Introduction: Make Your Own Desktop LED Lamp

Picture of Make Your Own Desktop LED Lamp

Desktop lamps are very useful and present in every person's house. People use them for reading and studying. CFL lamps are the most commonly used table lamps but the problem with them is that they take too much power and they need to be plugged to an external power supply. LED lamps are much cheaper and energy efficient but still buying them from internet and shops costs more than $10. What if you would make one at home? Well, it can be easily made with some cheap and basic electronic parts. So making them at home would pass your time and also save money as it would cost only around $5-18.

You may have seen many instructables on led lamps but the special thing about this lamp is that it is very cheap as it uses a stainless steel ruler and cardboard for making its structure which most of the people have lying around. No wood, plastic or acrylic is used to make it so you don't require special cutting tools.

This is powered by two 4v sealed lead acid re-chargeable batteries and has 36 LEDs which produce enough light to easily read in darkness. It also has a dimmer circuit that is powered by a 555 ic and is used to vary the brightness of the lamp by adjusting a potentiometer. The lamp can be recharged by using a 9v adapter.

Although I have made a detailed guide and ensured that it can be easily understood by a beginner but if you have any questions related to the instructable, feel to ask anytime and also help me to make corrections if I've done any mistakes.



It's not easy to reply to each and every comment on so many instructables, so you can ping me for any assistance/discussion/query. My email address is:

For more such awesome DIYs, subscribe to my YouTube channel.

My Facebook page: Make w/ SA

Get the best of the parts at reasonable rates from GearBest.

Also, have a look at their ongoing sales:

The Fall 3D Printer and Electronic Tools Promotional Sale

Arduino Best Deals

Creality3D CR - 10 3D Printer (coupon: GBCR10J) $396.99

Step 1: Gather Parts

Picture of Gather Parts

For making this lamp you will need the following parts. The total cost including all the parts listed below (not the tools) is about $5-6 or 300 INR. The cost depends upon the website or store you buy the parts from. If you don't want to add the dimmer circuit, the cost will be reduced to $4.5 (according to cost of parts in India).


• 36x dome white leds
• 36x 82 ohm resistors
• 2x 4v 1.5ah sealed lead-acid re-chargeable battery
• 1x 7805 voltage regulator
• 1x toggle switch
• 1x red or green led
• 1x 3.5mm female jack
• 1x 50k ohm potentiometer
• 1x pot knob
• 1x 555 timer ic
• 2x 1n4001 or equivalent diodes
• 1x 8 pin DIP IC socket
• 2x 1k ohm resistors
• 1x 330 ohm resistor
• 2x 0.1 uf ceramic capacitors
• 1x TIP 31c or any other npn power transistor
• Perfboard
• Rainbow cable


• Soldering iron
• Soldering wire
• Wire cutter/ stripper
• Fume extractor
• A pair of scissors


• A cardboard box
• 30 cm steel ruler
• Tape
• White and black papers
• Adhesive
• Breadboard for prototyping

Step 2: Making the Battery Pack

Picture of Making the Battery Pack

The power supply that is needed to power this lamp should be greater than 5v. Powering it on a voltage less than 5v would lower the brightness of leds. So you can use a 6v or higher voltage battery but it should not exceed 12v as the voltage regulator would get too hot. I used 4v batteries as they are the cheapest available batteries ($1 each) and having two of them would produce 8v which is enough to power the lamp.

Then the question comes about the type of battery to use, lead-acid should be the best option if you want your lamp to be as cheap as possible. The good thing about them is than they can simply be connected to an adapter for charging and they do not allow any special chargers. Using lithium-ion, ni-cd, alkaline, or any other type of battery would highly increase the total cost of the lamp but they would be good choice if you want your lamp to last longer.

For assembling the battery back simply stick both of the batteries using double sided tape and connect them in series that means connect the positive terminal of one battery to the negative terminal of the other battery. Then finally solder two more wires to the remaining terminals of the battery. Connecting the battery in series increases the voltage (that means the resulting voltage is the sum of the voltage of both the batteries) while connecting them in parallel would increase the life or current. This is done to increase the battery life but 4v is not enough for powering the lamp so I have connected them in series. Make sure you solder the batteries quick as overheating them can cause problems.

