Vintage Camera Nightlight




Introduction: Vintage Camera Nightlight

vintage camera nightlights! who wouldn't want one?
i've made a few different ones and posted some pictures on my flickr .

some folks have been asking for a how-to so here's a rundown of how i make my nightlights. this is my first instructable so i'm sure i'll forget steps or something. i can also take more photos if anything is confusing.

i really enjoy making these so let me know what you think!

also, if you'd rather just buy one from me, i have a few for sale here:

i've entered this instructable in the make it glow challenge! vote for me!  and thanks for looking...  :)

Step 1: Parts

parts required:
vintage plastic camera
candelabra base socket

misc parts that i had on hand:
heavy black cardstock (i cut up the dark slide from my polaroid instant film)
odd screws (3 to replace some drilled out rivets, one to screw the base to the nightlight.)

tools i use:
wire cutter
needlenose pliers
wire stripper
small saw
dremel with cut-off wheel
soldering iron
hot glue gun
glue/epoxy made for plastic use
cordless drill w/various bits
matte or satin clear coat
black spray paint for use with plastic

a word about camera selection:
not all cameras will work for this instructable. when it's finished, the camera will be hanging from the receptacle so the lighter weight the camera, the better. also i'm keeping in mind how much of the camera will be sticking out from the wall as well as ease of disassembly/reassembly, room for the lamp socket, etc.
also, i really really like cameras so i'm not destroying any cameras that are in great/pristine condition nor any cameras that are rare (to me at least. if i can't find more than 2 for sale, i don't modify them until i do).

Step 2: Camera Disassembly

the disassembly section.

the nice thing about older cameras is that most of them are pretty easy to take apart without destroying the camera in the process. when taking apart your camera, save all the parts & screws & pieces until you're done. you never know if you might need something to get it back together.

taking the kodak brownie starflash apart:
unlock and slide out the bottom/film transport section. (did you find film? wind it up and mail it to me!)
remove the two visible screws that keep the top and bottom sections together.
unscrew the back of the flash housing (remove & recycle any batteries found in there!).

to separate the two halves of the bottom section:
if your camera still has the neckstrap attached or if the neckstrap buckles are still in place, you'll need to pry them open. i use two pairs of needlenose pliers, each one grabbing one side of the buckle then gently open the buckle enough to remove it.
after that,  i use a small flat head screwdriver to gently bend the top of the aluminum clips so they clear the plastic neckstrap attchment points then the aluminum pieces slide down. you should now have two separate halves.

breaking things down further...

the bottom/film transport section:
remove the two screws from the bottom and separate the two pieces. i use wire snips to
pry the chrome metal part off the base. at this point i also slide out the small rectangluar(ish) metal part, remove the metal locking pin thingy and then snip off the somewhat circular shaped plastic bit. i use this to cover the hole left by not having the locking pin in place.

the flash section:
unscrew the flash ejector (save all the parts)
drill out the three visible rivets to separate the needed pieces.
you can discard the rivets or try and save them to glue back in later but i just replace them with screws.

the front/shutter section:
use wire snips to slide off the two brass strips. they're just friction held in place.
drill out the two rivets that are visible when looking at the inside and remove the metal plate. this will allow access to the shutter mechanism. then i flip the section back over and drill out the lower 3 rivets. this should release the shutter, the aperature, and other misc pieces of metal. i don't drill out the rivet that attaches to the shutter lever. i think keeping it movable is a nice touch.
i then use a dremel with the cut-off wheel to remove some of the extra metal on the shutter lever, this makes it lighter and makes things easier as we go along.

Step 3: Removing Plastic

i've got one word for you; plastic.

let's remove some to save weight and some to allow access for the nightlight.

on the front section, i draw a line showing what i want to remove while still maintaining structure and connection points.
i also will remove some of the top part of this to allow wire access.

on the rear section, i use the nightlight as a template, marking where i want it to be located. i remove this as well as some of the top part to allow wire access. when cutting the slot for the nightlight, i will cut it just shy of the line then use a file or sandpaper to fine tune it so i don't have gaping holes around the plug. this is also a great time to add something to cover the film counter window. i use a piece of film backing paper but you can use whatever you like to make it personal. perhaps a little picture of you or your sweetie pie?

on the base, i cut away anything that's going to be in the way of the nightlight. on mine, it's going to sit flush so i make sure it's flat.

Step 4: Modifying the Nightlight

on to the nightlight!

the one i bought has a nice electric eye so it will turn on/off at dusk/dawn and also has a screw attaching the two halves of the housing. i think this is the most important part because if i have to break the nightlight to get it open, it's going to be a pain to get it back together.

dis-assembly is simple enough. slide off the plastic lens, remove the bulb, pop off the circular bit, remove the screw, then pry the two halves apart. you can then slide out the prongs/electric bits.

i discard the lens and snip off the plastic cast socket as i have no use for it.

the next step is to desolder the electric eye and the bulb contact.
i then solder a longer lead/wire onto the electric eye and another one to one of the prongs. i then solder these back onto the board.

test your handiwork by screwing the open wire to one of your sockets.

