Introduction: How to Open a Light Bulb Without Breaking It

Picture of How to Open a Light Bulb Without Breaking It

In this instructable I am going to show you how to open a standard incandescent light bulb that can be used for many awesome projects.

It all started when I was looking at peoples projects made with opened light bulbs and the step on how to do open them was never well explained so I decided to make an instructable that only focus on that.

This instructable is to help you learn how to open a light bulb to use in your projects and if you ever make an instructables about it, all you'll have to do is post a link to this instructable and if possible, give me some credits in the step.

Disclaimer! I am NOT responsible for any accidents or damage caused by this project! This project involve breaking glass that can cause glass particles to jump around and work with sharp glass!Never attempt to open or break a Mercury-Filled light bulb like a CFL (Compact Fluorescent Light) As mercury is highly toxic and is not something you want to mess with.Use common sense and be smart about it and everything should go well. :P

Let's start recycling old light bulbs! :)

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Picture of Tools and Materials

Here's the things you'll need.

  • Small precision flat crew driver
  • Nose pliers
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Small square screw driver
  • Pair of protective gloves
  • Safety goggles
  • box to keep your workspace from being full of broken glass particles
  • Salt or sand
  • Funnel

Step 2: An Understanding About the Light Bulb's Parts

Picture of An Understanding About the Light Bulb's Parts

This incandescent light bulb diagram I made will help you know how the light bulb is built and if lets say I tell you to break the Stem, you'll know what I'm talking about. :P

Step 3: Remove the Bottom Terminal Contact

Picture of Remove the Bottom Terminal Contact

To remove the bottom terminal contact, take your small precision flat screw driver and gently lift one side of it. Then take your pair of nose pliers and lift it off. If it doesn't want to come, twist it and it should come instantly.

Step 4: Remove the Base Glass Insulator

Picture of Remove the Base Glass Insulator

To remove the glass insulator, take again your small precision flat head screw driver and stick it in the small opening in the center but not deeper than 1/4 inch deep and with your safety gloves and goggles, hold the light bulb so the base faces downwards or away from you and start prying around until it breaks in a few pieces that can be pried off one by one easily.

Step 5: Break the Pressure Discharge Tube

Picture of Break the Pressure Discharge Tube

To break the pressure discharge tube, take your pair of nose pliers and facing the base away from you, give it some pressure to the left or right and it will break or crush under the pliers pressure.

This step is quite scary at first because all you can think of is that the light bulb will break into a million pieces but because it's round, It's way more solid than it looks.

Have no fear and do it!

The rest of the pressure discharge tube can now be removed using your small square screw driver and push it to one side until it breaks completely leaving the Stem press and Stem intact.

Step 6: Break the Stem Press

Picture of Break the Stem Press

To break the Stem press, Take your small square screw driver and place it in the Stem and while giving a VERY gentle pressure, twist left and right a few times and it'll break leaving a piece or the whole Stem.

Step 7: Break the Stem

Picture of Break the Stem

to break the rest of the stem, Take your square screw driver and push on the stem all around breaking it leaving only a glass ring.

Step 8: Break the Glass Ring (rest of the Stem)

Picture of Break the Glass Ring (rest of the Stem)

To break the glass ring, first of all using your pair of needle nose pliers, detach the wire lead that is attached to the metal base and that is holding the broken Stem press.

Now take your pair of nose pliers and stick it in the base and turn it all around moving it back and forth to break the glass ring completely.

Once you've done this, using your pair of needle nose pliers you can stick it not more than 3/4 Inch deep and while holding it open with gentle pressure, twist it a few turns to remove any sharp edges.

Step 9: Remove the White Powder Coating With Salt or Sand

Picture of Remove the White Powder Coating With Salt or Sand

First of all empty the light bulb completely from any broken glass and with a funnel (if you have one) put about 2-4 table spoon of salt or sand in the light bulb and while blocking the opening with your thumb, shake it until all the Kaolin powder is completely removed. Wait about 5 Seconds for the fine Kaolin dust to settle down as I don't think you'll appreciate breathing light bulbs Kaolin clay dust. :P Now hold your light bulb with the base facing down to empty the salt or sand and tap on the sides to remove any Kaolin powder left.

And You're done!

It takes me about 1:45-3:00 Minutes per light bulbs but it took me about an hour to figure it out the first time. :P

NOTE: The trick of using salt or other similar products to remove the Kaolin powder doesn't come from me and can be found in many other instructables and I have no idea who is the first to do it so I can't credit him/her... :(

Step 10: Hope You Enjoyed and Take the Time to Donate for More Great Projects!

