Introduction: LED Log Lamp
About a year ago I was interested in creating a futuristic looking lamp that still used a classic wood shape and design. I luckily have a lot of experience with wood shops as well as electronics so I was able to piece it together myself. After making a couple different ones I felt like it was time to make a step by step instructional on how it is created.
This instructional is written and shown for a lamp that uses a constant white LED, however since then I have created similar ones with a color changing LED. The steps are similar with a little bit of a change near the end to include a colored LED strip and controller. See the final step for more instructions on how to make a color changing one instead.
Step 1: Materials Needed
You will need the following materials for this project:
- Semi Straight log with a diameter of at least 5 inches
- 12" section of clear acrylic tube with an outside diameter of 1 inch
- (2) 12" White LED light strips
- (2) 12" RGB LED connector
- 12 volt DC power supply Power cable with outlet prongs
- Three feet of assorted electrical wire
- Lamp Dimmer Socket
- Lamp Light Bulb
- Lamp Nipple
- Lamp Nipple Nuts
- Felt Pad Sheet
- Lamp Shade
- Roll of electrical tape
- Roll of packaging tape
- Wire nut caps
- Spool of solder
- Zip Ties
- Bottle of Wood Glue
- Water Based Satin Varathane
- Paint sprayer with compressor (Or paint Brush)
- Bottle of Gorilla Glue
- Scrape wood to make a sawing carriage.
Step 2: Tools Needed
You will need the following tools to make this project:
- Band Saw
- Drill Press
- Solder Iron
- Assorted Clamps
- Wood Rasp
- 1/2" Forstner Drill Bit
- 3/8" Forstner Drill Bit
- Wire Cutters
- Needle-nosed Pliers
- Wire Stripper
- Box Knife
- 120 Grit Sandpaper
- Rubber or Wooden Mallet
Step 3: Slicing the Log
The first step of this project is pretty simple and straight forward, but still might take a little bit of time to do. To begin this project, you are going to need to find a log that is anywhere from 18 inches to 2 feet long, and no less than 5 inches wide. The lamp is going to have 12 inches of lights on it, but the base needs to be heavy and big enough to support the lamp as well as hold the electronic components. Also, remember to keep in mind the overall look of the lamp, I prefer to make mine with all the branch stubs and cracks showing in it, giving the lamp more character. Once you have chosen your lamp, the rest of this project will go by really fast. For this step I chose a really nice straight log of Madrone wood. I also prefer to leave the bark on the log as it gives more character, however you can strip the bark off if you prefer to.
Once you have found your log, it's time to make the saw carriage to cut the log into slices. It's important to use the carriage not only for obvious reasons of safety, but it also keeps the log slices straight and even.
Once you are done making the carriage, it's time to slice the log. There are no exact measurements for this; it's all done by eye. Remember to keep the base really thick as it's going to hold all the electrical components in them. The top should also be a little thicker than the rest of the lamp to provide more support for the lamp shade to attach to. When I am making my cuts, I prefer to do them all similar, but still different sizes of thickness, again to give character. It's all a matter of taste though.
Step 4: Setting Up to Drill the Holes
After your slices are cut, it's time to drill the holes through them. This would be made easier with a longer Forstner bit, and I know they do make them; however their cost is pretty steep and I would rather take the long route and take an extra 20 minutes instead of spend the extra money. Each slice should be numbered or alphabetized so you know the order they go in. If you don't keep track of them it becomes a puzzle and takes extra time to line the slices up on the acrylic tube.
Step 5: Drilling the First Hole
Now for the drilling. It's pretty straight forward if you understand
the concept of how the slices go on the acrylic tube. Start with the second slice from the top of the lamp (In this case, slice "G"), because it's the first slice that gets drilled all the way through. The very top and very bottom slices do not get drilled all the way through as they provide the support for the rest of the lamp. Line up the center of the drill bit as close to the center of the slice as you can without measuring. If you want to make it precise, you can measure the thickness and width and mark the exact center, again this is just a matter of taste and preference. Drill the hole all the way through the slice. Using clamps to hold the slice is highly recommended to avoid any injuries. Also be sure to use a piece of scrap wood under the log slice to avoid any damages with drilling through the log and into the drill press platform.