Step 3: Preparing the Scale

Picture of Preparing the Scale

Bend the scale as shown in the picture above using pliers or simply your hand then cover it with black paper. The ruler is used to support the LEDs. The reason why I used a steel ruler is that it is cheap, can be bent easily and can be easily obtained from a stationery or craft store. You can also use metal pipes that are adjustable and can be obtained from a hardware store.

Step 4: Covering the PCB

Picture of Covering the PCB

Cover the perfboard using white paper. You will need a needle to make holes in the pcb as they will be covered with paper.

Step 5: Soldering the LEDs

Picture of Soldering the LEDs

As the power supply is converted to 5v a white led requires 3.6 volt to operate so they cannot be connected in series. Connecting all of them in parallel means they still require 3.6v and giving them directly 5v would damage them so there is a need to add a current limiting resistor for each led. Formula for calculating resistor value is-

Value of resistor (in ohms) = (supply voltage - source voltage) / current required by each led (in amps)

= 5 - 3.6 / 0.02 (20 miliamps = 0.02 amps)

= 1.4 / 0.02

= 70 ohms

Since 70 ohms is not a standard value so either use a 68 ohm or 82 ohm resistor.

For soldering the LEDs, refer to the layout above.

Step 6: Soldering the LEDs (Part 2)

Picture of Soldering the LEDs (Part 2)

After you're done with all the soldering of leds, connect all the sets of leds in parallel. Then simply connect two long pieces of wire to both of the positive and negative leads.

Step 7: Cut the Excess PCB

Picture of Cut the Excess PCB

Cut the excess perfboard which is not required. It should be cut in a square shape with some rectangular part left to stick it to the scale. Do not throw away the excess part as it will be required for soldering the dimmer circuit.

Step 8: Preparing the Potentiometer

Picture of Preparing the Potentiometer

The reason why this step comes first is that it will be required for prototyping the circuit which is the next step. Solder two diodes as shown in the image above and solder two more wires - one at the middle pin and the other at the point where the two diodes are connected.

Step 9: Prototyping the Circuit (Optional)

Picture of Prototyping the Circuit (Optional)

This step is optional and is only for those people who think that directly soldering the circuit on perfboard is not a good idea. So connect all the parts as shown in the breadboard layout above using jumper cables. Connect a 5v power supply and check it by turning the pot. The image above shows the leds on 5% (least brightness) and 95% (highest brightness).

Step 10: Soldering the Dimmer Circuit

Picture of Soldering the Dimmer Circuit

The circuit for this project was taken from The circuit was simply for one led. 555 is capable of giving a maximum output current of 200ma. So connecting all the leds directly to the output would overheat the ic. I modified the circuit a little and added a tip31c transistor so now all the leds can be driven safely.

Solder the whole circuit according to the schematic given above. Do not directly solder the ic but use a ic socket as overheating the ic can damage it.

Step 11: Stick the Scale

Picture of Stick the Scale

Stick the scale to the box using hot glue or adhesive at the centre of the backward side of the box.

Step 12: Stick the PCB

Picture of Stick the PCB

Stick the perfboard to the scale as shown in the image above.

Step 13: Add the Battery Pack

Picture of Add the Battery Pack

Stick the battery pack to the box using double sided tape. Make sure that it is easy to close the box and there is enough space left.

Step 14: Connecting the Toggle Switch

Picture of Connecting the Toggle Switch

The toggle switch is used to switch the lamp on and off. Connect it as shown in the schematic above.

Step 15: Connecting the Pot

Picture of Connecting the Pot

The middle pin of pot is connected to pin 2 of ic and the pin that is connected to diode of pot is connected to pin 7 of ic.

Step 16: Connecting the LEDs

Picture of Connecting the LEDs

Make a hole at the back of the box and pass the led wires through the holes. Then connect the positive of led to pin 8 of ic and negative pin of led to the collector of transistor.

Step 17: Connecting the Adapter Jack

Picture of Connecting the Adapter Jack

A diode is connected to the adapter jack so that the charging led is only illuminated when an adapter is connected but not illuminated when the lamp is switched on. Connect the adapter jack to both the positive and negative terminals of the battery.

Step 18: Connecting the Charging LED

Picture of Connecting the Charging LED

Connect the charging led directly to the adapter jack with a 330 ohm resistor connected in series.

Step 19: Stick the Circuit

Picture of Stick the Circuit

When you're done with connecting everything, stick the circuit above the battery pack. Ensure that enough space is still left in the box.

