Introduction: 3 Watt LED Lamp

About: Autistic person who's interests include utility cycling, recreational cycling, cycling safety, electronics, gardening, Arduino, and LEDs.

In this Instructable, I will show you how to build an LED desk lamp from scrap materials. Except for the LEDs, wires, and electronics components, you can get the other materials for free. Depending on where you get the parts, you can build it for under $5. Typically, a 3 watt LED lamp costs $20. This lamp uses about 5 watts, which is a suitable replacement for a compact fluorescent lamp.

In this project, you will learn how to build an LED lamp from a metal can, wire hanger, plastic board, wooden plank, and some electronic components.

Step 1: Materials and Tools


  • Switch
  • 3 - 1 watt warm white LEDs
  • N-channel MOSFET (IRF540) and NPN transistor (2N3904)
  • 1.33 and 100k ohm resistors
  • 26 gauge wires
  • 2 screws and 2 bolts and nuts with washers
  • 12V power supply (9V transformers may give you 12V)
  • Epoxy
  • Hot glue
  • Heatsink paste
  • Wooden plank
  • Corrugated plastic board
  • Wire hanger
  • Wide can with metal base

  • Hot glue
  • Pliers
  • Soldering iron
  • Drill driver
  • Sanding tool or tool sharpener
  • Tin snips

Step 2: Prepare the Lamp Shade

Can Selection
When selecting a can, make sure the bottom is metal so that it heatsink the LEDs and current regulator. The bigger it is, the more wattage it can handle. Feel free to try 3W LEDs. With a 15 cm wide can, the temperature did not exceed 40°C after running the lamp continuously.

Trim the can
The lampshade requires cutting the bottom portion of the can, leaving two inches of its height. The trimmed edges should be filed and folded with a plier. Do not cut yourself while doing this.

Mount the LEDs and MOSFET
To mount the LEDs and the MOSFET, apply heatsink paste to the centre and epoxy to the outer edges. Firmly press them onto the flat area of the can and let it cure before soldering.

Step 3: LEDs and Driver

Solder Three White LEDs in Series

Select a Power Supply

White LEDs have a forward voltage of about 3.5V. For three LEDs, the forward voltage would be 10.5V, and the power supply should be 12V. If you are using old transformers, a 9V transformer may give you 12V when the current is low.

Build a Current Regulator
I was about to use the LM317 regulator to reduce the parts count, but the dropout voltage was too high. I used the MOSFET current regulator instead, and I was able to build it without a circuit board and used heat-shrink tubing to hold and insulate the parts. Epoxy was used to glue them to the can.

You could use the LM317 if you increase the power supply voltage, but there is a good chance that you can add one more LED if you are using the MOSFET driver.

For the current regulator, I selected 1.33 ohm for R3, and the current was about 0.42 A. Always check with an ammeter.

Add a Switch

Drill a Hole on the Can
To keep the power cord in place, drill a hole on the can for the cord. With the cord through the hole, add enough hot glue around it.

Twist Loose Wires Together

Step 4: Lamp Stand

Cut a Piece of Corrugated Plastic Board
It's up to you to select the height of your lamp. For my light, the dimensions of the plastic board were about 30 cm by 5 cm.

Reinforce the Plastic Board with a Wire Hanger
Since the plastic piece was very flimsy, I supported it with two pieces of wire hangers on both sides, leaving room for the screws and bolts, allowing it to be bent to direct the light to where you want it to be.

For a 30 cm piece, one hanger is usually enough. You'll have to straighten it and put it through the holes of the plastic board. The ends of each section should be bent to keep them from falling out.

Build the lampstand
Find a plank of wood. I used a 15cm by 9cm by 4 cm plank here. To build the stand, screw the plastic board onto the side of the wooden plank. When screwing onto a plastic board, it is a good idea to use washers to keep them from sinking in.

Mount the Lamp Shade to the Stand
To mount it to the stand, drill holes onto the lampshade near the power supply wire and use nuts and bolts to secure them.

Step 5: Cost of Materials

Approximate Price of Each Item
3 - 1 watt LEDs=1.40
Plastic Strip=Free
Wooden Plank=Unknown
12V adapter=Free
Metal can=Free
Resistors and transistors=$0.50

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