Step 5: Modifying & Attaching the Lamp Socket

taking apart the light socket.

remove the cardboard tube
drill out the rivet that's attached to the screw-in metal bit.
remove the screws.
i then pry up the clips on the brass side to allow the socket to come out.
then use the dremel to take off the metal attachment points on the socket.

next, i spray a couple coats of matte varnish on the front of the aluminum flash housing (not the socket) this should insulate any wandering fingers from shock when we're all assembled.

i then trim some of the aluminum flash housing (from the flash assembly in step 2).
we need to widen the opening to allow the socket to fit. i do it slowly so i don't stress/break the metal & also so i don't end up making it too big.
once you've got it to fit, you'll need to join the two pieces. i use a flat head screwdriver the bend the aluminum housing around the socket then i use an awl to poke a few holes through both pieces. this should keep them together but i'll also add some glue later.

next step is to cut off a bit (how much depends on how far the socket sicks out of the aluminum housing.) of the plastic socket housing. i use the dremel but you can also use a small saw. then i glue it in place.

the last step is to reassemble all of the flash section. you can try to glue the drilled out rivets here or find suitable replacement screws.

Step 6: Assembling the Nightlight in the Camera

starting to put it all together.

i make a small surround for the electric eye by cutting out a small piece of heavy cardstock and tracing the shape of the eye on it. then i use an xacto to cut the hole. it should be snug enough that you won't get any glue seepage.

i don't have it pictured but you should assemble the nightlight housing now. if you removed the lens on front of the nightlight, you can thread the electric eye through the hole.

next, i put the eye where i want it to be located and glue it place. when the glue has dried, turn over the front panel and glue on the shutter button.

solder the open leads to the socket on the flash assembly.

test your light once more before you start sealing everything up.

Step 7: Final Assembly

home stretch.

i add a piece of electrical tape to the flash ejector so i don't run the risk of shorting out the socket. then i screw the flash ejector back in place.
next, i glue & screw the back of the flash section onto the front.
then we'll make sure all our wiring is going the right way and glue the two halves of the bottom section together. slide the aluminum clips back on and bend the tops back over the neckstrap lugs.
attach the top and bottom together with the two screws inside.
lastly, we'll be screwing the nightlight to the base so start by making  hole in the base for the screw. dry fit/hold everything together and decide how far you want to the plug to come out. use a pencil or awl the mark where to drill the corresponding hole in the nightlight.
add some glue to the base and clamp everything together. screw the bottom to the nightlight and you're done!

okay, what did i forget?

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    6 years ago

    Thank you for teaching me how to make my vintage camera night lights better. The Kodak Starflash is the same model I got for my 10th birthday, in 1958.

    absolutely great!! as a collector of vintage cameras i will definitely be making one of fact I am off to my shed right now :)


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I liked the beat up "retro" look, but I painted the flash reflector on my camera chrome. It gave my project a really nice look with a more consistent glow from the incandescent bulb.

    That looks a bit like speaker wire, what gauge wire are you using to extend the light socket and ir sensor?


    9 years ago on Introduction

    looks awesome! unfortunatly i cant find any of those cameras..:S


    9 years ago on Introduction

    This looks awesome! I love repurposing vintage electronics!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    The using of IR LED would be good idiea (low power consumption), but if i need more powerful IR Light source, i will use incandescent bulb covered with ebonite sheet to hide visible light


    9 years ago on Step 2

    Has anyone sent you the old film they found? If so, what was on it?? !!


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    from all the cameras i've ended up buying, i've got a huge box full of film i need to try and get developed. i did get a few rolls done so far and they had some really neat pictures from the 60's. i'll try and scan them and post them to m flickr account in a few weeks.

    Mark Rehorst
    Mark Rehorst

    9 years ago on Introduction

    What a great idea! I'm going to the local Goodwill store tomorrow and buying up all the old cameras they have!

    I'll use a red LED for the light source and just leave it on all the time- they are so low power it will probably use all of 2 cents worth of electricity to operate one for a year. Red light won't be too blinding at night, either.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    i'd love to use LEDs but i kind of like how the incandescent bulb mimics the shape/look of a flashbulb. please post your versions when you get them completed though! i'd love to see them.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Looks good! One question comes to mind.

    In Step 5 where you are modifying the flash housing and inserting the modified socket, it looks like the socket touches the small piece of aluminum flash housing, which in turn is connected to the larger flash curved mirror piece (excuse my lack of technical terms for the parts of the camera!)

    Doesn't this expose electricity to where a human could accidentally touch the night light flash housing? Or is there some kind of insulation that I missed?


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    thanks for that! (if i don't have a picture, it gets lost)

    i've edited it to add that i use a couple coats of matte or satin clear varnish on the front of the aluminum flash housing before putting it together with the socket. i think that's a pretty good insulator since that piece is recessed and hard to reach because of the bulb. the larger curved mirror part is plastic so there's no risk there.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Nicely done, very cleaver. Keep up the creativity, 4 stars I'm following.