of "Helping Hands" Test

Shiny! I was pleasantly surprised to find that my "helping hands" were strong enough to hold the circuit board from my CSS555C Development Kit. And yes, I am a Firefly fan.

Step 9: "Helping Hands" Test (continued)

Picture of "Helping Hands" Test (continued)

Next I decided to test if the helping hands were stable enough to solder a component onto the board. Sadly, the board was a bit too wobbly to safely use a soldering iron. I'll err on the side of caution and ABSOLUTELY NOT recommend using these "helping hands" for soldering.

Let me see. A hot soldering iron. Molten solder. A wobbly circuit board. Yup, sounds like the perfect set of ingredients for a really bad day.

I'm also a fan of the Final Destination franchise and can easily imagine a set of Rube Goldberg events that end in catastrophe. Your soldering iron slips and you burn your finger. Startled and in pain, you drop the soldering iron which, in turn, rolls off your workbench and falls on your longhair cat. Poor Fluffy, startled and on fire, seeks refuge behind the drapes which, in turn, are promptly set ablaze. Mayhem ensues.

Step 10: Useful for Close-up Photography.

Picture of Useful for Close-up Photography.

The magnifying lamp and "helping hands" can be used for close-up photography to document your projects--as long as your camera lens is smaller in diameter than the hole in the top of the light, such as cell phones, iPods, and smaller consumer still cameras. 

On some circuit boards, you'll have to be careful to angle your camera just so so that the glare from the light doesn't obscure what you're trying to shoot.

In the first picture the glare is at the bottom of the picture and can be easily cropped. In the second picture the glare is right in the middle of the picture and can't be cropped. Of course, as in the third picture, you can shoot a close-up without using the "helping hands."

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Bio: You can try my projects AT YOUR OWN RISK. There's infinite ways to damage or destroy persons and property. I can't think of ... More »
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