Step 6: Drilling the Sequential Holes
Once you have your first slice drilled all the way through, it's time to line up the hole for the next slice. Again, a longer forstner bit would come in handy here, but for this tutorial I'm going to use a regular length one. First, you will take the slice you just cut, as well as the one you are going to cut next. It should be the next one down from the one you just cut; in this case it's going to be slice "F" for me. Place the new slice on the drill press, and then the slice with the hole in it on top of that one.
Now push the drill bit down and into the hole of the slice you previously drilled, keep pressing until you start to dig the drill bit into the slice that has yet to be drilled. It should leave a mark in the slice without the hole, perfectly lining up the drill bit. It's important to keep the slices flush with each other to keep the holes lined up once they are both drilled.
Once the hole is marked with the drill bit, it's time to continue drilling the rest of the slices, but stop before you drill through the top or bottom slices of the log. For the top and bottom slices, set the drill press to drill in to the logs with a depth of 1 inch. Mark the holes on the bottom and top slices in the same manner that you did with the first ones.
Step 7: Checking Your Work
Now you should have all the slices drilled with their required holes, and the hard part is over. Don’t worry if you have more slices than I do, the important part is that you have a base with the hole only drilled about an inch into it, and the top with the same.
Step 8: Gluing the Holes
Because we used a 1 inch forstner bit, and the acrylic tube has an outside diameter of 1 inch, the slices are going to be a little loose for the acrylic tube to hold them up. To solve this problem, we are going to coat the inside of the slices with a little bit of wood glue. So coat all the freshly drilled holes with wood glue, and set them aside to dry for at least an hour. Don't worry about the glue running on the top or bottom of the slice, as we are going to sand that down before we finish the lamp.
Step 9: Coating the Slices
To coat the bark of the lamp, and make it last longer, I sprayed on a water based Varathane to seal and protect it. I prefer to use water-based because it makes clean up easier, and makes it a lot easier to spray it on, rather than brush it on. I also used a satin finish so the log doesn't look glossy and shiny, just matte and clean.
To clean the log, I simply wiped it down with a damp rag. Be careful not to strip off more of the bark. My log had some dirt stains on it making it look older and distressed, which I liked so I was careful not to wipe them off. To spray the slices, I set up two saw horses outside and drilled some screws into them, then ran some string back and forth to hang the slices on.
To hang the bottom and top slice, I used some spare hook hangers I had lying around. If you don't have any hangers, a simple nail or screw should work just fine. Be sure to put it in the center of the hole, as this is going to be drilled out as well soon.
Now feed the slices through the string until each length of string between each saw horse has one of the slices on them, and hang the end slices from their hooks or nails as well. Be careful to ensure that the slices don't touch each other or other parts of the string so you will get an even coat.
Once you are ready, spray on the Varathane and let it sit to dry before applying a second coat. This Varathane I used has a full dry time of 20 minutes, but I waited 30 minutes before applying a second coat just to be certain. After two coats the slices should be ready, but you can do more until you are satisfied with the look, again a matter of personal preference.
Step 10: Marking the Bottom Cavity
The next step is the longest and most time consuming step of the process, to make a cavity on the bottom of the lamp base slice. It needs to be large enough to hold all the electronics, in this case just a simple AC to DC 12 volt power inverter, and some wiring. Be sure to leave plenty of room for the wiring, as it could get a little crowded in the bottom cavity.
To start off, placed the inverter on the bottom of the lamp base and draw a line around the outside of it so you know how much wood to take out of the base. As I said before it's important to leave a lot of extra room for the wiring, as it can get very crowded and lead to problem with overheating.
Step 11: Securing the Bottom Base
There are many ways to go about this step, but I found the safest way was to use a 1/4 inch drill bit to start making my holes in the base of the lamp. I was going to use a large forstner bit, but my log has multiple cracks in it and I didn't want to bit to destroy the lamp by making the cracks bigger.
To give the base some extra stability, I used a ratchet tie down and wrapped it around the base. I was careful not to tighten it too much so it would only hold the base together and not make the cracks worse or leave marks on the base.
