Introduction: Luminous Mushroom Night Light

Picture of Luminous Mushroom Night Light

I was intrigued by those mushroom lamps by a Japanese artist.  I didn't like the on/off button, though, and I wasn't thrilled about the prospect of making mushrooms out of glass.

Here's my version, using stuff I had on hand.

Unfortunately, we didn't have a suitable solar panel and my husband wasn't up for running to the local supplier for one, so I have to wait a bit before it's completely finished to my liking.  I designed the shape so the small solar panel can rest on the back at an angle and charge during the day if one leaves it in a sunny windowsill.  

I wanted the mushrooms to resemble the real luminous mushrooms and glow for awhile after it was turned off.

Step 1: Prepare the Log

Picture of Prepare the Log

I was originally going to use part of a birch branch I cut from our tree (it had been partly rotted).  Once I started sawing the rotten part off, two spiders and an earwig crawled out and I lost my nerve.  I considered my other options.

A smooth, decaying stick I found in the strawberry bed seemed aesthetically pleasing... but all the cracks almost guaranteed lots of bugs.

The maple branch I'd removed from our tree a few weeks ago was almost certain to have very few things that might crawl out and bite me, but it just wasn't very interesting to look at.

Finally, I decided on the root end of some evergreen bushes I recently ripped up.  I didn't see any holes where bugs might be hiding, and it was definitely interesting to look at.  I washed it with the hose, broke off the extra branches, and dried it in the oven at 200 degrees for a couple hours.  That way, any bugs would hopefully die.

I then drilled holes where I thought mushrooms should go.

I decided to put the wiring etc in the back, rather than hollowing out part of the log.  The solar panel would have to be visible, anyway.

Step 2: Make the Mushroom Caps and Stalks

Picture of Make the Mushroom Caps and Stalks

I used Sculpey 3 polymer clay in two colors:  translucent and glow-in-the-dark.

I wanted to create a subtle stripe effect instead of just mashing the two together.

I rolled out a log of each color then sliced them in fourths.  I placed the sections next to each other to make a shorter, fatter log, then squished them together and rolled them out again.  I repeated this a couple more times until the stripes were as thin as I liked.

I left the log thick and sliced off sections to make the caps.  I pinched the outsides of the slice together into a point to form the top of the mushroom cap so the stripes would line up properly.  I smooshed a handle into the bottom of the cap to hollow it out a bit, then pressed a blade into the cap to form lines inside and out. 

I used two enameled copper wires for each stem.  I rolled out a small log of the striped clay, flattened it, then wrapped it around the wires; the long ends of wire protruded from the bottom of the stem.  I squished the clay up from the bottom of the stem a bit to make it slightly fatter.  I bent some of the stems just a little to make them more interesting.

The tops of the caps and the bottoms of the stems could use some color.  I'd have used a flat brown brush on pigment powder if I had any, but all I had was metallic copper or silver powder.  I used those.  I like shiny.

On one of the mushrooms, I decided to use something flatter.  I went outside and grabbed a little dirt.  The dirt has larger particles than the pigment, so I really had to press it into the clay.  I could've scraped some brown chalk with a knife and used that powder, but I couldn't find it.

I baked these at 275 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Step 3: Assemble the Lamp

Picture of Assemble the Lamp

I threaded the long wires from the mushroom stalks through the holes I had drilled in the log.  Then I squirted some hot glue in to hold the stalks in place.

My husband helped with the next part.  Because we were doing detailed stuff, I asked to use his iphone to take pictures instead.  My new one hasn't shipped yet, and the iphone 4 takes much more detailed pictures than my old one.  Unfortunately, his phone crashed half an hour after we finished the lamp and he lost everything recently added.  I'm really sorry about the lack of pictures.  Yes, we do have a real camera... somewhere... I probably couldn't find the cord to save my life, though...

We scraped the enamel off the ends of the wire.  Then we coated the wires with flux and soldered a white surface mount LED to the top of each mushroom stalk.  I had only used one color of wire on each stalk, so we had to test the long ends to find out which was positive and which was negative.  We attached a resistor to each positive wire... it was tan with two red bands and a brown one.  I forgot the numbers, but I'm sure you can look up what type of resistor to use based on your specific LED setup.

