Picture of Steampunk Vacuum Tube Night Light
My 5 year old granddaughter wanted a night light for her bedroom. Recently I have been building things with a Steampunk look, so this give me an excuse to build another project. This project uses some recycled materials that can be found at your local thrift store. Vacuum tubes can be found on Ebay and other components such as resistors and leds can be purchased at Mouser, Digikey or Electronic Goldmine.
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Step 1: Find a box

Picture of Find a box
I found a suitable box at a local Thrift store and paid about a dollar for it. You can re-stain and finish it if needed.

Step 2: Glowing Vacuum Tubes

Picture of Glowing Vacuum Tubes
I used surface mount white leds to illuminate the vacuum tubes. Even standard T1 or T1-1/2 leds would work too.  I cemented the surface mount leds with super glue. Standard size leds could be hot-melt glued on. I attached #30 enameled wire to the surface mount leds and super glued the led to the tube. When doing this, note the polarity of the led and mark a stripe on the wire with a sharpie. Then later, when connecting the leds, you will know the polarity. You can find the vacuum tubes on Ebay.

Step 3: Plan your layout

Picture of Plan your layout
Layout the gears and tubes on the top of the box. Mark with a fine sharpie and drill and tap holes for the screws. I used #4 hex head allen machine screws to fasten the gears. Holes will need to be drilled for the tubes.  The gears were purchased from a local arts and craft store.  They are part of the Tim Holtz collection.

Step 4: Attach the tubes

Picture of Attach the tubes
Series connect the leds and hold down the wire end to the top of the box with hot-melt glue. Drill holes for the tubes in the top of the box and secure down with hot-melt glue.
kpomerleau2 years ago
Great Job, would burnt out out tubes work for this as i can get those free,
botronics (author)  kpomerleau2 years ago
Of course, its a good way to recycle those old tubes to art.

could you email me some technical drawings and demensions? I am currently looking to build a similar light to go along with an old JC Penny stereo that i am going to overhaul and convert into a steampunk radio.

I thought they were gonna be free but was wrong.
I'd love to be able to get my hands on some burnt out tubes. Where do you get them? I tried ebay but only see good tubes. I want the busted ones!
You have to look around for someone whos into repairing old radios. There is a fella aound my place that does that but he charges crazy prices $5 per tube still.
schabanow7 months ago

Insane!!! +1000 ))

tobawolf2 years ago
Nice instructable.
Do you know if a 1000 watt mercury bulb is pressurized when turned off.
I'd like to open one up to use as a lamp after removing the insides.
I'd hate to have it explode while opening it up.
Keep us posted on your 1000 watt mercury bulb project.
botronics (author)  tobawolf2 years ago
I have one of those bulbs too and have not opened it. I plan to project light through the top to make a lamp. I have seen others make lamps (Steampunk) out of them. It seems that they cut around the base stem and later connect it back with aluminum tape, so I doubt they have pressure. The light is generated in a different pressurized capsule inside.
yespotato2 years ago
if you do indeed use this as a night light, avoid any blue or white, those disrupt sleep patterns.
botronics (author)  yespotato2 years ago
Good point! My granddaughter is requesting one in yellow. Perhaps a deep amber would be nice.
botronics (author)  yespotato2 years ago
Good point! My granddaughter is requesting one in yellow. Perhaps a deep amber would be nice.
rrowsome2 years ago
That's cool, but why not run current through the vacuum tubes so you don't need LEDs? I suppose it would waste a lot more electricity, but a real tube glow is awesome.
botronics (author)  rrowsome2 years ago
That would be awesome, including the warmth from the tubes. I have some bigger tubes, perhaps this would become another project.
johnhutch2 years ago
This finished product is beautiful. I so need a reason to make this. It's inspiring! 6 stars!