Step 12: Drilling the Bottom Base
So back to the drill press, this time I set the press depth to 2 inches and didn't worry about lining them up to the center, which makes it a lot easier than the last drill task was.
Begin by making a series of holes in the bottom of the lamp base as close together as you can.
Step 13: Removing Wood Debris From the Bottom Base
While leaving the tie down still around the base, start using the hammer and chisel to remove the wood from the base of the lamp. I also used a pair of needle-nosed pliers to remove the wood.
Continuously check to see if the power inverter will fit comfortable in the cavity, and continue to make adjustments as you see fit. Remember to leave plenty of room for wiring. Once the inverter fits, clean up the wood and make it look neat and clean.
Step 14: Filling the Cracks
As I mentioned before, my lamp base has a large crack in it. To play it safe and not let the crack get any bigger, I decide to fill it up with some Gorilla glue to give it some extra strength. The reason I left the crack there is it will allow for some natural airflow to the lamp. The Power Inverter I use and recommend is medical grade and has a thermal sensor in it and will shut down if the temperature reaches a safe level. I have never had this happen, but I would rather be safe than sorry.
Because of the airflow, I wanted to leave some holes in the crack and would rather not completely seal it up with the gorilla glue. I know from past experiences that Gorilla glue expands as it dries, so I am careful not to overuse the glue. You also don't want the glue to show from the outside of the lamp, so be careful to only get the glue on the inside of the lamp, and use a minimal amount.
After letting the glue take its full 2 hours to set, we can now finish drilling the holes for the wiring to connect the lights together.
Step 15: Sanding the Tube
Start to sand the acrylic tube. You want a frosted look so the LED lights are harder to see, but the light is displaced and lights up the whole tube.
Using 120 grit sandpaper, sand circles into the acrylic tube. Be sure to move the sand paper in circles, if you do strokes in the same direction it won't frost the acrylic, it will just make it look scratched. If you have a sand blasting tank it is highly recommended to use that instead. Sand blasting will give it an evenly coated frosted look and make it a lot faster.
Step 16: Drilling the Top and Bottom Slices' Smaller Holes
This is where the 3/8" drill bit comes into play. To goal is to make a smaller hole in the hole we drilled in the bottom and top slices of the lamp. The wiring will run through it to connect the lights together.
Back to the drill press, we drill the holes in the top slice of the lamp as well as the bottom slice of the lamp. Before we drill the hole, check the outside diameter of the lamp nipple. I think the standard is 3/8", but don't quote me on that. If yours is not 3/8", then change to the drill bit that fits your lamp nipple.
Using the drill press, drill the hole all the way through the top slice, as well as the bottom slice in the middle of the previously drilled hole. Be sure to use a piece of scrap wood under the slice so you do not damage the drill press if you go too far.
Step 17: Inserting the Power Cord
The final drilling step is to drill a hole sideways into the base of the lamp. This is a hole for the power cord to come through. You should have already chosen the front of the lamp and the back of the lamp. The front should have more to look at; for instance on mine it's the part with the branch stubs, as well as where the bark is starting to peel off. It's a lot more attractive than the back of the lamp, which is a little plainer.
Use a drill bit that is just a tiny bit larger than your diameter of your power cable. This will allow for a snug fit of the power cable.
Once the hole is drilled, feed the power cable through the hole into the bottom cavity of the lamp., leaving the outlet prongs on the outside of the lamp.
Pull the cord through and leave 6 to 8 inches of length of cord inside of the lamp, with the rest still outside of the lamp. To hold the cord in place and to avoid any damage from someone yanking on the cord, use two zip ties and wrapped them around the cord and pull them tight, one in each direction. After the zip ties are on tight, cut off the extra sections.
Step 18: Gluing the Tube in Place
Before we can start soldering all the electrical components together, we need to glue the acrylic tube into the base of the lamp. To glue it in, I used a tiny bit of gorilla glue. The fit was already snug because we used the wood glue to make the holes wider, but it still needs a little bit of glue to bind the two together.