Picture of Hope You Enjoyed and Take the Time to Donate for More Great Projects!

Hope you enjoyed this instructable and if you want to support me to buy parts and materials for more instructable projects, You can!

Just click on the Make donation Link and click on the Donate button on my funding site to send me a donation directly to my PayPal account.

Make a donation!

All donations and new followers are very appreciated! :)

Feel free to comment, share and follow.

Have fun!



whosiemama (author)2017-09-29

Thanks! That was super easy to follow and really helpful!

diymermaid (author)2017-06-17

thanks a lot

Electrospark (author)diymermaid2017-06-17

Thank you for the follow! :D

diymermaid (author)Electrospark2017-06-17

yw :)

AdrianoS4 made it! (author)2017-04-23

I did a essence oil burner, it works great.

Bits me made it! (author)2017-04-11

I replaced the pliers with a cutter, and together with a screwdriver (and proportional force >:) ) I emptied the bulb in like 5 minutes. I later added the stand (from recycled electric cable) and added soil and these little senecio-succulent-thing and it came out really nice! Thanks for this helpful instructable!

Electrospark (author)Bits me2017-04-11

Aww nice! It looks really neat! c:

heimerdinger made it! (author)2016-11-03

Thanks for the instructible! I'll probably try to make a little terrarium with my newly cleaned out bulb. :D

Good idea! =)

Youdith made it! (author)2017-01-31

Very goor tutorial, thanks! I made it and didn't hurt myself nor the bulb :D

Electrospark (author)Youdith2017-01-31

Nice! Thanks for sharing! :D

Topax101 made it! (author)2016-12-04

Thanks for helping ^^

Electrospark (author)Topax1012017-01-31

You're welcome! :)

AdamB286 (author)2016-08-22

Can i use metal halide bulb?

TreyB11 (author)2016-06-26

Can you do this with a Metal Halide bulb? I have several large burned-out 400W Philips MH bulbs and I was thinking I could take out the innards and replace them with some kind of LED adapter and make some really cool pendant lamps out of them. Anyone know if this is possible?

Electrospark (author)TreyB112016-06-26

The arc tube in the bulb contains mercury and usually when the lamp dies, it's caused by the tube that breaks or cracks, making it's pressure and mercury vapors to escape into the glass bulb.
Also, the arc tube is usually pressurized at around 50psi so opening them up is pretty risky.

So yeah, I really don't recommend doing it.

Hope this helps. :D

TreyB11 (author)Electrospark2016-06-26

Well that explains why there isn't already a DIY for this idea. I suspected that might be the case and I'm glad I didn't risk it. Thanks!

rogijames (author)2016-04-17

Hey man ' good idea & by C F L bulbs do you mean those curly bulbs that came out a few yrs. ago ? The ones that are supposed to use less energy & last twice as long as a normal bulb ? yeh rite !! I had thought about trying that w/ one of those ' but wasent sure of how to go about doing it . Well if they contain mercury ' that idea is a bust . Unless U think I could possibly do it out side & be VERY carefull that the wind is blowing away from me or others !! Do u think that it is at all possible ? I just think they would be cool to make some thing out of a couple of them rather than throughig them out . Some how my computer got messed up 'so if u could reply to my face book I should be able to get your respons . It is ' James Rodgers . Sorry about that ' but I'm still fairly new to this computer thing & I am no typist either .

Electrospark (author)rogijames2016-04-17

Yeah, these are what I mean by CFLs.

No mater how careful you are opening them, the mercury gets in the phosphor powder (white coating inside the glass tube) which is a fine dust you can breathe in easily. There are also special procedure for mercury disposal so going on throwing it away in the trash is not something you want to do.

Also, I don't recommend posting your email and personal info on here, you never know where it might end up.

AshleyD60 (author)2016-03-29

I did it! It was so much easier than I had originally thought and only took me about 10 minutes! now, to figure out what i'm gonna do with it =)

Electrospark (author)AshleyD602016-03-31

Nice! There's a lot of things you can do with them, it's just a matter of searching the web or using your creativity. :D

AshleyD60 (author)2016-03-29

Very helpful! Gonna give this a shot as we speak! =) Thanks again!

Electrospark (author)AshleyD602016-03-29

Good luck! :)

KagedCreations made it! (author)2016-03-01

Thanks for showing me your 'ible that list out the parts of the bulb

Fatpanda (author)2015-04-21

Break the pressure discharge tube
Break the stem press
This means you did NOT open it without breaking it...

