Picture of Torch made from coke can and cereal box.
Do we always have to throw everything away?
The torch project below looks at how we can transform materials that we would normally consider as waste, and makes them into a functional everyday product.

Hopefully it shows that we don't always have to go to the shops. An hour or so with some scissors, a coke can and a cereal box and you're pretty much set to go. 

What’s needed for this project
Hopefully most of the parts you’ll find in your kitchen cupboards

1 Torch bulb (Standard – NOT threaded)
2 AA (R6) Batteries or 2No C (R14) Batteries. (You will NOT need to make the battery holder if using size C)
1 Large cereal box to make the main body parts (24cm or 91/2" long) Bigger boxes tend to have stronger board
1 Coke can for making the bulb holder and switch mechanism
1 Length of thin parcel wrapping string - Approximately 200 cm or 80 inch for making a grip
1 Small square of cooking tin foil for making a reflector
1 Food colouring to dye the board (Water based are best or coloured inks) Dyes worked better than paints.
1 A small quantity of varnish to seal the cardboard parts. Acrylic varnishes are good.
1 Tube of super glue or other quick drying glue
1 Paint brush
1 Pair of scissors
1 Scalpel or craft knife
1 A paper hole puncher
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Step 1: Building the bulb housing and switch mechanism: Aluminium can

First take an empty standard size aluminium drinks can, rinse it clean and then cut out the cylindrical section. A scalpel is quite handy to cut an incision near the top and then make this into a small triangle hole, big enough for a pair of scissors.

Cut vertically down the can side with scissors.

Once the vertical is done, cut your way around the top and bottom edges. Don’t worry if a few dents appear, these won’t matter. Once the part is clear from the lid and base, trim the edges to remove any sharp pieces.

Flatten the curled pieced of aluminium by rolling it back on itself. It doesn’t have to be really flat, just good enough to stick on the CAD drawing that you'll need to print out.

Tack the drawing onto the aluminium so that the branding is covered by the paper.
Trim out the shape to the solid black line. Note the 4 small cuts made into the main surface are needed to allow the folding over of the edges.

You can now cut the bulb holding section out with a scalpel and ruler, making sure that the lines are followed accurately. Just to confirm, at the corners, 4 small cuts are required as marked on the drawing. This allows the aluminium to flex out as the bulb is later put into position.

Using a ruler as a guide, fold part way over the edge labeled (a) and then edges (b) and (c).
Pull back the paper to reveal the printed coke can surface.
Then push the tabs down tightly
Position the GA drawing back over the folded section and mark gently the fold line (d) indicated by the dotted line. Don’t fold into position just yet.

The switch mechanism is made the same manner.
Fold tabs part way (e) and (f). Pull paper free and then press firmly tabs (e) and (f) down.
Rest the paper back down onto the section you've just folded and then loosely fold over tab (g)
Pull paper out of way. and press (g) down firmly
With (g) folded down on to (h) you need to bend (h) back to around 45 degrees.
Then bend (i) up by around 45 degrees.
Finally, make a dent in the folded section (g) and (h). This creates a positive touch point with the battery.

Fold tabs (j) and (k) over so that the printed surface remains visible on the underside. It will have a few wrinkle in when finished, but these are fine.

Now fold along line (d) upwards to 90 degrees.

You should now have a finished piece looking like the picture.

Clean the protective finish away from the points where the batteries and bulb touche the aluminium. A scalpel or a bit of sanding paper will do the trick.

To fit the bulb, first gentle bend out the small tabs a fraction. Push the bulb through the hole till the shoulder pushes against the aluminium. Then align the 'V' slot of the bulb against one of the tabs edge and gentle swivel the bulb around so that the lip becomes securely interlocked with the aluminium. The photo shows clearly how things fix together. 

Step 2: Exterior Tube and Inner Wrap: Cereal box.

Cut the cardboard box into flat pieces
To colour the board, blue water based food dye is good for quick results. Leave to dry and then repeat the process if you want a darker colour.
Once your happy with the colour apply 2 coats of varnish. Acrylic varnish works well.
The inner wrap can be coloured or left neutral.
Varnish the Inner Wrap to give it a protective finish.

