Picture of How to Make a Solar Powered Walkway
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I sure loves me some sun jars!  They incorporate several of my favorite things to mess around with:  LEDs, Solar panels, hot glue, man it's all there and they look great to boot!

However, there is one big fat problem:  the sun!  When it's dark out, oftentimes the places I'd really like to have a little extra light are just the spots you can't leave a sun jar due to lack of direct exposure to sunlight. 

The obvious solution to this dilemma is to separate the solar panel from the sun jar.  I extrapolated this a bit further and realized that the only thing you actually need in the jar is the LED, and since you don't have to cram all the other electronics in there, you don't have to stay with the classic sun jar shape.

With this in mind, I combed craigslist for some suitably shaped glass blocks, went to Home Depot for the appropriate solar light, stocked up on speaker wire and came up with the Solar Powered Walkway!

***UPDATE 5/5/10:  If you build this project yourself, or something similar, post some pictures and I'll send you a patch!***

****UPDATE 1-1-11
If you are the first person to post a picture of your completed light-up walkway to the comments, I've got a 3 month pro membership to instructables that's all yours!

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I have a suggestion for waterproofing the connections. They make plastic shrinkwrap sleeves for waterproofing electric connections. Just slide tube over wire BEFORE soldering them together. After soldered just use hairdryer to shrink the cover and it will be waterproof. It also will not react with the solder or wire as it is meant for electrical connections. Hope this helps everyone.

They also sell tape that is for under water use. It's made by 3M u can get it at a part store. It comes in a box good stuff.
depotdevoid (author)  gwendolyn.gettemy5 months ago

Great suggestion, I'll flag this to the top of the list!

elsiecamping2 months ago

I love this project. Its so pretty to look at and who doesn't love lights around the yard that free. I love LED's and Solar ANYTHING. Great Job.

depotdevoid (author)  elsiecamping2 months ago

Thanks! It was a fun project and the community response has been fantastic!

joe.capell.13 months ago
So u used glass blocks like out of bathrooms the privacy glass
depotdevoid (author)  joe.capell.13 months ago

Yep, those are the ones!

testmonkey3 months ago

Instead of gravel under the glass blocks try crushed (different color) broken glass....not too many colors or it will look gaudy. I use to build Redwood and other burl wood tables and used the glass to fill the void in the tabletop before using the polymer resin to put a high gloss on the table top. Its a great effect.

depotdevoid (author)  testmonkey3 months ago

Hey, that's a cool idea! I bet broken up ceramic tiles or plates would look pretty good too.

Eeloie5 years ago
I loooove this project and I really want to make it for my backyard.  However, I have never done any electrical projects or soldering.  I am a quick study, though and I think I was able to follow most of what you described.  But is there anyway you could explain more to a beginner the parts about separating and connecting the electrical parts or maybe more detailed pics?
I know it may not be possible since you've already completed the project, but to anyone else who is making the project, pics would be appreciated.  Thanx.
testmonkey Eeloie3 months ago

When soldering try to touch the materials as little as is oily.

Also try to think of soldering as heating the two (or more) materials to be joined NOT dropping hot solder on the cold materials. Heat the materials and flow the solder away from the tip of the heat. SORRY I just noticed you asked 4 years ago?? I hope the project went well. ;-)

depotdevoid (author)  Eeloie5 years ago
Thanks a lot Eeloie, I'm glad you liked the project!

The bad news is I have no pictures of the detailed electronic work.  The good news is, this is a super simple soldering project.

For equipment, don't use one of those big gun looking soldering irons--go to Radioshack and buy the cheap-o 25 watt pen style iron and the thinnest solder you can find.  Practice soldering and desoldering on some broken electronics, or something you can pick up for cheap at the goodwill or salvation army before you start this project.

When you remove the LEDs, I find it's best to put gentle pressure on one side of the LED and melt the solder on one of the leads.  The LED will push up a little bit.  Repeat this on the other side, going back and forth until the LED comes off the circuit board.

It's also important to realize that LEDs have a positive and a negative side--almost without fail the negative side of the LED itself will have a flat spot.  When adding the speaker wire to extend the LED, make sure that you keep track of which side is positive and which is negative--I always use the silvery side of the speaker wire for negative and the coppery side for positive.

When soldering the wire to the board, you simple put stripped ends of wire through the circuit board and solder it to the copper pad on the circuit board.  This is usually very simple, as the solder will adhere both to the pad and the wire nicely.

The only other soldering work you'll have to do is extending wires, splicing wires, and soldering LEDs on the ends of the wires.  I like to simply twist the bare ends of wire or LED lead together, dab on a little solder, and since this is an outdoor job try to protect the bare wire with both epoxy and electrical tape (to keep the water out).

I suspect this will be a good beginner soldering project.  It's pretty straightforward and easy to do.  The first soldering project I ever attempted was the Magnetic Fridge Lights instructable, and let me tell you, that was HARD!

Good luck on this, Eeloie!  If you have any more questions or if I haven't answered everything here, just ask.  If you do end up building something like this, please post some pictures!

testmonkey3 months ago

Instead of gravel under the glass blocks try crushed (different color) broken glass....not too many colors or it will look gaudy. I use to build Redwood and other burl wood tables and used the glass to fill the void in the tabletop before using the polymer resin to put a high gloss on the table top. Its a great effect.

terry.suchma3 months ago

I would like to make these for my yard. I need some directions on the led and the solar panel. Would you kindly share? What do I need? What do I ask for at HomeDepot? Pls respond

depotdevoid (author)  terry.suchma3 months ago

Well, I'm not sure if Home Depot carries them, but ask them if they have strings of solar powered Christmas lights. That ought to do the trick.

MitchB25 months ago

Vert nice! Thank you for the idea!

I love, love this idea! Just have to find time and stuff to get er done! LOL

cagstorm7 months ago

Am I the only one who now has Billie Jean stuck in my head?

Cool walkway BTW!

DeniseG2 cagstorm6 months ago

I got Alien Ant Farm's version of Smooth Criminal lol

mchambers5 made it!6 months ago

Finally finished my variation of the walkway. I used 2x2 for the framing, redwood plywood for the base and plexiglass for the top. I mounted the LED lights in a hole I drilled in the base and mounted the panel on a tortoise shelter I had built earlier this year. The lights are on the initial charge of the batteries, so tomorrow will be the first day of solar charging.


I totally forgot to take pics before I actually "planted" them.

andreinst made it!7 months ago

Hello. I saw your instructable and decided to make my own. I added some photos. You can see that I made work the led inside the glass brick but also the original one from the solar lamp. I also used white gravel, I think it's nicer like this. I don't have very explicit photos because I just wanted to try and see if I can do it. Now that I made it work I will do at least 6 more.

depotdevoid (author)  andreinst7 months ago

Hooray hooray! The first completed "I made it!" of my walkway! I can't wait to see the completed version, but in the mean time, a digital patch and a pro membership are on their way!

Thank you very much! :) Im planing to finish this project the next week. Anyway, I will come back with more photos and explications. I also was thinking that some of this glass bricks can be part of a child's room wall and at night you can have there some light. Or even around the house. Many ideas in my head right now. When I will do something I will post an let you know. Thank you again.

Andrei from Romania :)

ovation67 months ago

This is really an excersise of thinking outside of the box. What a wonderful idea and I may attempt this myself. As an artist I can appreciate this from an artistic viewpoint.

Thanks for sharing and wish me luck when I get to trying myselt

Dale Augustson

Springfield, MO

depotdevoid (author)  ovation67 months ago

Good luck indeed! I can't wait to see the results!

kneeonhigh7 months ago
they aren't discontinued just special order.
jbowman-27 months ago

You can buy predrilled blocks with a hole in the side, they are a good size hole but still easily sealed. They also come in a smaller size and a half block for using around flower beds and the like. Hobby Lobby carries them.

Also, you could add a decorative reflective foil inside thru the hole, or paint a reflective paint on the backsiide to increase your light output.

depotdevoid (author)  jbowman-27 months ago

I've seen those pre-drilled blocks, and they would definitely be cool for different permutations of this project! The one downside is they're pretty expensive. If I wanted to redo this but actually put something inside the blocks, I'd pick them up used (as I did before), and get a set of glass boring bits from harbor freight.

Menard's ran the kind with a predrilled hole and plastic cap around christmas time last year for like $2 a pc.

mchambers57 months ago

About to start up this project this weekend. The Lowes and the Home Depot both discontinued the 8x8x4 glass blocks! I have improvised and will be creating blocks using a plywood base, a 2x2 frame and a plexiglass top. I ended up selecting this as my Solar/LED source :

I took the advice of the reviewer and ordered separate 2800 mAh AA batteries.

depotdevoid (author)  mchambers57 months ago
Hey, that looks like an awesome alternative! I'd love to see the result!

Don't forget to check craigslist to see if someone in your area has some of those bricks used.
BrockGrimes7 months ago

You can get a cheapy LED light at an auto store that plugs in the lighter port, It'll have a module that makes the lights change color (if you have color change leds) or blink with music you can tie into this. Also if you want to go powered instead of solar, a computer power supply has 12v, 7v, and 5v connectors. If you get the micro or mini LED christmas lights you can use the control module to make the blocks twinkle at night.

depotdevoid (author)  BrockGrimes7 months ago

Great ideas! I'd love to see your version!

tswill27 months ago

You mentioned waterproofing the connections with silicone, and I recommend that you consider Goop or epoxy instead. Silicone releases acetic acid during cure and I have seen it attack solder and result in loose connections!


depotdevoid (author)  tswill27 months ago

Thanks for the heads up, I wasn't aware of that!

Use GE Silicone II, I have checked multiple sources and It is safe....

read here


rnorton27 months ago

i love this for several reasons, the led's, the solar, and the blocks i love them and love the hundreds of uses. one other thing i love about the idea is most of the yard lighting i see get tore up from lawnmowers and knocked around over time this takes care of that. i cant wait to show my gf,. thanks man.

depotdevoid (author)  rnorton27 months ago

Right on, thanks! If you make your own version, show me some pics!

Silicone will only attack the surface. If it's a good solder joint to begin with, it will be fine. Just keep it away from exposed copper and component leads on circuit boards. The speaker wires will definitely need something. They are designed for indoor use only and any moisture will attack them, even in places where you won't think it will like inside the solar panel. I have even seen them corrode on the inside, right in the middle of a run or even just sitting on the shelf. Beware of cheap speaker wire.

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