Externally Mount a Disposable Camera Flash Tube Onto Other Objects.




Some of you may be familiar with the many fun things you can do with a Disposable camera's circuit board. One of those things, mounting the flash tube externally from the circuit board, may have been problematic for you. The reason for your problems is most likely due to you not noticing a very small detail of the circuit board. Today, I will show you how to overcome this problem, so you don't have to spend hours trying to solve the problem.

Things you will need:
Breadbord that is big enough to fit a few capacitors.
Disposable camera circuit boards. (x5 recommended)
Soldering iron
Needle nose pliers
Magnet wire, I used 30 gauge
Graphite pencil lead (The wooden pencil thickness, not the mechanical pencil type), for shorting the Capacitor leads, minimizing damage.
Wire cutters
Hookup wire, I used 22 gauge.

I am assuming that you have a basic knowledge of electronics and soldering, so read up on these fields before attempting this instructable to prevent harm to yourself, and to make this a lot easier.
Also, ignore the capitalized improper nouns, I'm thinking German.

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Step 1: Explanation of the Problem.

To start, in Camera flashes there is a primary transformer, and a secondary transformer.
The Primary transformer on the circuit board converts the 1.5-volt source of the battery to the 300-volts that the board needs to charge the capacitor.
The secondary, on the other hand, performs a completely different operation. When the capacitor is fired, some of the electrical energy is passed through the secondary, where it is converted to over 1000-4000 volts. This energy passes through a small portion of wire, which is placed near the flash tube. When this happens, the neon gas in the tube is ionized, which allows the 300-volt payload of the capacitor to run through the flash tube, and emit light.

Most likely, when and if you mounted the flash tube externally, you forgot this important detail. This is why you likely had problems with it.

Step 2: Assemble Your Capacitor Bank.

Create your capacitor bank.
1: Remove your capacitors from some of your other circuit boards. I suggest taking as many capacitors as flash tubes.
2: Solder your Capacitors to your breadboard in a parallel configuration.
3: Get two equal lengths of hookup wire, and solder each one to the ends of your capacitor string.
One to the positive side, and one to the negative.
4: Take one of the boards that you took the capacitors off of , and solder the hookup wires to the positive and negative leads on the board.

Tip: make sure you short the lead on the capacitors before you solder to make sure they are discharged completely and avoid flying beads of molten solder.

Step 3: Assemble the Flash Tubes Together.

Assemble the tubes together.

1. Assemble the Flash tubes in a triangular, square, or circular configuration lengthwise and solder the ends together . ( the config. depends on the number of capacitors you are using.) Also, The fat ends on the flash tubes should be on the same end as each other.
2. Next, take a length of magnet wire and wrap it around the flash tubes.
3. Take some hookup wire, and cut it into lengths that will accommodate the length of the magnet wire, and solder each one to the masses of solder on the ends of the flash tubes.
4. Now, Take the ends of the hookup wire and solder them as specified in the photos.
5. Take the ends of the magnet wire and solder them as specified in the photos.

Tip: in the photos, there is a battery in the board. TAKE IT OUT, even though it should not even be in there if you followed the directions at the beginning of the instructable.

Step 4: Finished!

Your project is now finished. Now, charge the capacitors, and fire the thing. You should now have a very bright external flash.
Congratulations on your new fancy device.
You can mount this to all sorts of stuff, even on your jacket ( I just added a video of this) so you can annoy people really bad, or scare the crap out of them.
I also suggest putting this into a project box to avoid shocking the living crap out of yourself.
One more thing, the longer the coil wires, it'll get less likely that you will ionize the flash tube, and you may have to try it a few times to get it to work.



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    10 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I just tore a kodak apart and this board is totally different from the ones your using now im lost !


    6 years ago on Introduction

    My flash only has ONE metal piece coming off the secondary, how do i go on from there?


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Does anybody have any clue on how to sustain the flash, like being able to use it as a flashlight or say, some...disclosed project...(insert evil smirk here)

    1 reply

    you wouls need a compact source of some thousand volts in order to do that. It would still be a very bad idea, because you could only use it for a short amount of time (probably less then 20 seconds) before it overheats and goes kaplooey. If you want something bright, either use a flare(unless you're indoors or near flammable/explosive items of course), or some white L.E.D's easily found at radioshack or any other store that sells electrical components.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Please build a discharge tool before working with these, and make sure caps are discharged.

    You guys shocking yourself is not a good idea, especially with the cap bank described.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    great job! i have only 1 question, can i operate 3/4 flash tube in parallel (not soldered togeder) configuration with only 1 camera board?

    Young Cyrus

    8 years ago on Introduction

    What brand of camera are you using in this? I'm having trouble finding some of the pieces on the few that I've looked at.
    Also, what type of capacitor leads are you using? I know they have different resistances and such.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Is it OK that I keep the trigger on after the bulb ionizes?


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I know what getting shocked by these suckers feels like I have gotten shocked by 5 of these so far and 3 out of the 5 were still charged enough to fire the flash tube after it shocked the crap out of me.

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    yeah it happened to me yesterday it hurts as hell. but the amps is so low(2-10mA) so your arm just tingles a bit after the shock. no deaths.