Step 20: Make Holes

Picture of Make Holes

Make four holes in the box in the desired positions to put the toggle switch, pot, adapter jack and the charging led. The toggle switch and potentiometer are added in the front. You can simply use a pencil or a wooden skewer to make holes.

Step 21: Putting Everything Up

Picture of Putting Everything Up

Put everything up in place in the box as shown above.

Step 22: Add a Knob

Picture of Add a Knob

Add a knob to pot and fix it using glue.

Step 23: Seal the Box

Picture of Seal the Box

Check all the connections again and re-solder loose connections. Seal the box and temporarily add a tape to keep it in place.

Step 24: Adding a Back Cover

Picture of Adding a Back Cover

Take a piece of cardboard that is slightly bigger than the perfboard. Cover one side with black paper and the other side with white paper. Stick it to the perfboard with the black side facing in the front.

Step 25: Finishing Touch

Picture of Finishing Touch

The last step to complete the lamp is to add black strips at the corners of the box. This gives the lamp a good look in the combination of white and black.

So cut some some strips of black paper measuring about 5cm by 2cm (make 4 of them) and another measuring 11cm by 2cm (make 4 of them as well).

Step 26: You're Done

Picture of You're Done

To charge the lamp, simply connect it to any 9v adapter, the charging led would illuminate indicating that the battery is charging.

So this is the end of my second instructable. I hope you liked it. Please vote for it in the contest if you think it is a winner. Feel free to modify the lamp to give better results. Here are some modifications to make it better-

1) You can increase or decrease the number of leds. Increasing them would decrease the battery life and decreasing them would decrease the amount of light but the battery would last longer.

2) You can use different types of leds like 1 watt, 3 watt or 5mm ones which have lens to focus the light on a small area.

3) You can use different types of batteries like lithium ion or lithium polymer which will make it lighter and better.

4) You can use an external lens to focus the light as table lamps require light to be focused only on the table.

5) You can use different colors to paint the lamp to make it look better.

6) The design of the lamp can be changed and different materials can be used to make it such as wood, aluminium or plastic.

Thanks for watching this instructable. Feel free to comment and ask any questions and please tell me me I have done some mistake. THANK YOU :)


mspencer8 (author)2017-03-09


If instead of using 36 leds i just want to use 3 or 6 5mm leds, does the circuit or the values of resistors will change?

VishnuA10 (author)2016-03-25

should we need two or one TIP 31c because in your write up you only mention about only one quantity but on the picture i came to saw that two power transistors are used please help me with this situation here are those

Pedalhome (author)2015-11-09

Could you run this off a USB power source?

tamasgal made it! (author)2015-11-08

Here is what I came up with. Nice project Saiyam!

Goutam Joshi (author)2015-06-21

good one.. very detailed project..

Sarves29 (author)2015-05-15

As for the charging circuit unit, how can I replicate this circuit with the usage of a bq2002PN chip?

khawailad (author)2015-02-23


I really like the ability to control brightness.

I am thinking of such a desk lamp for studying.

I have smd leds already mounted on aluminium pcb in parallel.

They work straight with a 4v battery but at full brightness.

Any idea how to control brightness?

I'm not comfortable with using 7805 as it wastes energy into heat.

Saiyam (author)khawailad2015-02-23

Sorry I don't know much about that. Maybe you can use a 7555 which is a low power 555 and can be driven on voltage as low as 3v. Use the same circuit but use a 4v battery to power it instead and remove the voltage regulator but I am not sure if it is going to work.

khawailad (author)Saiyam2015-02-23

I made a usb version today. Had one with long legs 3 in parallel with a resistor.

Accidentally broken last year.

I removed the resistor and put a diode 1n4007. Used a copper wire to mount it with the flexible piping. Here are a few images.

Its getting hot though, not too much but considerably hot. Any mods to suggest?

After the diode multi-meter reads 3.99v

Saiyam (author)khawailad2015-02-24

Running them without current limiting resistor from usb (5v) would overheat the leds. You need to add a current limiting resistor for each led. You can calculate the resistor value using the formula given in step 5 else add a heat sink or a cpu fan to the led array.

francisroan (author)Saiyam2015-04-10

Connecting them directly to USB will kill the usbs fuse.. as USB is rated for 500-1000mAh. be careful with that.