Print out the CAD drawings and using blue tack, lightly fix them onto the printed surface side.
Using scissors trim the card to the drawing outline, making sure the tabs are cleanly cut out.
Using a ruler and some kind of scriber (a ruler or back of a table knife), make a groove into the card along the dotted lines.
These pressure marks on the board make the folding easier and more accurate.
Hold the card with the first set of tabs facing downwards. Press all 4 into the table to bend them over and in on themselves.
Repeat with other set.

Fold along the horizontal dotted lines, making sure to keep the card true to the lines you’ve marked into the surface.
All dotted lines should now be creased.
With super glue or the like, glue the tabs down.

Once they are secure, where the tabs fold over from the exterior edge, the ‘V’ points, using a ruler or a straight edge, push down at these points so that the doubled up material is made thinner. This stops the card from stretching and splitting the varnish.

With both the inner wrap and outer tubes still flat, and with the tabs glued, your ready to form the main body of the torch.

Fold the inner wrap in a square form, making sure the side with the slanting edges is on the outside. The inner wrap will always be un-foldable so no glue is required. Do the same with the outer tube but fold this around the inner wrap so that a tight fit is made.
When you are happy that the two are fitting together well, place some glue on the outer tubes slanted edge tab. Then press this glued tab against the body of the torch. The outer tube is now structurally complete.

Gently remove the inner wrap. Pulling down on the internal free side of the inner wrap helps. 

Step 3: Reflector Unit: Card and Kitchen tin foil

Picture of Reflector Unit: Card and Kitchen tin foil
1 Lens scoring card.jpg
2 Smooting tin foil.jpg
3 Glueing foil to lens card.jpg
4 Glueing foil to lens card 2.jpg
5 Glueing foil to lens card 3 new shot required.jpg
Print out the CAD drawings and tack to a piece of board.
Applying pressure with the back of a table knife, make a groove into the card along each dotted line.
Fold the card so that each joint flexes easily.
Cut around the top outline first.
For the inner edges, cut one segment at a time and then fold the cut segment over onto the next
You'll now have a space for the scissors to access the next cutting line.
Smooth a small piece of aluminium tin foil.
The foils reflective surface forms the internal reflector.
Glue the card to the foil making sure that the card is stuck to the dull side, and that the folds allow the card to bend the right way when making the finished cone.
Cut the aluminium sheet so that the overlaps can be pulled round onto the rear surface and then stuck down. It 's fiddly, but only the internal surface needs to be smooth and look good. 

Step 4: Battery Holder: Card

Picture of Battery Holder: Card
1 scoring battery holder.jpg
2 Battery holder creased form.jpg
3 Battery holder glueing tricky edge.jpg
Print out the CAD drawing.
Roughly trim out the drawing leaving a slight gap between the edge of the paper and card.
Tack the drawing onto the printed side of a piece of card.
Cut around the drawing outline.
Make a groove along each dotted line using the back of a table knife.
Fold along crease lines, ending up with a closed shape with two protrusions pointing inwards.
Glue (A1) to (A2)
Glue (B1) to (B2)
Batteries can now be slotted into position. 

On/Off Switch: Card
No pictures for this part, but if you've got this far it should be no problem.

To colour the board, again blue water based food dye is good for quick results.
Print out both the CAD drawings and tack to card.
Cut out the strengthener
Cut around the main drawing leaving in place the section marked leave and then bend along dotted line.
Place the strengthener part in-between the folded piece and glue surfaces together.
Then cut out the section marked (leave)
Test fit the switch by sliding it into position. It needs to form a tight fiction fit.
This is best done while placing the batteries inside the inner wrap.
Every one will be different so a bit of trimming might be required, till you're happy with the fit.
For those using C batteries you'll need to trim down the extending arms to fit, insert while placing the batteries inside the inner wrap.

