Picture of Mad Scientists Light
A Maker friendly version of the Tube Lamp by Nik Willmore. a captivating Light source suitable for normal usage and able to be dimmed down like a nice relaxing night light

Step 1: Intro / Disclaimer

Picture of Intro / Disclaimer
*Disclaimer* This Project involves Live electrical current and wiring, although it is not too complicated, if you are nervous about such a project i suggest you skip this one, I'm not a professional electrician, and just because i didn't burn my house down and kill myself with this setup doesn't mean it can't happen to you. Please take the proper safety precautions when working with electricity, IT CAN KILL YOU. I'm not responsible if you shock/electrocute yourself, burn your house down, burn out your eye sockets or disrupt the space time continuum. and please do not try to reproduce this project for the purpose of making money, to do so would hurt the original designer Nik Willmore whom inspired this wonderful project.*

A few years ago i saw this little beauty [http://www.thetubelamp.com//photos/tags The Tube Lamp] pop up online, designed by Nik Willmore and decided it was exactly what i needed for my little Mad scientist Laboratory. unfortunately i couldn't spare the disposable cash needed (or justify it) to purchase such an item, though i would still like to some day as his still has a captivating hold on me :)

This is project to show you how to make a much more cost effective version of the tube lamp design to get you by for the meantime. Rough estimate of the costs involved in this project is totaled at around or under $20 depending on the supplies you choose.

NOTE: I Have updated some of the steps to help clarify some things and changed the way certain things are setup so they are more efficient and easier to understand. and from now on i also won't wait as long between doing a project, taking the pictures, and then making the write up as that leaves too much room for error :) thanks for reading.
PHOBoS6 years ago
here is my version made from some stuff I had laying around

frenzy PHOBoS5 years ago
Congrats! This project has won today's I Made It Challenge. For this you will receive a pro membership!


 OK, that is just cool.  You wouldn't happen to be willing to share the schematics for this, would you?

I don't have any problems with sharing the schematics, as a matter of fact, I'd love to =) (all information should be free) That's why you can find it at my website: phobos.50webs.com/elektroweb/madscientistlight.html (take a look at the original sketch). I noticed I still haven't provided any additional information on the site so here some extra notes; The flashing is done using ordinary fluorescent light starters. and I used a very basic dimmer ciruit in series with the rest of the circuit (that is switches, starters and bulbs).

The components for the dimmer are:
- standard Diac (like a DB3)
- Triac (anything will do as long as it can handle the power of the bulbs, like a TIC 206 or BT136)
- 470K potentiometer
- 0.1uF capacitor (50V type should do fine, but I usually use a 250V or 400V type just in case one of the other component should fail)

you can find the dimmer circuit at the bottom of the sketch.

If you have any questions just let me know.

Ow, and if you build one yourself, I'd love to see it!
RafayJ3 months ago

wAh g wAh!!

lbspivey made it!1 year ago

This project was so much fun! I made it as a Valentine's gift for my husband.

twopussez1 year ago

Love it. I think there's a load of fun to be had 3D printing customised shells for stuff like lighting, provided the plastic doesnt get too close to the bulb or it'd melt. I quite like the idea of scanning a heat-melted PLA and printing that in harder finish ABS

whiplash181 year ago
Just finished this as a gift for my brother. Thanks!
CFLlamp2 years ago
This is not the first time the State is launching a campaign to promote compact fluorescent lamps (CFL).
In early 2009, the then Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB) tried to implement Bachat Lamp Yojana (BLY), a nation-wide scheme of replacing incandescent bulbs (ICBs) with CFLs.
elikope2 years ago
Thanks for the awesome idea! made mine today out of an old cigar box.
Two Raven3 years ago
So happy that you posted this!
I am a novice at electrical stuff, so your guide really helped me to go above and beyond once I understood the principals. The Box on the right is my first, the second is made with Christmas lights and vintage doctor office test tubes and the third has a dimmer, stand-by light and working clock. I couldn't have done it without this instructable!!!
Two Raven3 years ago
So happy that you posted this! I am a novice at electrical stuff, so your guide really helped me to go above and beyond once I understood the principals. The Box on the right is my first, the second is made with Christmas lights and vintage doctor office test tubes and the third has a dimmer, stand by light and working clock. I couldn't have done it without this instructable!!!
that looks really cool
itsjustdoc3 years ago
Y'know, I was planning on using Nixie tubes if ever I took this 'ible on; the bulbs look enough like Nixies that I got confused before I got to this stage. On a side not, could we get a wiring diagram? The pictures you have elsewhere look like black spaghetti and it's hecka hard to figure out what goes to where.
JKPieGuy3 years ago
It would look really cool if you used a cotton covered cord! :]
abstracted3 years ago
here is my version...took a while to build, due to the bulbs were "intermediate" base (smaller than standard, but bigger than a night light bulb) so i built my own bulb sockets. i used a pine craft box from the dollar store and a few parts frm a victorian replica phone. i wanted the victorian steampunk look. i made the sockets from clear lexan tubes from discarded "under car" neon lights and 14 guage household wire, by wraping the "bared" solid copper wire arounf the base of the bulb creating the coiled threads for the socket. I then JB quik welded the coils inside the clear lexan tubes, as well as the center pin conductor pieces. as the sockets are made of clear tube i was thinking of adding a red light inside that will cause the clear ring of the sockets to glow. the outer rings on the sockets are made frm aluminum spacer rings frm discarded hard drives painted with "brass" colored spray paint. thnx 4 all the inspiration!
Nice! Now to figure out how to make a bunch of them into a numerical display for keeping track of the divergence percentage of the current universe!
justjimAZ4 years ago
I started with a pink Barbie wardrobe and wired the lights in series to eliminate the dimmer. I actually used aquarium bulbs, which were much cheaper and had a glow I liked.
finished closeup.jpgpink beginning.JPGfinished.jpg
jkx9 years ago
I'm unable to find this kind of buld here in France. Do you have any tips to help me.?
sschindle jkx4 years ago

just picked up 10 of these beauties for a project
billgeo jkx4 years ago
You could check out EBAY for "aquarium bulb"
Something like this, though I don't know that voltage you have in your country.

Hey, this is great! I want to make one, however this tutorial isn't beginner enough for me. Can someone point me in the right direction to learn how the wiring works?
tic tac man4 years ago
instead of a cord i used a computer plug from an old power supply so that the cord could be unplugged.
dracothered4 years ago
Here is my Mad Scientist Light, made from a cigar box and 4 light sockets with a dimmer and toggle switch.
sycboi5 years ago
I work at a lighting store and managed to scrounge enough parts to build my own. I used an led for the "danger" buttton and an in-line switch to separate the little lamp from the larger ones, it has an on-off rotator switch as well as a dimmer that runs them all. Love this site, thanks to everyone for the inspirations.
june 065.JPG
Syc- do you have a wiring diagram for your bulb box w/switches? Thanks!
At this point no I do not, but it is a very simple layout, although my expertise in not in electricity but in the fixtures, so no ohm meters or laws willbe mentioned in anything I do! I will take a picture and label the wiring.
Labeled pics would be great. Thanks!
NANOBOT-4044 years ago
Really nice work.
How are these bulbs named ? I dont find them in my local hardwarestore.

