Introduction: Wine Bottle LED Gel Lamp

Picture of Wine Bottle LED Gel Lamp

Recycle an old cell phone charger and wine bottle into a gel filled LED lamp.

Step 1: Parts List

Picture of Parts List
Parts needed:
- empty wine bottle and cork (I used a 1.5L bottle)
- wire
- blue and red LEDs
- 220 Ohm and 100 Ohm resistors
- small toggle switch
- gel candle wax

I got the gel wax from Michaels for $32.23 with a 40% off coupon. There is enough wax to fill three 1.5L bottles.
The wire, switch, resistors, and LEDs all came from RadioShack for about $15.
With $11 worth of wax per bottle and $15 worth of electronics, this project cost about $26 all together. You could get the parts much cheaper online, but I wasn't feeling patient enough for that.

Tools needed:
- drill or drill press
- glass drill bit
- squirt bottle
- clamp
- soldering iron and solder
- wire cutters
- hot glue gun
- funnel
- sticky tack
- a pot to melt the gel wax
- a food thermometer for the wax

Step 2: The LED Circuit

Picture of The LED Circuit
The circuit consists of two LEDs with current limiting resistors in parallel. You can wire everything together as shown in the picture below. Remember that the shorter leg / flat side of the LED is Ground. If the wires are too close together after you have the circuit built, you can wrap them with electrical tape so no wires touch.

I used thin insulated wrapping wire from RadioShack to run power inside the bottle. The wrapping wire connects the cell phone charger to the ground and +5 V of the circuit shown in the picture. You can use a multimeter to find the ground and positive wires from the cell phone charger, or you can just touch the wires to the circuit and see if it works. The LEDs will only light up when it is connected correctly.

To find the correct resistor for each LED, we use:

Supply Voltage - Forward Voltage = Current * Resistance

The Forward Voltage and Max Current are given on the LED packaging, and we know our Supply Voltage is 5 Volts from the cell phone charger. When we plug in the known values, we can solve for the Resistance.

Find the Blue LED resistor
Supply Voltage = 5 V
Foward Voltage = 3.7 V
Current = 20 mA (0.020 A)
5 - 3.7 = 0.020 * Resistance
      65 = Resistance

So, we need a 65 Ohm resistor to give the LED 20 mA of current. I used a 100 Ohm resistor I already had, so my blue LED is actually getting a little less than 20 mA.

Find the Red LED resistor
Supply Voltage = 5 V
Foward Voltage = 1.7 V (This is less than the Blue LED Foward Voltage)
Current = 20 mA (0.020 A)
5 - 1.7 = 0.020 * Resistance
      165 = Resistance

We need a 165 Ohm resistor to give the red LED 20 mA of current. I used a 220 Ohm resistor I already had, so my red LED is also getting a little less than 20 mA.

Is this safe for the cell phone charger?
The cell phone charger is rated at 0.7 A max (same as 700 mA). Each of our LEDs is drawing less than 20 mA, so the entire circuit is drawing less than 40 mA. The 40 mA we are drawing is much less than the 700 mA the charger is rated for, so we are well within the specs of the charger... maybe we should add lots more LEDs : )


Step 3: Prepare the Bottle

Picture of Prepare the Bottle

You have to use a special glass drill bit to drill a hole in the wine bottle. You can find them at Lowes or Home Depot for about $7 each, or a 4 pack for $16. It will take 10 - 15 minutes to drill all the way through the bottle with these.

On my first try, I broke the bottle. After the hole went all the way through the bottle, the drill slipped forward and the drill chuck cracked the bottle. On my second try, I pushed a wine cork over the drill bit so it would act as a stopper and prevent the bottle from breaking again.

To drill the hole:
1. Put a cork over your glass drill bit so you don't break the bottle with the drill (see the picture)
2. Wrap the bottle in a towel and clamp it to a work table
3. Make sure you have a squirt bottle of water and a full drill battery
4. Start drilling straight down, and squirt the bottle with water every 5 - 10 seconds
5. Expect it to take 10 - 15 minutes to drill all the way through, don't use too much pressure
6. Use even less pressure when the hole is almost all the way through so you don't break the bottle

After the hole was drilled, I fed the phone charger cable through and held it in place with hot glue. The wrapping wire runs through the top of the bottle so it can be connected to the circuit that was built in the previous step.

