Introduction: $1 Trash Lamp (made of Wood Scraps and Other Materials)

This is a lamp that I've made using scraps of wood found in the trash, among other things. These include wooden slats, a masonite board, and the rods of a wooden picture frame. The light source came from a trashed EXIT sign, which I disassembled to get the LED lights and wiring (the steps for this will be shown later). The main source of power is a 9-volt battery (which costed one dollar). Small eyebolts (which although costed money, did not count towards the overall cost of building the lamp) were purchased and used to bind the electrical wires to the rods, and wire was used to secure the led lights in place. Adhesives to put the lamp together include tape and wood glue.

Step 1: Step 1: Gather Materials

Materials used:

  • Two 13 x 3 x 1" wooden boards
  • Two wooden rods (from a discarded wooden frame)
  • A masonite board cut into two different pieces
    • One has the same area as the wooden board (13 x 3 x 1")
    • One is 3.5 x 3"
  • Soft metal wire
  • Eyebolts (9 were used for this lamp)
  • LED light strip from EXIT sign
  • 9-Volt Battery
  • Rubber-coated electrical wires
  • Malleable wires
  • Wood Glue
  • Tape

Tools used:

  • Drill
  • Bandsaw
  • Sander

Step 2: Preparation

Through one of the slats, drill a 1" hole at a 60 degree angle towards one of the short ends. The center of the hole should be about 1.5" away from one of the short ends of the slat.

Cut a 1 x 4" rectangle out from the end of the other wooden slat. The piece should be cut out through the middle so that it leaves two equal sized "prongs" at the end of the slat.

Sand or cut down one end of a wooden rod so that when you place the sanded end on a flat surface, the rod will lean over at a 60 degree angle as well. Sand down or cut the other end so that it is horizontally flat and parallel to the flat surface. The rod should be about 14" in length.

Sand the long side of a second wooden rod so that it has a flat side. Sand or cut down the ends of this rod so it is approximately the same length as the other wooden rod (you may sand or cut the ends of this rod in any way you choose).

Step 3: Assemble the Rods

On the rod that has the 60 degree cut on one end, starting at 1.5" away from one of the ends, drill in five small holes spaced 2" apart. Ensure that that the holes are small enough so that one of the eyebolts can be screwed in securely, and that they are level throughout the rod.

Afterwards, screw in the five eyebolts. This can be done using pliers (but be careful as you may end up breaking the bolt), or by hand, which can be done as the circular end of the eyebolt serves as a handle. Ensure that when you are done screwing in the bolts, the loops are all facing the same direction.

Next, you must nail the end of the rod with the flat vertical side to the horizontal end of the other rod that has the 60 degree cut. Take the following steps to ensure the most clean job for this part:

  • Use a table clamp to first position the rod with the 60 degree cut so that the rod is clamped at a 60 degree angle. Ensure that the flat, horizontal end is exposed and try to make it as relatively parallel to another flat surface as possible (such as the ground or table for reference).
  • After firmly clamping this rod in place, take a drill and perpendicularly drill a small hole into the exposed flat end. Do not drill so far in that you pierce the underside of the rod.
  • Drill another small hole near the end of the other rod, making sure that the drilled hole is perpendicular with the flat end and that it goes all the way through.
  • With the long flat end facing towards the flat horizontal end of the other rod, line up the two drilled holes. Hammer in a thin nail through the two holes. The nail should secure both rods so that they are connected at an acute angle and form a V-shape (as shown in the picture).

Step 4: Assemble the Base

Take the masonite board and use the bandsaw to cut out a 13x3" rectangle (the same area as the wooden slats). Using wood glue, glue this piece to one of the wide sides of the wooden slat with the rectangular cut-out. Clamp both pieces together on a flat surface, such as a table, afterwards using clamps and let the glue dry.

Next, position the wooden slat with the 60 degree hole so that it is vertically aligned on top of the wooden slat with the rectangular cut-out. Overlap them so that the bottom slat's end with the rectangular cut-out sticks out about 3.5" from the top slat's end with the drilled hole.

  • Make sure that the masonite piece is on the bottom of this arrangement, so that the cut-out of the bottom slat remains exposed and face-up.

Afterwards, look into the hole from the top slat to ensure that there is a partial opening into the bottom slat's rectangular cut-out. However, make sure that the flat surface of the bottom slat takes up the majority of the hole.

After checking and aligning the pieces in this arrangement (you may use the photographs for reference), use the wood glue to attach the slats together in that way. Use clamps to clamp the pieces together and let the glue dry.

Step 5: Create a Cover Over the Cut-out

Use the bandsaw to cut out a 3.5 x 3" piece of masonite. Clamp this piece on top of the area of the exposed cut-out and, using a drill, drill in four small holes through the masonite, with two across each wooden prong. Make sure every hole drilled goes through both the masonite and the prong.