Add just a tiny bit of gorilla glue to the sides of the hole in the lamp base. Then using a wooden or rubber mallet, gently tap the tube into the base of the lamp. It should go slowly but surely. The tighter the fit the better support it will give the rest of the lamp.
Step 19: Reviewing the Wiring Diagram
You will eventually put the rest of the rings onthe lamp base, but for the time being you will focus on soldering the electronics together for the lights. Though the Gorilla glue hasn't dried or set yet, it's probably okay to continue working rather than wait for it to dry, but you will need to be the judge of it. If the tube fits in the base snugly, then you are okay to move it around. But if there is a lot of wiggle room, it's better to wait for the glue to dry before moving on.
Now to start the fun part, soldering the electronics together. Included is a wiring diagram so you can solder everything easier without having to follow step by step directions. For those who are not that good with wiring diagrams, I'm also going to do a step by step direction of soldering the electronics.
Step 20: Preparing to Soldering the Inverter's Power Input
If you choose not to use the wiring diagram, here's how to begin. First off, I choose to break the extra plastic clip off the power inverter. I just used the wire cutters and a pair of needle-nosed pliers. The plastic clip would come in handy had I of ordered the plastic clip for the wiring, in this case I didn't and I found it a nuisance over anything else.
Once the plastic clip is removed, the fun part begins. Because the prongs are sort of close together, I used the needle nosed pliers and gently bent the prongs apart to give me more room to solder the wires to them.
Because I am going to solder 2 wires to each prong of the inverter, I found it easier to simply solder a short length of wire to the prong, and then solder the wires from the lights to this wire. This way I only had to solder one wire to the prongs, making it a lot simplified to solder.
Each wire was roughly 6 inches long, which leaves me enough room to work with, and I can shorten them later to get the right length for each light. It's convenient to use different colored wires to do this part, however, using the same colored wire is just as good, as long as you follow the wiring diagram to double check the connections.
Step 21: Soldering the Inverter's Power Input
To begin with, take your 6 in length of wire, using the strippers to strip the wire longer than you usually would, leaving an inch of bare wire exposed. To get the wire to wrap around the prong, I first wrapped the bare wire around the solder to get its spiral shape.
Now move the wire to the prong and keep it tightly wrapped around the prong. You can choose which prong to solder it to using the wiring diagram to double check your work. For my project I chose the middle prong first, which happens to be AC Neutral.
Once the wire it wrapped, solder it on. Touch the solder iron to the prong and wire to get it hot, and then add the solder to them both. The solder should evenly coat the wire and prong to provide a durable and even bond.
Repeat the process with the other prong on the Inverter. Refer to the photo to double check you solder it to the right prong. It should be the prong on the right if you have the AC side of the inverter closest to you and the DC side furthest away.
When you are done soldering the wires to the inverter, it is a good idea to wrap the contacts with electrical tape. While they more than likely wouldn't touch, we're still using electronic components in the presence of wood and other metals, and avoiding any danger is always a good idea.
Step 22: Attaching and Preparing the LED Strip
Once the wiring is started on the Inverter, it is time to prepare the LED light strips for the lamp. As you have probably already noticed, the top of the lamp has a conventional lamp, so we need to run the wiring up the middle of the lamp to give power to the top light. We do this by running the wires for it between the LED strips to hide the wires.
To accomplish this we first connect the RGB Light strip connectors to the LED strips. On one side of all the RGB connectors, there is a little arrow; this arrow should be pointing to the left on the bottom side of the light strip. See the photo for reference.
Once both the LED strips are connected to the Strips, cut a 24 inch length of wire, which will be used to give power to the top light. On the back of the LED strips there is a peel and stick tape, peel the paper off the tape of one of the light stripes and being sure to leave plenty of excess wire on both sides of the LED, stick the two foot lengths of wires to the back of the LED light.
To hold the LED strips together with the wire between them, wrap the LED strips with packaging tape. The more layers you use the more light is blocked, so keep it to one layer to provide the most light.
To hold the LED strip connectors together, use a strip of electrical tape to hold it all together, being sure not to cover any of the LED lights on the strip.
