Introduction: LED Lightbulb Ornament

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The festive lights this time of the year are my favourite, I could watch blinking lights and sip on hot chocolate by a roaring fire all evening. So when it came time to contribute to Robot Lover's 2011 Instructables Advent Calendar I knew just what to make. My own lighted ornament, of course!

Using an old burnt out incandescent bulb and a handful of blinky LED's you can make your own custom glass ornament. This project is easily be made and can be customized with almost any kind of embellishments to make it totally unique. 

Enough talk, let's make!

Step 1: Tools + Materials

  • soldering gun
  • glue gun
  • hacksaw or rotary tool
  • screwdriver or pokey tool
  • safety goggles / face shield
  • drill
  • button cell battery
  • LED's
  • incandescent light bulb
  • glitter
  • white glue
  • chopstick
  • paperclip

Step 2: Dissect Bulb

Start by removing the bottom of an old incandescent light bulb, I used a rotary tool.  Since incandescent bulbs are made with a vacuum it's important to protect yourself while dismantling the bulb, they can shatter if the glass is stressed. I wrapped my bulb in a cloth with only the bottom exposed, then used the rotary tool to cut around and remove the bottom.

Once removed you'll notice there's also an inner glass portion which the element is fed through. I used a screwdriver to poke/break through the glass inside. Keep the bulb wrapped in the cloth and wear eye protection. This the most likely time your bulb will break. 

After breaking through I carefully chipped away the inner edge of the glass bulb to create a wider opening. At this time I also drilled a hole in the metal bottom portion of the bulb. The black portion of the bottom is a ceramic-like alloy and is prone to shattering, go slow.

Step 3: LED's

To light up this ornament I used a variety of LED's. You can use any type you like, but I wanted something that had some variation. I found these fun colour-phasing LED's in some cheap keychain lights. Here's a quick video showing the colour cycle and flashing frequency:

I soldered up these colour-phasing LED's along with some other LED's I had lying around, then tested to make sure my mishmash of lights worked.

Step 4: Secure Insides + Wire Button

After wiring up the LED's I glued the leads to a section of wood placed inside the bulb housing. 

Next, I added a push button switch to operate my light. Leads were wired onto the switch, then the rotary tool was used to cut a small section from the metal sleeve of the light bulb and the switch was hot glued in place. The switch was then wired to the LED's.

Step 5: Hook

A paperclip was unbent and straightened, then one end was wound into a wad and the paperclip wire was passed through the drilled opening of the bottom section of the light bulb. The wire was then folded over and bent into a hook shape. Use hot glue to secure the hook in place.

Step 6: Enclose

To conserve space no battery holder was used for this build. Instead, the leads wired earlier were bent around a button cell battery. The bottom portion of the light bulb was temporarily taped to the rest of the bulb, sandwiching the battery between the two and completing the circuit.

Step 7: Embellish

The flashing lights were pretty awesome on their own, but I wanted more. I decided to add festive glitter to my ornament.
The entire light bulb surface was smeared with a clear drying glue (I used Mod Podge, but any white glue will work), then liberal amounts of glitter was added to the gluey surface. Hang your ornament and allow the glue to dry.

You can apply a second layer of glue over the glitter after it has dried and seal all the glitter, preventing a glittery mess each time the ornament is handled. 

Step 8: Adorn

All that's left now is to find a place to hang your homemade ornament. The dried glue surface gives a nice fogged appearance and the glitter..well, glitter just makes everything better. You should make one, too! Make a few, they look great on the tree next to all those boring store-bought ornaments!

Have fun!

Did you make your own LED light bulb ornament? Post a picture of your results in the comments below.

Happy making :)

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