Introduction: LED Desk Lamp Using Sugru, Ikea Nick-nacks and Kitronik Kit

About: Daft Wee Makes from elder-statesman* of Nottingham Hackspace. Maker, entrepreneur and wise-old-man* Dominic is a makers maker*. Dominic is CEO at Pangolini Ltd a company that runs events, builds communities &a…

I never seem to have enough light on my desk these days, the light from my desk lamp seems to cast too many shadows and takes a little too long to be bright with a modern energy saving bulb.

I saw the new Kitronik Desk Lamp Kit on a recent visit to their HQ and was inspired to make my own desk lamp. I haven't explained how to make the kit itself here as the documentation on the Kitronik website is excellent and making the electronic parts of this build is very simple if you already know how to solder and is an ideal starter project if you're a little less experienced with the soldering iron.

The Electronics

You can get the parts needed here:


You will also need:

  • Wire - Multi Strand Cable to connect the lamp to the USB breakout board ideally red and black to show polarity.
  • Soldering Iron and solder to make the kit
  • Side cutters and wire strippers
  • Mini USB phone charger, Mini USB cable to laptop or Mini USB mains power supply

Alternatively the Desk Lamp Kit can be made without the USB breakout using batteries instead like this one.

The Lamp

The lamp is made out of cheap bits from Ikea. I don't know about you, but I always end up filling my trolley at Ikea with small items of insignificant cost! Of course before you know it you've gathered so many of these you end up spending more than you meant too... still they are often very well designed and have that Ikea look to them.

This Desk Lamp is made from a £1.25 galvanized "Socker" plant pot and a 40p plastic "Speciell" ladle. I decided to use the plant pot so that the lamp would double as a desk tidy. A laser cut base or wooden block with a hole in it would have served just as well to mount the ladle in. It's the ladle which really gives the "lamp" shape to this project.

In addition tools I used where:

  • Packet of sugru
  • Punch and hammer
  • High Speed Steel drill bit and drill
  • Dremel Multi-tool with cutting disk
  • Cable tie
  • Hot melt glue and glue gun

Step 1: Preparing the Ladle

The first step is to add the lamp kit to the ladle. If you are using the USB breakout board for power you will need to add the lamp before you solder your power wires!

I used a drill bit and my Dremel Multi-tool to add a hole near the dish of the ladle to run the wires along the handle. I drilled another hole at the midpoint of the handle where the gripping part of the ladle ends. This gave me a tidy groove to run the wires down. At the end of the build I used sugru here to hide the wires and add a bit of colour to the handle/neck of my lamp. When you drill the ladle make sure you clamp it down securely. It's a good idea to make a small indentation where you want to drill before you start drilling. You can do this by melting a small notch on the spoon with your soldering iron.

Using sugru

To hold the lamp kit circuit board in the bowl of the spoon I also used sugru. First use some course sandpaper to rough up the smooth plastic surface of the bowl of the spoon. Then take a big marble sized ball of sugru and push it onto the base of the 9 LED lamp kit circuit board and push them together. You'll be able to work on your lamp whilst the sugru cures but you will need to let the sugru cure properly for 24 hours before it will be properly set in place!

Sugru is great with electronics because it is an insulator. This means that the exposed metal contacts on the bottom of your circuit board are isolated from stray metal that may cause a short circuit on your project! This is one of my favorite properties of sugru and why I often use it with electronics projects!

Once you have threaded the wires from the lamp kit through the ladle you will be able to solder them to the Micro USB breakout or to your battery box and move on to the next step!

Step 2: Preparing the Plant Pot Base

Next you will need to prepare the base of our lamp which I made from a galvanized plant pot. It's important to note that the plant pot I used is metal and therefore conductive. For this reason it's important to make sure that you make a large enough slot to get the 5V Micro USB cable into without any part of the breakout board touching the conductive sides of the plant pot.

To make the slot in the plant pot I used a punch tool and a hammer. Making sure that the pot was strongly clamped to the workbench I used the punch tool to mark out a row of dents near the base of the pot. Using my Dremel Multi-tool I drilled a row of close holes along the length of the row leaving a jagged slit like hole. When making the slot ensure it is high enough up the side of the pot that when you position your USB breakout board you have enough room to fit the Micro USB cable into the slot.

To tidy and make the hole big enough I used a Dremel cutting disk. When you use the cutting disk ensure that you wear safety glasses as the disks can break or throw bits of debris! I then used a file for deburring and to remove all the sharp edges.

Step 3: Use Sugru to Insulate Your USB Breakout Board

Once you've connected your power, in this case we used the Micro USB breakout board from Kitronik, you will need to mount it next to the slot you made in the plant pot in the last step.

Make sure you clean and dry the inside of your plant pot before you try and adhere your Micro USB circuit board to the bottom of the pot.

Using sugru

Make a ball of sugru and push it onto the bottom of your Micro USB circuit board. Then push the board sugru side down into the bottom of your pot and position it as required. Don't forget to try your USB cable to make sure it all fits. You'll be able to work on your lamp whilst the sugru cures but you will need to let the sugru cure properly for 24 hours before it will be properly set in place! Sugru is great with electronics because it is an insulator. This means that the exposed metal contacts on the bottom of your circuit board are isolated from the metal of the plant pot which will cause a short circuit otherwise. Also be careful not to put metal objects into the pot after you've made the lamp. This is one of my favorite uses for sugru and why I often add it as insulator on electronics projects!

Once you've attached your USB breakout board you can add some weight to ensure that your lamp doesn't tip over. I used some large steal nuts I had kicking about and hot glued them in, but you could use sugru instead. I also positioned my ladle and hot glued it into place.

Final touch was to drill two holes near the top to the pot and cable tie the ladle into place.

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