regards from Hamburg (DE)
The universal designation for the bulbs is a Edison base or E26 base with a T10 shape or Tube shape, the 10 refers to diameter of the bulb in 8th's of an inch so that might be differant. Also they should not be under any regulation if you buy 25 or 15 watts, however 60watts will be hard to find.
Look for aquarium bulbs. Just ordinary fresh water aquarium stuff, not the fancy salt water equipment.
inhaos4 years ago
looks cool
but too hard for me
for my baby would touch anyting in my room.
Dandolion4 years ago
Looks very cool! I was getting ready to do 2 or 3 fixtures like this (Except with 6 bulbs each). I am building a Frankenstein lab. I like the Idea of Wiring in series to eliminate the dimmer. I also like the idea of making the lights dim up and down using a circuit anyone know what the title of that article is?
stregoi4 years ago
that's looks great :)
Here's my version. Sad as it is, this is the most experience I have with working with wiring. Hopefully it's the first of many.
anim8er6 years ago
Before getting to this page, I was going to suggest wiring the bulbs in series and do away with the dimmer altogether. As you found out, wiring the bulbs in series causes them to be dimmed. If that is how you want it, the dimmer is then unnecessary. (You would still want a regular switch.)
series wiring decreasse the voltage to each bulb (divided by 4 in this case) but also decreasse total consumption in AMPs (divided by 4 in this case)
so wiring in paralel have advantages: 4times more power to each bulb
and wiring in series also have advantages: 4times less power consumption thant series wiring
"garry" its possible you have it right in your head, but what you wrote was a little confusing and sounded wrong so i just wana clarify for people referring to this instructable for learning purposes...

Volts x Amps = Watts
Wattage=Power Consumption

The power consumed by the lights will not change dramatically by wiring the lights in series or parallel. The lights "require" a specific wattage, eg. 60w, and besides adding a dimmer, will just "automatically" get it.

By wiring the lights in series, you increase the amount of resistance in the circuit, and this reduces the voltage like was pointed out already. But it does NOT reduce the amount of power you are using. If you refer the the formula I wrote above and keep in mind the Wattage is going to be constant, you can understand how when the voltage decreases the light will respond by increasing the amount of amperage. In fact this is how many house fires are caused because amperage causes heat. The old christmas lights without the fuses could get so hot they'd melts when you plugged to many strings into eachother like this.

The ONLY way to reuce the power consumption in a light circut like this is with a dimmer, and not all dimmers qualify. The modern Levitron dimmersw you pay about $20 a piece for DO reduce the power consumption, but the old style only reduce light output and not consumption.

Hope that was helpful :)

 if its writen 60w on a buld it will be 60watt on its nominal voltage ex:120v

let calc internal resistance of the bulb


R=120/0.5=240 omhs

now let see if at 60volts it stay at 60w (60volts 1 amp)

as you can see, according to ohm law, if voltage to buld decreasse, amp decreasse too
Gary has it correct. In parallel, each bulb gets 120volts. Wired in series, for 4 bulbs, then each bulb only gets 30volts. The 120volts is divided across all 4 bulbs in series, but individually, they get a fraction of the total voltage drop.

The reverse is true. Standard batteries are 1.5 volts each. Wire them in series and the voltages add up. Lots of items use 3 batteries wired in series to produce 4.5volts. Close enough to power electronics meant for 5volts.
PKM anim8er5 years ago
Yep, Garry is right. Wiring multiple bulbs in series not only decreases the power consumption per bulb, it actually reduces power consumption overall.  The entire string taken as a single "entity" has a higher resistance, so draws less current.

It's not quite as simple as four times as many bulbs = four times the resistance = one quarter of the current, because the resistance of a lightbulb depends on its temperature, so a lightbulb driven at half the voltage will draw more than half the current.  With longs strings of bulbs in series (like the old christmas lights), sometimes you can see them initially turn on brightly when the string is cold and at a low resistance, then dim as they heat up and increase resistance.  In this case, the effect would be quite mad-scientist-y anyway :)
andybiker PKM4 years ago
I second this,
Put the bulbs in series, 2 in series will run them at half the voltage. They WILL take less power. If the brightness of 2 bulbs in series is the same as using a dimmer then the power taken should be the same.
Forget Ohm's law with bulbs, the resistance (R) is not constant! A hot bulb has a higher resistance than a cold one!
Also make sure the bulbs are the same wattage or the power (and hence brightness) will be shared unevenly.

I wired 2 sets of old Christmas lights in series for my parents (about 10 years ago) - the brightness looks about 50% less (approx !) but the bulb life is MUCH longer!
I remember quite a few of these old (approx 60 years!) bulbs failed when I was a kid, but none of them have failed since!
im confused here. what brian said is true. voltage and amps have an inverse dependent relationship. (i hope i said that right) if one goes down, the other goes up. period. this is because watts are constant. this is why transformers work, if you decrease volts you get amps, if you decrease amps you get volts....... so if you wire them in series, the amps should go up because the resistence goes up. THIS is what causes the volts to go up, yes?
Bulbs are not transformers, completely different
When the resistance goes up then the current goes down!
I(current)=V(voltage)/R(resistance) (Ohm's law)
If you have a 100W bulb running on 110v, it will take 100 Watts ONLY when running on 110v.
If you run it on a lower voltage then it WILL take less current!
Try this simple experiment...Switch on the headlights of your car then start the engine. As the starter is turning then the lights dim (the voltage of the battery is dropping) then the engine starts and they are brighter (higher voltage-battery on charge!)
The brightness IS proportional to the actual watts being consumed by the bulb.
When we put 2 bulbs in series, the same voltage is shared between 2 bulbs. Twice the resistance*, Half the total power consumption, each bulb running at a quarter of the wattage*

*I mentioned earlier that a cold filament is a lower resistance than a hot one so this isn't exactly true but it gets complicated here!
I hope this helps!
Betelgeus34 years ago
A cool thing would be to integrate a timer to make them glow on and off slowly. I saw a thing on here where you could pull that off with just an analog circuit.
I thought I'd place some shameless self promotion. After getting in the instructables book with a treasure chest light box(first image below) I had many people asking me to build them a lamp so I decided to do some nicer boxes and put them up on etsy.com.


I'm particularly fond of the Aerolux lamp and you can actually use the treasure box. I sealed off all the components in the top.

Soon I'll have some other lamps with secret compartments and hand dremeled designs on them up. Let me know what you think.
What are the black rings you have around the base of the bulb? They make it look very clean.
They are the sockets. Black rubber sockets originally made for outdoor use. They work well because you can drill out the holes and then slide them right into the box. http://www.oogalights.com/Leviton-875-55-Rubber-Outdoor-Light-Bulb-Socket-Pig-Tail-Wires.aspx
Thank you for the answer. As a saw on etsy.com you sold treasure box with the lions p.s. It was my favorite.Well done
Thanks so much!
Where did you buy Aerolux bulb?This is amazing!
You can find them in antique stores sometimes but this one is from ebay. You should be able to find them for around or under $25 but they can go up to $150 or more like this one: http://cgi.ebay.com/Vintage-Reddy-Kilowatt-Aerolux-Light-Bulb-1950s_W0QQitemZ290353185090QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item439a660142&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14
How much do you actually pay for everything needed to make these?
It really depends on each box. The treasure chest box in the upper left hand corner was $45 dollars I think.
The rest broken down would be:
Bulbs $3.00 x 6 = 18 (you can get cheaper T10 bulbs but the ones that have the nice vertical filament are more expensive)
Dimmer $4.00
Telecaster knob $2.00 ?
Sockets $3.50 x 6 = 21
Lock $3.50
cord $3.00
So the rough total for that one would be $94.00. That was the first one I made and will take to my grave.

You can make one one the cheap if you want with less expensive parts, I'd advise against going cheap on the dimmer switch though.

