This instructable shows you how to make a desk lamp out of scrounged scanner parts and a few extras from Home Depot.

I have set up a small solar array, controller and a storage battery. I wanted to make some low power lighting that I can use in my office that would not consume a lot of power.

I had a bunch of scanner parts lying around and decided to put them to good use.

Step 1: Get Your Parts

Picture of Get Your Parts
Scrounge a scanner head and pick up the following parts from Home Depot:

1. Scanner Head

2. 6' Lamp cord and switch - $3.99
3. Low voltage lighting base - 2 for $5.95
4. PVC 1" adapter threaded on one end, slip to fit on the other - $.87
5. 12" x 1" diameter PVC threaded pipe, (nipple) - $1.12

Tools needed:

1 1/4" hole saw
electric drill
hack saw
hot glue gun
solder iron & solder
shrink tubing
12" ruler
side cutters

Remove the lens and camera electronics and save for your next project.
Keep the displayed power circuit in place on the scanner head.

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peterrabid98 years ago
I'm new at this so I don't understand something... Isn't a power adapter required to bring the voltage down to an acceptable level for the little circuit board? I would assume these things consume a very small amount of voltage. Does the board pass back anything that's not needed for the light to operate? Thanks, this is a question that's been bothering me.
In the main picture -- do you see that box in the background that says 12 in green numbers and .37 in red? That' the power supply he's using to test ;) 12V consuming .37A His board looks almost identical to mine -- just put in the supply voltage and it outputs the appropriate voltage for the bulb (several thousand volts) ;)

Here is what I am having a difficult time understanding.. so you are telling me that when I put 12V AC from the wall connected to this little driver board for the scanner bulb, the board outputs several thousand volts?!? How is that even possible? I don't quite understand. So several things: I tried testing the two white wires coming from the board to the bulb itself.. I assume it's in DC, but both wires are white, there's no polarity. So it should be AC - and since it's an inverter which is what makes up the tiny driver board - but when I test it for AC voltage, it sparks and shorts everything out. If I test it for the highest setting in DC it does the same. Secondly, why would it make sense to take 120V AC power supply, convert it to 12V DC with a bridge rectifier, connect it to this tiny scanner driver board, only to have it inverter to AC? This is a map of what's happening... 120V AC -> 12V DC -> several thousand volts AC. Why is this? Is this even right? Which leads me into my third question, what is coming out of the driver board - AC or DC? How much power is coming from the board to the bulb, and why can I not test it on my multimeter without it shorting my multimeter, bulb and board?

Here's what I got, I put in an AC transformer (center-tap 6V-0V-6V) rated at 120V input, with a 12V AC output at 500mA power rating. A full-wave bridge rectifier utilizing four 1N4007 rectifier diodes, a single 2200uF capacitor on the output. This gives me a steady 11.9V-12.0V DC voltage. That then powers the scanner bulb driver board. This board is a Cotek brand, no ratings listed on it, but the model I found that is identical to it online is rated at 6VDC; however, this board won't run on 6V, only 12V or higher input - otherwise 6VDC only powers about 1/3 of the light bulb. The driver board has a capacitor on the GND and PWR rated at 100uF, a small round inductor, a small package inverter with two inputs and six outputs, with two white wires running to the bulb. That's it. What am I missing? By the way, the bulb gets VERY hot after just one minute of use at the necessary 12V DC at 500mA. What do I need to do at this point?

im very interested in getting any voltage/amperage i need to test my projects, know whare i can get something like that cheep? i just blew a large chunk of money trying to get my internet working, router wasnt compatable with the modem...
I want one. :-D Thanks for the reply, just making sure I get the idea... Good thing I asked, I might have blown off my arms.
When connecting the switched power cord to the unit, it is a good idea to stagger the splices, one up towards the unit, one below that splice. Yes, it is only 12v, Yes, shrink tubing was used, but it is always to utilize some caution!
Thanks for sharing your idea!
jpitz31 (author)  mad hatter5033 years ago
Thanks mad hatter503 for your tips. Looking forward to seeing some of your instructables.


mcarugo14 years ago
I linked the inverter's wires with a ac cable from an old stereo, as I plugged in the inverter blowed up... where I did wrong?
jpitz31 (author)  mcarugo14 years ago

Check the specs on the inverter. Most DC inverters Input DC voltage (low current) and then boost the output to run high voltage (around 2000 v) . By connecting AC to a DC inverter, you will get the results you experienced. ;-)

Always try to google the specs on any component before you connect power to it.

If you cannot find any specs then start with DC and proceed carefully.


