GlowChips - a Simple and Cheap LED Lamp Unit




Introduction: GlowChips - a Simple and Cheap LED Lamp Unit

Have you always wanted to light up your desk in a futuristic/minimalistic manner?

Fear no more, as the solution is finally here!


This lamp unit can be easily made by almost anyone. The idea is incredibly simple and it's very easy to make. My desk has been lacking a light source for some time and I thought that maybe I could build a little lampy thing to light up my desk. I didn't want to design a typical, cliche LED lamp you find these days, nor did I want to design a high powered study lamp. My LED lamp's main purpose is to act as a decorative piece of vibrant art that could be placed on any tabletop/desktop/shelftop and other tops!

The GlowChip's design is also extremely customizable. The structure of the "Chip" does not have to look exactly like how I've made it to be! The possibilities are endless!


Step 1: Materials and Cost

Here is a list of all the things you will need to make One GlowChip:

[side note: the amount of plywood needed depends on how you want to build it. I didn't use much. Refer to the main picture to get an idea of how much I used.]

[Another side note: prices are based on conversion from my local electronic store cost to USD]


  • 1’ x 1’ thin plywood = ~ $5
  • 1x 3V flat Battery (CR2032/CR1632…) = $0.31 [Try and save the packaging it comes with. Useful later on]
  • 3x 3mm LEDs (Preffered Color) = $0.07
  • Super Glue tube = $0.5
  • Patience


  • Awl/Compass = Free (Had one at home)
  • Soldering Iron = Free (Had one at home) / $ 2-3 for a low cost iron
  • Solder = Free (Had a roll at home) / $0.2 for 1m of solder wire
  • A strong pair of scissors
  • tape
  • Penknife/Cutter
  • Cutting Board
  • Sandpaper

If you aren't experienced in the art of soldering, it's alright! The main purpose of soldering is to firmly stick the cathodes/anodes to other components. Think about solder as a conductive blu-tack. If these tools aren't available or you simply don't want to solder, you may use blu-tack or some other adhesive to try and stick the respective parts together. Be warned, solder is used because it is conductive unlike most other adhesives, so if you are using blu-tack, carefully stick the components together and make sure they are in contact.

Total Cost for one GlowChip = $5.8

Most of the money goes to plywood. To be honest, I had a huge sheet of spare plywood so I didn’t spend for that. Plywood is also difficult to get sometimes so I suggest using somerigid cardboard from a box etc. A brilliant, common and low cost replacement.

Total Cost for 4 GlowChips = $23

Again, Plywood contributes the most to the cost.

Step 2: Begin Cutting the Plywood

Before cutting, make sure you have a clear idea on how your structure is going to look like. In my case, I individually cut out different sized pieces for my lamp.

  • 6cm x 6cm for Base
  • 5cm x 5cm for second piece
  • 4cm x 4cm for third
  • and 3cm x 3cm for highest

Use a pen to mark what you want to cut and use the cutter to weaken the edges of the plywood by stroking the cutter across the markings while applying downward pressure. You may proceed with using a scissor if it gets difficult to slice with the cutter.

Use sandpaper to smoothen the edges of the plywood. Makes it look sleeker and protects your hands from splinters.

Step 3: Poke Holes Into the Boards

poke holes into where you will want to "stem" the LEDs through. Again, this depends on how you plan on designing your own chip!

Step 4: Fit in the LEDs (One Layer at a Time!)

for every layer, you stem in the LED and fold it in a way that it will stay put. The switch mechanism is best explained with pictures so I suggest you read the notes on the picture itself.

Step 5: Soldering Time!

Delicately solder in the components. Refer to the simple circuit diagram above to see where you must solder *red highlights*

While soldering, make sure you don't bridge any components together. It's quite easy to short this circuit that way as there is very little space in between the areas of soldering.

Make sure you solder each layer one by one!

Just in case you feel like you've made a mistake soldering, you may test the LEDs with a battery to check whether they are working.

Step 6: Structure and Glue the Final Form

Think about the form your chip is going to take. Where do the edges meet? How tall will a chip be? etc, etc. My chip resembled an "opening book" with the size of each "Page" decreasing as it approaches the top.

I superglued the edges I needed to, and applied gentle pressure to where the edges converged.

After that, I let the wood rest to let the glue form its super hard bonds in peace.

[side note: try not to get any glue on your hands. It'll form a nasty, plasticy mess]

Step 7: Conclusion

Slide that free cathode into the battery "chamber" and watch it glow before your eyes!

I've made four units of the same design as you can see above.

What next?

Build more chips and don't limit your creativity to the instructions/models i've made!

I think these even make great gifts! A little reminder of your radiating personality!

If you had a laser cutter, you could make precise, detailed cuts which will create amazing pieces of art!

the possibilities are endless.....

Hope you guys enjoyed making GlowChips as much as I did!

If you have any feedback or comments, feel free to comment!

Don't forget to rate!

[------> Next step is a bonus!----->]

Step 8: Bonus Model - Mist Mountains GlowChip!

Just like completing every DIY project, you will end up with scrap materials!

I had many torn pieces of wood which were eventually going to go into the bin, but hey, why don't I use some of those onto my GlowChip! I evenly cut out the edges while still living the rough edges on one side. I also used toothpicks in order to provide horizontal support!

This time I used blue and white LEDs to produce an ambient twilightish sky effect. Maybe later, I might make a larger picture frame version of this!

The principle is still the same with this chip too...

An LED Sandwich!

Hopefully, this little recycled GlowChip Fuels your creativity even more!

Make It Glow! Contest

Participated in the
Make It Glow! Contest

Homemade Gifts Contest 2015

Participated in the
Homemade Gifts Contest 2015

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    5 Discussions


    4 years ago

    I'm planning on making one of these for my nerdy girlfriend... She's into electrical engineering and all, and I'm guessing a little thing like this would surely impress her!! Could you tell me a few things I could do to make this look like "I did more electrical work"??



    Reply 4 years ago

    hmmm... I see your dilemma, I suggest you add a tiny circuit in there that allows the LED to produce a "breathing" effect. There are many great simple circuits out their that tell you how to accomplish this!

    And maybe, you can use dotboards instead of plywood to make the design! even more cheaper and techy looking!! The holes would give your glowchip a very unique design!


    4 years ago

    Wow, Great idea! I'm glad you liked it and took your time to make it!


    4 years ago

    What a clever design! I love the idea and your switch even more; nice diagrams, too. I'd love to see your white and blue twilightish sky if you do make it later.


    Reply 4 years ago

    Thanks! I'll try making a larger picture frame version of the mountains later! and if I do, I'll be sure to make an instructable for it!