Dieselpunk USB Lamp




Introduction: Dieselpunk USB Lamp

This Instructable will show you how to take a plain USB LED computer lamp, and turn it into an original Dieselpunk accessory for your Dieselpunk or Steampunk keyboard or laptop.

You may be wondering: What is Dieselpunk? Dieselpunk is a lesser known offshoot of the Steampunk phenomenon. As Steampunk harkens back to the Victorian era, or the "Age of Steam," Dieselpunk pays tribute to the era loosely bookmarked by the First and Second World Wars, or the "Machine Age."

For a very thorough analysis of the Steampunk and Dieselpunk movements, peruse some of the back-issues of the fine web periodical, Gatehouse Gazette.

For more about Dieselpunk, take a trip to the retro-futurist website Dieselpunks.org.

Why is this USB lamp Dieselpunk? In creating this device, I was envisioning a ceiling light, with a lonely bare bulb, hanging over the otherwise dimly lit office of a chain smoking Film Noir gumshoe, just before the beautiful high-heeled dame in distress walks through the door that has his name written backwards on the glass. Out of respect for this genre, I made sure to use a few vintage lamp parts, which would have been common in a "Machine Age" ceiling light or fan, to give it that authentic retro look and feel.

All comments, and ratings are appreciated!

Now, onto the Instructable!

• USB LED Lamp (Or USB cable, LED bulb and hanger)
• Shoe lace
• Lamp socket shell base
• Assorted lamp/light fixture parts
• Assorted brass pieces
* Altoids tin
• Heat shrink wire wrap (large and small)

• Rotary tool
• Needle-nose pliers
• Lineman's pliers
• Sharpie
• Scissors
• Razor
• Lighter

Step 1: Remove USB LED Bulb

I bought this USB LED light in a dollar store in Montreal. I haven't seen them in 99 cent stores in NYC, but they can be purchased on eBay or Amazon for a few dollars. If you have one of these, you're ready to go. If you choose to make one of these, there are a number of DIY guides online to help you do so, including this fine instructable: How to make a USB light.

The first thing you need to do is remove the aluminum shell from the tip of the light. I did this by slicing it just above the taper that holds it to the cable, sliding off the tube, and then slicing of the remaining ring. Once you have the aluminum tube removed, then detach the LED bulb with your pliers or scissors.

Step 2: Lace the Cable

Choose a shoe or bootlace that will fit over the cable. Cut it to the length of your cable, with a little bit of lace left over. As soon as you cut it, take your lighter to the cut ends of the lace to prevent fraying, and then lace your cable through it.

For a far more detailed description of this process, see my Instructable: Steampunk USB Cable.

Step 3: Decorate the Plug Base

This where you need your assorted brass (or brass colored) pieces. I decided to "punk-out" out the plug with a piece from an old ceiling fan switch (the part that holds the chain in place); a brass-colored eyelet; and a piece of tin cut from an Altoids box.

Find a brass eyelet that will fit your cable, and slide it down to the plug. Mark out four corners with a Sharpie, of the pieces you need to cut to get the eyelet to fit the base of the plug. Remove the eyelet, and cut the marked areas.

Thread the cable through the cut eyelet, and then bend it to fit with your lineman's pliers. (Be careful: these pieces are sharp!)

Now thread the piece from your ceiling fan switch, and force it as far down as you can, so it holds the lace and the eyelet in place.

Step 4: Sheath the Plug

Again, there is a very detailed description of this process in my Instrutable, Steampunk USB Cable.

But in brief, you want to cut out a side panel from an Altoids tin with your rotary tool, (be careful, it gets very hot!), then bend the cut piece as tightly as possible around the plug.

In my Steampunk USB Cable, I soldered the tin sheath in place. For this build, I was able to cut the tin to exactly the right size, and bend it into shape.

Step 5: Making the Shade

I spent a lot of time thinking about what would make the best shade for this light. I must admit I drew some inspiration from the wonderful Instrcutable, Mini USB powered Tiffany Lamp. But for the appropriate Dieselpunk look and feel, I decided to go with a part from a vintage lamp socket; the base of the socket shell. I found that the threads on the socket shell base are exactly the same size as a female to female video adaptor. The last two reaming parts to complete the shade are a rubber grommet (in the shape of a six-sided nut) and a plastic cap, also salvaged from an old light fixture.

Step 6: Assemble the Shade Parts

As with making any lamp, it's very important to thread all the pieces together, in order of assembly, before you attach the bulb! The order is: plastic cap; heat shrink wire wrap; shade.

I found it necessary to to trim a bit of the plastic shielding from the cable, to expose about two inches of wire to work with, when attaching the bulb in the next step. Also trim the metal brace wire, so it ends inside the lamp shell base, and doesn't stick out where the bulb needs to go.

This is also the time to pull the lace as taut as possible, to avoid the "saggy stockings" effect. Cut the lace to the exact length to fit over the video adaptor. (Note: This lace is a bit wider than the cable, but when pulled taut, this difference becomes negligible).

Use your lighter to heat the wire wrap, and be careful not to burn the lace. Once you heat the wire wrap, it should hold the lace in place, and the palstic cap should fit over it.

The plastic cap I used has a slightly larger diameter than the video adaptor, but once the lace is pulled over the video adaptor, the cap tightens on perfectly!

You're almost done! Now you just need to reattach the bulb...

Step 7: Attach the Bulb

Hopefully you haven't lost the tiny LED bulb we removed at the beginning of this process;-)

This is a delicate process, as you need to attach the two wires running through the shade to the bulb. You also need to thread these wires through your tiny heat shrink tubing.