Yonatan24 (author)Fatpanda2015-12-25

Without breaking the glass...

Electrospark (author)Fatpanda2015-04-21

I meant not breaking the bulb itself.

theegghead (author)2015-09-18

cool, im the 1000th person to favorite this!

Electrospark (author)theegghead2015-09-18

111,539 views... 1,000 favorites... and didn't went on the homepage. >.>

Thanks for the 1000th favorite! :D

theegghead made it! (author)2015-09-18

I made it!!! I did it with only a screwdriver, if you do it carefully, you don't need the pliers. But wow! all of the things I can make with this. :)

Electrospark (author)theegghead2015-09-18

I know! There's so many things I want to do with them, I just don't have the time to get into it. I have 20 opened light bulbs waiting for me. XD

James Rodgers (author)2015-04-27

Cool ' but can this be done with one of those suppoidly high eficiancey swirly bulbs " I mean safely ? I always thought it would be cool to try to make some thing out of 1 of those bulbs

If you want to get some curly glass tubes maybe if there is a shop that makes customized neon signs in your town (might be hard to find since LEDs are cheaper these days) they can make some for you.

These light bulbs are called CFL
(Compact Fluorescent Lights) and contains Mercury and Mercury vapors so
it's NOT safe to break them or open them.

It's the same with fluorescent tubes and other lights like Metal-Halide lamps and other mercury filled lights.

Most Electronic vacuum tubes and old oil furnace thermostats also contains Mercury.

so many toxic chemicals in everything that every time you want to take
apart something you have to go on the internet and check if there's any
dangerous things for your health. :O

And not to forget the Beryllium insulators in the microwave oven's magnetron!

Anyway, there isn't much more to say here. :P

diy_bloke (author)2015-05-23

interesting. I have done this on a couple of occasions when i was building a flash froma disposable cam into a lightbulb.
Apparently it pays to put them into the freezer first to make the glue between glas and metal a bit brittle and then it is a matter of peeling.
I was then left with a closed glasbulb that had the filament rod still in there. A belt grinder that I gently pushed the bottom against did the trick

panto math magician (author)2015-05-04

its pretty dangerous bro :(

It's not meant to be done by children and if your careful and wear gloves and eyes protection, You should be fine.

Then again, if you don't feel safe working with glass you may be better not to attempt this project. :)

yea ur right

egam (author)2015-04-24

When I was a child we used to do this in our science club. The empty bulbs resist high temperature and we use them for chemistry. They can be held by the metal neck in a support and put over a flame. Those were the days!

Electrospark (author)egam2015-04-24

That sounds awesome! :)

zaston (author)2015-04-20

Just want to add, Salt is definitely the better option to use than Sand- firstly because the sand can be too coarse and could scratch the glass inside. Secondly, because the salt/kaolin mix can be washed away safely down a drain, where a sand/kaolin mix would have to be either placed in a bin or outside.

nonobadog (author)2015-04-19

I just sell my burned out bulbs to green fanatics as 100 percent energy efficient bulbs. (I just don't say 'light bulbs' since they don't actually make any light)

Pezfeo (author)2015-04-14

I think I've seen this "device" used on the TV show "Intervention" before :P

Also in I think a 007 movie as an explosive.

Boogiewoogiewoou (author)Pezfeo2015-04-18

you beat me to it lol

samuel.lopez.5602 (author)2015-04-17

Es genial amigo! Muchas gracias

Bienvenido! :-)

SirCooksalot (author)2015-04-15

This is helpful,thanks for posting. I'm going to make a tiny terrarium inside with some cool rocks and a carpet of moss, maybe a tiny hiker guy. Stick a cork in the top to keep it humid inside,give the moss a little shpritz every few weeks and done. It'd be cool to make a cluster of these around a light source as a lamp or fixture. Or take the numbers from an old 'not-really-digital' clock,the kind that flip a card for each hour, put each number rolodex deal inside a bulb and mount them all to a piece of wood... Cheaper nixie clock! I can't stop thinking of bulb projects,it's like a lightbulb keeps going on over my head!!!

You're welcome!

You could put an LED seven segment display inside the bulb or as I saw on HACKADAY, Use an old amp vacuum tube! :)

Xonk61 (author)Electrospark2015-04-17

caution on the vacuum tubes, many (most? all?) contain mercury.

Electrospark (author)Xonk612015-04-17

You're right, some of them contains mercury!

Thanks for pointing that out, good thing I never opened one but I would have probably looked on the internet first. :)

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm an electronic hobbyist that likes to make stuff. :)
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