Miss Betsy's Rechargable Steampunk Solar Nightlight




Introduction: Miss Betsy's Rechargable Steampunk Solar Nightlight

About: You might call me "Jane of all trades, mistress of none"; "all" is definitely an exaggeration but I am interested in lots of "trades" and try to master at least the basic steps so that I understand what the re…

Do you have some old solar garden light that quit working, got run over by the lawn mower or the plastic / metal parts are dull and broken? The chances are good that you can salvage the solar cell and the electronics and repurpose it just as I did.
Basically you don't even need the electronics if you don't mind turning the light on by yourself, e.g. when you use it as a camping reading light. (Schematics in the instructable)

I almost forgot to thank all you guys out there who did the groundbreaking work on how to repurpose a solar powered garden light! ;p

Materials and tools which will make completion of this project a lot easier -_^ :

An old solar garden light or
Rechargeable battery, diode (1N4001), solar cell, switch, 1 or 2 bright LED's
Copper pipes and fittings (of course)
Foam board
Box cutter
Pipe cutter
Soldering iron and electronic solder
Hot glue and/or 5 minute epoxy
Ruler, tape measure, compass and caliper
Drill press + drill bits
Emerald paper
Wire #24

Step 1: Finding a Donor

I have to admit some of these solar garden lights look very pretty, even "steampunkish" and are quite reasonably priced these days but where is the fun in just buying one? In the back of my yard I found 4 solar garden lights which ceased working some time ago. The plastic was dulled and the contacts of the battery holder corroded. After cleaning the contacts and hooking up a new battery everything worked fine and was ready to be put to good use (again) as a Rechargeable Steampunk Solar Night/Reading Light.

Step 2: Schematics - Parts

When you 'desolder' the wires, make sure you take a few pictures, just in case you forget where the extra parts go. In principle the solar cell charges the battery and the LED is turned on by means of a simple electronic circuit and a LDR (light dependent resistor).
You can omit the electronics and just use a solar cell, rechargeable battery, a diode ( 1N4001 ) and a switch.

Step 3: The Design

You can see how I did it. Of course the design is left to you but make sure that the solar cell is exposed to the sun. :) I could have done better like mount the solar cell on top of the fixture but I had the base already from a different project that didn't go the way I wanted :/ so I just used that one. After some days of sitting on the window sill the battery is charged enough in the evening to illuminate my bed room every night.

Step 4: Putting the Parts Together

I made a cut-out for the solar cell in a foam board and secured it with some hot glue. Copper foil "beautified" the unsightly gap on top. This worked fine as base of the light.

Step 5: More Parts

There were several more parts to fit into the copper pipes like the PCB (printed circuit board), LDR (light dependent resistor), battery, switch and LED's. It needed some playing around till I found the right (inconspicuous) placement. I made sure all bare wires were covered by electrical tape or shrink tubing.

Step 6: Finishing Up

It took a while till I had the LED's in place. I glued 2 marbles in the openings of the copper T fitting which looks pretty cool at night. And finally there it is:
Miss Betsy's Steampunk Rechargable Solar Night/Reading Light.

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    8 years ago on Introduction

    I really like your nightlight. I too have a passion for working with copper tubing. I made some bath towel holders I may share one if I ever get around to it. Have you hooked a volt meter to the light to see if the battery's recharge at all from the LED's out put?

    I like the way it looks in the thumbnail. Sort of like a Solar powered steam mantid. (Steamantid??)

    This is awesome.

    could I use PVC pipes and spray them bronze? I only get £30 p/month :'(


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Why sure you can. You can use any junk laying around :) Let your fantasy work and show us the results!
    Good luck!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I see alot of copper here did you win the lottery? (Sorry a bad joke from our last conversation,)

    The project looks really good I like it.

    I assume the round decorations on the top are marbles?

    I think everyone who has ever built something has has someone come up after and say why didn't you..bla bla bla, well I'm not going to do that but I will add
    that afer looking at it for a while I thought it would be so cool to have a second
    set of LED's inside the tube pointing to the glass balls to give a soft night light

    Sorry that just popped out most likely from a desire to make a small back lit board using a peice of chrome plated grate material that covers some lighting fixtures and then putting colored marbles in the holes to create a cool effect, TOTALLY off topic, most likely derived from some childhood trama.....


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Unfortunately I didn't win the lottery so I have to continue working as nurse Ratched but to get rid of the frustration, I hoard all these beautiful shiny copper fittings and pipes. (And on a professional side note, 'trama' must result when a drama queen throws a temper tantrum resulting from a childhood trauma...)

    Toootally on topic, I actually thought of illuminating the 'eyes' (marbles) but then I was wondering how long the battery would last with 4 LED's ? Of course if you use it just as nightlight for your kids (or yourself) illuminate just the marbles and that just gave me an idea... thx to you


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    All I will say is SPDT as a person who knows her switches you will recognize the nomenclature (single pole double throw) would be the solution.

    Ahh heck I'll never post this project as an instructable so I'll show you a couple of pics of a lamp I made last year still running on a recharagble 18650 ultrafire batt.

    It has red, green, blue and 3 settings of white, I just love it I can drag it from room to room and never wake the wife or kids, great for camping too.

    My light used a multi position swt, and a diode on every pole to prevent back feed between the LEDS High out put jobs cost me like 5 dollars each, could somebody please cue up "Hey Big Spender"

    All that and I stayed in the be nice policy, sorry it's staring me in the face as if I wasn't already.....

    Oh the phinnial is the switch knob.

    PS I assume you are using a dropping resistor to make the LEDS run as long as possible on a single charge, I like a 85 to 90 percent voltage of max recommended.

    I have a web site with a free calculator if you need it, geeze this is turning into a book not a post.

    lamp 004.JPGlamp 007.JPG

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Congratulations on your creation, it definitely would be worth a separate instructable! I and many other readers would sure love to see this lamp in action!


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Check out the latest, it's got switches high voltage and it's steampunk

    Aeon Junophor
    Aeon Junophor

    10 years ago on Introduction

    Hi Miss Betsy

    A very stylish creation. Great job

    Now I know what to do with my solar powered garden lights I bought 6 of them for 5 Euros as a sold out campaign ;-) Please allow me to follow your instructable. To varify your plan I will ad some neon glowing bulbs (from a friend in Alaska you surely know him, "the winter time is so long there;-))))" ) instead of the marbles. So I can use two sources for the nightlight: The white bright shinig LED or the soft glowing Neon light

    I´ll send you some pictures after finishing
    Cheers Aeon Junophor


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you very much coming from an artist like you :)