Introduction: Vacuum Tube LED Candle

Picture of Vacuum Tube LED Candle

Vacuum Tubes are an amazing thing to behold. They look like miniature works of art made by a mad scientist! I recently came to own some used vacuum tubes which were no longer functional. Instead of sticking them into a draw or god forbid – throw them away, I decided to work on ways to display them.

For this ible’ I decided to mount one in a block of wood and add a flickering LED. You could just mount the tube into the wood without the LED but I wanted to give it a little life. As the block of wood is solid you will need to carve out a recess for the battery and switch. This isn’t too hard as long as you have some chisels.

Step 1: Parts and Tools

Picture of Parts and Tools

Parts

1. Vacuum tube. – eBay

2. Wood. Any old piece of wood as long as it has some character

3. 2 X AA Battery holder - eBay

4. 2 X AA Batteries

5. Wires

6. Switch – eBay. I used quite a large switch which was more time consuming to add. It would be simpler to add a smaller toggle switch – leave it up to you though.

7. Brass strip – eBay

8. Flickering LED - eBay


Tools

1. Drill

2. Sander

3. Soldering iron

4. Pliers

5. Chisels

6. Vice

7. Double sided tape

8. Oscillating multi tool

Step 2: Prepare the Wood

Picture of Prepare the Wood

Steps:

1. Choose your wood. I used a piece of drift wood I found at the beach some time ago.

2. As I was using an old piece of wood, I had to sand it back which revealed some beautiful wood underneath the weathered surface

3. Cut to the size that you want to make the stand. Remember you need to add the switch as well so don’t make it too small.

Step 3: Making the Battery Section - Marking

Picture of Making the Battery Section - Marking

Once you have the wood sanded and prepared, you next need to mark out the area that you need to cut out for the battery holder.

Steps:

1. Place the block of wood into a vice to hold it steady

2. Place the battery holder onto the wood and trace around

3. To make the initial cuts I used an oscillating multi tool which you can see an image of below. I found that this made the job of removing the battery section very easy.

Step 4: Making the Battery Section - Chisling

Picture of Making the Battery Section - Chisling

Steps:

1. Grab a chisel and start to remove the marked section. I used a large head chisel and carefully removed the wood.

2. Check your work by placing the battery holder into the battery section and seeing how it fits

3. Keep removing the wood until the battery holder fits into the hole. Make sure you have about 5mm of wood over the battery holder.

Step 5: Making the Mounting Hole for the Vacuum Tube

Picture of Making the Mounting Hole for the Vacuum Tube

Steps:

1. To make the perfect sized hole, I used a 19mm wood boring drill bit. These are also known as flat or spade drill bits and they look like the one in the image below.

2. Find the centre of the wood and start to drill. The hole can go right through to the other hole you made for the battery as it won’t affect the way the vacuum tube sits in the wood.

3. Once drilled, test to make sure the tube sits well in the hole. You shouldn’t have to glue it into place as the fit is nice and snug.

Step 6: Adding a Switch

Picture of Adding a Switch

I added quite a large switch but you could easily add a smaller toggle switch if you wanted to. Also, I added a piece of brass to cover up any holes made in the wood

Steps:

1. First mark out the size of the switch onto the wood

2. Next, use a drill to remove most of the wood. You will need to drill right through the wood

3. Grab a small chisel and start to remove the wood in the inside of the hole. Be careful though not to chip the sides. If you do, grab some super glue and stick it back on. You can sand it back later.

4. Keep on trying the switch until it fits into the hole made

5. Add some wires to the terminals on the switch

6. Drill a small hole from the battery compartment through to the switch hole. Pass the wires from the switch through the hole and into the battery compartment.

7. Push the switch into place

8. Cut a strip of bass so it is big enough to cover the hole and drill a hole in the middle for the switch.

9. Place the brass over the switch and add some super glue to the bottom of the brass and secure into place.

Step 7: Add the Batteries

Picture of Add the Batteries

Steps:

1. Solder one of the battery wires to the switch wire and add a little bit of heat shrink.

2. Thread the other wire from the switch and the battery through the hole in the top of the wood

3. Secure the batteries into place with some good quality double sided tape. I use the foam type tape as it works the best.

Step 8: Add Some Wax

Picture of Add Some Wax

To bring out the grain in the wood, I added some bees wax.

Steps:

1. With a clean cloth, rub some wax all over the wood. Make sure you rub it in well and get it into all of the grain of the wood

2. Wipe off the excess wax with another rag.

Step 9: Add the LED

Picture of Add the LED

Steps:

1. Trim the LED’s legs.

2. Next, add some solder to the legs and the wires coming out the top hole. Before you solder the LED into place, test to make sure you have the correct polarities on the LED.

