Introduction: The Plant Shelf

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UPDATE September, 21st, 2014 : the plant shelf basic

UPDATE : warm light upgrade

UPDATE July, 21st, 2014 : I am currently working on laser cutting the balcony attachment. I will be back soon !


hello world,

in this instructable I will be showing you a detailed version of my plant shelf idea.

the idea came about when I moved to my new apartment that receives almost no direct sunlight. i love plants around me, but there was just no way of keeping them alive without artificial lights. last winter my solution was big and ugly CFL lights, this was before I even knew that instructables existed. after studying other posts and learning everything about LEDs, i decided to change the game up a little bit.

The Plant Shelf, a form of live art - display your plants on the wall, a bonsai friendly furniture if you wish...

Why? because plants make anywhere a lovely place to live, clean the air and give off positive energy. we can have walls covered with these shelves with different sizes and shapes. what if paintings weren't the only form of art to hang on a wall ?! people work in office spaces with zero sunlight and no live plants anywhere, what if we changed that for the common good.

please note that this is still a work in progress, I have many attachments that I am planning on to add; wifi enabled webcam feed and an arduino plant health monitor (moisture + light + temperature sensors). I have no electrical or programming background so things move a bit slower. thanks to this webpage I have now learned all these skills to take the plant shelf to the next level.

make sure to subscribe for updates..!

thank you,


love & peace

**remember to check out The Plant Arm as well...

Step 1: History

Pictures in order

1. I first sketched out on illustrator what I was picturing in my mind...

2. I went to the dollar store and got some foam boards to make a 3D model

3. I wanted to see a version with lights, so I put together this second 3D model with CFL lights - the frame is an old cardboard box, i painted it white

4. CFL lights take way too much room and look ugly, so I decided to take my 3D model to the next step and bought this cheap LED flashlight from the thrift store, just to see everything a bit more clear.

all this effort was enough to convince me that I am into something new and unique, let's see how it all turned out..!

I also have posted a much simpler/smaller scale version of this idea, which is sadly getting the least attention. it is my most simple design i believe, the USB powered LED plant shelf

Step 2: Materials & Tools


- Metal sheet for the frame; $19.97 - Home Depot Model # 47230

- Wooden light holder; $2.73 - Home Depot Model # 161640

- Perforated metal sheet; $0.10cents to$12.87 - Home Depot Model # 3/4HSThis is 100 feet long, you will only need ~10inches, save the rest, it comes in handy !

- LED + LED Driver; $6.50, shipping included !!! - Ebay;

- AC wall cable, $0.00 from thrift store

- 3 x screws, i had it

- Metal Epoxy, i had it

- 22"gauge wire + solder, i had it

- Plant + Pot, i had it

so the total is; ~$30.00 , i'm sure most of you have many of these materials laying around in your home and can make it cheaper...


- Saw to cut the wooden light holder, I cut by hand

- Drill for both wood and metal

- Metal cutter/bender, I had to get mine cut and bent at a local metal shop, i don't have the necessary tools for metal, this cost me an extra $10.00

- Soldering Iron

Step 3: Let's Build !

Step 1: cut & bend the metal

I decided to use a metal frame for durability + stability. the only downfall is that it is more expensive compared to wood and harder to work with. PLEASE feel free to use wood. it works fine, I just wanted to go more for the sleek look this time and longevity.

my personal dimensions are;

bottom base; 9x9

back wall; 9x12

ceiling; 9x9

so the size you need before bending is 9 x 30inches.

Step 2: drill holes to the metal

you will need some powerful tools for this. as mentioned earlier, I don't own such things nor a workshop. you can go to your neighborhood metal shop/car repair place like I did. you can probably get different metals to work with there as well. know the size of the screw before you drill the hole.

my personal dimensions are;

each whole is 5cm in from the sides and 2.5cm down from the ceiling.

Step 3: wooden light holder

I invite you to use your imagination here. I wanted to be able to take the lights off the frame if not being used, and use it for another purpose maybe like a bookshelf. you can just epoxy the lights straight to the ceiling if you want but then they will be secured there forever. plus i think the wood gives a bit more natural feeling as well... after all this is the purpose of my design.

my personal dimensions are;

back; 28.5cm

top; 20.5cm

*tips; when cutting the wood, give some extra space so that your wood sits in there tightly, eliminating the need for other materials securing it. plus if you cut it short, there is no coming back, you can always make it shorter tho.

you can now attach any type of light source to your wooden frame, and take it apart still if you wish. it sits in there very tightly. that's what you want.