If you are new to rewiring, this may be a trial-and-error process. But basically you want to make sure that the wires make contact with the wires on the bulb, and that no wires are exposed. You won't get electrocuted by a 5 volt usb cable, but you could short out your USB port if not wired properly.

At first, I wanted to be able to shove all the wire inside the video adaptor, but I couldn't, and I also decided I liked the "lightbulb-hanging-on-a-wire" look...(OK, I just couldn't get it to fit up inside the shade;-)

Twist the bulb into place, being careful not to break the connection to the wires.

Step 8: Finished Product

Here are a few shots of the finished product, both illuminated and in action.

(Note: There is a basic design flaw in these USB LED lights, which makes it almost impossible to make it stand up straight from the USB port. Hence it is necessary to bend it, such that the weight is supported by whatever surface your keyboard or laptop is resting on).

If you enjoyed this Instructable, please consider voting for it in the "Make it Glow," "Mad Science Fair" and "Hack It!" competitions.

And if you make your own, please post photos!



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    21 Discussions

    Thank you for your Instructable. I made one! I lucked out in that the one I was moding had small-bore steal conduit for its wire sheath.


    1 reply

    Hey Carlyn - That's a great looking lamp;-) Thanks very much for the shout out on the Crashspace blog, and for posting the link!

    Great job Colt1911! And thanks for sharing... I've been waiting a year now for someone to replicate one of my projects and post a photo... You're the first... And now I know what they mean when they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery;-)

    i used a red christmas light solderd on cut up a usb cord then did the shoe lace and socket parts as well i added a peice oc 14/2 wire taped to the usb wire to make it stand up well conected. great project

    1 reply

    I found these lights at Dollartree here in the US, but it seems that the wire inside the tubing is not nearly strong enough to support the extra weight. I found that copper refrigerator tubing is the perfect size and flexible enough for my liking, but it puts too much weight on the usb port of the machine I am building it for. I tried running a thicker wire within the tubing (trying to achieve stronger support) but it shredded the 26 Gage flimsy wire inside... Any Ideas on how to get these upright with the extra weight.

    1 reply

    Rastlosen- The usb light I used for this project also had a wire running through, about the same as a coat hanger, which is sufficient to hold the weight of the aluminum "light shade" and keep the shape I bend the light to. (You might want to try a piece of coat hanger...)

    The problem I have is that the heavy gauge wire doesn't seem to connect to the usb plug, and as a result, the lamp falls to one side or the other. My solution to this has been to bend the lamp in a letter "G" shape, so that the lamp rests on the table, and not just the usb port. (See the final photos in this Instructable).

    If this solution doesn't work for your needs, you might try constructing a lamp with a bit of coat hanger running through it, and actually soldering the hanger to the usb plug, and then adding the wires for the bulb, and finally the lace... You might also consider a lighter weight material for the shade, like maybe half a ping-pong ball;-)

    Good luck, and please post a photo when your done;-)

    i'm considering using the 8 light from a stubby flashlight, whose body was donated for another project. Could also use just 1 brighter led, seems the cheap version of the light i picked up isn't very bright ( I match with it :) ). any idea what's the max that can be pulled through safely without borking the usb port?

    1 reply

    Polerix – I don't know the exact answer to your question, but here's some information that might be helpful: I do know that a standard USB port outputs 5 volts, so your bulbs can't exceed that requirement. At one point during this build, I had wires crossed, and my Mac told me that the port had exceeded the maximum power requirements, and the port was being deactivated, (not fried). I also know that there are USB laptop lamps that use up to 13 led bulbs, so that's hopeful.

    If you have a wall charger with a usb cable attachment (I have one for my phone, and one for my Magic Wand scanner), you might consider testing with that, if you're worried about frying your USB port. Beyond that, you might want to check with your friendly neighborhood electrician to find out how many LED bulbs would exceed 5 volts;-)

    Good luck, and if you do build one, please post pictures!

    Thanks Sabinbp! I know there are oodles of lamp projects on Instructables, and I'm sure many that run on batteries. Here's an elegant one that runs on two double aa's, from my Steampunk compatriot, Junophor: Steampunk Outdoor Lamp.

    Thanks man but I need something like a book reading lamp I wanted to do something like a flat surface with a book reading lamp with pockets for paper holding and place to put pens and to hold a 1/4 sheet of pad paper for notes
    What would you call that? It would be also good if I can steampunk it
    again Great project man

    I can't exactly picture what you are describing, but I know what to call it: "Sabinbp's Steampunk Book Light!;-)" Can't wait to see your Instructable!

    Hi Sabinbp
    Hi Winged Fist

    Thanks for supporting;-))

    You can also build such a lamp with one LED by using the Joule Thief circuit! So you only need a nearly dead AA or AAA batterie or LR 2303(3,0Volts, see LED throwies!). There are a lot of instructables to find
    Yours AeonJunophor

    I was half hoping this instructable detailed the making of lamp out of a glowplug. None the less I am FAR from disappointed. Good job :).

    1 reply

    Thanks Tobita! I'm sure you can find an Instructable for making a lamp out of a glow plug... If not maybe you can be the first to write one!;-)

    What a gorgeous project. Very easy and well described; an excellent instructable. I absolutely love the shoelace over the wire to make the old fashioned cable look... genius. 5*

    1 reply

    Thanks very much Kaptin Scarlet...And thanks for rating this project!
    And yes, it is just about as easy as it looks;-)

    Hi Winged Fist

    Very coool your project!!
    I´d like to do it in my way too. Not only the steampunk but also dieselpunk is one of my interests!!
    My favorite movie is Sky captain...;-))))

    Keep it up, you got a good style with it
    Yours Aeon Junophor