Picture of How to Make a Wind Powered LED Out of a VCR
This tutorial explains how to make a wind powered LED out of an old VCR and a pinwheel. You can also use an old CD-Rom drive if you don't have a VCR.

If you are interested in the tutorial about making this from a CD-Rom drive, you can find it on my site, technogumbo
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Step 1: Tools and Supplies

Picture of Tools and Supplies
In order to complete this project you don't necessarily have to use these exact tools, but they have worked well for me in the past.

1. Pinwheel
2. Six strands of copper wire
3. An LED
4. Soldering iron and solder
5. Quick set epoxy
6. Scissors or a knife
7. Wire Cutters
8. Some sort of file
9. Screw driver
10. Drill with small bits
11. Clamps for securing items while drilling
12. Permanent marker
13. Old VCR (I have used a CD-Rom drive too) that you can extract motors, gears, and metal pieces from

Step 2: Take Everything Apart

Picture of Take Everything Apart
The first thing you need to do is take apart every possible piece of the bland looking player. When you remove the outside casing you will rapidly discover that the rectangular plastic slab houses a trove of mechanical complexity. The primary objective of your prod into the unknown is the small electrical motors. I found three motors in my excursion. Two of them were too large to use, and fortunately the motor that drives the loading mechanism of the tape player was just right.

After you find a motor that you think will do, take the terminals of your LED and connect or hold them on the positive and negative terminal of the engine. Quickly spin the motors' shaft using your fingers.
If the LED doesn't light up, try spinning the motor in the opposite direction. If that doesn't work, try the same thing on the other motors. Hopefully you will find one that can light the LED.
chaptrabit5 years ago
Why not just attach the pinwheel directly to the motor shaft? It seems like the gears make the project more complicated than it needs to be..
technogumbo (author)  chaptrabit5 years ago
Great question! From making two of these, I don't think there is any way you could get enough push from the wind to directly attach the pinwheel to the motor shaft. You need that gear ratio to help overcome the magnetic resistance in the motor. As it is, you really have to "whip" these around to get them to light up well.
What if you were to have it directly connected and were using a wind source to spin it. In an environment class we have an alternative project to make a wind turbine that produces enough electricity to power a LED instead of doing our midterm. To test it they will be using a hairdryer as wind to see if it will work. Do you think if I directly connected it and was using a hairdryer it would power the led?
technogumbo (author)  elatedmonk4 years ago
I don't think so. Even if you used two gears I don't think it would do it with a hairdryer. If you connected it directly and came up with a capacitor and diode based circuit specific to the output voltage of the motor you could maybe do it directly connected to the motor.
spider874 years ago
So, the copper wires are just to get the power to the LED? The way you were describing it I was confused I thought they were to help generate power lol. Am I correct that they're just to get power to the LED?
technogumbo (author)  spider874 years ago
Yes. They are just used to get power to the LED. I melted them into the plastic so that the wires don't hinder the spinning motion of the pinwheel.
twocvbloke5 years ago
I started working on making a mini wind turbine last year out of a VHS recorder's heads (the VCR was dead before you ask!!!), never got round to finishing it and broke one of the blades (made form an old floppy disk case) during my last house move, but it did generate AC power on testing... :D Just need to dig it out and finish it off and add a DC rectifier, and I'll be in business... :D
toogers5 years ago
wow, i can turn a useless vcr in to an led pinwheel.
that's cool, but why is the vcr useless?
toogers toogers5 years ago
it's actually awesome.
toogers toogers5 years ago
but i hope the vcr was broken.
toogers toogers5 years ago
i love replying to myself.
LinuxH4x0r7 years ago
technogumbo (author) 7 years ago
Hi GorillazMiko, joejorowley, and PocketSized. Thank you very much for your kind comments about the tutorial! They made my day. If any of you attempt making one of these I'll be interested to see how it turns out!
Wow, awesome Instructable! The photos are great, everything's awesome! Great detail, awesome project and idea, just a great job, I definitely want to try this out. +1 rating.
(added to favorites)
Cool! Great Instructable!!
PocketSized7 years ago
Soo cool. I've always wanted to do something wind powered. And as it happens I have saved all the cogs / motors from past video machines I have dismantled. I have everything I need :D yay!.