Ampix04 years ago
How would I run my bulb off batteries? I tried 2AA's and only like the first inch of the lamp barely lit up.
jpitz31 (author)  Ampix04 years ago
Hello Ampix, You need at least 12 volts to run the light. Get yourself a small 12 volt lead acid rechargeable battery. I picked up a NP12-12T sealed battery at Frys Electronics.


Ampix0 jpitz314 years ago
oh that is huge! XD I think im going to go with some simple LEDs for my project.
Thats what she said
w0rm55 years ago
Hi, I built one also, but didn´t used the scanner parts for the base, used an old lamp base I had. Works perfectly. 

Great instructable.

Mine takes 12 volts in and it does work. But, just out of curiosity, how much voltage is going into the bulb? All I now is that it's enough to make a purple "spark" up to 1/4" in length and it hurt alot before I knew it could do that.
its around 2.5KV (2500) volts , some can be as many as 10 KV
bronz6 years ago
These Two white wires how much current be given to them.As I use a adopter with these wires, there is already a circuit in front of you. So explain the amount of current be supplied to these white wires. Thanks.
Orbitalgun6 years ago
Thanks for this great instructable but please put more emphasis on the current and voltage drop when you mention lamp cord as it is a little misleading.
mike_d2146 years ago
So I have a lamp, but it has 4 wires going in. Any ideas how to figure hook up?
ccg37 years ago
Excellent Idea. I always wondered if this could be done. Cool! Great Job!
crestind7 years ago
How long has your lamp lasted? I would imagine that this would burn out kind of quickly because the lamp wasn't designed for continuous use.
jgeekw7 years ago
I did this project and fried the PC board on the scanner head. I either swapped polarity on the wire, or there was too much power going to the scanner head. Any suggestions if I dont have the AC to DC converter?
jpitz31 (author)  jgeekw7 years ago
Hello Most converters take around 12 - 15 volts DC to run. Depends on what you used to power the board? Is there an input voltage written on the board? If you fried the board hopefully you have another one? Try to find a part number and manufacture name. Then you can attempt to look up the specs on their web site or give them a call. Thanks Joe
mikedoth7 years ago
What can I do if I can't find the wall converter?
jpitz31 (author)  mikedoth7 years ago
Do you have the inverter to power the fluorescent light? If so see below post. If not then you are going to have to find an inverter for your fluorescent light. If you have the inverter then you have to find out what the voltage and amperage rating of the inverter are. Then you can locate a wall wart rated for the inverter. Should be a common rating. Thanks Joe PItz
I have the inverter that is attached to the black box that holds the light, I don't have the plug that goes from the wall to the scanner.
Aar000n3y7 years ago
My scanner is a bit different, and I couldn't figure it out. There were many wires coming from the main board to the light holder. But I couldn't find where it split to the light and the light detection part (not sure what it's called). So I took out the light, but I have no idea how it was powered. It looks pretty much like the light in the pictures. Is there any way to still use this or will I not be able to get it to work anymore?
jpitz31 (author)  Aar000n3y7 years ago
Hello Aar000n3y Look on your board and see if there is any power markings i.e. voltage in or power indications. If not, put the light back in the circuit. You are looking for wires that will power the board with around 12V. Look for a empty connector, This could be your voltage source to the board. If there is no connector then you will have two choices: Try to find the manufacture of the board. It should be written on the board, along with a part number. Send them an email and ask for the specs on the board. If all else fails then you will have to guess: Warning, You may toast the board in doing the below steps: Take a 12V source and see if you can find a pair of wires that will cause the light to light up. Do not touch the board when you apply 12V to it. Do not touch any bare wire, if possible insulate yourself by using insulated alligator clips. Briefly touch a pair of wires to see if the light works. If not switch the polarity of the wires and try again with the same wires. Then try each pair until the light works or not. Use extreme care if you do this last step. Do not touch any part of the light or circuit, Use insulated tools or power off the circuit, attach the alligator clips and them power up the circuit using your power supply switch. Do not touch anything with your bare hands. Thanks Joe
AzurusNova7 years ago
I have two moduals from laptop screens that gave the cathod tubes along with them. Now knowing that they are used in screens for laptops, the issue of UV should not be a problem. The only thing Im trying to figure out is what sort of power source is needed to power them. Id like to use one to light the inside of my desktop case and mod the second one to use as a lamp. Any information would be awesome. Ill post any results or make my first instructable of it as well. Thanks though for the little tidbits here.
jpitz31 (author)  AzurusNova7 years ago
