This is one of the true pleasures in my life, and I begin and end every day doing it. One day, I was reading an article about living off-the-grid, which seemed like a neat idea, but also a real stretch for a production home suburbanite like myself. But then the author suggested taking just one room off the grid, as a small start, a way to act, a way to learn.
I realized that the bedroom was the best candidate here. We plug in only an alarm clock and a reading lamp in here. What's more, I frequently fall asleep while reading, shutting the lamp off only the next morning.
I first tried a battery-operated book light, but was underwhelmed. It kept getting in the way and the light fell inconsistently on the page. Call me crazy (and I'm sure you will) but the best place for a reading lamp is about a foot up and over your left or right shoulder.
My next attempt was tape-mounting a wind-up flashlight up and above my right shoulder, but it was a graceless attempt and prone to falling. Also, you had to un-tape the flashlight to wind it up. I'm not even going to repeat here what my wife said when she saw it.
So I decided to combine the two ideas - wind-up power with a headboard mounted reading light. A form factor change that uses zero electricity from the grid (and in Ohio, our electricity is still, inexplicably, coal-fired) and had the added benefit of shutting itself off after 30 minutes or so.
This instructable is how I built my wind-up headboard reading lamp. Be forewarned: I'm not an engineer, nor a designer. I'm not even particularly handy. I'm just a guy in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio who wants to do right by the Earth and still read in bed every night.
Step 1: Tools You May Need
In any case, these are the tools that I used, but ultimately this will depend on your design, or the lamp form factor you are going for.
The two most important pieces for me were the power supply and the donor lamp.
The power supply was a wind-up flashlight that I had bought a year and a half ago. It generally gives of 20-30 minutes of strong light on a one-minute wind.
The donor lamp was a USB keyboard light I bought three months ago at Target for $2 before realizing that I couldn't imagine a scenario in my life in which this thing would come in handy.
Step 2: Open up the flashlight.
Once I separated the outer shell, I realized the winding handle was on one side of the unit, while the power supply and components were on the other.
I unscrewed the electronics board and power supply from the rear shell piece and removed them.
The interior of the flashlight was (at least to me) beautifully simple. The winder appears to charge a small rechargeable battery, which runs to the LEDs (with a switch in between). There were resistors before each LED. I'm not sure what they are for, but I do know that I need to keep them in the mix here.
Step 3: Examine the Donor Light
This lamp was pretty straightforward. Bendy plastic. Two wires running in the middle. The only downside is that there is no room inside for any more wires, so if I wanted to wire-additional LEDs, I will have to run a wire alongside the stem. In the end, decided against doing this.
This project could easily take a more attractive bedside lamp, remove its old electrics and run wire and the flashlight's original LEDs up inside.
Also, I found a website that ranks the Top Ten Clip Lights. Now that is serious good times, friends. Can you believe red goose neck came in first? Unbelievable. Talk about your controversy.
Step 4: Determine How You Will Fix the Lamp to Your Bed
I decided to make a back base from a a scrap of 2x4. The power supply would be mounted to the top of one side and the electronics board to the other. The lamp would be affixed to the top, and then the entire unit could be either clamped on or screwed in to the back of my headboard. Also, I could drill down into the top to fit the bottom of the USB lamp into a secure socket.
Once I saw how the clamped lamp looked, I knew I was in some trouble in the wife department. Ultimately, I decided to mount the base directly to the back of the headboard.
Step 5: Remove the flashlight's existing LEDs.
Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, it wasn't working. I was heating up the solder then pushing in the wick to soak it up. No good.
Luckily Kyle at work is a solder master, so he showed me how to use it - laying it directly on the solder, then applying the iron from the outside. And just like that, I had three LEDs off the board.
Step 6: Remove the USB end of the lamp and strip the wires.
There was a red wire, black wire and green ground wire inside. I stripped the end of the red wire and the end of the black wire.
You can use wire strippers for this. I used my teeth.
Step 7: Solder the LED wires to the Flashlight Board
As mentioned before, I learned the little know about soldering from other instructablesother instructables and from some of the engineers at work. My preferred method is to put the tip of the iron against the end of the wire-to-be-attached to heat it up (I think this is called 'tinning'), then hold it against the solder wire and get a good looking bead of molten solder, then lower that bead down on the target wire and contact.
Anyhoo, the contacts on this board were very close together, and my blobs and beads kept connecting to each other. I'm pretty sure that would cause a problem, so I kept at it until I had two separate blobules.
Also, the metal part of the soldering iron that leads to the tip is just as hot as the tip. Not good times.
Step 8: Mount Power supply, electronics board and stem to mounting block.
First, I added a small block to the base lift the board off the surface and make room for the battery. Then pushed the lamp base into the hole until it was snug, running the wires down the escape trench I had cut.
Then I attached the board to the block using the two screws that originally held it inside the flashlight.
Finally, I attached the power winder to the other side, using two of the original screws and an old mirror mounting piece I found in the garage.
Step 9: Remove turning handle from flashlight shell and attach to power supply.
I ended up cutting around it with my chop saw, then filing the edges into a circle.
I attached it to the winder axle with a few drops of super glue. I had to run out and buy the super glue. It was the only part of this project I hadn't found lying around, and thought about skipping this step, except I didn't want the handle to keep coming off every time I tried to wind it.
Step 10: Attach base to headboard, wind and enjoy.
Firmly attached, I gave the unit a one minute wind, then turned it on.
I love that feeling. That little sense of quiet accomplishment. Good times.
Overall, I learned a lot on this project, especially on soldering and de-soldering, and I have now achieved my objective of taking this room off-the-grid.
As always, though, there are thoughts of v. 2.0 floating around in my head. They center on two main areas for improvement: power and aesthetics.
Power: I am getting about 15 minutes out of a 2-minute wind right now. suppose if I use a chargeable battery with more capacity, I could get more time. But my supposition is there must be wind-up units that put out more power and store it in larger batteries than this one. If you are someone who knows of such things, please leave a few comments.
Aesthetics: Obviously, I was not tying to build the most gorgeous lamp int he world, but I truly believe you can do this project in a more-beautiful way. I'd love to see that.
Finally, there is the funky blue LED light, which takes some getting used to. For v. 2.0, I think I'd want to add more LEDs and look for a filter of some sort that could warm up the quality of light for me.
But overall, I'm happy today as I write up my first-ever instructable, and tell about my small contribution to green up my life in Central Ohio. I hope you have enjoyed reading along.