So with a free cigar box and dollar sockets, dollar bulbs, a knob from an old tv, a recycled cord that is in good condition you can make one for $20 bucks.
NetReaper6 years ago
do they sell small versions of those bulbs? Also, i'm a bit sad they aren't LEDs, how much power do these use up?
plz? i repeat, do they use much power o are they as efficient LEDs or florescents
They are incandescent bulbs, therefore highly inefficient, but great if you want a heater that produces light... :)
And an LED version would defeat the goal in terms of aesthetics...
Very true, I just recently built a 64-LED bulb, and to be honest, it's not that bright... :P I was going to make an 'ible out of it, but my camera decided to die on me as I started working on it, oh well... :(
I wasn't sure cause they have the weird looking fillament
That's how filaments used to look in the early days of lighbulbs, as well as some other styles, but that one was quite common... :) I think in the US & Canada, regular lightbulbs have vertical filaments like that, rather than horizontal ones, but I've only seen them on "How it's made" so couldn't be 100% sure, being in the UK... :)
Living in the USA, I can say that we are proud to have our horizontal filaments, although many believe we use the barbaric vertical ones. As for Canada, I'm not sure they even have lights. ;)
No need to be racist, now.
Canada is a country and Canadians are not a race! So he would be being nationalist?
Haha, perhaps.
I was just using the term in a general way to get across what I meant, despite my comment being a joke.
Well, as I say, I've only seen verticals on the TV, but that said, I just got myself a "vintage style" lightbulb with vertical filaments, looks pretty cool to me... :D
zipknitter5 years ago
You could also be different and place a magnet in the center of the group of bulbs. It will cause the filaments to waver and look cool. Only problem with doing that is the filaments won't last nearly as long. Hubby and our son made a lamp like started this subject out years ago for a science fair. They used aquarium bulbs since they are long and make a great visual effect. We used the lamp in the family room for almost 20 years before a neighbor brought their German Shepherd over who decided to play with the Grandkids and jumped right on the lamp(it wasn't on at the time) and totally destroyed it. We decided it was time to retire it. Really enjoyed having that lamp and just might do a replacement now that I am reminded of how much we liked it. BTW it was made with a wooden box and there was never an overheating problem, nor did the box even get more then just warm to the touch.
I have very serious reservations about this project because it involves the enclosure of electrical components in a combustible material AND the close tolerances of the lamp sockets in wood.

Wood CAN ignite and burn at temperatures as low as 77 degrees C. (www.doctorfire.com/low_temp_wood1.pdf ).

The lamp as specified is NOT A GOOD idea unless the connections are made in a non-combustible box and the lamp sockets are likewise  set in a non-combustible material.

I am a Michigan licensed residential builder but recognize a REAL potential hazard. This is one of them.
The heat produced is outside of the box, so as long as your connections are solid it shouldn't be a problem.  As well the article you linked to only reports one fire at 77 C and it was due to long term exposure of a water pipe.  250c has often been reported as the go no go temperature for wood (reported in the same article you linked).  Again this is my opinion and I think there is no real hazard as long as you do it right and don't run the bulbs at full tilt 24/7.
Why take a chance when there are safer alternatives? Metal, ceramic tile, cement board, drywall, marble, Corian,  etc.

If this device was sent to UL for testing, any chance that it would pass and be approved? Of course not.

I rest my case.
tim-1138 (author)  forlack5 years ago
using the ceramic sockets like i did, and the fact that the bulbs are running at 10-15% of full intensity they really don't produce much heat that you should have to worry about it much, plus this what was available to me at the time, i've since transferred the light to a much larger enclosure and mounted the sockets through lexan, that was just what i used to start off with and as you can see many other people have come up with different containers and boxes to mount theirs in,

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/timmyj/1134984989/" title="100_1071 by timmyj1138, on Flickr"><img src="http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1250/1134984989_fab7973299_b.jpg" width="1024" height="768" alt="100_1071" /></a>
Bonzsu5 years ago
This is very nice.  My grandson wants to be a scientist (this week :D ) and his uncle the electrician could knock this up for him in no time.  Thanks for this great idea!  And great instructable too!
taurusguy885 years ago
hey addn an electric tube starter will give it a sparkling effect !!
btw it look superb. ...
nice work
power5 years ago
ahh... I gotta try this instructable
My grandfather created one of these years ago but for a useful purpose. He did wood burning art and needed to have different temperatures (aka different voltage going through) He put a dimmer switch to a lightbulb to an outlet and created a temperature gauge for his wood burning tip. I like the mad scientist idea as well but there are also good applications to this.  
SeaLion5 years ago
This is incredible! I lack materials and equipment but when I get the materials, I'll definitely try it! :D
sawatzky5 years ago
 willmore lamp
sawatzky5 years ago
 Love this. I'm gonna do this... with enough bulbs to max out the dimmer rating.

Attached image is a real Willmore lamp. I can easily see where your plans, plus a cheap plastic mirror top and chrome knob and switch could look very similar to the real thing... eager to try this. 
Just read this instructable in the book and have been trying to find the correct bulbs. Am I right in saying they are single ended picture bulbs used for lighting old portraits etc?
If so are these the right size?


Thank you so much for this Instructable!  I just finished my own version. I love maps and found a small decorative chest at a discount store. The curved top wound up being more of a challenge than I expected, but I like the end result.  I used brass-colored spraypaint on the knob (harvested from an electric train power supply), screw heads, and bulb sockets, and kept all the wiring (parallel) in the lid so that the storage compartment is still usable. 
2 Lights on.JPG1 Lights off.JPG3 Outside Detail.JPG4 Top Down.JPG5 Lid open.JPG6 Wiring detail.JPG
xetero6 years ago
can you make it any longer?
wc444 xetero5 years ago
That's what she said!

wc444 wc4445 years ago
All kidding aside, this is a great project. I already have most of the parts on hand to make a one-bulb version of this for use as an accent light. I think thi will be the next thing I build.
 ...and here's my comment with an image!

photo 09-17-49.jpg
 I popped a clock in mine.  The silver rings are are 1-1/4" escutcheons (those plates on your shower wall that the shower pipe comes through).  they're <$1 and fit the bulb holder perfectly.  The clock was grossly overpriced from Michaels at $16. 
Finished project by a begginer
l2p6 years ago

(I know very little about electrical) Ive connected it in the same fashion as you've described here and i can only get a dim light out of the bulbs, it worked bright with only one (tested it when i started) is there a way to boost it, or is it the way ive set it up
Never mind i switched the set up so that they were'nt in a series (daisy chain w/e) but were all brought back to the two source wires, looks fantastic so far
natman6 years ago
all up how much do you think this costs???
twocvbloke6 years ago
Here's my creation inspired by this 'ible, it's my "Mad Kirby light", using a Kirby vacuum nozzle (From a ClassicIII, it is worn out so no good, so re-used as something else), only 1 modification needed and that was the hole in the aluminium for the dimmer, and I got a really cool vintage style bulb too, so looks great!!! :D Going to get some new trim for the nozzle and polish it up, so it looks even better... :)
Gliucoza6 years ago
it looks scary and cool!!
that looks so dangerous.... *backs away slowly*
nimrodg6 years ago
For people living in the UK, I found some uninteresting, but suitable bulbs here:
It is fitting that my first viewed instructable should be my first project. I would have liked to go with the "retro look" of the wood base, but after a week of having all the materials to complete the lamp except a wood base, I got impatient and dug around to find an aluminum piece which took the project 180 degrees in the other direction as far as looks are concerned. It is now setting in my recording studio and I tell people it is the "Aural Exciter Unit".
Thats awesome and retro.
very cool
eddiequest6 years ago
hey - I just built this. WAY COOL. Makes an excellent nite lite. My daughter loves it. Thanks for the idea.
Dr_Meatwad6 years ago
A great addition to this DYI would be to mount one or two mirrors that are slightly taller than the tubes themselves to give the apperence of a huge number of them in a dark room.
dustinbikes6 years ago
today i found led versions at the lowes store..they are $6 a piece
dustinbikes6 years ago
thanks for the great "ible" just made my version today!
Tazzz8 years ago
Wallgreens sells a "vintage style" bulb that one might want to use also. Sells for $7 each.
Tazzz Tazzz7 years ago
Koil_1 Tazzz6 years ago
Where can I get my hands on some of those sweet retro meters? I'm building a Sci-Fi panel and those would look perfect on it...
Tazzz Koil_16 years ago
I got mine on ebay for $10+shipping.
Tazzz Tazzz7 years ago
Nice if I may say so.
TechDante Tazzz7 years ago
do you know if i could get these in the UK, as i am looking for vintage style bulbs
Tazzz TechDante6 years ago
Sorry, I don't. They were made by a company in California, so it may be a California only item. Also, they seem to have been discontinued as I don't see them anymore in stores.
Those look so cool, I can't wait until I can afford a set!
AspenHarper6 years ago
What is the size of this box? I want to make a larger scale of this light.
YAMAHAMMER6 years ago
Why are you screaming?
well, carry on then
szechuan537 years ago
Neat... you got a vote from me! You actually showed this just in time in my case, as a thermite explosion recently rendered my best table lamp useless... Although it now look like modern art due to liquified aluminum pooling around the base. I don't even know what happened to the bulb.
Yes, I'm a premature mad scientist. >o<
Ooooohhh .. THAT is what mad science is all about. Good for you.
mas_bass6 years ago
some more vintage lamp bulbs here