Because we don't yet have the right solar panel, we just hooked up two AAA batteries to light the thing up.  Once we get the solar panel we can put in a rechargeable battery and solder everything together.

After the LEDs were soldered in place, I squirted some hot glue into each mushroom cap, held it upside down for a few seconds so it wouldn't drip out, then squished it onto a stalk.

Step 4: Charge and Admire

Picture of Charge and Admire

Because we were using batteries, I was able to admire my handiwork right away.  You can see me holding the bread board behind the lamp.  I didn't want to permanently attach anything until I got my solar panel.

I would recommend spraying with a clear sealant after everything is assembled; it's good to protect the wood.  I haven't done this yet.  I considered painting the white fungus on the wood with glow in the dark paint, but I haven't decided whether or not I will.

My iphone doesn't do a very good job of picking up the glowing mushrooms after the LEDs are off.  They do glow pretty well, and the stripes of glow clay and translucent clay are more visible in person.

Thanks for looking!  I hope you try your own.


PaffoP (author)2015-03-24

2636 (author)PaffoP2017-07-06

Thats what i was gunna say

MattT44 (author)2016-10-18

love this I'm actually starting my own. I have a strand of led lights but they seem to be too dim. I've made the stalks as thin as I can without compromising the structural integrity of the clay stalks. I might have to figure out different specifications for my lighting. I'll post my results when I've completed the project. thanks for the hints!

BJM9 (author)2016-01-28

I would love this, but I think (pretty much know) I lack the skill to make it.

debknaff (author)2015-10-02

This is so gorgeous! I was imaging a small version in a fairy garden...... Wouldn't that be cool?

Moini made it! (author)2015-04-21

This is my version - the hardest part was to find a suitable piece of wood. I used scrapings of pastel chalk instead of dirt for the little heads :D

Now I only need some space where I can display them... ;)

alitlcrzyart (author)2011-02-11

Can you suggest a solar panel to purchase and a site to buy it from? I have been confused by what volts I need and have seen solar cells and panels for $1.50 to $37.00. I love the idea but I am not sure what to buy to make it work correctly. Thank you!

LindaS5 (author)alitlcrzyart2014-11-11

I've seen small solar panels in hardware stores in those stake lights that you just jam down into the side of the sidewalk, or what ever you want lighted. In Ace hardware, we bought some after the sales, for about $2.99. I usually see these things dressed up for holiday seasons, but wait till after they go on sale. They are generally around 2 inch x 2 inch.. Might this kind of panel work.. Home Depot, Lowes, you can find these small light sticks at most of these places.

Nasubi77 (author)alitlcrzyart2011-08-11

If you can find a set of solar yard lights at a yard sale or something, you can dissect it and use the solar panel from it! A lot of people will just toss the cheap ones out when they stop working, but it's rarely the solar panel which has gone bad.

LindaS5 (author)2014-11-11

Very nice project. I've been wanting to do this but for usage in a garden, in the state of Md. Do you have any suggestions for how I might power those versions? I want to do them is sizes about 3 - 4 inches tall so that I can see them from inside, just to give the back yard a magical feel.. I was thinking of using some power cells easily found at your local Ace hardware, the kind that are in the cheap stake style, for power. I don't know how to wire it, but my husband probably does.. Do you have any suggestions for what I might use for the actual body of the mushroom, that light would show through.. I saw someone mention some sculpy clay, but since I want it for year round outside usage??? obviously clay isn't going to work.. Is this a doable project??? thanks to anyone answering.

Tophat12 made it! (author)2014-09-06

Advice: Pick a soft piece of wood.

Tophat12 made it! (author)2014-09-06

Advice: Pick a soft piece of wood.

fryddog (author)2014-07-13

A way to combat those bugs when making anything from an outside piece of wood is to fill any cracks or mite holes with kerosene and let it dry out for a few days.

gwenik (author)2013-11-30

I would like to know if it is real mushroom? or fired musroom??
thank you.

chuckr44 (author)gwenik2014-01-14

It's a mushroom made from air-dry clay.

andrea biffi (author)2013-02-03

that's so magic...

MiguelJAS (author)2012-11-22

Thanks! That's pretty much what happened to me... I was really looking forward to building this, and it would take me quite a while to get SMD's here in Portugal, so I decided to go with what I had and I used blue leds. It doesn't look really "natural" but I'm happy with the results of this first experience.
I'm still playing with it, but here's how it looks so far.