Step 5: Bringing it all together

You should now have all the parts ready to put the torch together.
In this version I've added a string grip that was made dyed with the same food colouring as the card and left to dry.
Also a strap was added by using a paper hole punch and threading throw a piece shoelace.

Place the bulb holder into the inner wrap.
Position the battery holder in-between the bulb and the switch. When the card is wrapped tight this will align diagonally from top to bottom.
The On/Off switch slots around the battery holder in the opposite diagonal direction to form a X.
Place the reflector unit over the bulb.
Gently close the inner wrap around the parts making sure the exterior flap has the slanted edges.
Holding the inner wrap tightly, slot it into the exterior tube.

If all has gone well your torch should now be working.
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lashes36991 month ago
Hi. I'm trying to make this and my 2 double a batteries won't fit into the coke can contraption. Help!?!

hello, your torch is so beautiful and amazing, i am planning to make this as our investigatory project in physics because this is very low cost and it can help in recycling our waste. don' worry i will credit your work and cite the sources properly, if its okay with you. i love the design and how effiecient the torch is. your reply will be very much appreciated :)

paul em (author)  notyouraveragejane5 months ago
Thanks for the kind comments.
You are very welcome to use the design in your physics project. As I've mentioned to others, it's quite tricky to get right. I'd recommend you have plenty of cardboard for everyone to practice folding and glueing before you get to making a final version.

You don't mention which aspect of physics your covering. Clearly electricity & conductive materials. In designing the project, its goal was also to highlight friction fitting of parts (the inner tube to outer tube), how planner materials can become strong when folded, the elasticity of materials (the switch mechanism), and the focusing of light using the foil reflector.

I hope the project goes well. It provides a real sense of accomplishment when complete and working.
corat139 months ago

I just finished making this awesome project! I plan on making these with my kids. It works really well, and I loved the CAD drawings! I did have to adjust the bulb housing because it was too small to hold both AA batteries, but a small price to pay for such a great project! Keep it up!

paul em (author)  corat139 months ago


Glad you enjoyed making the torch. I think your kids will really like seeing how the whole project comes together. Its a hard challenge to get everything just so,

Not sure what happened with the cad file. The space for the batteries should be 100mm, but as long as you've got things to work, that's the main thing.

It would be good to see some photos once they're finished. Maybe you could add them to a new message.

Hope the project goes well.

wow these look amazing! i'm planning on making these soon, but i don't know what kind of bulb you mean by standard flashlight bulb. how many volts? also, if i finish using the batteries in the future, can i just take the batteries out and change them?
paul em (author)  lightningclaw0011 year ago

For the bulb, depending what country you are in, I would expect a DIY or hardware store would stock a standard flashlight bulb that works at around 3volts for using with 2 AA batteries. If you look at the pictures you will get a good idea of the type of bulb I trying to describe, as used in all flashlights and torches I've ever seen until the new LED and the special bulbs in Maglight.

As for the batteries, simple remove when you are done. You'll see how easy this is to do as you make it.

Hope it goes well
Oh man. This is awesome! I never would have thought to make a flashlight from those materials.
Wow. Your are ingenious!
sabu.dawdy3 years ago
never saw anything as beautiful as this... :) however i was thinking to show you something as well
mobile jacket.jpg
paul em (author)  sabu.dawdy3 years ago

Your work looks very detailed and allows people to easily create their own interpretation.
thank you :)
themoose643 years ago
i will have to try building this. it looks very cool
paul em (author)  themoose643 years ago
Hope it goes well.
l_skywalker3 years ago
this looks awesome! the pics are great, but how do you get the CAD drawing? you said we have to print it but where do you get it? please respond...
paul em (author)  l_skywalker3 years ago
Hi I Skywalker

You should be able to click on the PDF files. They're not Autocad files or the like, just simple line drawings that you can print of and cut around.

Hope this helps.
Oh ok thanks a lot ill try ti print it out in a sec. I notify you if i have any success making it. Thanks a ton
do you have to varnish it?
paul em (author)  l_skywalker3 years ago
The varnish helps protect the card board surface, so it best to have a couple of coats on especially if you've dyed the card with a colour.