go to Lightning & Electrical -> Edison
pyrocop16 years ago
I was interested to see if anyone made one using those screw in socket flashers. Will they work when you dim the light. I wouldn't want all of them to flash maybe 1 or 2 no more.
Tazzz8 years ago
Voila, here's my finished project.
pyrocop1 Tazzz6 years ago
Video has been removed bummer
Tazzz pyrocop16 years ago

Ask and you shall receive!
pyrocop1 Tazzz6 years ago
Excellent job. I really like the finished look ( except for the power cord). Looks like a nice table piece
Tazzz Tazzz7 years ago
Ahhh, cool
daveanton Tazzz7 years ago
you mean if you do say so yourself...
Tazzz daveanton6 years ago
Indeed I do!
TeslaGalvanometer 006.jpgTeslaGalvanometer 035.jpg
Cabanaman6 years ago
Problem. When I went shopping for the materials for this Instructable Walmart (suprisingly) didnt have any light sockets, instead I got one of these, thinking it was the same principle. But I encountered a problem, the dimmer is breaking the continuity of the circuit. The lights turn on fine with connected directly with the mains but when wired with the dimmer it just refuses to work. Any ideas?
it wouldn't happen to be a push on, push off dimmer, would it ? :-) Some dimmers also include "on / off" by pushing the dimmer in, and the dimmer then works by twisting the knob.
lol No. Its just a turn dimmer. No pushing required.
do you know if it uses a triac for regulation ?
You got me there.
The better dimmer switches use a triac circuit to prevent "ringing" in the bulbs. A much cheaper version is little more than a rheostat. The one thing about the rheostat, you wouldn't be able to "hook it up incorrectly" whereas the more complicated one may need everything just so, as it were.
I'm thinking the dimmer is the problem. Could it be that my bulbs are plugged into wall outlet light sockets?
Well, if those are then plugged directly into the mains, you are bypassing the circuit of the box. If you have sockets set up for those to plug into inside your circuit, and they are wired correctly, it should work. I just thought of something else that might be a problem: you have the dimmer on the "hot" side of the line, correct ? With the bulbs, switching the polarity wouldn't matter, but the dimmer may not work on the wrong side.
I made a rough diagram of the wiring of the light. I just can't see the problem other than a defective dimmer switch. 200 hours in MSPaint.
Oh yeah, whoops. lol
Yeah, looks like you could be right. Either the dimmer is bad, or it requires something (another ground, etc) that is not shown. Sorry for the trip down a blind alley of hope :-(
step 1: find your wal-mart reciept step 2: throw the dimmer fixture at the customer service rep, and stuff your reciept down his pants. step 3: bond out of jail step 4 : go to Home Depot and buy EVERYTHING you need at one place :D step 5: you could also simply attach one wire to the side of the bulb, and one to the bottom... same difference.
Goodhart6 years ago
Really nice....(but, your Flicker link seems not to be working).
mav_sd6 years ago
This is an amazing project. I know the idea is to stay cost effective, but if cost is less of a concern to you and you are really looking for some sweet bulbs, check out www.rejuvenation.com... here's an example of their inventory. Again, great work, thanks for the great instructable!
Cage bulb.pngflicker bulb.pngEdison Bulb.png
viacin mav_sd6 years ago
thanks for the link and your time uploading pics. I say YOU get 5 stars :D
Sandisk1duo6 years ago
simple, yet elegant!
brokengun6 years ago
Here is mine I built about a year and a half ago. I picked up the box at a craft store and installed a touch dimmer on the side of it. It works pretty nicely but the bulbs are unfrosted and it's hard on the eyes if your using it as a reading light. The bulbs also get pretty hot. It sure does looks cool though!
Two Raven7 years ago
Bit confused here. In process of creating my own light and have the sockets and the dimmer switch....how is this plugging into the wall socket? Have a feeling I'm missing a crucial part - help! (this is my first time working with electrical stuff, so any advice is appreciated)
tim-1138 (author)  Two Raven6 years ago
you have to make sure you put an electrical plug on the end to plug the finished creation into the wall... the cheapest way to do it is buy an extenshion cord and cut off the female end, wire the cut off end into the lamp and keep the male plug end the way it is and plug it right into the wall...
ya2sabes6 years ago
I don't know if this has been asked or answered, but why did you go parallel instead of series? Was it so each bulb would get the max V?
tim-1138 (author)  ya2sabes6 years ago
between the dimmer and the bulbs there was too much voltage drop off, where they didn't all light equally to the same brightness, parallel seems to give the best look and uniform brightness
Gjdj36 years ago
Wow, I can't believe I never saw this before. I'm definetly making one. 5 stars.
J-Five7 years ago
IT'S Alive!!!!!!!!
here is mine. made from some fake books.


Redgerr7 years ago
i have one word to say. WOW! that is really cool :D thanks for showing me this lol :)
This is one of the best things ever made.
Xilinx7 years ago
Going a with a heaver gauge(thicker) wire is wise. Our good fried Mr. Ohm tells us that when we lower the voltage the current goes up.
Ohms law says when the voltage goes down and the resistance stays the same, current goes down.
Derin Polymorph7 years ago
he was talking about the watts law,incase you didnt get it:)you are right about the ohm law though
Derin Xilinx7 years ago
that is the watt law
Xilinx7 years ago
It's a fuzzy pic but the next photo clearly shows them wired in parallel. All the Hot(Black wires) tied together and all the Neutral(White wires) tied together.