Thanks once again for sharing such a great project and idea!
P.S.: I've been experiencing some problems trying to post a reply, so I'm sorry if you end up with a few similar ones... :p

MiguelJAS (author)2012-11-17

Great instructable!!
I've been reading quite a few, trying to decide which project I'm going to take, to get back to building stuff as an hobby. This will absolutely be my first project!!

Is there a specific reason why you used SMD leds (surface mounted)?

Thanks once again for a great idea! I'll try to post some pictures after I finish mine!

supersoftdrink (author)MiguelJAS2012-11-21

I used what I could find in our messy project room... they were the only LEDs in that particular color (a yellowish green, similar to the color of fireflies or natural glowing mushrooms), and I figured the color would go really well with the mushrooms. White LEDs are brighter and make for a more functional night light, but the tiny yellow green ones were pretty and subtle.

siskk (author)2012-05-11

Love the idea...where in the heck do you get the led lights and all the know how to hook up wires??? I don't have a tech savy hubby but I think I could figure it out if I had some direction.

Fairycheese1 (author)siskk2012-11-21

I'm trying to work it out too! following links from other instructables mainly - I want to make a mushroom light using up nearly dead batteries so have been trying to make a joule thief first and following the links. LED's and other components you can get from broken electricals, lights etc or new from Ebay, Radioshack in the USA or Maplins in the UK. Fimo now do an 'effects' range of polymer clays including transparent colours, glow in the dark and sparkly!

AussieAnglerGal (author)2012-08-27

wow thats so cool :)

cdubnbird (author)2012-07-31

this truly one of the best Instructables I've ever seen, absolutely spectacular.

fsfshsyhh (author)2011-12-03

Can you help me please? i want to have LED lamps in serial

power supply 3V
forward voltage 3.2-3.4

How many leds can i light up with 3V? Do i need a resistor for that, and how many OHM? Im a really beginner and i need help.

srhadaham (author)fsfshsyhh2011-12-03

I also don't know a whole lot about this, but i find this website most helpful

just plug in the specs for your lights and power source and it will give you what you need to know

db'alexander (author)2011-12-03

Well done, I love the combination of wood, plastic and electronics. I am usually more verbose, but I am hungry and somewhat amazed at how good this looks.

FrozenIce (author)2011-12-02

wow dude, these ar saaweeet :D

una_amor (author)2011-11-29

Oh my word. This is so enchanting. It makes me calm. It reminds me of the iPad game "Spirits". I can imagine placing a little music box inside of it somewhere. It would make a cool night light for kids. Thank you for this great project.

shortone (author)2011-11-28

Put you in my gift guide for guys! Just thought I'd let you know :)

dmadru (author)2011-04-10

I'm Confused. Where Exactly Are The LEDs Located And Where Are The Wires That Are Connected To The LEDs Are? It Looks Fantastic By The Way!

supersoftdrink (author)dmadru2011-04-11

Are you able to see all the pictures?

The LEDs are inside the mushroom caps, glued in with hot glue. The wires go through the mushroom stems and through the log to the back. I soldered the LEDs to the wires on top of the stems and then hot glued the mushroom caps on top of the LEDs.

dmadru (author)supersoftdrink2011-04-11

I Understand That But Where In The Mushroom Caps. Is The Clay Slightly Translucent?

kennan (author)dmadru2011-11-28

I can answer this. Yeah, Sculpey in the lighter colors is somewhat translucent, especially at low thicknesses.

dmadru (author)kennan2011-11-28


Tinkering_Pirate (author)2011-10-31

I absolutely love this. I am slowly turning my office into a "wizard's study" and it seems to me that a log with luminescent mushroom growing on it would fit in quite well with the theme!

Foo_Plinger (author)2010-09-10

I have a question....just started breadboarding this tonight, using a solar light I bought at Lowes (3.99), it is a single led, with a single battery, and a photocell to turn it on at night. Picked up a telephone battery pack (3 AA's) to power 6 led's. I have that all hooked up with resistors (1/4 watt), and everything looks good, EXCEPT, the photocell won't turn the lights off/on. If I have the one led attached, the photocell turns it on/off according to the light. Once I hook up the 6 led's, it no longer turns them off. What gives? Is it the increased power, or the increased draw? Anyone have ideas to check?