Perhaps best to give a small test piece of unvarnished card a try to see how you feel about this approach.

Hope it goes well.
meanom3 years ago
I'd think this could be adapted to heavy duty foil (maybe folded over). Any comments? (I'll work at trying this out in the near future.)
paul em (author)  meanom3 years ago
Not seen heavy duty foil before except for cheesecake packaging. Sounds interesting so giving a go should be good. Would be a cool finish as well!
pdeotte3 years ago
I love this project! I'm putting on my schedule to do with my Girl Scout troop. Our whole theme for the year is recycling!
paul em (author)  pdeotte3 years ago
Hi pdeotte.

Glad you like the design and good luck with the project.
One thing that I've learnt from watching a local green green group try to make the torch is that its quite tricky at first to get a hang of folding the card to get a good square shape. I'd be tempted to have a good bunch of card available for practising on before trying to make the final design.

The same applies to the bending the coke can. It takes a little while for your hands and finger to get use to folding it unless however your already familiar suing such materials.

Hope it goes well.
pdeotte paul em3 years ago
Thanks for the tips. I plan to spend next weekend working on a few myself so I get the feel for where the girls are going to need extra help.
kd4uwk3 years ago
I think I will use LEDs On mine Thanks for Your Work
chaydgb3 years ago
Awesome 'ible, they look like the sort of thing you could buy in Ikea - very neat and minimalist.
chaitanyak3 years ago
beautifully finished!
like th efinal product.. so neat and tidy!
water rat3 years ago
Cool AND pretty! This is pretty damn awesome!
agis683 years ago
very professional job on this instructable....i like the catching images....too much work for me to get in trouble just for a torch but bravo and well done for you ...
This is one of the most interesting and well executed Instructables I have seen. The photography is excellent, especially the first photo which really catches the eye and draws you right in.  Bravo!
Krazeecain3 years ago
Holy crap, these are cool. It's actually quite inspiring, I had no idea such a well-finished product could be made out of scrap. Well done! I don't have any standard bulbs, but I do have some led's. I'll try to adapt them to work. (I happen to need a 'torch' too!)
paul em (author)  Krazeecain3 years ago
Hi Krazeecain

Glad you liked it.

Good luck with making one with LED's.
Was thinking about giving this ago myself sometime, so you'll have to post your pictures when you've finished it, and explain how you've adapted the LED's to work.
To much work for me, you should make these and sell them on Etsy
Agreed! If you aren't selling these already, you should be...they look so awesome :D
I agree too! What an awesome idea!
dose eny one know how to make a D.I.Y 3d printer that prints plastick if u do
email me on if you do i will tell u how to be cool
Great Job!
paul em (author) 3 years ago

Thanks for all your comments. Much appreciated.

@ Kiteman - I have done a fair bit of deign work over the years.
However, this is a research project looking at how products can be made locally by pretty much anyone, rather than buying.

And from a sustainability point of view, if you make something yourself, then chance are you'll enjoy making it, appreciate it more and keep it longer, cutting down on the trash we throw out.

Instructables it a whole new era of how individuals can 'make' and build up personal skills rather than just being purchasers.

@RoosterSocks - For sure you can give it a go with the graphics on the outside. The first few I made followed this route but as they were mock-ups the printed surface kept cracking as I learnt how to make things work. Maybe you'll have more luck, and perhaps try a varnish to see if it protect the print better.

As for the switch - it basically a piece of card that due to it been under friction, when pushed into the tube it presses against the bent aluminium section which flexes pushes to make the circuit. To turn it off you have to pull back the card.

I've approached the problem as been about reinterpreting a complicated and hard to manufacture part that you'd find in a normal torch, and turned it into something that's easy to get a feel for when you start making it with your hands. Hope this helps.
mary candy3 years ago
Very nice work ;)
this flashlight looks great! I love the simple design . i would have left it so you could see it was made of cereal boxes, like with Fruit Loops on the outside. However I am a little confused about the switch. . .
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