Steampunk Incandescent USB Lamp




Introduction: Steampunk Incandescent USB Lamp

This simple instructable will show you how to make a stylish steampunk USB lamp from a scrap of wood, a salt or pepper shaker, a broken string of Christmas tree lights, a USB cable and a few coins.

The full name for this lamp is the "Brazilian Steampunk Incandescent Condiment Dispenser Illumination Device," but that wouldn't fit in the title line;-)

Why "Brazilian Steampunk" you may wonder? While this wasn't made by a Brazilian, it was made in Brazil, with Brazilian tools and mostly Brazilian materials, so I think that qualifies it for "Brazilian Steampunk."

The very simple wiring involved in this project is the same principle I used in my Steampunk USB mini-lantern. And the condiment-shaker-turned-lamp-globe is reminiscent of my first Instructable and steampunk lamp - Lanterna Antiga.

There are lots of great Instructables on this site that will give you tips on making a USB lamp. The first that inspired me to try this was the mini USB powered Tiffany Lamp. (Thanks Kaptin Scarlet;-)

Here's how I made this steampunk inspired version of a USB lamp.

• A block of wood
• A salt or pepper shaker
• Rubber gasket
• String of Christmas tree lights
• USB cable
• Female-to-female "F" type coaxial cable connector (optional)
• Coins (optional)
• Heat shrink tubing

• Saw
• Chisel
• Clamp
• Grinder
• Pliers
• Screw driver
• File (or rasp)
• Varnish (or stain)
• Super glue
• Lighter

(Some of these tools are optional, depending on the techniques you choose to use).

Step 1: Select Wood

The first step is to select a piece of wood for the base of your lamp. I chose a piece of Brazilian hard wood called angelim pedra, which I had left over from another project.

Step 2: Cut to Cube

If the block of wood you have chosen is not in the approximate shape of a cube, cut it to create one.

Step 3: Grind (or Sand)

The hard wood I used for this project lends itself well to creating a rustic finish with a grinder. Depending on the type of wood you use, you might want to consider a sander instead. The grinder also helped me level off the top surface, which I had to cut twice, from the top and the bottom, to cut all the way through.

Using a grinder to distress the angelim pedra is the same technique I used for my Steampunk socket/switchplates and my Rustic wooden towel rack.

Step 4: Drilling the Holes

Once your wooden cube is ready, you'll need to drill three holes: One small hole in the top for the lightbulb; one wider hole on the top (with a hole saw bit, or serra copo in Portuguese), and one hole in the side, to feed the usb cable through.

The small hole from the top needs to meet in the center of the block of wood with the hole from one side, so the cable can connect to the light bulb. These two holes need to be wide enough to feed a cable through, and then drilled a bit wider at each end to accommodate the socket on the top, and the "f" type cable connector, which will hold the cable in place.

The hole for the condiment shaker, which will serve as a lamp globe, is a bit trickier. First clamp the block of wood, so it doesn't spin out of control. (It also helped to use two pieces of wood to brace the clamp). I used a hole saw that was 3.5 cm, but then found that I needed to widen the hole a bit, to fit the threads from the shaker. To do this, I used a combination of a philips screw driver (carving the wood in a circular motion) and a file, testing the condiment shaker occasionally, until I had a snug fit.

If you plan to decorate your lamp with coins, this is a good time to drill holes in the side, with a wood hole bit that's the same size as the coins you plan to use. I forgot to do this at this stage, and only drilled these holes after I stained the wood.

Step 5: Varnish (or Stain)

I used a Brazilian varnish called Sparlack Neutrex, the same varnish I used for my Instructable, Painting metal to look like wood and my Rustic wooden towel rack.

Let dry overnight.

Step 6: Preparing the Cable Connector

I used an "f" type, female-to-female coaxial cable connector to hold the USB cable in place. First grab the connector with a pliers, and drill away the plastic core. Then glue a brass eyelet to the end which will be exposed.

Step 7: Preparing the Cable

I decided to decorate my USB cable, and I used the same technique I used for my Steampunk USB cable. You can use this technique, or skip this step and just use a a plain USB cable.

Step 8: Feed Through Cable

A standard USB cable has four wires; two for data and two for power. The red wire carries the 5 volts, and the black is the ground. Since we're just dealing with power and not data, the red and black are the only two wires we need.

Expose a few inches of the red and black wires, and feed them through the hole in the side of your wooden block. You may need a tweezers to pull them all the way through the top. (Before you do this, don't forget to feed the cable through a piece of heat shrink tubing and the "f" type connector, which will be attached later).