Step 23: Preparing the Light's Wires
Because the LED strip connectors are designed for RGB LED strips, they include the two extra color wires, the green and blue. Since we are using a single color LED, we only need to use two of these wires. For the white LED strips, we can clip off the extra green and blue wires as they are not going to be used. However, if you use a different color LED strip, it might use the other colors. To check if this is the case, check with the manufacture and their wiring diagrams.
Now it is time to strip all the wires we are still working with. Use a pair of wire strippers and take off half an inch of the wire casing for each wire. In this case it's the red and white wires for the LED as well as both wires for the AC lamp. After stripping the wires, wrap it all up with some more electrical tape, leaving only the wires we are going to use outside of the tape, making it protected and easier to work with
Step 24: Soldering It All Together Pt. 1
The first time I made this lamp, I made the mistake of soldering the wires together before actually putting them in the lamp, so don't make my mistake as well. Insert the LED strip into the acrylic tube and pull the six wires through the bottom of the tube and into the cavity in the bottom base of the lamp.
Now connect the LED strips with the wiring from the power inverter. In my lamp, I soldered red and white wires to the power inverter earlier so I could use them as a reference for this step. However, the color of wires does not matter, as long as you solder them correctly by referring to the wiring diagram. Finally, wrap the soldered connections together with some electrical tape to prevent them from shorting out.
Step 25: Striping the Main Power Cord
Now, strip the wires for the power cord. The cord should already be inserted in the base of the lamp and ready to be stripped. In my case, the power cable has a thick protective insulator around the two wires. To remove this insulator, I used a box knife and gently make a cut around the wire's insulator.
After removing the outer insulator, and the fiber insulator inside the wires, it was time to strip the wires. Using the wire strippers, expose roughly half an inch of bare wire.
Step 26: Attaching the 120v Power Wires
The power cable wires are going to be used to power two different devices, the AC/DC inverter and the main lamp light. The simplest way to do this is to connect all 3 wires together like in the photo below. Remember that your wire colors might be different than mine are.
Once you have the wires wrapped together, cap each group with a wire nut. It is also recommended to wrap each wire nut with electrical tape to insure they don't come loose over time.
Before we start to glue everything together, it's a safe bet to test the LED lights. To do this, simply plug in the power supply and give the LED's a second to turn on. If by chance they haven't turned on, or maybe only one of them turned on. You'll have to remove the solder for the wires connecting to LED strips to the power inverter and reverse them. If that doesn't work, then double check all the wiring with the wiring diagram.
Once you are certain that your LED lamps work, test the wires for the main light on the top of the lamp. To do this, use your multi-meter, being careful not to touch the live wires while it is plugged in. First set the multi-meter to the right setting (if you are unsure which setting to use, search for it online) and touch each prong to each end of the wires with the power plugged in. The multi-meter should read anywhere from 110 to 120. If it is drastically lower than that, double check your connections with the wiring diagram. When everything is checked out and working correctly, unplug to lamp and give it a few seconds to drain all the power from the inverter.
Step 27: Stacking the Slices On
Now that all the wiring is correctly connected, it is time to put all the rings on the lamp and see it progress from a chunk of wood with an acrylic rod in it to a lamp.
Because we applied wood glue to the inside of the holes for the lamp's rings, they are going to be incredibly snug to get on the acrylic tube. While we want a nice tight fit, we don't want to break them putting them on. To accomplish this safely and easily, use a wood rasp to widen the inside of the holes for each ring. Not every ring will be as tight fitting as the first one, so check each one before using the rasp to take some of the wood and glue out.
Gently tap the rings onto the acrylic tube using the rubber or wooden mallet, alternating each side of the ring to ensure they go on evenly and not crocked.
Continue adding the rings, leaving space between each one. When I make my lamps, I leave the gap between each lamp as a random size, however you can measure out the sizes to get an even amount of gap between them if you prefer.
Step 28: Inserting the Top Slice's Nipple
Once you have all the rings on the lamp with the exception of the top ring, it is time to actually add the top ring.
