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Toro Stone Lantern Solar Garden Lamp Conversion / Hack

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Picture of Toro Stone Lantern Solar Garden Lamp Conversion / Hack
Add a little light by combining a solar powered  LED  to your traditional Japanese Toro Stone Lantern. I found this lantern while clearing some overgrown shrubs in my back yard. I decided it would make a perfect day and night feature to the end of my deck.

Now it's set up by my bedroom window and it stays on all night providing a focal point at the end of my deck during the day, and a warm glow all night long. At least I think it stays on all night although it is off in the morning when the sun comes up... I've offered to set the alarm for 3:00 am so my girlfriend can confirm it doesn't go out, however she isn't inclined to do me this favor.

I had a good time doing this Instructable. I hope you do too!
 
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Step 1: Gather Tools and Supplies

Picture of Gather Tools and Supplies
For this project, you will need the stone lantern, or any other garden ornament you want to light. You will also need:


A solar operated garden light. I chose this one because it had a real glass shade and fit the inside of my stone lantern well. This was on sale for $3.99 at my local hardware stores. I've seen others with a plastic shade for as little as $1.99

Low voltage stranded wire. A few feet. I had some speaker wire from some long gone speakers.

Heat Shrink tubing. Appropriately sized, about four inches. Electrical Tape may be substituted.

Lighter to shrink the heat shrink tubing

Wire cutter/stripper

Small Phillips head screwdriver

Soldering Pencil and electrical solder (optional, although a good idea)

Electrical tape (not shown)

Small nylon wire ties (not shown)


Step 2: Disasseble Solar Lamp

Picture of Disasseble Solar Lamp
No tools necessary for this step. The top of the lantern will be easily removable revealing the Light Emitting Diode. The peg for standing the lamp in the ground is not necessary. Save it for some other project. Put the lamp shade aside for now.

Step 3: Disassemble LED module.

Picture of Disassemble LED module.
Remove the red shipping tab per the instructions and the light should come on from the battery power since the solar cell is upside down. Then remove the battery compartment door and the battery and put the battery door and battery aside.

Next, carefully unscrew the three Phillips head screws to separate the solar cell and the housing from the LED assembly.

Step 4: Carefully separate the LED assembly from the solar cell housing.

Picture of Carefully separate the LED assembly from the solar cell housing.
The solar cell will be wired to the circuit board with two wires. Be very careful not to tear the wires from their connections as these wires are delicate and will probably be insulated and reinforced only with some hot glue.

Do take a moment to marvel at the sophistication of this device. A solar cell converts the sun's power to electricity, the wires transmit the power to the battery for charging. A tiny microchip senses when it is dark outside by measuring the drop in power from the solar cell and lights the LED with power stored in the battery. When the sun comes up, the chip senses the return of power to recharge the battery and turns off the light. Sure, it's nothing compared to a computer or a calculator, although it's does do a very useful job!

Step 5: Carefully cut and strip the two wires.

Picture of Carefully cut and strip the two wires.
This is a very delicate step.  Carefully cut both wires and then remove about 1/2 inch of insulation from each. Be extremely careful not to separate the wires from their soldered connections to the components.

Step 6: Determine path for wires to solar cell.

Picture of Determine path for wires to solar cell.
Here I fitted the glass shade in the cavity of the lantern. It was a very nice fit as there was an opening at the bottom to cradle the lamp and provide a discreet path for the wire out of the lantern and to the solar cell. So in the next step, I decided to connect the two wires to the LED assembly, then thread the extension through the hole beneath the glass shade to the solar cell which will be located several feet away. Your installation may be a bit different. However a little up front planning really helps.

Step 7: Splice (connect) the low voltage extension wires

Picture of Splice (connect) the low voltage extension wires
Connect the wires again being careful with the small leads. Do not worry if your stranded low voltage electric wires is a slightly thicker gauge than the leads from each component. The several individual wires in stranded wire is flexible and that is why you want to use stranded wire instead of single wire.

If you are using light gauge speaker wire as I did, one of the exposed stranded wires will be silver in color, and the other copper. You have to make sure you connect the black lead on the LED assembly to the black lead of the solar cell. Same for the blue leads. Your colors may vary. but one is very likely to be black. You will be making a total of four splices. Two at the LED assembly and two at the solar cell.

You can simply twist one of the extension wires to one of the leads and then wrap electrical tape. However, I preferred to solder the connections using "Western Union" splices taught to me by my eighth grade electric shop teacher.

In the photo, I have shown the blue splice with the heat shrink tubing fitted, and the black lead soldered with the tubing ready to be moved onto the splice and shrunk.

Step 8: Add stress relief for wiring

Picture of Add stress relief for wiring
I can't resist saying the entire idea of a lighted stone lantern is stress reducing, however what I am talking about in this step is making sure the wires don't come loose.

In it's original purpose, the solar cell was fixed to the LED assembly so there was not much possibility the wires would be torn loose from their connections. Now that the solar cell will be located some distance away, it is important to make sure the wires are not easily torn loose.

I threaded the wire through one of the unused  holes in the assembly and bundled the wires with a wire tie so the delicate connections could never be torn loose.

Step 9: Reassemble the led assembly to the shade and place in lantern.

Picture of Reassemble the led assembly to the shade and place in lantern.
Reinstall the battery and battery door.

Test your wiring by making sure the solar cell is in a sunny location and then covering it with your hand. If everything is correct, the LED will light when you cover the solar cell and go off when you remove your hand.

Even though the whole thing will be covered with the stone roof, I decided to wrap the now exposed electronic components with a little plastic held in place by electrical tape. Sealing it up will moth and rain-proof your project.

Finally, put the stone roof back on the lantern and wait for nightfall.

Step 10: Enjoy your night lighted Toro Lantern!

Picture of Enjoy your night lighted Toro Lantern!
Night lighted Toro Lantern!
tobawolf2 years ago
I can't figure out how the light can strike the solar cells to charge the battery, if the top covers the solar cell assembly.
lettersman (author)  tobawolf2 years ago
The solar cell is removed from the light. That's what the longer wire is for.
Thanks
I'm going to make one with two battery circuits for dual led brightness, using more solar cells as needed.
lettersman (author)  tobawolf2 years ago
Good idea!
lettersman (author) 2 years ago
Thanks Jessyratfink!
It looks great. Very smart idea. :D