Do you have some old solar garden light that quit working, got run over by the lawn mower or the plastic / metal parts are dull and broken? The chances are good that you can salvage the solar cell and the electronics and repurpose it just as I did.
Basically you don't even need the electronics if you don't mind turning the light on by yourself, e.g. when you use it as a camping reading light. (Schematics in the instructable)
I almost forgot to thank all you guys out there who did the groundbreaking work on how to repurpose a solar powered garden light! ;p
Materials and tools which will make completion of this project a lot easier -_^ :
An old solar garden light or
Rechargeable battery, diode (1N4001), solar cell, switch, 1 or 2 bright LED's
Copper pipes and fittings (of course)
Soldering iron and electronic solder
Hot glue and/or 5 minute epoxy
Ruler, tape measure, compass and caliper
Drill press + drill bits
Step 1: Finding a Donor
I have to admit some of these solar garden lights look very pretty, even "steampunkish" and are quite reasonably priced these days but where is the fun in just buying one? In the back of my yard I found 4 solar garden lights which ceased working some time ago. The plastic was dulled and the contacts of the battery holder corroded. After cleaning the contacts and hooking up a new battery everything worked fine and was ready to be put to good use (again) as a Rechargeable Steampunk Solar Night/Reading Light.
Step 2: Schematics - Parts
When you 'desolder' the wires, make sure you take a few pictures, just in case you forget where the extra parts go. In principle the solar cell charges the battery and the LED is turned on by means of a simple electronic circuit and a LDR (light dependent resistor).
You can omit the electronics and just use a solar cell, rechargeable battery, a diode ( 1N4001 ) and a switch.
Step 3: The Design
You can see how I did it. Of course the design is left to you but make sure that the solar cell is exposed to the sun. :) I could have done better like mount the solar cell on top of the fixture but I had the base already from a different project that didn't go the way I wanted :/ so I just used that one. After some days of sitting on the window sill the battery is charged enough in the evening to illuminate my bed room every night.
Step 4: Putting the Parts Together
I made a cut-out for the solar cell in a foam board and secured it with some hot glue. Copper foil "beautified" the unsightly gap on top. This worked fine as base of the light.
Step 5: More Parts
There were several more parts to fit into the copper pipes like the PCB (printed circuit board), LDR (light dependent resistor), battery, switch and LED's. It needed some playing around till I found the right (inconspicuous) placement. I made sure all bare wires were covered by electrical tape or shrink tubing.
Step 6: Finishing up
It took a while till I had the LED's in place. I glued 2 marbles in the openings of the copper T fitting which looks pretty cool at night. And finally there it is:
Miss Betsy's Steampunk Rechargable Solar Night/Reading Light.