I'm not saying, I'm just saying
uhclem7 years ago
If you're going to use a dimmer, why not mod it to animate your bulbs? The dimmer is basically a pot connected to a triac and RC network - it adjusts the voltage at which the triac switches on and off every AC cycle. You can place an LDR (selenium photocell) in parallel with the dimmer pot and then use a light source to modulate the dimmer. A good way to do this is use a bunch of neon flicker bulbs in a light-tight box. They'll each flicker in a random fashion and the sum of their light will be picked up bu the photocell, causing a random throbbing in the light output. A flicker box is actually a great Halloween project to build on its own. Get yourself a largish surface-mount plastic junction box and you'll have room for the dimmer, the lamps and an outlet, so you can plug in whatever incandescent fixture you want.
jhaneyzz uhclem7 years ago
I love this idea but the concepts you throw out are completely foreign to me. I get the LDR and flickering neon lights, but have now idea how to hook the neons up to AC, nor how to link up the LDR to the pot. Can you give a novice electrician some direction on making this doable?
uhclem jhaneyzz7 years ago
Basically, you want to partially disassemble a dimmer so you can get at where the potentiometer (pot) is soldered onto the circuit board. There you will attach the leads to your LDR (use insulated wire) to the middle and one side lead of the pot. You could unsolder the pot completely but it is useful to leave in as it provides a sort of baseline brightness level adjustment. You then point the LDR at your flicker bulb(s). The flicker bulbs produce a varying light which will be picked up by the LDR and turned into a change in resistance - just like you manually twiddling the knob.
jhaneyzz uhclem7 years ago
Hmmm. I tried this but when the LDR is connected the dimmer is completely bypassed. i.e. it doesn't dim any more. I used a Levitron dimmer. There are a bunch of components soldered to the various leads. I assume one is the triac, As well, there are three connections at the top of the pot and three at the bottom. the components mentioned above are soldered across various of these leads. I don't have a camera about or i would take a pic.
seanhexed7 years ago
Thanks for this instructable! It got me inspired, so I decided to do my on take on it. Sort of an alternate history antique type of spin on it.
sean337 years ago
My Lamp pics

I did this project and it turned out great. I added an extra bulb for looks and build to box myself.

Great project!! I have made a couple so far, and I am having trouble wiring in a voltage gauge. The gauge I bought is an old Weston 1-10 V AC gauge... I am wondering if there was an easy way to attenuate the voltage out of the dimmer to make it compatible to the 1-10 volt AC range... Any help would be great!
v_rancher7 years ago
hey, I love that style of lamp, have been playing around with 'em a bit over the years, they're probly the most unique looking lightbulb for such common low coast availability, great job, keep it up_*
rob =][=
I had a hard time putting holes in my old treasure chest, but I think it was worth it. Thanks for the great instructable.
How much Watts does one lamp use?
it depends on the lamp . dont ask
This is a gorgeous take on Tim's Instructable! Awesome work, both of you.
Thanks. I've been working on some others. I'll post them when I'm done.
That is sooooo cool. Jules Verne ain't got nothin on you.
This was the first Instructable I ever made. Thank you for writing such an excellent guide. Frankly, I must say, I am surprised how good something so simple can look! On mine, I added a dimmer and a dial showing the voltage. The dial has an orange neon light above it to help with visibility in low light conditions. Again, thank you for writing this Instructable! It is extremely easy to understand, and it looks great. :) Good job.
naftalisus7 years ago
sweet light! Thanks so much for the idea!
coffinzm7 years ago
I had some empty space on my bookshelf and thought a project like this would look great next to a Jules Verne book. Thanks a million for the instructables! Apologies for the poor picture quality.
Tazzz coffinzm7 years ago
What type of bulb are you using?
This is a very elegant use of mad scientist chic. I am inspired to make a similar fixture for myself.
I like this. Somehow it just screams to be steampunked!
Nifty doo-dad sir!! A good place to get lamp sockets (especially for the all in a row versions) is to find an old electric stove that uses glass screw-in fuses. There is usually a row of sockets hiding under a flap on top of the control panel. (while you're in there, be sure to pull the neon indicator lights from the control panel too, cuz they are loads of fun to play with) I'm pretty sure the bulbs will fit in the fuse sockets. Hmmm. Come to think of it, why not get an old fuse panel and screw your bulbs into it; ready-made box, industrial sort of look, etc. etc. If you find one with a big, clunky on/off switch, so much the better. BTW I happen to work in a rural dump, and have pretty much unfettered access to all sorts of neat junk. I'm not really sure where the city folk might obtain such items. Please excuse my ramblings if they cause offence or boredom...
Scheitan8 years ago
Great Instructable! Any Idea where I could acquire those tubes in Germany? Thank you!
mediocrates8 years ago
I loved this and had to make one! I made the four-in-a-row style, and used halogen bulbs. I chose to make the sockets stand proud of the top and mounted them inside on threaded lamp thingamabobs. I had a dimmer switch already, but the shaft wasn't long enough to reach through the front panel. I got around that by filing down and epoxying a fancy brass key into the slot. I liked the idea of a sliding bottom panel, so I built that in to do the wiring conveniently. I added a nifty looking cord plug thingy and squirted about a tube and a half of silicone in to keep everything from shifing around. I left room to put a little finished box for a secret compartment. On low, the bulbs don't get hot. On high, they blast the outlines of nearby objects into the paint on the walls. Neat! Thanks so much for this- -Mediocrates
Instructables 002.jpgInstructables 006.jpgInstructables 015.jpgInstructables 005.jpgInstructables 013.jpgInstructables 016.jpgInstructables 010.jpg
rc jedi8 years ago
looks just like vacume tubes! sooo pretty. Thanks for share'in it.
ewilhelm8 years ago
This project was mentioned here in the New York Times!
redletter8 years ago
I own one of the 'real' Willmore lamps. Who needs bakelite and Fender? Yours is GREAT!
Mjeden20068 years ago
Wiring Diagram, not very technical but this is how it should be wired
but where does the dimmer go?
Mine was made using the above diagram. Camera has autoexposure only, so you don't really get the good glow effect in these pics. Oak, with a knob from a '66 SG that my father bastardized.
static8 years ago
As the author mentioned paint tips, I thought I'd toss these in. Do your chassis modifications and dry run of parts installation, then do the chassis finish. Yes that means you have to be extra careful during final assembly. where it's been a long time since I used any, I don't know if lacquer "spay paint" in aerosol cans is still marketed. In the event it still, consider trying it. Several coats of lacquer with careful sanding between coats, results in an amazing finish. Be sure to use a lacquer primer as well.
Tazzz8 years ago
How about a meter? Yes, a needle-type meter to make it look more scientific. A volt or amp meter to actually show the current going thru the dimmer.
WOW! I'd love that! I even have room on mine for one still! You have one such meter as your moniker, does this mean you know how I can get one and hook it up?
You could look around or an analogue current meter in various places as surplus. I didn't think they are commonly available these days, but I was wrong, a quick search shows me they are available, in ranges between 0 to 10A and 0 to 20A, from Farnell/CPC (UK supplier) and for under £10! Anyone got a current range for this set-up? For all I know it might be under 1A, and these meters wouldn't be any use.
Rakkan _soapy_8 years ago
I'm wondering if I could get away with using an ammeter for a car with an analogue face.
static Rakkan8 years ago
Keep in mind you most of you are likely to be feeding the bulbs with AC not DC. You can't simply break the circuit and insert meter as you do with DC. The easiest Way I know of to use a funky meter is to rectify the AC out of the dimmer to DC and insert the meter. Rectiingy will give a greater flexibility in volt meter choices as well. In selecting rectifier components select those rated to handle the peak AC voltage. I believe for 110 VAC that will be 170 V.
army dump stores. If you can find one thats also sell old army electronics (radio's and such). They're are a goldmine for stuff like that.
jhdesynz8 years ago
does anyone know how to mod it so you can have random lights fade up and down or blink at different times. i would love to be able to build this into a set piece for an upcoming theatre show i am working on, but need to give it some "life."
An even better idea would be to make them dim to music from an 1/8" jack. not sure how hard this would be to accomplish.
static McFuggin8 years ago
Kits to build a single channel light organ are still out there. Schematics should be available on the web for DIYer. However would you be able to get the full effect under stage lighting without shortchanging the performers and the rest of the set?
http://www.musiciansfriend.com/product/Chauvet-DMX4-DimmerRelay-Pack?sku=803168 you could use a dmx like this one or you could make one your self, pretty complicated maybe il make an instructable on how
might be a bit late for this but could you some how hack in one of those little boxes you find in christmas minilight strands. i think there is usually 4 colors so it might go well with the 4 bulbs in this instructable?? i bet you could get some neat effects.
marc_alain8 years ago
WOW, I love it!
It reminds me of my uncle's hi-fi tube amplifiers.