Step 4: lights

now you need to decide which lighting source you want to go with. there are just too many options here to list so please read my previous posts on this topic first to get a better idea; The Plant Arm -

I have decided to demonstrate using 3 different sources for lighting to help with your imagination and for comparison purposes.

Step 4: 1 X 1W Solar Powered LED Version

** 1 x 1W solar powered LED version; read in depth post here; I did not forget to make it solar powered. of course the aim is to run even the 10W version via sun, but we just might have to wait a tiny bit more for this :)

I also rigged an AC adapter for the 1W version as well. I can either charge my batteries with the sun or plug it directly to the wall. go to the thrift store and look for an old cell phone charger that has the same voltage and mA, aim for a bit lower mA to be on the safe side. but remember if you go too low, your LED will be dimmer. the LED i'm using here requires 3.7V @ 350mA, the adapter i found is 3.7V @ 340mA... these LED's aren.t as weak or easy to burn as standard led.s, they can handle a bit of extra juice.

Step 5: 1 X 10W Smd Chip Version

** 1 x 10W LED smd chip version; this one is listed in the materials step; from eBay - free shipping $6.50 !!!!!!! if you buy a package like this, you won't have to doubt yourself about choosing/making the right driver. the company makes them both specifically designed for each other and at this price I doubt it is even possible to make it yourself... plus this will be much safer in my opinion. BUT the 10W led get's very very hot almost instantly, please read the bottom "COOLING" section. for this design I hide the led driver behind the back wooden post.

"COOLING" - the single 10W smd chip version is still a work in progress. it gets very HOT - use it at your own risk. I have been testing led.s without fans and/or heat sinks for a while now. i believe that eventually we won't need them, this is a very new technology. if you fail to do this correctly, your led will burn out and you will have to wait another 2 weeks to get a new one. DON.T SHOCK YOURSELF or START A FIRE.

A single LED, with white/yellow color seems like the best choice for most homes/offices since it's a more natural feeling lamp. not everybody may want to be under the UV & red led lights all the time....

Step 6: 10 X 1W High Power LEDs Version

** 10 x 1W LEDs version; this is from an older design I posted; - I took this light apart and changed it up a little bit for this project. these do not get hot, you do not need a fan BUT if you were to do it in a closed space then yes, fan is needed. as you can see everything is sitting in air so no heat is accumulating. please at least glance at my older posts, these lights are a tiny bit more complicated to work with then regular CFLs.

this is actually my first mixed colored light bar using just 1 led driver, a single power source. thanks to my very talented friend bhvm (please check out his profile).

I could give it any shape, maybe a circle would be the best. i believe that art/design will save us. just by designing things simpler yet smarter we will eliminate many unnecessary materials/chemicals usage.

The light bar, because of it.s design just clips/hangs on to the top frame. and also I am able to slide it back and forth. I can take it off if not used. this metal is very easy to bend, but at the same time very strong, yet again you can rip it with your bare hands. it is extremely cheap and very easy to find, especially in developing/3rd world countries.

while attaching the usb ports, i like to gut the ports to bare minimum first and then put them back together after soldering it to the 22" gauge wire. this offers a much more secure connection. i will be doing an in depth instructable about this, because when you are working with ~30V led driver and the usb port is designed for just 5V, you should be very careful.

light bar specs;

6 x 1W 430nm 3.2-3.4V @ 350mA = 19.2-20.4V @350mA

4 x 1W 660nm 2.5-2.7V @ 350mA = 10-10.8V @350mA


10W (10 x 1W) / 29.2-31.2V @350mA - i really need to learn how to correctly measure the lumen output. it is about $7 to make

***all in series connection, the order of the color doesn't matter. mix and match for your own taste

Step 7: 10W Vs 10W Vs 10W - What Is the Difference?

here we can see 3 different uses of 10Watts of LEDs.


1. in the first picture we have a single 10W smd chip led with led driver.

