I bought this 4 pack of LED fairy lights last year, I think I paid $16 for the box. I finally came up with a project to use them on but I ran in to an issue with the on/off switch. I knew I wanted to make a lamp but didn't want to have to turn it over to turn it on or attach the power pack to the back of the wood stand. After a little bit of experimenting I was able to make what is basically an extension for the button using a wooden dowel (I was going to use a metal dowel but changed my mind) and a small piece of brass tubing. It worked out quite well.
These are the fairy lights I bought. I bought that at a local store but they can be found on Amazon.
I had some 3/4 inch plywood left over from another project that I cut in to 4 inch wide strips on the table saw. Then I used my cross cut sled to cut the strips in to 4 inch x 4 inch squares. I was making more than one lamp so I cut multiple pieces.
With all the squares cut I glued four of the squares together and clamped them overnight. I made sure to line up the edges so the corners lined up nice and square.
The nice thing about this project is that the base can be any dimension you like as long as it is big enough to hold the battery pack. I made it on the smaller side because that's what I thought looked best but you can definitely experiment with the shape of the base. Or even use solid wood as opposed to plywood. I just like the look of the exposed plywood edge so that's what I used.
Once the glue dried I used my 4 x 36 inch belt sander to clean up each piece. You can see in the second pic the sanded side, left side, versus the side that is not sanded, right side. My glue ups were not perfect and some of the pieces moved while clamping which created some ridges. I was able to fix this with the sander but the better the clamping job the less work later.
I needed to make something to hold the vase so I also cut up some scrap 3/16 inch plywood in to 4 inch squares. I found the center of the square and drilled out a 3 inch hole or rather a 3 inch disc. This piece will be what I epoxy the vase too, this will make more sense in later steps.
The disc did not fit the opening of the vase so I had to reduce the size just a little. To do this I chucked up a long bolt in my drill and attached the disc to the bolt using two nuts one on each side to lock the disc in place. Then while my belt sander was running I used the drill to rotate the wooden disc. This let me sand down the edge evenly just enough to fit in to the mouth of the vase.
Now it was time to make the battery pack cavity in the base. I used the battery pack as a reference for how wide and how deep I could make the cavity. I also cut off any unnecessary extra pieces of plastic off the battery pack.
I used a 1 inch forstner bit remove the bulk of the material and then I used a chisel to clean up the hole. I also sanded the hole with some 80 grit sandpaper just to knock down the edges.
I used a 1/4 inch forstner bit to drill a hole in the top of the base this hole is for the fairy lights to run through. Then I also drill a 1/4 inch hole in the side of the base, this hole is going to be for the on/off switch. I don't show it in the pics but I used the battery pack as a reference to get the exact location of this hole. This hole needs to line up with the power button on the battery pack. Its actual location will depend on how deep you decide to place the battery pack in the base. This is one of those measure twice drill once type of steps.
This is the part that took a little bit of figuring out. I wanted to use the power button on the battery pack, but I didn't want to try and rewire anything as that's not really my strong suit. So I came up with a button extension of sorts. I needed to make a dowel that had a narrow section on the top and a wider section on the bottom or a stepped dowel.
In order to do this I used a brass rod to cut in to a wood dowel which created the stepped dowel. The brass tube has one end that is sharpened, kind of, basically I chucked the brass rod in my drill and tapered the end with a file to thin out the wall and "sharpen" the edge. Its not perfect but works well enough for this task. I cleaned up the dowel with a razor blade.
I did a dry fit with all the pieces. I inserted the battery pack, you can see the black bar that is the power button sticking up proud of the battery pack, in to the base. Then I inserted the button extension aka the stepped wooden dowel in to the hole. Then I inserted a piece of the brass tube in the hole around the wooden dowel. You can see in the last pic the small wooden button.
So this works because the actual power button has a bit of a springiness to it, it has a nice click to it. The brass ring locks the stepped dowel in place and keeps it from coming out of the hole and allows the tension from the actual power button to keep working as a spring and turn the lights on or off. This is a lot clearer in the video.
After testing everything and making any adjustments, I made sure that the smaller section of the dowel would move freely in the brass ring, I epoxied the brass ring in place. It is the only thing that gets glued, the stepped dowel/button extension remains loose in the hole. I made sure to wipe off any excess epoxy and double checked to make sure the stepped dowel moved freely.
Next I glued on the 3/16 inch piece of plywood to the top of the base and used a dowel to make sure it was lined up and centered. I clamped this and let the glue dry. Once the glue dried I sprayed 3 coats of Shellac on the entire base.
Since the hole for the battery pack was larger than the actual battery pack I needed something to keep the battery pack in place. So I cut a few pieces of craft foam and taped them together with electrical tape to act as a wedge. I added extra tape to act as a handle so that I could easily remove the foam when changing batteries. This keeps the battery pack in place which also helps the function of the button extension as it provides resistance from the force of pushing the button. Basically it keeps the battery pack in place which is what you want.
I used 1/4 inch backer board to make the cover for the bottom of the base. I drilled four holes one in each corner for the screws that would secure it to the base. I also added a piece of craft foam to the bottom of the base to add more support for the battery pack. This wasn't entirely necessary but I wanted to make sure that the battery pack did not move. I don't have a pic but I ended up countersinking the screw holes so that the screws would sit flush on the base, I figured this would help prevent scratches on furniture that might be caused by protruding screw heads.
It was time to assemble everything. I unraveled the fairy lights and fed them through the bottom of the base in to the glass base. I used a small hobby torch to melt a glue stick which I used to add a big glob of glue to secure the wire in the base. I just heated up the glue stick until it started to melt and then shoved it in to the hole where the wire was running. I couldn't use my glue gun because the hole was too deep and not wide enough for the gun to fit.
Next I mixed up some 5 minute epoxy added it to the edge of the wooden disc and then secured the glass vase on to the base. I wiped off any excess epoxy and let is cure overnight.
And that's it here are a couple of better pictures of the button.
Originally I was going to use a vase from the dollar store but it was too short and didn't look quite right with the thicker base. So I went to the hobby store and bought a larger vase for $3 which in my opinion looks a lot better. This project was quite fun to make as there was several instances where I had to solve a small problem. In the end I am very happy with how these turned out. I may eventually make some larger ones for the outside depending on how long of a LED strand I can find.
If you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments below and I will do my best to answer them.
Participated in the
Epilog X Contest