Here's a thought: if the bulbs were wired in series, then the voltage would be reduced and the dimmer could be omitted.
If one chose to keep the dimmer, it would have a more useful range of adjustment giving finer control over the brightness.

Perhaps 4 bulbs in series would be too dim (125volts /4 = 31.25volts), so that wiring pairs of bulbs in series, with the pairs wired in parallel might be right.

BTW, this practice greatly increases the longevity of incandescent bulbs.
circuit series.png
In the event you think 31 volts wouldn't light the lamps, my idea on eliminating the dimmer may not work either. I thinking of using the transformer ripped out of dead equipment that put oit 15-20 V. I suppose for the cost of the bulb I could discover if it would work. BTW the local Walmart does carry the display case bulbs.
jayfish8 years ago
here's mine. the dimmer is on the cord and the main part is a 4" pvc end cap that i sanded a bit. thanks for the great idea!
thats awesome
tim-1138 (author)  jayfish8 years ago
thats pretty awesome man, a nice new take on the original, i may have to copy your idea now :)
perea8 years ago
i found the tubes as refrigerator replace lights from Philips
KevinSaw8 years ago
I added a Red "Missile" styled switch to give it more of a MAD SCIENTIST look. Michaels didn't have that sliding box, so i decided to get a $4 box that had a lid (index card box) and just turned it upside down. The light bulbs were $3.48 a piece at lowe's. I lucked out, because a Huge Dollar store right down the street is going out of business, and everything was $.79... And they had Light Bulb Sockets... Idk Why, but AWESOME! I had some radio wire and it works fine, and I took a power cord that came from a broken printer and used it so i can plug this thing into the wall. I just got 4 new dimmers off ebay, but they didn't come in yet. So these pics are from the light bulbs on full power. Mistakes: DON'T PAINT YOUR BOX BLACK! IT GETS REALLY HOT! Make sure you put the light bulbs in and make sure they are straight before you hot glue. If you don't measure and re-measure, Your light bulbs will look crooked. Wait for the spray paint to dry before doing stuff, or else fingerprints Things to do: Paint sockets the same color as the box. Get an awesome switch. Try the Dollar store for supplies. The Total (Estimation with tax): 4 light bulbs- $15 Sockets- $4 Wire- Free Switch- $1 (Yard sale) Box- $4 Total: About $25
light 3.JPGlight 1.JPGlight 4.JPGlight 7.JPGlight 2.JPGlight 5.JPGlight 6.JPG
Ooey8 years ago
This was a very good, quick project. On mine I used a torchere dimmer replacement intended for halogen bulbs. I was able to recess it into the box I got at Hobby Lobby. I think I ended up spending $35 on materials and $5 each for the bulbs. They had some other bulbs this chape but they didn't have full length filaments.
Maffu9 years ago
Hi, I'm UK based and I'd love to give this a go but I can't find those valve-like bulbs anywhere. Could someone post a manufacturer's Name and Part Number so that I can find out where to get them in the UK please? Ta.
tim-1138 (author)  Maffu9 years ago
you can get them at bulbs.com here's a link to one i found that is pretty close to the one i have http://www.bulbs.com/products/product_detail.asp?page=products&inventory=8825 the standard light sockets are a med screw base, so any medium screw base tubular bulb should work fine, for best effect of course get one thats clear and not frosted of course.
BAD Link - drat !!
j626no8 years ago
if you wanna do a closeup like that, try using the MACRO mode on your digital camera...its the little flower. you can get so much closer using this, really useful.
rojo8 years ago
I built mine using an old wooden cigar box. This was a fun one to build. Thanks
Armyguy9 years ago
What is this...power cord you speak of. Should I just cut a regular power cord in half and match up the wires?
jhpope Armyguy8 years ago
Wait I don't understand this part either...What do you use to plug this into the wall and what do you connect it to inside
Rakkan jhpope8 years ago
If you just take a power cord you don't need, and connect the wires one to the dimmer switch, the other to the lights (other end of the circuit) it'd work. I'm probably going to take an extenstion cord and cut the female end off.
HAL 9000 Rakkan8 years ago
Im pretty sure you can just buy power cords at the hardware store... again, theyre only a few dollars. i really like this project, im thinking about making one as soon a i can! if i can incorporate This project i will, perhaps ill make an instructable with the combined method.
deadwhale8 years ago
Nice Light! As far as the seat and blood, I've always been told the job wasn't done until somebody bled. Once again, nice work!!
BTW, the first time I encountered the "blood" quote was in Steinbeck's "Wayward Bus." Perhaps that is the origin of it, I don't know. Apparently a favorite theme of his at the time, which was carried to an extreme in "To A God Unknown."
Bob Nash8 years ago
I saw a project like this in an old Popular Electronics (I think) that used a voltage regulator tube mounted in a box with a mirrored sides. Perhaps a good variation would be to add mirrors, but it is great "as is"!
Rakkan8 years ago
I made one of these for a science project last week (I don't have access to a camera right now, or I'd show some pictures) And I got an insant A for it. Thanks for the idea!
coderj8 years ago
Sockets were wired in parallel (one linking to another like a daisy chain)
Actually, that's wiring them in series. Parallel is when all 4 share the same ungrounded coming off the dimmer, and the same grounded going to the dimmer.
remyzero78 years ago
would've been upside down though, i think. :)
Edgar8 years ago
At last someone that understands Inventors! Mwahahahahahah!
that is pretty awsome for a first instructable! great work (Because almost everone on this site is a mad scientist!)
Apes Hit8 years ago
For even cheaper version, bulbs could be wired in series to reduce voltage to each and do without dimmer. Each bulb, of couse, would get 30 volts in a 4 bulb setup. I don't know if that's low enough to get effect.'
I've got a collection of 9 vintage radiometers and have been looking for a way to display them properly. Maybe building 10 sockets into a mantle and putting a radiometer between each? Any better ideas? Or even a simple long rectangular box the 4 ft long x6" x 6". (OK OK I'l spring for the dimmer)
the_widget8 years ago
Very Cool, i just might make this.
Gnaw8 years ago
Another place to look for similar and relatively cheap bulbs is pet stores. Aquariums and enclosed habitats for reptiles, etc. use the same bulbs for lighting/heating purpose and stores have a wide assortment of colors, shapes and watts.
five more bulbs and you've got a spiffy electric Hanukah menorah.
Excellent Light bulb project! This is the first time that I have actually seen such fixtures. You guys rock! Check out this resource that has antique style bulbs: Light bulbs
fluid8 years ago
This is totally kick ass....I gotta make one of these. How bright is the one you made? Seems like a dimmer would be easy to add.
Yeah, the dimmer is pretty necessary, the lowest voltage you can find for these is 15 watts each, and 60 watts could be overpowering in some situations, but sometimes you need 100, and that's the total for my lamp. It's not that hard to make, it's just hard to get what you want out of it.
cyberlox8 years ago
Just found instructables and the first thing I come across is this! I am suitably inspired to make one this weekend! Thank you. You also inspired me to sign up. I hope I can contribute something of equal worth sometime. As someone else already said, it just needs a voltmeter... and the needle needs to be swinging widly... in time with the lights... or something suitably 'mad scientist' :o)
tommyboy8 years ago
Awesome project, maybe add a radiometer or two to spin merrily with the lights...
I had been building this one for a while before I found instructables. I have been using parts from an old 1950's film projector. I was going to make it using old vacuum tubes in the coolest shapes I could find, but I couldn't find a transformer to provide the right current to power just the filaments. Mad Scientist Lamp Instructable to the rescue! Thanks for posting this, it gave me the ability to finish what I started, plus I can use it as a functional lamp, not just an electricity-sucking dim glowy thing.
My Projects 001.jpgMy Projects 002.jpgMy Projects 003.jpg
I am guessing it has to be wired up in parallel to work with the dimmer, is that true? I'd love to be able to do it in series, because my wiring is going to be semi-exposed, and it would just look neater and be easier. By the way, I think you'll all love mine when I'm done with it, I've spent a lot of time on the box, and it's going to be wall-mounted.
armageddon8 years ago
i dont get it... is it just a cool glowing light? why not try adding something like putting music through it or something to give it that randomness of fading and brightening? anyone know how to do that on a small scale with tiny bulbs cause i am try to figure it out.
Hyperviking8 years ago
I had a wee bit of trouble here, as the holes were suuuper snug, and had I not used really stiff wire between the sockets, this would have been a breeze. However, due to the stiffness of the wiring, they kept popping up, making me feel like I was playing Whack-A-Mole... A little electrical tape wrapped around two of the sockets worked wonders, and I haven't needed to use glue.
Relativity9 years ago
Can you make a parts list ?
Parts list: Bulbs (expensive) Dimmer (expensive) Sockets Wire Knob Box Tools: Woodworking tools appropriate to the amount of woodworking you'll be doing. This varies based on the type of wood/box you'll be using, as well as the configuration of the bulbs/etc. Soldering iron. Mine ended up looking like this:
For those on a budget (or just cheap like me), Walmart has a 4-socket light kit (used for ceiling fans) for $2.75. It can be completely disassembled, but I'm going to cut the metal housing and bend it into shape. Bonus is that it completely wired inside and ready to connect to the dimmer and/or power cord.
I may check this out. awsome
Hasersys8 years ago