3. Solder the LED into place and don’t forget to add some heat shrink.

4. Test

Step 10: Adding the Vacuum Tube

Picture of Adding the Vacuum Tube

Steps:

1. First you will need to remove the middle section of the vacuum tube. This is a plastic part which has a glass cylinder down the middle.

2. Place the tube into a vice (obviously not the glass section, just the plastic base) and with a pair of wire cutters, start to chip away at the plastic

3. Remove all of the plastic until it is flush with the base

4. Give the tube a shake to remove any broken glass inside.

5. Push the LED inside the hole. There shouldn’t be any need to hot glue it into place

6. Push the vacuum tube into the hole in the top of the wood. The legs on the tube will hold it into place.

7. You might need to work out the best position for the LED so if you find it isn’t in the correct position, pull it out and try again.

Step 11:

Picture of

That’s it!

Hopefully you have a very cool looking vacuum tube and stand. The soft glow of the flickering candle helps bring this marvel of electronics back to life.

Next I’m thinking of making a display stand for a whole bunch of different types of vacuum tubes.

Thanks for checking it out and happy making

Comments

1MadMax (author)2017-09-22

Most vacuum tubes glow when the heater filament is energized and a great many use 6.3 v for the heater circuit. With not too much trouble you could design a 6.3 v power supply and plug it into the wall. It wouldn't flicker, but it would have an authentic glow! Most of the old tubes I have laying around failed for reasons other than the heater circuit anyhow.

lonesoulsurfer (author)1MadMax2017-09-24

Thanks for the heads-up. I tested this last night on a couple and got a few to glow. They looked fantastic (and hot!). I tried 6v's and also 9v's and both worked ok (got more light out of the 9v but also more heat).

ddamico361 (author)2017-09-17

Looks really cool. You inspired me to make this! Parts ordered.

Excellent! Good luck with your build.

Just got the tubes today, LEDs yesterday.

burningsuntech (author)2017-09-20

Ahhhh Nostalgia. I love it!

Great instructable too!

RA

Appreciated it - thanks.


cdavenport (author)2017-09-17

Very clever. Ideal for a child's room. Ideal for mine, too!

Thanks! It does add a nice glow to a darkened room

ajayt7 (author)2017-09-17

Wonderful idea to use an old tube as a lamp

lonesoulsurfer (author)ajayt72017-09-20

Cheers

Junophor (author)2017-09-19

Hi lonesoulsurfer

Pretty nice litte thing!

I love this flickering tubes!

Thanks for sharing and now I am stepping down to my workshop looking for the right tubes.....;-))

Yours Aeon Junophor

lonesoulsurfer (author)Junophor2017-09-19

Hey Aeon,
Thanks very much! Those flickering LED's are damn cool.

yrula8 (author)2017-09-18

I was wondering how long the batteries would last. What if a joule thief was added. I'm just guessing here, I haven't researched it yet. Just getting an opinion.

lonesoulsurfer (author)yrula82017-09-18

LED's are very efficient and only draw a minimal amount of milliamps so I reckon you would get at least 20 hours or more out of the batteries. You can buy LED candles which use a button cell 3v battery and those last for ages so with 2 X AA, you'd have plenty of power to run them for ages.

kingmind (author)2017-09-16

I think I should learn to make one

jkiesel (author)2017-09-13

Great little piece, think I'll make a one or two of these as I also have some old tubes lying around. Did you have to do anything to make the LED flicker or is that just how it appears after hooking everything up?

lonesoulsurfer (author)jkiesel2017-09-13

The LED's are really cool. they have a built in flicker circuit so as soon as you hook them up to power, they start flickering like a candle.

jkiesel (author)lonesoulsurfer2017-09-14

Aha! Missed that part. Thanks LSS.

MichaelS440 (author)2017-09-13

At one time I built a vacuum tube voltage regulator. It used a special type of tube that looked somewhat like that when it was working. Different voltages used different gasses and glowed at different colors. Cool

I like the sound of that. Initially I was thinking of hooking a tube to make it glow (you can get kits that use a 9v battery to run a tube). Wouldn't have worked on the tube I used anyhow as it was blown.

gm280 (author)2017-09-13

I like it. It looks great and interesting at the same time. I was wondering if you could find an old timey knife switch and install that, it would even look more older, but still great.

lonesoulsurfer (author)gm2802017-09-13

You know I was thinking the exact same thing the other day! You can get them on eBay so I think I'll get one for the next version I make.

About This Instructable

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Bio: I've always liked pulling things apart - it's the putting back together again that I have some issues with.
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