The cork:
Drill a hole in the bottom of the cork that is big enough for the toggle switch to fit in. The hole should go almost all the way through the cork. Then, turn the cork over and drill a small hole in the top so only the handle of the switch will poke through.

After you have the cork and bottle ready, finish connecting your LED circuit, and fit it into the cork. Let it hang outside the bottle so you can pour the wax in the next step.

Step 4: The Gel Wax

Picture of The Gel Wax

I followed the instructions on the bucket to prepare the gel wax. I had to heat mine up to 220 degrees to get it all melted, then I let it cool down to about 190 degrees before I poured it in the bottle. I poured at a lower temperature so there would be more bubbles in the end.

I put a layer of sticky tack over the hot glue I used for the power cord, in case the gel re-melted the hot glue. I didn't have any problems doing it this way. I started out using a funnel to pour the melted wax into the bottle, but the wax cooled and blocked the funnel before the bottle was filled. The wax is thick enough that you can pour it straight into the bottle as long as you take it slow.

I let the gel wax cool for about 10 - 15 minutes in the wine bottle, then I put the cork with the LEDs on the bottle. I turned the bottle upside down in a cup and let it cool some more, so more bubbles would be trapped toward the bottom of the bottle. I flipped the wine bottle back and forth a few times while it was cooling to help distribute all of the bubbles.

Step 5: The Finished Product

Picture of The Finished Product

The gel wax and bubbles diffuse the red and blue light for a purple-ish glow.

Alternatives to the gel wax that I might try in the future could be:
- clear marbles or beads
- shattered pieces of tempered glass (like a car window)
- glass etchant to solution to fog the inside of the bottle


SalvadorM10 (author)2016-02-26

Added to "to do" list.

milesduggan (author)2015-04-28

I had one major problem and hopefully you could help. When my wax cools in the bottle I get a huge air bubble in the top center of the wax I have tried remelting the wax by heating the bottle and it liquifies but goes back to the big bubble once it cools. What am I doing wrong?

TheCommander (author)2014-01-28

this is so coooooool!!!! I want to do this

Larkin94 (author)2012-05-26

Is there any other substance you can use instead of the gel for example water and just make sure you use waterproof el wire instead of LED's and insulate any naked wiring?

warspyder (author)Larkin942013-01-31

Mineral Oil is non-conductive.

kenkaniff (author)2013-01-08

I love this instructable! i gave it a try with some slow-change RGB LEDs, and I think it turned out pretty awesome. has a full video. Thanks for the idea! 5*

kkendrick (author)2011-12-05

I wonder in what ways the properties of the wax gel is different from possibly and alcohol free based hair gel? if its possible you could create a whole different array of colors and possibly get the gel a bit cheaper. if anyone knows about it please let me know, i love this project!! cheers

bkhurt (author)kkendrick2011-12-06

The gel wax is not runny at all after it has cooled. When you first open the bucket of wax, you can turn it upside down and the wax won't move.

kkendrick (author)bkhurt2011-12-06

oh i see, thank you. is it possible to inject colored pockets into the wax as it cools to create a lava lamp effect? And can you add food coloring to the wax gel itself for a different color spectrum?

studiostud (author)kkendrick2012-12-28

I know this comment is way outdated, but I came across this instructable and thought it was cool.

In regards to your question, what about using something like this to inject food coloring?

Madrigorne (author)kkendrick2011-12-09

maybe melt crayons into it?

paqrat (author)kkendrick2011-12-08

Perhaps instead of adding coloring to the wax gel, colored leds, particularly color changing leds would give the desired effect. I'd like to see one that would cycle through colors. I'd really like to do this with one of those glass head display pieces. That and a color changing led.

longwinters (author)kkendrick2011-12-07

Easy breezy, just use gelatine like Knox, add to hot fluid and let it set, I used it with great success in Anti-freeze for a cool green glow, that should cost you about 2 dollars, I bet you could come up with some neat effects by layering the gel using different colors or adding opaque fluids such as milk, I had a good cristal look by letting the anti-freeze gel set shredding it with a sharp object, then pouring clear gel in to fill the cracks.

Here is a pic of a tupe with the gel set up, no spills or leaks, very cheep!

bkhurt (author)longwinters2011-12-07

Knox would be a much cheaper alternative to the gel wax. Does the Knox break down or turn liquid after sitting around for a long time?