Bluebie (author)Foo_Plinger2011-10-16

Right. The trouble with using a photo cell is that it is itself a resistor. Each LED requires a "forward voltage" somewhere between 2 and 3.5 volts. When electricity passes though it, it consumes some amount of voltage as well, using that energy to create light. Resistors are used with LEDs to restrict how much energy passes through them, so they don't overheat when connected to a power source higher than their forward voltage. When you use more LEDs, the photocell is apparently providing enough resistance to stop them from each being able to receive their forward voltage. One way around this would be to use a transistor as an electronic switch. It can take in the signal from a photo cell, and switch a much larger power supply to the LEDs without adding very much resistance at all, so you can still use normal online LED resistor calculators.

To use a transistor, you would want to connect the LEDs and photo cell to the positive end of your power supply, then connect the negative end of your LED array (including any resistors) to the 'collector' wire of the transistor, and the photo cell in series with a resistor around 5-10kohm, connected to the transistor's base, with a high value resistor like 1mohm connecting from the base to the negative of your power supply, as well as the emitter wire from the transistor also connected to the power supply negative. A circuit like that should work with NPN transistors like the common 2n2222 a which are available for less than a cent in large quantities, so should be cheaply available anywhere.

Foo_Plinger (author)Bluebie2011-10-18

Your reply will help me out I think, but I wanted to point out that my problem is not that the LED's won't turn ON, it's that they won't turn OFF. With just one LED the photocell works as expected, with 6 they stay on constantly, regardless of how much light the photocell is receiving.

Bluebie (author)Foo_Plinger2011-10-18

Could you explain how you have things wired up now?

instructamum (author)2010-09-08

red red brown on a tan body is probably a 220 ohm resistor (red is 2, the third band, brown is *10, so 22*10=220 ohm).

The tan colour means it is a carbon resistor. these are the most common and cheapest to buy.

3 volts from two AAA would barely power most -white- LEDs, even without a resistor.
Usually White LEDs require a minimum of 3.2 volts but some won't switch on till 3.5 volts. So if anyone has problems, use a third battery.

I really like the look of this project. thanks for the instructable.

greintsma (author)instructamum2011-10-07

What???, I've disassembled so many products with the same parts(especially little solar garden lights) and they ALL used two AAs which also produces a combined 3 volts and they use a variety of LEDs of different types/sizes. ???

They do have slightly more complicated circuits, is there a "voltage upstepper" or whatever that component is called if such a thing exists?

instructamum (author)greintsma2011-10-08

They would almost have to have a dc-dc converter.
Rechargable AA batteries only hold 1.2v. For a total of 2.4v --- White LEDs are on average 3.5v devices.

Here is a simple tutorial for making a dc-dc booster- ideal for LEDs.
I've made many of these, it's a fun little project.

The nocturnal circuit that turns on the lights is really nifty too. This is a very relyable and efficient one, you can replace the 1F cap with three rechargable batteries.


ictrewel (author)2011-02-12

Came across your article, so I decided to do one of my own. Thanks for the inspiration! Not as elaborate as yours, but plans are there for the future.

hhamilton2 (author)ictrewel2011-10-03

Yours is darling!!

supersoftdrink (author)ictrewel2011-04-11

Gorgeous! I love its elegant simplicity. Thanks so much for sharing - please take more pictures if you make more. :) I'd love to see them.

Alex Ribeiro (author)ictrewel2011-02-27

Nice work!

PatchIsCooking (author)2011-08-23

I've never used Sculpey before. How does it fair against the weather? These would be great to have lining my walkway outside. Electronics aside, how do they hold up against wind, rain, and sun?

instruct39 (author)2011-08-23

very cool! great instructable, quite clear and detailed

ilpug (author)2011-08-23

I want to make several of these in my room.

llepisto (author)2011-08-23

I love this, I like to know how do I find or to make mushroom sculpey polymer clay that I am first time to learn to and want make this that my really favorite glow mushrooms.

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm known as Glindabunny elsewhere on the web. (silly name, I know... it was based on a former pet) Everyone is born with unique ... More »
More by supersoftdrink:Glowing Mushroom Wooden RingMoldable Fabric for Doll ClothesLeda's Study: my Mystery Build 2013 entry
Add instructable to: