Introduction: How to Make a Water Lamp
It is a terrible dreary day here in central Indiana, a perfect excuse to take some time for just me and the shop. For today I think we will make a water lamp for one of my closest friends birthday. This should go wonderfully in the scheme of her room. This project shouldn’t be to hard. You will only need a few simple supplies and even fewer tools. The water lamp is a decorative that uses water colored or not. I have even seen sea monkeys (tiny shrimp) into the lamp. Without futher ado, let’s get started.
Step 1: Gather Supplies
This project has unlimited possibilities for different methods and materials. I will be covering what I am doing but the possibilities are literally endless so I encourage you to explore your boundaries and come up with you own ideas.
For these next few step thrift shops are going to be you best friend. Garage sales Goodwill and the local hardware store can all help but the first two really help with inspiration. Shop around. Don’t look for anything specific. If you see somthing you like, chances are it’s going to be dirt cheap and you can snag it a few other things.
Step 2: Glassware
This is the heart of the build. We will illuminat this bit filled with our water to give the effect. Shop around for this. This very well may bee the center piece of the lamp. Vases, wine bottles, or any other anything that catches your eye. I will be using a light bulb for the gift and this Instructable. I don't recommend a curly-Q light bulb. they wont work well for this and are really hard to prepare. here is how to use a normal, incandescent lightbulb.
step 1: look at the end of the light bulb. you should see a copper contact point on top of a black glass insulator. use a knife to pop this off. then use plyers to crush the insulator bit.
step 2: now look down into the metal part. you should see a glass tube with a rod. insert the plyers around the rod and in the tube. First, crush the tube. Then, open the plyers to break the walls of the tube. us a drill bit or a screw drive to try and finish the tube and even out the edges.
step 3: use a granular substance (sand, rise or cat litter like me) and swirl until all the white powder from the inside of the bulb is gone. then pour out the sand, and rise with cold water. now you are done with the lightbulb. set aside to dry and move on to working on the electronics.
Step 3: Electronics
This is the illuminated bit of our piece. Without this, it becomes a static fountain which is kind of pointless. For this choose what both fits best with the build and what you and get for cheap or even free. I am using and LED array from a promotional flash light. I wired it up to an old iPod usb cable. The iPod died a slow death several years ago so the ancient fire wire had no use in our house hold so it seemed a like a likely candidate. Set aside and go work on the base.
Step 4: The Base
This will probibaly take a good portion of the build time. And for good reason, you need to take your time on this for it to look right. The most of the mass of the build is here so if it looks ratty so does the rest. you can use absolutely anything. this is really the part you get to completely customize. some ideas include: wood blocks (like me), plastic containers, or even a book covered in Mod Podge or fiber glass resin. Here are the steps I took, but please make this your own, don't just copy me. You are an artist just as much as me and have your free reign over your work.
step one: gather your supplies together. I have and old oak sign post, some plywood, and an old pc monitor stand. grab some screws and you should be good to go.
step two: Cut out the pieces. This is pretty self explanatory. use the demsions you can but make it look nice. the width of my board was dictated by the width of the oak sign post, 3.5 inches. the length was 9 inches. I got this from the nails. the nails holding the numbers on were completely frozen in place after a decade in the elements. the longest distance between the two farthest nails, that still landed n a nice number happened to be 9. next I cut the board in half down the length of the board to make it half as thin and give it a flat surface for the plywood. trace the piece on the plywood and cut that too.
step three: Drill and cut cavities for the electronics. This is pretty simple. You should only need the top piece. First find the center and drill a hole for the led itself. To find center, measure half way down the length and do the same for the width and make a cross between the two. Where the intersect is the middle. From here cut a small channel for the wire to go out the back. Make a it tight enough to hold the wire firmly, but not to tight to have it get stuck. when making functional pieces, always make it so you can take it apart to repair or reuse.
step four: drill the screw holes. For this, try and line up the edges all flush and clamp together before you drill. This ensures all the holes will be in line when you go to screw it together. Also, mark your bit with the depth you need to drill with maker so you don't dill to little or all the way through.
step five: sand the whole thing. I used and orbital sander at first but the edges where still a little wonky. I got out the big guns. An angle grinder with a 150 grit flap disk. this made quick work of trueing up all the edges and even add a bevel (or tapper) to the front to make it just that much better.
Step six: there are any number of different finishes that can and would compliment your work really well. You don’t have to use all of these or any of the ideas I’m about to share. Aside from classic wood stain, you can use so much else. I used a wood burn and linseed oil. For this, you sand really well, then proceed to use a torch to darken their wood. Don’t char the wood though. Just give it some variation. If you char is, oh well, that’s what sand paper is for. Then apply boiled linseed oil to seal out water, preserve the woods texture, and even darken the wood a little more. I could have used polyureth, but I wanted a satin natural look not the high gloss that option offers. Some other ideas you could use include, wood stain of course, paint, ink, pyrography (the art of burning designs into wood), used motor oil, juices or wine (grape and other juices that stain just about anything), and even soy sauce!
step seven: Unclamp and put the electronics. screw it together and the base can be done. I went ahead and added a little monitor stand to spruce it up that much more.
Step 5: The Armature
The armature is the little bit that holds the glass bit over your light. This isn't necessary in all cases, but do to the round bottom of my light bulb. Plus, it adds another element to the build and can help compliment. for me, the copper adds a nice touch to the build.
step one: get supplies. For me, just some copper.
All I did was twist copper strands together with a drill to add strength and style. It was simple but made it look amazing. When working with copper, you may have to anneal it. Copper (and most other fine metals) work hardens. This means the become less malleable/ductile to more you work them (hit, flatten, bend, twist, or stress in any way). Annealing is simple the process of softening the material to make it easier to work with again. for copper simply heat up with a torch until it turns a steely, gun metal, grey. This can be polished off later but its a good indicator whether or not it has been successfully softened.
the picture with the grey back ground isn't my own. It is shearly to give you some ideas as to what you can do with this method. View here:
Step 6: Ideas
this, as in most of my builds, is not somthing I want you guys just to copy. This is meant to inspire you guys. Take this concept and apply it to anything that strikes your interest. I have seen this out into so many different ideas. You could do somthing like this in just about any style, from minimalist to steampunk. It’s up to you, and there’s is unlimited options. Most of the fun is having the idea before you ever start building. In the next step you will see some alternatives from my build and the things exemplified in the ible.
the base: the base, as with anything else, has unlimited options. and medium could be used. clay could create some really interesting. Wood, like what I used, also has plenty of options. from carving, finishes, and bevels there is so much can do. Plastics also allow a great deal of customization for the shear fact it is really easy to work with. thermal plastic and foam make a great combination for making any sort of shape. Metal is also great. I have a great forge that I was planning to use for this project. sadly the burner decided to blow up so I could use it this time. casting can be used for so much aside from just the base. it allows us to make high quality metal pieces with great precision. I plan on doing a future instructable on my foundry that I built just as soon as it is working again. Lastly, you can use and existing structure. in my very first first draw up of this idea, I considered a jewelry box that I could hide the electronics in. This could still function as a jewelry box just fine and give a really cool style. There are so many things just waiting to be unburied and reused in thrift shops and garage sales that can be used for so many projects.
the armature: This is a simple bit but it should look nice. Some times it not even needed if your light source sits flush and you can place the glassware directly on top of the base. sometimes, its nice to add another level of complexity just for the heck of it. I used copper wire (the exact stuff in the walls of your house, we have hundreds of feet of it left over from building ours) twisted tightly with a drill and cut and bent to length. It was really simple but yields a nice professional look as well as strength a single strand of copper wouldn't have. Alternatively, clay could be used if don't right. For clay, you may want to embed some wire of some for to help support the weight of the liquid. One could also cast a costume bit that would work really well.
glass ware: again, you guys can use anything for this. Mason jars and bottles are probibaly the first things that come tommind. However, there are a lot of different options. Lightbulbs like what I used are really good for this. I also encourage you to use that tenique in other projects. I am working on a mini terrarium with a similar way. Also try wine glasses, eleimier flask (the cone like beakers, I picked one up for 50 cents) or any insptresting vase that you find that inspires you and matches the theme of your build.
There are plenty more ways to do this than just the listed from above. Please go out to flea markets and other such places and look around. The best builds are from spontaneous inspiration. I hope you guys have had fun reading and building along with me. this project was a great joy to build. good luck in all of your endeavors! There is no end to what you can do with the things you have! Test and expand your boundaries and make something really great!
Step 7: Conclusion
This build had a lot of different techniques that can be applied to other projects. Specifically, the copper armature and the hollowing of the lightbulb are skills that are highly applicable. You can put anything you want in the bulb. Shower gel comes in lots of different colors that can work great. I have even seen people grow sea monkeys in there builds. All in all, this was really a good weekend project to build. I again apologize for irregular posting. Living out here without internet is a real pain. In fact, I'm righting from study hall right now, haha. Thank you guys for reading and building along with me. make sure to comment with pictures of your builds! have fun and good luck with all your other project!
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