Good info on the diamond drill bit too. Thanks!

rose9 (author)bkhurt2011-12-12

I googled for a while, and I found this: "One might ask why agar, as opposed to regular gelatin (like that found in Jello), is used for culturing bacteria. The answer is agar, unlike gelatin, won't be degraded (eaten) by bacteria. Also, agar is firmer and stronger than gelatin. It's still possible, however, to use gelatin as a culture medium for bacteria if agar is unavailable."

So yeah, gelatin breaks down, so I'm gonna try it with the agar gel :)

longwinters (author)bkhurt2011-12-07

I am so rude, I forgot to tell you I really do like the look you got, good job from a good idea!

longwinters (author)bkhurt2011-12-07

I don't know for sure but I would guess so, it is animal based so the biological contaminants would have their way sooner or later I'm sure.

Who knows maybe the breakdown process would look interesting if I had to guess I would think a little hydrogen peroxide would slow down the process quite a bit.

I look at these projects as short term things, build it, enjoy em for a while, and then try something new.

Actually I would like to thank you for the idea of the gel because I have been trying to think of something to suspend glitter in so that I can shoot a red laser into and get some sparkling effect the gel may be the perfect solution, (literally and figuratively)

Led Man (author)longwinters2011-12-10

ok thank you so much for the Knox idea. i am doing it now. it works perfectly and it is a lot cheaper. oh and if you want colors. get food coloring dye. mix with the water. and your good or for clear just use water for it. ;) ~ Thanks

whoneyc2 (author)2012-09-18

My friend and I used normal candle wax and melted it and it was fairly simple. But we wanted the bubbles so we started to use the gel wax but we've ran into some issues. We can't get an even good coat of gel wax. Its either too thin and you can see everything inside, or when we try to pour a larger quantity in there it turns out horribly. How do you get a good even coat on there? is there a trick?

pbaron (author)2012-03-15

I love this idea and I'd love to use it for my wedding. What would I need to do if I wanted to bypass the power supply idea and use battery power instead? Would I need to change the types of resistors?

bkhurt (author)pbaron2012-04-16

You could look up the LED Throwie instructable and combine that with the bottle lamp. I need to make another instructable for a battery powered version...

acarballo (author)2012-04-02

Whats the science behind the gel getting bubbles? i have some of that gel, but its cooled and crystal do you get bubbles?

bkhurt (author)acarballo2012-04-16

Let the gel start to cool off before you pour it. The cooler the gel is, the more bubbles will be trapped. Don't let it cool off too much though because you won't be able to pour it, and it will get clogged in the bottle neck.

acarballo (author)2012-03-28

Hey, im about to make this project as a gift for my girlfriend, but i was wondering, would it be a good idea to, once my whole circuitry is built and ready to deploy in the gel, should i protect all the cables with heat shrink tubing?

bkhurt (author)acarballo2012-04-16

It wouldn't hurt anything to use heat shrink tubing or electrical tape. I did not use either - I just shaped my wires so they were not near each other.

SQP288 (author)2012-02-06

This looks like an awesome project!! So how do you connect the LED Circuit to the phone charger because the phone charger is entering through the base and the LED Circuit is at the top of the bottle. Would you not have to connect them before they are both inside the bottle, otherwise that seems a little tricky?

bkhurt (author)SQP2882012-03-02

There was enough slack in the wire to pull it out of the top of the bottle and make the connections.

AndyGadget (author)2012-01-23

Another alternative to the gel wax would be the water retaining granules available from any gardening or general hardware shop.  These come as white crystals and you'd need to hydrate them (add water) bit by bit until they've become a gelatinous mass.  Must of the water is locked away in the globs so they aren't as wet as you'd think.  Then add to the bottle and shake to get air-spaces between the globs.  Downside is the moisture and the electronics would produce corrosion in the LED wires.  I found this substance when planning a very similar Instructable using RGB LEDs.

RaNDoMLeiGH (author)AndyGadget2012-02-08

I'm wondering about the safety of using a candle-making product in conjunction with electricity. That stuff is made to burn, so your connections really need to be secure and shielded before sticking them in a bottle of candle wax.

Use "wire pulling gel" instead of a water-based product - it's silicone. No corrosion with this stuff.

You can add fluorescent dye to it, like from a highlighter. Use a UV LED to get it to glow! (remember to wear proper eye protection plz.)