Step 9: Attach Lightbulb

My first thought was to use an LED bulb, but I didn't have one available. But what I did have was a hole string of cheap Christmas tree lights, which broke the first time I tried to unplug them. One advantage of using one of these incandescent bulbs is that when it blows, it can be easily replaced.

So I cut one socket from the string of lights, with about two inches of wire left on either side. 

Between the cable and the socket, you want to make sure you have enough cable to work with, to splice the two together, but not so much that you wont be able to stuff it all into the hole you have drilled in your wooden block.

Feed two pieces of heat shrink wire over the black and red wires from your USB cable, and then delicately connect the two wires from your Christmas tree bulb to the two wires from your USB. (These wires are so extremely thin, it was almost like trying to braid nostril hairs;-) Once you have the wires connected, slide the heat shrink over the splice, and gently heat with your lighter.

Now is a good time to plug in your USB cable to a computer (or power adapter) and make sure the bulb lights up. If it doesn't, go back and check your wiring connections. If it does light up, gently tuck the wires into the hole until the socket fits snugly. If necessary, add a few drops of glue.

Now you can heat the shrink tubing around the usb cable, and screw the "f" type coaxial connector into place.

Step 10: Glue on Coins

The coins I used to decorate this lamp are Brazilian ten centavo pieces (or a Brazilian dime), which includes a picture of Emperor Pedro I. (Unfortunately we don't have any brass coins in the U.S.;-(

I chose these coins because I particularly liked the way the shiny brass contrasted with the reddish hue of the angelim pedra wood. 

And the look on the face of the local shop owner when I asked him for his three shiniest dimes was priceless! (Obrigado Sorriso;-)

First I tried a hot glue gun to affix the coins, but eventually they fell off, so I re-glued them with "Super Bond" (Brazilian Crazy Glue).

Step 11: Add Condiment Shaker

The final step is to place the salt or pepper shaker on top. If you drilled and sanded the hole properly, it shouold fit nicely. I added a rubber gasket I found on the side of a road somewhere, because I liked the way it looked, but it serves no purpose other than being decorative.

As you can see from the photo above, this little sucker puts out quite a bit of light for a single Christmas tree light!;-)

Step 12: Finished Product

Here are some photos of the finished product. I wont say its quite bright enough to read by, but it certainly makes a nice mood or night light. The cut contours of the condiment shaker globe create a cool wave-like effect on the walls, as can be seen in the last photo above.

If you like this project, please consider rating it or posting a comment.

If you make your own, please post photos below;-)

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    10 years ago on Introduction

    This is very nice instrument. And I have to try to make it.


    Winged Fist
    Winged Fist

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for comment Samirg! If you do make one, please post a photo here in the comments section;-)

    Aeon Junophor
    Aeon Junophor

    10 years ago on Introduction

    Hi winged fist

    Great job! That is your line. Keep it up. It is your style ;-)))))
    I will bee soon back again with some new projects....
    Cheers from germany
    Aeon Junophor

    Winged Fist
    Winged Fist

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Junophor - Thanks for recognizing that I'm finally developing a "style";-)
    Always looking forward to new steampunk idea from Germany!


    This is very nice.

    I like the idea of using the massive, old piece of wood.

    Great Job my friend :-)

    Horatius Steam

    Winged Fist
    Winged Fist

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you for you kind words Mr. Steam – Your approval is always an honor;-)
    I found that the weight of the block of wood supports the weight of the condiment shaker nicely!


    Really nice job! I never thought of using x-mass lights Great idea, any plans for a switch on this piece? The coins are also a great idea they accent and complement your lamp very well.
    Great Job wingedfist keep up the great work!

    On a further note I get alot of my LED's and switchs from junk electronics I find on the curb come trashday or anytime im out and about, Don't be shy grabing that stuff saves alot of cash.

    Winged Fist
    Winged Fist

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks Grasshopper! I have thought about adding a switch to a USB lamp, but in this case it would have been complicated, as it's a solid block of wood. But maybe a future model...

    And I'm certainly not shy about grabbing reusable parts off the street... My problem here in NYC is the opposite – I can't fit anymore "street finds" in my apartment with out facing the wrath of my wife;-)

    In the suburb of Rio where we have our house, it's very rare to find electronic devices curbside, although I did score some great wood scraps that would make a carpenter in the U.S. jealous;-)