The top ring needs to have the lamp nipple in it before we can mount it on the top of the lamp. To do this, use the 3/8" drill bit, to drill a hole in the center of the hole we already partially drilled in the top ring. The 3/8" hole will go all the way through the lamp ring. We previously did this for the bottom slice, so we are only repeating the process for the top ring if you haven't done so already.
Once the hole is drilled, take the lamp nipple and thread on two of the nuts. When you get the nuts threaded on the nipple, thread them against each other to tighten them up and prevent them from moving later on.
Taking the end of the nipple with the two nuts on it, feed the nipple into the hole we just drilled.
Now take one more nut and thread it on the lamp nipple to bind the nipple snugly against the lamp ring, use a wrench if necessary.
Step 29: Attaching the Top Slice
It is time to place the last ring onto the lamp. Feeding the wire from the acrylic tube through the lamp nipple, push the top ring onto the acrylic tube. Push the top down snugly, pushing the LED light down into the tube.
Thread on the lamp bulb socket onto the lamp nipple with the wires hanging out the top like the image below. Also, tighten down the screw on the lamp socket to hold it securely in place if your socket has one.
Taking the wires from the top of the lamp, cut them to 3 inches long to save room in the lamp's socket. Then strip the wires like the image shown.
Step 30: Checking All Your Work
Using a screw driver, twist each wire around one of the screws in the lamp socket. Because we are using AC electricity and a simple light bulb, we don't need to worry about connecting the negative to the positive and vice versa.If you are using a LED light bulb, the polarity might matter, but again we are using a simple incandescent light bulb, we are okay not worrying about polarity.
Once the wires are threaded on tightly, and the screws are tightened, push the lamp socket pieces together like the image below. It should require some force so don't worry if it takes a little bit of effort to get them together.
To test the connections, insert a regular household lamp bulb into the lamp's socket and plug the lamp in. Be sure to turn the dimmer knob up to get the top light bulb to light up. If for some reason your light bulb doesn't turn on, use a known good lamp bulb to eliminate the possibility that the bulb is dead. If it's a known good bulb, but the lamp still doesn't light up, check all the wiring connections and look for loose connections. You can refer to the wiring diagram if you have any uncertainties.
Step 31: Gluing the Slices All Together
After the lamp has been tested and works, it is time to attach it to the rest of the lamp. To do this, use a couple long clamps to hold it in place, and a little bit of gorilla glue. Again, remember that Gorilla glue expands a LOT and you don't want to over use it as it will leave a mess around the tube.
Apply the Gorilla glue to the inside of the wood ring like we did on the bottom ring, and then push the acrylic tube into the lamp. Gorilla glue is really strong and durable, but it does take a long time to set. So I recommend the use of clamps to hold them together while it is setting.
Step 32: Attaching the Felt Bottom
After the glue is set and the top is firmly held in place, the final step is to simply glue the felt pad to the bottom of the lamp. To do this, use simple super glue, but any glue will work just fine. I prefer the super glue because it dried quickly and I didn't have to wait for it to set. Hot glue will also accomplish this task efficiently as well. After gluing the felt pad in place, use a razor blade to trim the felt pad to the shape of the lamp base.
Step 33: Admiring Your Work
The final step of this project is to add the lamp shade to the lamp, turn off the other lights in a room, plug in your new lamp and admire your hard work.
Step 34: Update: Making the Lamp Change Color
After completing my first lamp, I decided to add more interaction to the lamp, thus leading me to add a color changing LED strip and remote control. To add these, you will need to purchase more components for the lamp:
It's very simple for these extra components to fit inside of the lamp, as the base is already fairly wide enough for it if you left room for some air flow for the power supply.
Before you add anything else to the cavity in the bottom of the lamp, remove all the components there, and drill a small hole in the side of the lamp, for the inferred sensor that connects to the color controller.
The wiring diagram is fairly simple, but feel free to message me with any questions you may have.
The wiring diagram from the manufacture is in the images above, the only exception is that you can use the DC end of the power supply to power the color controller, instead of using the one described in the photo.
The final step is to connect all the components together and glue the IR sensor to the inside of the hole in the side of the lamp for the remote control to connect to the color controller.
I will have a fully detailed instructable on the colored lamp available shortly, until then feel free to message me with any questions you might have.
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