A Simple Accent Light Made From a Giant Recycled Vacuum Tube and a Blinky LED Beer Mug

About: Huur... derrr.

I have a contact in the marine radio trade who gave me a few giant vacuum tubes to play with. I couldn't think of a particular use for them but I had to have them, so they sat in a box for a while.

I used to work at a theme park that had night time events where they sold all kinds of LED accessories and glow sticks. One popular item was a cheap plastic beer mug with blinking LEDs that flashed whenever it was picked up. I noticed that the LED unit sometimes fell out of the mug, so I kept my eye out and picked up quite a few lost blinking disks.

When I saw the lighting contest I started playing with some things in the shop. Soon the LED beer mug bottom made friends with one of the vacuum tubes and decided to take up housekeeping in a scrap of PVC pipe and a cool accent lamp was born.

Step 1: Cut the PVC Pipe

I used a scrap piece of 3" diameter PVC cut down to about 2 1/2". I used sandpaper and a sanding sponge to round off one edge and to lightly roughen the entire surface. I shot a coat of Rustoleum Industrial silver paint and let it dry.

Step 2: Modify and Install the LED Unit

The LED disk from the bottom of the beer mug has two switches. A toggle switch turns it on and off. There's also a momentary push button switch that turn the unit off only when it's sitting on a flat surface. We want the light to work when it's sitting flat so we need to bypass the push button switch. Using a pair of small pliers, firmly pull the button out of the unit. Now it will not turn off when you set it down.

The LED disk fits loosely into the PVC pipe. To make it fit snugly I used strips of craft foam and two sided tape. I taped strips of foam in three places evenly spaced around the inside of the pipe. The disk now fits snug in the base of the lamp.

Step 3: Put It All Together

Now that the base is done I just flipped it over , turned it on and put the vacuum tube in the top.

Viola! Instant geek decor from garbage and scraps!

This base could be adapted to all kinds of things- bottles, a jar of sea glass, marbles, etc. The best part is that it was made from junk lying around my shop. Next time your wife, roommate or SO complains about all the junk piling up you can say 'But some guy on the internet made a cool lamp!'. There's no such thing as garbage!



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    6 Discussions


    3 years ago on Introduction

    whered you get an industrial vacuum tube?!??!?!?!?! even the KT88 are expensive enough and some of the old US made ones are almost history!!! wow..... neat very neat.... might wanna search 1MW tube amp on youtube... this guy acutally uses these things

    1 reply

    I had a friend of a friend in the marine radio repair business. He had a display board with various dead tubes in his shop that fell off the wall and most of them broke. I was able to salvage a few for projects.


    Whoa! I love vacuum tubes and am always interested in ways to light them up, whether it be through their own coils, outside light, or even drilling them out and putting LEDs inside. Your solution is awesome! The final effect is truly impressive. Kind of retro, yet futuristic at the same time! Now... Where can I get a vacuum tube like that? Do you know what it was originally from? I'd love to know. Thanks and keep up the good work!

    1 reply

    The gentleman I got the tubes from was retired from the marine radio and radar repair trade. I think the big tubes came from radar units.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Wow! That video makes it look like a decorative element from the interior of the Tardis. Nicely done!