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.
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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.
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