Im doing this.. I just need to figuer out what its going on i like it alot. Im about to move so i think im going to wait to see the mood of my new room. Then figuer out what kinda box to do it in. Nice work.
whiteoakart8 years ago
This is just great. I like all the variations posted as well.
z1nister8 years ago
from the site (http://www.thetubelamp.com/) which tim credited for providing inspiration for this project: "... or go to Bulbs.com and buy Philips bulbs part 373944, phone number (888)455-2800."
Temo Vryce9 years ago
This is really cool. To me it looks like the lights are wired up in parallel. All the black wires connected to one side of the switch and all the white wires coneected to the other side. I could be wrong but that's just what I see when I look at your photos. ANy wiring diagrams that you can post would help to clarify the project for other people though.
tim-1138 (author)  Temo Vryce9 years ago
actually, you were pretty dead on, i ran all the black wires from the sockets to the one side of the switch, and all the white wires from the sockets to the 1st wire from the power cord. then connected the other wire from the power cord to the other side of the switch... the confusion came from the fact that i did this project a couple of months ago and for some reason could have sworn thats how i wired it up for some reason... the mistake has been fixed though sorry for the trouble everyone
It really doesn't matter if you wire them up in Parallel or In Series. The advantage of a parallel setup is that you can easily trouble shoot which light isn't working. In a series setup if one bulb is bad or one connection is bad the whole thing doesn't work. I just at the wiring in the photo to figure out how it was done. I was a little confused about your other post until I saw this one. All in all it's a great project and I hope that we aren't confusing too many people.
what about the fact that parallel allows each globe to get maximum power, whereas when connected in serial the maximum power each will recieve is input/number of globes
no need to apologise, I really like this project. I'm thinking maybe I can make an oldie style dressing/make-up table with these lights surrounding the mirror for my girlfriend. You know the type you seen in the films. At least this has nothing to do with freakin LEDs, I am sooo past LEDs (o; I can recommend 2 applications for drawing nice diagrams PC: Visio, MAC:Omnigraffle take care - pauric
tim-1138 (author)  Temo Vryce9 years ago
close, actaully what i was trying to describe was a white wire going to the black wire on each socket so you are left with two wires open at the end, one white at the beginning of the chain and one black at the end, one links to the power source and the other to one of the wires from dimmer... i updated step 5 to include a sketch up of what i was trying to describe, it was a bit hard to express in words at first... sorry for the confusion
I'm a little confused (nice project btw.. I like the valve look to it) but do you want the lights in series or parallel? Your diagram is series and I thought you would want to wire them up in parallel. Not that there is a huge difference but the lights wont get very bright if hooked up in series... right?
tim-1138 (author)  radiorental9 years ago
i think i may have confused some terminology in there, i've done lamps in both ways, so either would work. as far as brightness of the lamp you can turn it up pretty bright, but most tube style bulbs don't have very high ratings on them anyways... and the lamp looks much more impressive when the bulbs are turned to a lower setting or a nice dull glow so you can easily see the filaments... plus this also greatly extends thier life as well. sorry for all the confusion
ken60y9 years ago
Wow, its a gorgeous project. I am a bit confused with the wiring tho. Could someone post a diagram on the wiring please?
Got one for you, I posted it down below as a comment so everyone can view it!
tim-1138 (author)  ken60y9 years ago
I sketch one up in a bit and post it when i get some free time after work for you.
Megavolt9 years ago
This is one of the coolest, most simple instructables I have seen so far. Keep up the good work!!
Your "Treasure Chest" Is Awsome IT looks very gothic which adds to the mad scientist look!! Very good job!
Thanks. I've always enjoyed combining Sci-Fi and much older art forms like manuscript illumination/wood cuts/stylized gothic in print and this seemed the next logical step to something three dimensional.
dizzydave9 years ago
Excellent project...I used some old speakers from the thrift store...gutted 'em, added cd shelves, paint and hinges...and voila! The mad scientist in stereo....
you should wire the dimmer to audio output....so the lights bump with the music. :)
That is rock-solid awesome. Even without the lights.
Maffu9 years ago
Thanks Tim. The next problem that springs to iomnd is that they are 120-1130 volts and in Emgland we have 240 volts. I'll have to look around a bit more.
Mr Criver Maffu9 years ago
Hi, I'm new here, but I think I might have a couple of solutions to your problem. I'm Dutch (and I live in The Netherlands) but I buy electrical appliances in the US all the time. You can solve this issue two ways: 1. use a currency converter from 220/240V to 110/120 V. They're easy to find in the US (travel stores, airports etc.), but you should be able to find them in the UK as well. Plug in a US style plug and pronto, it lights up da room. Be aware of the wattage your bulbs and the dimmer switch will draw from the converter though. Not all converters might work. 2. a more sophisticated solution is to make a combination of serial and parallel wiring. Make two series of serial sockets. Then connect the two series parallel , this should work. I did this one time with a couple of 110 V mainframe computer fans to make a nifty little desk cooling fan, it worked fine. It should come out this way: ((110V + 110V) equals 220V) parallel with ((110V + 110V) equals 220V). Just connect the 220V dimmer swith like mentioned above and voila, let there be light :-)
dizzydave9 years ago
i've had the same problem--the dimmer knob worked fine, but the radio knob i found had a set screw that was too far in to catch on the dimmer post. so i whittled the inside out of the dimmer knob, bored out the inside of the radio knob...fitting it inside and gluing. Now I have to superglue the knob to the shaft.
I had the same type of knob as you. I wound up cutting the shaft off the dimmer, drilling and tapping it for a #8 screw. I cut the head off the screw, and threaded it into the dimmer. Not elegant, but at least it works.
Ohm9 years ago
That is freakin sweet with the old speakers and cd storage and lights, and its stealth. I really want to make one of these lights for myself, well have to add it to the list of cool things to make, keyword make :) I think that list is about 3 miles long now lol.
VelvetElvis9 years ago
You should be sure the box you use is thin enough on the side where the dimmer is mounted. The box I got was too thick, and the shaft of the dimmer wasn't long enough to fasten the knob I had. I kludged it and it works OK, but this can be the cause of lots of aggravation if you don't watch for it. All in all, a cool project.
dizzydave9 years ago
patience is a virtue...sorry about the double entry...
Mr.bill9 years ago
I really like the style of this project. It looks really cool resting in a cigar box or it can look ultra modern like in yawfle's interpritation. Great stuff.
tim-1138 (author)  Mr.bill9 years ago
thanks :) it never ceases to amaze me how simple this project can be once you get down to the meat of it, but yet at the same time it looks so neat, and always catches the attention of anyone who walks in and sees it. i too like the different interpretations of it too, it can really fit into any decor.
yawfle9 years ago
Thanks for posting this inspiring idea... I decided to combine the concept with another [ project] that was yet another tangent from an idea someone posted - this is the result. I didn't document the construction, since I was making it up as I went along, but if anyone's interested I'll create a real instructable when/if I make another one. It's really just a combination of the construction described in this project and the one linked above; the sockets are lightweight "bakelite" variety, cemented inside the cans with silicone. It's connected to an external dimmer, but for extra points you could incorporate one into the center can. Thanks again for the fun Idea.
Dude, you could totally make the center can be the dial for the dimmer.... woah.
yawfle yawfle9 years ago
Sorry, the link in the post above was *supposed* to point here. :)
tim-1138 (author)  yawfle9 years ago
wow thats pretty cool, looks sharp too, i love the way the tubes look when they are dimmed down, they emit an awesome glow, i was going to try something similar not with cans but basically make a giant ball light with tubed bulbs sticking out of it all over the place to hang from a friends ceiling. if i get a chance to finally make it i'll be sure to link you the picture :) I'm glad you enjoyed my project and took it to the next step... nice job man!
Hyperviking9 years ago
I had planned on using full sized bulbs and recycled sockets from old lamps and whatnot, however, since I could only find two sockets and a box that was way too small I opted to buy small sockets and small bulbs, which ended up being cheaper than I expected. The dimmer, four sockets, four small bulbs (1/3" diameter?) and a wee bit of wire ended up costing me $31. The larger bulbs were $6 each.
OH, the box was an old cigar box, I'll post a pic when I'm done. If I could find my older, larger cigar boxes, I'd have used them, however this one will totally work. Paint may have to be an option.
Prometheus9 years ago
Simply-put this is a box with four light sockets installed in it with a light-dimmer used for dimming. Many have masde this appear more complicated than it looks, but really just wire all lamps to work in parallell like the one who posted above me. Then just hook the light dimmer in series with the completed circyuit and you are done. If a bulb goes out, simply replace with the same style of lamp.
Demon Sun9 years ago
Remember Black is hot, and White is neutral, don't mix em up
voxadam9 years ago
"the Sockets were wired in parallel (one linking to another like a daisy chain)"