In each of these holes, insert a small eyebolt and manually screw them in. Once all four eyebolts are screwed in and the masonite cover is secured, remove the eyebolts and the cover, and save them for later.

Step 6: Attach Rods to Base

Now take the rods that are attached by the nail. Glue the flat end of the rod with the eyebolts onto the surface of the bottom wooden slat through the wooden hole of the top slat. Make sure that after inserting the rod, the opening of the rectangular cut-out is still there (the wiring for the LED will be fed through here).

  • Check to see that the rod is angled in the same direction as the hole of the top slat before inserting. When inserted, make sure that the end fits flatly along the surface of the bottom wooden slat so the rod is positioned at an angle, and that the top rod that is attached runs parallel to the wooden slats.
    • Also ensure that the flat side of the top rod is facing downwards.
  • Also ensure that the eyebolts are positioned upright, not downwards or to the side.

Afterwards, firmly hold the rod in place, and let the glue dry.

  • If you find that the rod wiggles a bit inside the hole, you can stuff pieces of paper or other similar material around the rod to fill in the spaces and ensure that it stays in one place while and after the glue dries.

Step 7: Retrieve Lighting Components

CAREFULLY disassemble the exit sign so you can extract the electrical wiring and lights.

  • You may need to use screwdrivers and pliers to pry open the sign's casing and to take out the embedded wiring. Careful not to injure yourself, as you are dealing with sharp plastics.

Take apart the set-up of the wiring so that you have each component in its individual state:

  • LED light strip
  • Rubber coated wires (a red and blue wire attached together by plugs, one shorter black, one shorter red)
  • Battery (I used the newly purchased 9-volt battery, as the one included in the exit sign was already drained)

Step 8: Assemble the Lighting Components

Take the two long wires that have male plugs attached at both ends and remove one of the plugs using pliers. Then take the remaining plug and insert it into the female plug of the LED light strip.

Attach the LED light strip to the vertically flat side of the top rod so that the lights face downwards, as shown in the photograph. Then, take the malleable wire and tightly coil it around the light strip and the top rod so that they remain attached.

Then, take the attached wires (which should be dangling down), and feed them through each loop of the eyebolts, and then through the hole, where it will pass through the small opening that was left alone. The wires should come out the other end, within the cut-out of the bottom slat.

Place the 9-volt battery inside the cut-out on its wide side (lift up the two wires while doing so).

  • Let the battery be slightly overlapped by the top wooden slat, and leave the positive and negative ends facing outwards.

While holding down the two wires together (so that they are touching) on top of the battery, place a piece of tape over them so they stick to the battery and each other, but make sure to leave the metal ends exposed. Afterwards, tightly place a piece of tape over the battery and the two prongs to secure the battery and wiring in place, still making sure to leave the metal ends exposed.

Step 9: Create the Switch

Take the extra black wire and attach one end of it to the exposed end of the black wire taped to the battery. Use tape to attach these two ends together, and ensure that the metal ends are in contact. Tape this connection down to the battery as well.

Get the other end of the extra black wire to touch the negative end of the battery, and tape down the wire to the masonite bottom. Make sure the ends remain in contact.

Take a piece of the malleable metal wire (about 4.5 inches in length), and connect one end to the exposed end of the red wire taped to the battery. Tape down these ends to the battery, ensuring that the ends remain in contact.

  • In my wiring set-up, the red wire that was already taped down to the battery had a small cylindrical metal casing attached to the end of it, which the metal wire slipped into nicely, making it easy to connect the ends. I still taped it together afterwards, however, to ensure that they remained connected.

Have the other end of the malleable wire stick out from the bottom slat's cut-out.

Take the extra red wire and get one end of it to touch the positive end of the battery, and tape the wire down to the masonite bottom, making sure the ends remain in contact. Have the other end of the extra red wire stick out from the bottom slat's cut-out.

Bend the ends of the malleable wire and the extra red wire (which are sticking out of the bottom slat's cut-out) towards each other so that they are readily able to contact. These two exposed ends will act as the switch for the lamp.

In order to turn on the lights, touch the two metal ends together. To turn off the lights, separate the two ends.

  • In my set-up, the end of the red wire also contained a metal cylindrical casing which I could easily insert the other end of the malleable wire into and have it hold together without my assistance. This made it possible for me to connect the two ends and have them remain in contact after I let go. This may not be your case, however, so you might have to think of other methods to achieve the result of getting the ends to stay together even after letting go.

Step 10: Add the Cover

Place the masonite piece over the rectangular cut-out, and screw the reserved eyebolts into the drilled holes.

Step 11: You're Done!

Enjoy the lamp!