Saiyam (author)francisroan2015-04-10

I don't think there will be a problem as his array has only 18 LEDs.

Saiyam (author)khawailad2015-02-24

Have you directly connected the led array to usb? Are all the leds connected in parallel (in image 1). If yes then you are giving them more voltage than they require and this is the reason that they are getting hot.

Thorsten Singer (author)2015-03-26

Like it, your choose of materials is great, and your explanation very detailed.

Saiyam (author)Thorsten Singer2015-03-26

thanks :)

tamasgal (author)2015-02-27

Dear Salyam, thanks for your contribution! I just prototyped your breadboard scheme, however, the brightness of the LED does not change when I try to adjust it using the 50k poti. I'm using a 5V source. Since I don't have an oscilloscope, I don't really know how to debug this circuit. Do you have any suggestions? I triple checked every connection and the LED shines also with 22mA current flowing, but I guess the frequency may be too high?

Saiyam (author)tamasgal2015-02-28

I was having the same problem when I prototyped the circuit the first time. I checked all the connections and found that one wire was not connected properly. I corrected it and it worked so check all your connections and if it still doesn't work then solder it on perfboard.

tamasgal (author)Saiyam2015-02-28

Thanks for your quick answer Saiyam, I checked them again but everything was fine. Then I tracked down the circuit manually and found out that your forgot two tiny things on your breadboard scheme (however, on your photos, they seem right): one of the two 4001 is pointing to the wrong direction and thus the poti is skipped. The other one is the missing connection of NE555-Pin-1 to ground. That's all!

Nice work btw. thanks for sharing : )

Saiyam (author)tamasgal2015-02-28

Yes you're right. Actually I made it in a hurry so did some errors. Sorry and thanks for correcting. :)

deba168 (author)2015-02-25

A simple and powerful reading lamp.

Very nicely done.Keep it up :)

Saiyam (author)deba1682015-02-25

Thank you :)

achandrawanshi1 (author)2015-02-25

:'( i am in 10 standard and not understood it properly..... plzz tell me when i am gonna understand this all...

Saiyam (author)achandrawanshi12015-02-25

You may experience some difficulties if you are an absolute beginner because for making it you need some basic knowledge about electronics and a little experience in soldering. But believe me if you start learning you will feel that its not too difficult. I am in 9th standard and I've been doing all that since I was in first standard. :)

dmason12 (author)2015-02-24

can I ask what is the purpose of using a 555 timer in this project, how is the 555 timer trigger pin activated. I'm a newbie on this you see

Saiyam (author)dmason122015-02-24

555 timer is used here to vary the brightness of all the leds. The circuit is similar to the pwm circuit which is used to change the speed of motors. It works by switching the led between on and off position at very fast rates. Sorry I don't know much about the working of 555. I have read about that several times but its too difficult to understand.

dmason12 (author)Saiyam2015-02-25

Thank you for that. I will have a play with it

bhushanghawat (author)2015-02-24

what is dome white leds?

It's 5mm or 3mm?

Saiyam (author)bhushanghawat2015-02-24

Dome white leds are 5mm leds that provide high brightness than normal 5mm leds. They do not have a lens to focus light on a small area. They look like this-

bhushanghawat (author)Saiyam2015-02-25


nboost (author)2015-02-22

thank you very much, i have an allready existing array of LEDs witch are connected to a 12V power supply and im looking for a way to dimm their brightness. can i use your scematic for this ? the 555 can handle 12V but will it work without changing the resistor/capacitor values ?

Please respond and thank you !!!

Saiyam (author)nboost2015-02-23

Yes, it would surely work with a 12v led array. You just need to remove the voltage regulator. I have made a schematic for it.

nboost (author)Saiyam2015-02-23

Thank you very much you are awesome ! :D

justinmark8989 (author)2015-02-22

excellent........but for those who don't know how to use bread board for soldering the parts is real tough.....

samuraijack (author)2015-02-15


great job keep building. va1dwg

c.r.h. (author)2015-02-20

Neat project...