This doesn't quite make sense. Typically when you say "daisy chain" you mean that you've wired the lamps in serial.

Let's see if ASCII art gets mangled...


pos >-----------------
neg >-----------------


pos >---O---O---O---O---< neg

Which way did you wire this project?
voxadam voxadam9 years ago
Nevermind. I just looked at the picture in step five again and saw that all the black wires were wire nutted together an all the white wires were nutted together. This means it was indeed parallel. Sorry for the noise.
Armyguy9 years ago
nevermind, i got it. MAN that thing took like 6 hours to make. In college though, we make use of what we have. The only tool I had was a leatherman...
If using a two prong cord, after entering cord into box, take one of the wires (if the the wires are coloured white and black, use the black. If not, use either wire from the cord)and splice to one of the wires on the dimmer switch. It does not matter which wire on the dimmer you splice onto, it will work the same way. Take the other wire on the dimmer and splice it together with all of the black wires from the lamp sockets. Now take the other wire from the cord and splice it directly onto all of the white wires from the lamp sockets. A note about splicing: Once you have finished splicing the wires together give each wire a firm pull. If any come out or do not feel secure, resplice all wires again. You may be wondering what the green wire is about. It is the ground wire. In the event that hot wire touches an electrical enclosure, it provides a path to ground and "trips" the breaker in the panel instead of going through you when you touch the enclosure. For whatever reason, many plug-in lights do not use a ground. So make sure that your splices are done well and do not work on any wires while it is plugged in. While 120 Volts will most likely not kill you, it will give you a nice shock. Only under rare cercumstances have heard of this happening. If one were using a three pronged cord which contains a ground (while a two prong contains only a hot(black) and neutral(white) with no ground(green)) and a metal box, one would take the ground wire inside of the metal box and screw into the box to provide a safe path to ground. This projects contains a wooden box which does not conduct electricity that well, so grounding the box would probably not provide much more safety anyways. I hope that this helps. It's probably too much information if anything.
If you are wondering if you should connect them in parallel or in series, all household or standard lamps are designed to be connected in paralell so that they receive the full 120 volts to it. If you connect them in series, it will still work, but at will have a lessened range of light. They will not turn up as bright. It will be easier to fine tune them while in series because of the lessened light output though.
fatdave9 years ago
I was just curious as to what kind of power supply you decided on using. It's not in there (I think) thanks
tim-1138 (author)  fatdave9 years ago
there is no power supply used at all, it plugs straight into the wall and taps into your houses electrical current like a normal light fixture does, all this project is is mounting four light fixtures in one box and attaching a dimmer switch, sorry for the confusion though, i should have probably mentioned that at one point i suppose
jkx9 years ago
I checked Maplin, and I'm unable to find it too. Somebody w/ the right url (please ;)
sadgeek9 years ago
Relocate to the US :-)
Try Maplin; https://www.maplin.co.uk
f4mnect9 years ago
thanks alot, maybe i'll upload a few new pic's. he made me add a few red led's to face and wants a volt meter added lol. also we installed a high tech looking handle. i need to sit down and upload pic's of all my project's. we have finished the big tesla coil, jaccobs ladder, large custom lava lamp etc etc etc, we have been busy
f4mnect9 years ago
Ok my son loved it and had to have 1. So off to the garage to collect part. A few hours later and we only had to buy the 6 bulds(not bad)..here it is
tim-1138 (author)  f4mnect9 years ago
looking sharp! i hope your son is quite happy with it, looks good, glad to hear you only had to buy the six bulbs, makes a project even easier to acomplish :)
Jafafa Hots9 years ago
This is really great. I'm gonna do it! I'll add a few finishing touches from my experience with copper, should make it look good. Time to hit the flea markets and similar places to find a great freaky looking old knob!
ken60y9 years ago
I appreciate that tim. Thanks in advanced.
tim-1138 (author)  ken60y9 years ago
done and done, it's attached to step five now, a very simple sketch since i'm still at work, but it does the job. and you are welcome, glad you enjoyed
sam9 years ago
nice!.. i was just waiting for you to say that those were really expensive one of a kind valve tube things that noone can buy... what a relief they're not.. i'm definetly making one!
tim-1138 (author)  sam9 years ago
hehehe that was my first though on making one of these but they are around two dollars a bulb or so and easy to find once you know what you are looking for "display case lightbulbs" sometimes you have to ask a person from the store where to find them cause they don't always keep them right there next to the other bulbs... at least not in the lowes i went to
vrogy9 years ago
One thing that might be good: a pic of the dimmer by itself, and maybe a pic of the sockets and how they attach to the box..