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Super-bright Lego-light from $14 Radio Shack desk lamp

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Picture of Super-bright Lego-light from $14 Radio Shack desk lamp
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With a little help from your cat, easily convert a $14 desk lamp from Radio Shack into a powerful Lego light with many uses. Additionally, you can power it by AC or USB.

I was buying parts to add lighting to a Lego model when I found this by accident. It worked so well that I thought I'd share.

Parts & Tools:
- Lamp from Radio Shack
- Lego bricks!
- Fingernail clippers
- Soldering Iron (the soldering in this project is very simple)
- Small Phillips screwdriver
- Small wire cutter and stripper
- Glue gun or other glue

Safety Notes:
- Electricity: This project runs on 5 volts, and the wall adapter is pretty standard. The actual lighting element uses a higher voltage, so don't touch it (or any wires) while the lamp has power.
- Heat: The place where the wires meet the light gets a little hot to the touch, but not enough to melt plastic.
 
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Step 1: Get the lamp

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The Radio Shack USB Desktop Lamp can be purchased from Radio Shack stores (as of Sept. 25, 2007), or online with this link:

http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2781565

Note: If the link doesn't work, then this product may no longer be available. Here's the info, so you can try to locate one:

USB Desktop Lamp
Model: 61-126 | Catalog #: 61-126
Manufacturer: Presidian

  • Lamp tube: cold cathode fluorescent tube 1x8.5cm U-shape
  • Long usage life for around 15,000 10,000 hrs
  • Powered by USB or AC adapter

What's in the box

  • Desk lamp
  • USB cable
  • AC adapter

The electronics, power switch, and a small red LED are all in the base. It comes with both AC and USB connectors, which is handy.

Step 2: Take apart the base

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1. Remove the LRF Support (Little Rubber Feet) by peeling off.
2. Remove the screws exposed by the LRF removal.
3. Open the case.
C. If you have a cat, watch her. Don't let her steal or eat any small parts.
5. Look at the nearest human and say "All your base are belong to us."

Step 3: Take apart the head

Picture of Take apart the head
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1. Remove all four screws from the lamp head.
2. Remove the clear plate.
3. Carefully pry out the inner reflector. It's glued in, but not very strongly.
C. By now, the cat should be demanding attention.
5. The lamp runs on 5 volts, so if you want to, move the cat and carefully test the lamp's operation. Be sure you're not touching the lamp element or the circuit board while power is applied.

Step 4: Remove and prepare the electronics

Picture of Remove and prepare the electronics
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1. Cut the black wires near where they connect to the circuit board.
2. Remove the small plastic insulating sticker from the heavy lamp base.
3. Stick it to the circuit board, next to the on/off switch. This will allow you to overlap the circuit with itself without causing a short.
4. Glue or tape the power connector to the top of the insulating sticker to make the whole circuit int a single piece.
C: Not having gotten enough attention, your cat will now begin stealing screwdrivers. Give her one to play with.

Step 5: Modify the reflector

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Here's the heartbreaking part: the reflector has bumps on it which are so close to being the same size as Lego bumps! So close. Not close enough.

If you can figure out a way to morph these into Lego-size bumps, then you can skip this step. Otherwise:

1. Use a large pair of nail clippers to remove all four bumps. Leave the surface rough, so the glue has something to grip.
2. Use your favorite gluing mechanism (I used a glue gun, which worked fine) to attach a Lego plate to the back.
C: While you're busy with the reflector, the cat has started playing with all of the fun wires on the circuit board.

Step 6: Re-attach the light tube to the circuit board

Picture of Re-attach the light tube to the circuit board
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This is where I say "Don't solder the light straight to the board, use a connector!" However, I soldered the light straight to the board.

1. Twist the wires coming from the lighting element.
2. Strip the wires, and solder them to the board in place of the stubs you cut earlier. Don't worry about connecting it "backwards"; it works either way.
3. Attach the light to the reflector. I used a twist-tie, but you can use just about anything.

Note: The place where the wires emet the lighting element gets a little hot while it's on. Not hot enough to melt plastic (or Lego) but hot enough to soften glue-gun glue.

Note: Later, I discovered that the wires which connect to the lighting element are kind of fragile, so I ended up making a connector at that end of the wire.


Step 7: Build a Lego switchbox

Picture of Build a Lego switchbox
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At this point, all that's left to do is build a switchbox for your circuitboard, to protect it and make it look cool.

The design can be anything you want, and it's easy to make a sliding button (all from Lego) which pushes the power switch. Also, just because you can, leave a hole for the red LED to shine through.

Step 8: All done, time to build!

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That's it. Build it into a model, and have fun!

The leftover parts surely look like they could be used for another project. Maybe a an alien spaceship? Your call. Mine have little teethmarks in them. >sigh<

sonamsnv3 years ago
A wood fence accents the aesthetic beauty of your property and provides the security and peace of mind that makes your home your castle..

Chain Link Fence
Derin7 years ago
all your base are belong to us
sojakai7 years ago
I figured out how to keep my cat from going after my Legos, it might work for you... I have to admit that I am a little bit of a starwars nerd, so I got a Lego AT-AT. It looks good, but the head is barely held on and falls off randomly with little help ( walking past, earthquake, gust of wind, etc.). I kept it on the floor by my door cause its the same size as my cat and he for a while thought it WAS another cat. One day, he got brave, and came in and was sniffing at the body with no problems. Worked up to the head and started sniffing and the head fell off... I have only seen him move that fast once before, and that was when he found out that one of his mousies squeaked if you pounced on it from on top of the couch... Sounded like a herd of elephants running through the house and left a smoking trail of carpet behind him.
csshih7 years ago
love the cat.
mspitze7 years ago
Are you sure the lamp elements are LED's?, looks like Cold Cathode Fluorescent element(High Voltage) the small transformer on the driver board is probably a High voltage flyback type circuit.
LabRat (author)  mspitze7 years ago
You're correct that it's cold cathode, and that's mentioned in Step 1. Looking at the text, the only mention of LED is "I was buying parts to add LED lighting to a Lego model when I found this by accident." Since that caused confusion, I'll revise it. Thanks for the feedback!
Congratulations on making your first instructable!! (Or should I say, 'welcome home?') So nicely detailed, even a cat can do it. I definitely need to see your awesome lego model that is getting such levels of detailed work.
WileECoyote7 years ago
The tech in this instructable is over my head but I did enjoy reading the steps that involved your cat and looking at the pictures of her. Cats are always so helpful.
rimar20007 years ago
Beautiful cat!