Introduction: Flexible Snake Trouble Light Lamp

Make your own flexible snake light. It can be wound around a pipe or bent to clamp/hook on an exposed wall stud to position and hang the light anywhere you want in the shop. Wedge it in a crack. Get some light behind the refrigerator to inspect or under the couch to find that lost screw. Coil the end to make a base for standing the light on the floor when you are painting a room or for working under the car. It can also be a fancy desk or table lamp.

With a few parts, you can make this handy and extremely versatile utility or decorative light.

CAUTION: You will be working with mains electricity so be careful.

Step 1: Surplus Odds and Ends

Most of what I used was repurposed.

I had changed out the gas oven/range a while back and had replaced the old flexible gas connector pipe that was there. Newer flexible gas appliance connectors come with a safety valve and have an epoxy coating to further protect the bare metal. I kept that original connector because I knew it could be repurposed for something else. It makes for a super Third Hand support if you attach some spring clamps to it. Also, gooseneck flexible tubing for lamps seems to be expensive. Ask around appliance repair or plumbing shops that may have one that is being recycled in the trash.

I have several spare computer power cords laying around. No one ever digs the old one out from under the desk when the PCs are upgraded. You just plug the old cord into the new computer. These are 3 prong grounded cords but can be used instead of the usual 2 conductor lamp cord and plug.

You will need a lamp socket with switch. You can get them with turn switches or a push through switch to toggle the light on and off. The push through switch is easier to use if you are wearing gloves.

You will also need a short piece of threaded lamp pipe nipple. This extends the lamp socket base so something solid goes in to the flexible pipe.

You will need some electrical tape or duct tape to wrap the final assembly. I used a self-fusing silicone tape. This stuff seems like the sugru of tape. I like it.

You will also need some basic electrical work tools like a wire stripper or utility knife, pliers and screwdriver.

I used a new LED lightbulb. This one has an all plastic casing. Since I do not have a guard or reflector for this lamp, it will be okay to leave exposed. It's intended use is a trouble lamp so it might see some bumps. The light does get warm but not as bad as other types of light bulbs.

You can buy a plastic or metal safety cage/guard for the lightbulb and attach it around the socket base just like a regular trouble light. It will cut the glare of a bare bulb and direct the light in one direction if you do not need an omnidirectional light.

Step 2: Snake the Wire...

The lamp socket comes apart by unscrewing the top portion from the body.

You can then pull out the metal lamp socket itself which will be wired up later.

The base of our plastic lamp socket - it also comes in a metal casing too - has a threaded female connector at the bottom.

Use a short length of standard hollow threaded lamp pipe/rod to go into the connector and extend the lamp socket. Secure with the set screw.

Clip the computer power supply plug off the end of your power cable. Leave the wall plug intact.

You need to then straighten out your flexible gas connector pipe.

Snake in your power cord through the gas connector pipe. Push and wiggle the power cord to get it through.

When it is pulled through, strip about 6 inches of the outer insulation jacket off the wire to expose the three conductors or wires inside.

I folded over the green ground wire so it would stick out the back. Snake the white and black wires through the rest of the lamp base pipe nipple and into the base.

Step 3: Electric Bits...

The black wire represents the hot wire.

The white wire represents the neutral wire.

Tie an underwriter's knot with the two wires to act as a strain relief if the cord is pulled. You can look up underwriter's knot to see a multitude of images on how to make what electricians use as an industry standard to secure the wires.

Strip off about 3/4 inch of insulation from each wire. If it is stranded instead of solid core wire, wind them up to prevent fraying.

Loop the white wire around the silver screw clockwise. Tighten screw. The screw should grab the wire and wind it tighter.

Loop the black wire around the brass or gold colored screw. Repeat the process.

I like to put some electrical tape around any of the exposed connections to prevent any accidental shorts.

Gently stuff the socket back into the socket base with the switch push shaft aligned with the slots. Position and screw down the upper cover part.

Step 4: Final Assembly...

Since the lamp cord is a grounded cord with 3 conductors, it made sense to ground the metal shell of the flexible tubing. There is no grounding screw or tab on the pipe connectors so I just soldered a piece of wire to the stripped ground wire that was wrapped around the lamp socket nipple piece. Since I didn't have a piece of 12 or 14 gauge house wire to use, I built up the wire tab with solder. I guess a few wraps with thicker wire would work best to also fill the pipe diameter gap with the socket nipple in the pipe connector. When the lamp socket is pushed into the flexible pipe, the tab will spring out making contact with the connector fitting metal inner surface.

You could really dress this up with proper endcaps but I would have to hunt down and purchase the correct fittings. You could attach one end to the wall or a fancy base by getting a male pipe to fit with mounting flange.

Instead, I just wrapped the connection between the lamp socket and the flexible tubing with tape. I used this self-fusing silicone tape. Used for pipe leak repairs, it bonds itself to a single mass which looks a lot nicer than electrical tape wrapping.

You can also make a few wraps of the silicone tape at various points along the flexible tubing to increase the grip on smooth surfaces. You can also put on some foam pipe insulation to cushion the grip.

If you are confident you have correctly made and insulated your connections, you are now ready to fire it up. You can test if the wiring is correct by getting a lamp socket outlet adapter and plugging in an electrical tester that shows hot/neutral/ground connections.

Screw in the lightbulb and plug the cord into the outlet. Let there be light.

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