10W SMD chip;
Power Consumption:10w

Forward Current:1050mA

Foward Voltage : 12V

Color Temperature: 5000-7000 K

Luminous Flux: 600-700lm


INPUT: AC:110-262V 50/60Hz

OUTPUT: DC:9-12V 900mA±5% 10W Max (3*3W)


2. second picture is 10 x 1W led's very close to each other, on the same bar.

6 x blue led specs;

Wavelength: 420nm ~ 430nm

DC Forward Voltage (VF): 3.2V~ 3.4 V

DC Forward Current (IF): Typ 350mA

Viewing Angle: 120 Degree

4 x red led specs;

Intensity Type : 40~50Lm

Wavelength : 660nm

Viewing Angle: 120°

DC Forward Voltage:2.5V~2.7V

Forward Current: 350mA

led driver specs;

Input Voltage: AC 85-265V

Output Current: 300<±5%

Output Voltage: 15-34V

Working temp.0~40

Storage temp.-20~60℃



3. third picture is again same 10 x 1W led's, but a different design.

this design stays cool, notice the distance between each led.s, that seems like a good distance. in my next design i am going to try to calculate some sort of a distance rule. "if they are ___cms apart, they stay cool" etc.


.. having more than just 1 light is a good advantage. with 10 separate led.s i can choose to shine the light at different angles and get a better yield/growth. 10Watts of power from such a small piece of equipment is really amazing, i can't even imagine the 100watt version for the same size. the problem is that the cooling parts take too much space. personally i would rather install anywhere between 10-20 single 1W leds, different colors, get a good combination. maybe we can get 5x660nm, 5x5000K+ cool white, 5x3000K warm white, 2x430nm, 1x730nm, 1x450~475nm, 1x450~475nm = adding up to 20 x 1W led.s. this should be a good combo, i wonder what color it would give out, mostly warm white i hope. i am planning on getting many different spectrum led.s and research these different blends. you can just look at the item specifications on ebay of other grow lights and see which spectrums they have used to get a better idea. for example check this out, i really like this design; this is an incredible product, i love how you can disconnect the AC cable when not in use, so simple. i would love to take one apart some day and reverse engineer it :)

Step 8: Conclusion + Future

it is nice to be able to see the different light sources. i can't tell between the single 10W led and 10 x 1W leds which is brighter. by comparing the shadow they create on the wall, they seem about to be just as bright. since I have 10 of 1W leds, i can actually place them in different angles, exposing more parts of the plant to the light. i can make a few of them hang lower and aimed straight to a specific part of the plant. however with the single 10W led, if i were to install the same amount of beads, i would end up with 100W of light source from the same amount of space.


i like the overall turnout. the shelf looks good, it's sturdy. a very nice addition as an art form. I am planning on making more and giving them away as gifts at work and between friends, you should do the same. once again, this is an ongoing process, i will be posting my new and improved designs.

two questions that everyone might have;

what happens when the plant gets too tall? we can either have different models for different growth stages. or we can have just one tall model with size adjustable lights. i'm open to suggestions... for me tho, i like to keep my trees small and bushy. if you want to learn more about the art of bonsai, please do some research, it's a lot of fun !

why not just make a shelf, without a top. and just set on there a plant in a pot with a plant arm attached to it? yes, this would make it much simpler. that is still an idea open to me and to you. i just chose to do it this way because first, my plant is trained to be small this way, and second, for some reason i kept picturing this design in my mind all the time. plus we can easily make the back wall taller/shorter and have different models for different growth stages.

what I am mostly excited about are the future additions;

webcam feed; I want the shelf to be able to send pictures over wifi to an online photo album. so we can all watch the growth over time, as a time-lapse video. start the facebook for plants..!

arduino plant health monitor; I want to add light, temperature and moisture sensors, built in to the frame - all hidden. all you have to do is to stick the probes in to the soil. the system e-mails you if anything is above/below normal, or you can manually override the system and turn on/off lights etc.

please feel free to help me with these additions, i have no programming or electrical background so it takes a little bit longer...

some personal notes;

-- please be a part of the organic farming movement; - me and my wife traveled around the world (portugal, japan, turkey) farming as volunteers. great way to learn about plants..!

-- please watch the human history movie; VERY.GOOD.STUFF !!!

-- read eckhart tolle. anything at all of his...

-- read robert monroe, the ultimate journey



thank you for your interest.


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