Introduction: DIY - Recycling a Floor Fan Into a Photography Light Modifier/all-in-one Lamp

About: Architecture Student, Artist and All-round designer. :)

So I was recently spring cleaning and came across a floor fan that had it's motor burnt out. And I needed a table lamp. 2+2 and I did a bit of brainstorming and came up with the idea to convert the fan into a 20inch wide light modifier. Read on to see how I did it with just a budget of 10 dollars. :)

Step 1: The Stripped Fan

So the first thing is to remove the motor from the fan head. Using a phillips screwdriver I removed the screws connecting the motor to the fan and basically set it aside for a future project. As every fan company does their own design of fan, I just showed the final product.

Step 2: Opening Up the Switch Box

Now using a phillips screwdriver, open up the switchbox and visually separate out the four wires coming from the plug top passing through the switch. One wire is for the low fan speed setting (1), medium speed (2) and high speed (3).

What we wish to do is put dimmer switches on the 1st and 2nd settings while we leave the highest setting at full brightness.

Step 3: Dimmer Switch

I bought a dimmer switch (2 gang) for 5 dollars from a local store and basically removed the electronic part from the faceplate and body. The important parts for this DIY project are the dimmer switch, knob and the nut. Using a set of pliers and a phillips screwdriver is enough to separate them from the entire package.

Step 4: Installing the Dimmer Switches

This was a combination of luck really. The switchbox had several holes in it just the same size as the metal rod for the dimmer switch. So I pushed the two dimmer switches through, tightened the nuts and fitted on the knobs. I also cut out part of the front sticker to create contrast between the light switches and the dimmer switches.

Step 5: Wiring the Dimmers

This is simple but you have to be really careful. Drink your tea/coffee and make sure you wire everything right. Essentially we have one wire passing through switch 3, if you turn it on you get full power, hence full brightness. Another wire passes through switch 2, and thats where you connect a dimmer switch. That way you can set the specific brightness for switch 2 and use it quickly in rapid fire photoshoots. Same to same for the switch 1.

Step 6: Testing

I connected a pin-type bulb holder I had to the two wires from the switchbox and tested all the switches and the dimmers. They worked fine so I taped up everything with electrical tape.

REMEMBER: Filament bulbs allow for dimming. Do not try dimming CFL (compact fluorescent lights). Even LED bulbs have a specific category that allow dimming, so find that bulb before using the dimmer switch.

Step 7: Attaching the Back-fin.

Once again, a bit of luck. The bulb-holder was just large enough to prevent falling through the fan's plastic nut. So I put some electrical tape around the bulb holder, assembled it below the fan back-fin, put the other nut on top and tightened the bulb holder cap ontop. Placed the bulb after that to confirm it fit okay. It did.

Step 8: Securing the Back-fin

I used a thermoplastic to join the stalk of the floor fan to the cap and the backfin but you can use a hot-glue gun or two-part epoxy. I then connected the backfin to the cap with some sturdy cotton string.

Step 9: The Foil

To improve the scattering and "softening" the light, simply take some household aluminium foil and stick it to the backfin using clear tape.

TO NOTE: Filament bulbs produce quite a lot of heat, so avoid using any clear tape around the bulb. Just use it on the rim.

BONUS TIP: Using aluminium foil acts like a heat sink to move heat away from the bulb. But it also becomes heated, so avoid touching the foil after extended periods of using the light modifier

Step 10: Short Video on Using Switches

Just showing you how I would pick the lower and medium brightness for switch 1 and 2 respectively, so I end up with 2 quick snap options for brightness.

Step 11: Portraits Test

Asked a friend to take a few pics with different brightness switches (1,2,3) while maintaining the same manual camera settings. He kept it a bit dark but I like the drama of the dark background.

I hope you like this instructable!


1. The cover directly over the bulb is missing in my design, you can return it for an even softer light but use it for a short time only as the bulb heats up the plastic. Option B is to custom make one out of a sheet of metal or aluminium foil and then fix it to the front fin.

2. Filament bulbs get hot, so if you are going to use the light for long periods consider using a dimmable LED bulb or you'll kinda end up having a sweating model.

Thank you!

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