Gelatin (or any other organic substance) will decompose. Yuk. Not recommended.

bkhurt (author)RaNDoMLeiGH2012-03-02

The gel wax isn't made to burn unless it is vaporized by an open flame. I don't believe there is any risk of vaporizing the wax with LEDs, and I don't think there is enough oxygen in the sealed bottle to support a flame.

Dyte (author)2011-12-26

awesome project!
So going to make this.
One question regarding this step: where are the LEDs in the final design, resting on top of the gel wax ? Or inside it?

bkhurt (author)Dyte2012-01-01

The LEDs ended up inside the wax.

imawan (author)2011-12-22

good job!

jeoncs (author)2011-12-14

Awesome stuff! I have been pondering a similar project for some fallout based stuff and the wiring and filler in this is perfect. Thanks a ton!

Led Man (author)2011-12-10

ok never mind. so i got it to work. it was just the wiring that i hade set up. so i sodered the resistors to the LEDs and one wire from the 2 resistors to the switch comming out perfectly. so i might get this done tonight if not deffinatly tomorrow :D

pntbal311 (author)2011-12-05

I would be careful about using tempered glass. Glass-on-glass contact severely weakens the bottle. Having many little pieces of glass on the inside of the bottle would make it very weak and could eventually cause the bottle to break if knocked into.

bkhurt (author)pntbal3112011-12-06

I didn't think about that. I wonder if I can find clear plastic that would give a broken glass effect.

MJ Erickson (author)bkhurt2011-12-10

This might be something to consider:

AmyLuthien (author)bkhurt2011-12-09

You can buy all sorts of plastic baubles in pet shops for decorating your aquarium that are made out of plastic. Some are round, some look like ice cubes, some are weird shapes. Ice cube shape might be fun!

phearlez (author)bkhurt2011-12-09

There's a number of paint products meant to create a crackle effect. I am pretty sure they work by drying to a much smaller area (think shrinking concrete) so you might be able to just put a small amount in the bottle and roll it around a little to get it dispersed.

pntbal311 (author)bkhurt2011-12-06

I thought your bead idea was a good one. They have the plastic clear beads at craft stores.

Led Man (author)2011-12-09

i like this alot, im only 14. but ima try this and a little of my own effect into it. ill let all of you guys and girls know how it comes out. post a few pics and an indistructable on it. well cyall latter

silfrgluggr (author)2011-12-05

This looks like it could be used as a base for some cool Nuka Cola Quantum DIY props for all those Fallout fans :P
Great job!

jnabb (author)silfrgluggr2011-12-09

That was the first thing I thought when I saw this! I don't have a soldering gun/ solder, maybe I will ask for one for Christmas so I can make these as gifts 9and for me!)

StGreat (author)2011-12-08

Nice job, I really like the result, and your instructions seem very detailed. I was actually selecting beer bottles to make a similar (without jel) mood light, when I saw this.
For all of you who prefer a color-changing lamp, you can easily buy such LEDs with an integrated IC (you can't see it because it's inside the casing) for a few bucks. (Can't name a price because I'm in Greece and I guess it'll differ)
Circuitry will be even easier, as you probably won't need a resistor, as those LEDs usually function at 5 Volts.
For multiple bottles/LEDs just connect all ground/supply wires of each bottle to the corresponding charger wires, BUT keep in mind that a charger outputs 100-500mAmpers (depending on the model), so that usually equals to 5-25 LEDs on 20mAmps each.
In any case, count your LEDs and do the math! :P

scotchpak (author)2011-12-08

This is funny but if you use the urine of a diabetic (after drinking a lot of water) you will get a brighter light. sorry if I ...It true

stansell (author)2011-12-08

do you think you could use gelatin or glycerine instead of the stuff you used ?

realricko (author)2011-12-08

You could sandblast it!

So the surface gets less transparent :)

I'll try it next month!

jbenfield (author)2011-12-08

You can also use a solar powered garden light and have a "green" gel lamp. Just grab the top section of one of those solar "stake" lights, remove the LED, attach extension wire (cheap speaker wire works really well) and reattach the LED to place inside the bottle. Then just position the solar cell/battery pack somewhere where it gets light ro charge it. They make really great nightlights.

I've also used jars and glass beads to do something similar (my son loves night lights and I hate having a ton of "wall warts" plugged in)

dkelley4 (author)jbenfield2011-12-08

i would LOVE to hear more about the process for the solar jar night lights! any chance of an instructable on it?

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