Hello, You need a dc inverter to drive the tube. You might have to do some digging on the web to find out the specs on the tubes and modules you have. I tore apart a bunch of scanners to dig up the inverters and tubes. Thanks Joe
True, its going to take some digging about. Well I think I might get lucky on powering my scanner lamp with the power out of an older style computer power system witht he extended power push switch. I havent learned what settings have to be on my voltimeter to see what the "ma" is on the 12v side, if you can direct me that way Im sure Id be right along with this build.
jpitz31 (author)  AzurusNova7 years ago
Hey AzurusNova, Bre put out a very cool Make podcast that explains basic voltage, ohm and amp measurement using a multimeter. Check out this link. Also do some searching on the web for using a multimeter You should be able to find some good diagrams of proper usage. When you are measuring the inverter, be careful in not touching any components when the power is on. These inverters can cause burns to your skin referred to a "electrocautery" Thanks Joe
jpitz31 (author)  jpitz317 years ago
Thank you much for the link. Once I get a chance after work to view over this video, I'm sure Ill know how to use it. Heh, Ill have an arm load of goodies coming home from work as well. Four older printers and 3 or more dvd players. All free because co workers have them laying about. I'm going to scrap parts out of the three printers and try to get one working. Not to mention its pay day and I'm finally getting my 19 inch lcd screen with built in speakers, DVI and VGA port.
lemonie8 years ago
These bulbs are not designed for room lighting, they may emit more UV than other desk lamps.
perfect for growing plants
jpitz31 (author)  Steamdnt7 years ago
I never gave it a thought, but yes that would be a cool indoor plant lamp. Thanks Joe
jpitz31 (author)  lemonie8 years ago
From the searching I have done on the web, scanner tubes give off low levels of UV radiation. This is a security prevention as many secure documents, money and checks have UV sensitive ink and a scanner will not pick up these UV sensitive markings. Though I cannot find any UV wavelength information by searching on the web to indicate what degree of UV the tubes do emit.
lemonie jpitz318 years ago
I saw a news article which reported a kid getting 'welder's eye' from a photocopier. Correct or otherwise, it gave me the thought. Thanks for the check & update. L
gfixler lemonie8 years ago
I'm sure it all depends on the bulb, and maybe even the kid, but being a weirdo artist/maker boy back in the 80s, with a stepdad who had an office scanner - a big old Xerox - I used to make photocopies of my face all the time. In art college, when bored working in the writing studio, I would make scans of my face, rolling with the scan to unwrap my face, or with it to compress it, or in spirals to create crazy warps. In almost all of my scans, I kept my eyes open, and looked past the bulb as it passed my face. Everyone always panicked, asking "You looked at the light!? You could go blind!" I always replied "Why do you say that? It's just a light bulb, and not all that bright, either." Then I'd always hear "Well, I just heard they're dangerous, like X-rays." "What? Where did hear that?" "I don't remember.' Literally, every conversation about my face scans went that way. No one could ever remember, or find again where they heard something that seemed benign to me was actually dangerous. Now at 30 years old, I'm the only one of my handful of friends from art school who still doesn't need glasses. In fact, I still have better than 20/20 vision, no color deficiencies, no near/far-sightedness, and I can control my eyes separately, which is very helpful with the kinds of stereographic imagery with which I like to code and play. I also spent the bulk of my childhood reading in very poor lighting, or in near darkness. We lived in the woods, away from the city, so it got pitch black when we turned all the lights off at night. I would often read for a while by the light of the green numbers on the VCR across the room from me - my only late-night light source. If I unplugged the VCR, it was absolute darkness. My eyes would never adjust. I kind of miss that, as my apartments since are impossible to get completely dark. However, my mother would yell "How can you see anything!? Turn on a light! You're going to hurt your eyes!" To that, I always responded with "How can darkness hurt my eyes? Light is radiation. You can be blinded, set on fire, or killed by radiation, but no one's ever been hurt by darkness itself." I guess I was kind of an pain, but from a very early age I had an incredible skepticism, and a tremendous thirst for the real reasons behind things. Of course, all that said, I don't think my shenanigans have had anything to do with my eyesight being as good as it is, and I'm quite thankful, and feel quite lucky that it is so, especially given that my parents have all sorts of eye issues, with both needing weird, strong prescriptions (mom's like 20/70 in one eye, 20/200 in the other), but a lifetime of warnings about what would hurt me, the great majority of which never panned out have made me only more cynical. I could've used a warning about NOT pulling wood through a table circular saw from that back side though. Thankfully that healed up nicely :)
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