But you had me stumped for a while. On the schematic, pin 2 connection to pin 6 is missing. Breadboard is okay. That way the tricky pot diode circuit will change the duty cycle. Hadn't seen that circuit before. Was wondering, if a CMOS 555 was used, no regulator would be needed and the more LEDs you can chain together the less current is needed. Three batteries for 12V and 12 chains of 3 LEDs? Just recalculate the (12) limiting/ballast resistor value for max. on current. (Vbatt - (Vled * 3)) / Imax = R

namora (author)2015-02-20

This is a very interesting article for several reasons but the explanation on how to wire an LED was really helpful as ignorance is my most available commodity. I would suggest that a Tupperware-like container would beat the wooden box all hollow and is even more easily worked than cardboard, with the added advantage of making the power supply waterproof. A work light that could be powered by the cigarette lighter socket would be fantastic. I had one made from a single beam headlight and a plumber's helper suction cup that worked a treat.

Thaikarl (author)2015-02-20

I really like that you used common materials - cardboard, tape etc to build this. most folks would post a project like this using a metal, plastic or wooden box, that would put a lot of us off. your approach shows the simplest way to make it. if we want to get fancy with metal/plastic/wood we can, but we don't have to start there.

gravityisweak (author)2015-02-20

This is great not only for a desk lamp but for portable led lighting for photos and videos as some have mentioned. I have a question. Could one instead use the rolls of LED strip lights and cut them in the marked zones and simply solder the strips to one another for this same effect? I already have some of those lying around and my understanding is that the function would be the same. Thank you for this very clear and easy to understand instructable. I'll be favoriting this one. Lastly, others may want to consider using something as a diffuser on top of the LEDs.

Saiyam (author)gravityisweak2015-02-20

Yes, LED strips can be used here but the problem with them is that most of them require 12v to run so you will have to use a 12v battery to power it with all of the strips connected in parallel

Claude McVea (author)2015-02-19

You have schematic in step 8, 10 and 17 next time please include all your circuit in one schematic. Thant will make it much easier to read. You already know about the diode in step 17. But otherwise a well documented ible'.

Saiyam (author)Claude McVea2015-02-20

Sorry for that. Will surely keep it in mind.

I made the correction in step 17.

Thank you :)

archum (author)2015-02-19

Nice Project. Keep Instructing :)

wb7ptr (author)2015-02-19


I'm a filmmaker, and that thing would be great for studio or location lighting. A lot of filmmakers use something similar for many times the cost of this. And I'm an electronics technician with pretty decent soldering skills as well. This could be quite useful. If I make a filmmaker version of this, I'll post. The only thing wrong with it for film use is the mount. It would need to mount on a stand for film use, and perhaps have some filter holders for "gels" or filters to change the light temperature on it. But these LED rigs work quite well for film use. Also ... would need to be set up for battery use perhaps. Love the project though. I'll just adapt it to my needs ...

wb7ptr (author)2015-02-19


I'm a filmmaker, and that thing would be great for studio or location lighting. A lot of filmmakers use something similar for many times the cost of this. And I'm an electronics technician with pretty decent soldering skills as well. This could be quite useful. If I make a filmmaker version of this, I'll post. The only thing wrong with it for film use is the mount. It would need to mount on a stand for film use, and perhaps have some filter holders for "gels" or filters to change the light temperature on it. But these LED rigs work quite well for film use. Also ... would need to be set up for battery use perhaps. Love the project though. I'll just adapt it to my needs ...

LiamOSM (author)2015-02-19

A useful circuit for powering LEDs in general. Thanks.

niqbal4 (author)2015-02-19

Very Nice

Mr AbAk (author)2015-02-19

Amazing for Students!!

Tibeca (author)2015-02-18

Yes, thank you for sharing. This is a great low voltage project with a lot of options. I'm glad I found this because I was thinking about making a smartphone photo scanning table and this will be perfect especially with the brilliant idea of using low cost materials which I'm sure I can add a hole in the middle of the light array and sturdy up the ruler arm with two or three rulers to hold the added weight. The other idea was for a project light either using again the smartphone with a magnify app or just a magnifying glass from the dollar store.
Thanks again for helping me find a great solution for my future projects.

Hemant Jain (author)2015-02-18

Very much appreciated. Thanks for sharing.My suggestion is that you can solder all resistance from the back side of the board just like a smd technique so that product looks more awesome.

About This Instructable




Bio: I am Saiyam, currently studying in 12th standard and soon going to complete high school. I like to make random DIY projects whenever free. I ... More »
More by Saiyam:The Most Annoying Alarm Clock Ever!Portable Evaporative Room CoolerCleanSweep- the Floor Cleaning Robot!
Add instructable to: