Shotgun Shell LED Candles




Introduction: Shotgun Shell LED Candles

About: I've always liked pulling things apart - it's the putting back together again that I have some issues with!

Recently I went to my local gun range to pick-up some spent shotgun shells. I needed a few for a project but ended up taking a whole box home! I've been using these in a few projects, some of which can be found in previous 'Ibles. In amongst them I found a couple of clear shells which I thought would like damn cool with LED's in them.

Initially I wanted to make these into stand alone LED candles, but after a little experimenting I decided to mount them on some wood. This way I could easily add batteries, switch, led's etc and mount the shells to the wood. I say "easily" but there was still the problem of how to made a cutout in the wood which would contain the batteries. I sorted this out by chiseling out the area and making a section for them to sit in.

lastly I went with some candle LED's which flicker, giving the shells a really soft and authentic "flicker".

This isn't a hard hack, you just need to get your hands on some clear shells and the rest is pretty simple.

Step 1: Gather Your Parts


1. Shotgun shells - check Etsy or your local gun range!

2. Flickering LED's. I pulled mine out of some LED's candles but you can buy these on eBay

3. A piece of wood. Whatever you have lying around

4. 2 x AAA battery holders - eBay

5. 4 x AAA batteries

6. Some thin pieces of copper.

7. Toggle switch - eBay

8. A couple of small screws


1. Drill

2. Chisels

3. Table saw

4. Soldering iron

5. Sander

6. Wire snips

7. Pliers

8. Small blow torch

Step 2: Modding the Shells

I used a couple of caps from some other shells to use a bases. To do this you need to remove them from the shells.


1. Put the shell into a vice firmly.

2. With a small blow torch, heat up the cap and slowly pull with a pair of pliers. The cap comes up easily once heated-up enough.

3. Lastly use a nail punch and hammer to remove the little cap inside as shown below.

Step 3: Making the Wooden Stand


1. Find a suitable piece of wood and trim it to size with a drop saw

2. Make sure you leave it bigger than you need. I cut mine to size originally and when chiseling, went right through the end of the wood and split it!

3. set-up the piece of wood and with the battery holders, measure the area to be cut. I was going to use 3 x AAA batteries for each LED but this was overkill and decided to only use 2 x AA.

4. Carefully chisel out the area. I haven't really done this before but after a little practice I found it wasn't too hard to remove the wood.

5. Finally I used a ... to clean -up the inside of the area carved out.

Step 4: Sanding and Staining the Wood

Once you have the hole made into the bottom of the wood you'll need need to sand and stain.


1. Use a sander and sand down the imperfections in the wood until it's smooth.

2. Next use a stain to bring out the grain in the wood. i actually did this after i added the LED's - I didn't have any stain at the time and I was on a roll.

Step 5: Preparing the Wood


1. You'll need to drill a couple of holes for the LED's. Decide where you want to position the shells. mark the middle and drill the holes.

2. Next you need to add the switch. Drill a hole in the side and if necessary, chisel out the inside so the bolt can be attached to the end of the switch.

Step 6: Wiring the LED's


1. Bend the LED's wires so the LED is facing down as shown

2. Solder on a piece of the cooper wire to one of the LED legs.

3. Next you need to bend another piece of copper wire so it comes through one of the holes in the wood and connects to the switch. Bend the wire so it sits flat against the wood and bend the other end a little so it connects to one of the legs on the switch.

4. add a little heat shrink tubing to the wire where it goes through the hole in the wood. this will ensure that the 2 pieces of copper wire that connect to the LED don't short.

5. Solder the copper wire to the switch. The wire should come out of the hole straight.

6. Add some more heat shrink to the other copper wire that you soldered to the LED. Solder the other LED leg to the piece of copper that you just soldered to the switch. Before you do this, make sure your happy with the height of the LED. If it's too short or too high, just trim the copper wire.

7. Lastly bend the copper wire slightly inside the hole. You will be soldering one of the battery wires to this. Do the same for the other one.

The reason why I set-up the LED's like this is to make sure that they were pointing down inside the shotgun shell. The alternative is to just have the LED's pointing up which would be easier but I don't think as effective.

Step 7: Wiring the Battery Holders


1. trim the wires on the battery holders. you want to not have any excess wire as this will mighht make the battery holder not sit correctly in the wood.

2. Solder one of the wires to the end of the copper wire that you bent inside the hole in the wood.

3. The other wire from the battery holder should be soldered to one of the switch legs.

4. Do the same to the other battery holder

5. Screw down the battery holders and add batteries. Test

NOTE: Make sure that your polarities are right when soldering on the batteries. Also make sure that the positives and negatives from the battery holder are both on the same sections on the LED's So if the positives are attached to the switch, make sure that the positives from BOTH battery holders are joined to the switch.

Step 8: Adding the Shells

So now it's time to add the shells!


1. Place the shell end that you removed the cap from over the end of the shell as below.

2. Carefully push the LED through the cap hole and position the shell where you want it. Turn on the LED's and make sure your happy with how everything sits.

Step 9: Adding an Extra LED

I decided to add an extra LED to make the light a little brighter. You don't have to do this but I was really happy with the end result.


1. Once the cap has been glued down, you can solder on the extra LED. If you don't do this first, then you'll have issues trying to put the cap on later.

2. Bend the LED legs as shown in the image below.

3. Solder the LED legs onto the copper wire.

4. Push the shell onto the cap. You can add a little glue if you want but I decided to leave them loose in case I have to take them off for some reason. They sit quite firmly in the cap and won't come out unless you give them a good tug.


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7 years ago on Introduction

Great idea! Lotta gun loves in family... I may have to try my inexperience hand at this! Thanks!


Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

The hardest part is making the box. Use an old jewelry box or some other attractive container. The other stuff is easy peasy.


7 years ago on Introduction

This is a really cool project, but I have to add a couple of comments about handling fired shotgun shells. First, the good news is that if there is a trap range near your home, they will give you all the spent shells you want. Most ranges have a big container full of spent shells and they have a hard time getting rid of them. They come in different sizes and all sorts of colors, so you can get creative. How about a red one for Port and a green one for starboard? Second, spent shells are coated with residue that contains lead. Handling a couple of shells probably won't be a big risk, but I strongly recommend wearing latex gloves and washing your hands thoroughly before you touch your face or any food. Do not allow children to handle them. I reload shotgun shells and I'm very careful about this. Third, please be careful with the primers. The safest way to remove them is to ask someone who reloads to push them out with his press. I get nervous when someone starts talking about banging on them with a hammer. They should be spent and safe, but please be careful.


Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

Love the idea about Red and Green. I have some oil lamps like that.

I also second the use of caution even with spent ammo, you never know what might be lurking.

And now I have to wander in the shooting practice fields of the local police to find such shells, off course when they are not practicing ...LOL.

Can't even think of such a crazy Idea :). Great work as always friend :)


Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

Thanks mate.

Haha yeah - best to keep of the field until the guys have had their fun.

wish I had some clear ones left - I'd send some your way!

Mr AbAk
Mr AbAk

7 years ago

Super showdown lamp....
Thanks for sharing...