Hand Light





Introduction: Hand Light

About: I build cool stuff & travel

I'm not exactly sure how this idea came to me but I thought it would be pretty cool to make a casting of a hand holding a lightbulb as a sort of desk lamp. So here it is! And you can do it too!

I completed this project in less than a day never having done this before. It's not too tough to do, it just requires a little technical knowhow along with some soldering skills and the ability to follow directions.

So let's get started...

If you like this and want to learn more or see what other things I'm up to check out my website at travderose.com

Step 1: What You Need

Supplies you are going to need:

Tools you are going to need:

  • Some way to mix the supplies (a paint mixer attached to a drill works best but you could probably get away with just stir sticks)
  • razor blade and/or file
  • soldering iron
  • solder
  • wire cutters
  • electrical tape

Optional things you might want:

  • feed through on/off light switch

Step 2: Mold Your Hand Using the Alginate

You need to prepare a mold of your hand using the alginate. I used a 2-liter soda bottle with the top cut off as my container to mix and hold the mold in. It was the perfect shape for me and it could easily be cut away later to reveal the casted hand.

The brand of alginate I used called for a 1:1 volume mixture of alginate and water. I used 4 cups of water and 4 cups of alginate to produce my mold and it turned out to be the perfect amount for my container.

Get everything ready beforehand because the alginate sets fairly quickly. Mix the alginate mixture for about 45 seconds and then insert the hand into the mold. Try to set-up a comfortable position for your subject so they can keep their hand as still as possible in the mold.

Use the light bulb socket to get a sense of how to hold your hand so the socket will fit later. Insert the hand into the mold keeping it as still as possible and do not touch the edges or bottom of the container.

After about 5 minutes, or when the mold is set, you can begin to wiggle your fingers and pull out your hand. Alginate is an incredible material that stretches and returns back to it's form without cracking so you are able to remove your hand and still keep the form of the mold.

If you like this and want to learn more or see what other things I'm up to check out my website at travderose.com

Step 3: Prepare and Pour Your Plaster in the Mold

The next step is to mix together your plaster. The brand I used called for a mixture of 2 parts plaster to 1 part cold water by volume. I used 5 cups of plaster with 2 1/2 cups of water which was more than enough to fill my mold.

Mix together your plaster and water in a separate container and begin to pour into the mold. You'll want to pour about 25% in at a time and lightly tap the entire mold on the ground to remove any air bubbles. Continue pouring until you are happy with the thickness of your base for your hand light. The advantage to using a 2-liter soda bottle is that it provides an excellent round base for your hand light.

Let the plaster harden in the mold for about an hour.

Step 4: Remember to Have Fun

While your hand is drying, take some time to relax. I think it's important to remember why we do these projects in the first place: to have fun and experience a sense of accomplishment! So don't lose sight of that, try not to get frustrated or mad, and enjoy the time you spend on all of your projects.

If you like this and want to learn more or see what other things I'm up to check out my website at travderose.com

Step 5: Remove the Plaster Hand From the Mold

After an hour has passed and the plaster feels hardened you can begin to remove the mold. I first cut the bottle off of my mold and then began breaking off the hardened alginate one piece at a time. Carefully continue to do this until all the alginate is gone. I used the back of a razor blade to get into all the nooks and crannies.

You should now have a plaster duplicate of your hand and you can hold up the lightbulb to get a sense of how it will look!

Step 6: File the Hand to Fit the Lightbulb Socket

It's unlikely that your lightbulb socket will fit perfectly into the casted hand so you will need to file it down for a snug fit. I used a combination of a round file and a razor blade to file and shave down what I needed. Just start slowly removing what you need and keep trying to fit the socket in there without removing too much.

This takes some time, don't rush it. I worked on mine for about 30 minutes until I was happy with the fit.

If you like this and want to learn more or see what other things I'm up to check out my website at travderose.com

Step 7: Optional: Painting

This step is optional depending on what you want but I decided to paint my lightbulb socket black to match my wire. You can also paint the hand for some more variations on this project.

Step 8: Soldering the Lightbulb Socket to the Wire

Next you are going to need to solder your lightbulb socket to your wire. It's a pretty simple job so if you haven't soldered before this is a good chance to get in there and try it out for the first time. Here is a great instructable on how to solder if it is your first time: https://www.instructables.com/id/How-To-Soldering/#step0

Twist and solder positive to positive and negative to negative. Finish it off with some electrical tape or heat shrink tube, test it out, and you are good to go!

If you like this and want to learn more or see what other things I'm up to check out my website at travderose.com

Step 9: Glue the Lightbulb Socket in the Hand

The final step is to glue the lightbulb socket into the hand so it is sturdy. I used a 2-part epoxy that worked great.

Simply rim the inside of the hand with the glue and place the socket in there. After the glue has dried, screw in your lightbulb and plug it in! I got an old timey looking lightbulb from Home Depot that I think looks good, but you can use whatever suits you.

So there you have it, you're done! It's an interesting light and conversation starter. It's also pretty cool to have an exact replica of your hand.

I'm going to try making some more of these, painting the sockets and plaster hands different colors, along with incorporating cloth cords. I'm also going to try implementing mounting hardware into the mold so it is possible to mount this on a wall. There are a bunch of possibilities to change and alter this project. I can't wait to see what else you all come up with so please let me know if you try making a hand light, I'd love to see it! I'm also looking into using a different material besides the plaster so I can possibly start selling and shipping these.

I feel proud of the end result and had a lot of fun doing this project and I hope you do too!


If you like this and want to learn more or see what other things I'm up to check out my website at travderose.com

Concrete & Casting Contest

Second Prize in the
Concrete & Casting Contest

Lamps and Lighting

Second Prize in the
Lamps and Lighting



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35 Discussions

i am beyond ABSOLUTELY IMPRESSED and send you all my very best as you continue to use your creativity to make your mark in this world!! thank you so much for sharing your process. i've saved it; however, just like the endless saved and still have never attempted recipes....in my assorted collections - i hope that you would consider selling your work. since i've been told too many times that i should not be left to my own devices and leave things to the true professionals!! i voted for you & really love your genius!! you've taken the work by Harry Allen (for areaware) to a new level! http://www.amazon.com/Bestow-Hand-Harry-Allen-Areaware/dp/B005EW481Q/ref=sr_1_25?ie=UTF8&qid=1402853426&sr=8-25&keywords=harry+allen+and+areaware

2 replies

Thank you so much! I actually have thought of selling these, my only concern is shipping because the plaster is quite heavy and fragile so I'm looking for another material to mold the hand out of. But check out my website: travsdesk.com to stay up to date on all the projects I'm working on


2 years ago

this is great .. is the plaster strong enough though? I’d be worried its gonna chip away. Definitely gonna use alginate for something, thank you :)


I'll get back to you in a month or three.

Congratulations on being a finalist in the Concrete and
casting contest! Best of luck to you!

Okay this was my very first make from Instructables and it was going good at first then it all went downhill. So here are some things you might want to know before you start. First off, using a bottle like that is good, but when you mix the alginate, make sure you don't forget to get the powder down at the bottom in those pockets. Forgetting to mix in that powder made my mix a little more wet than I'd hope. Secondly, if you have large hands like I do, you should probably go to the 99 cent store and purchase either a 2.5L or 3L bottle. Thirdly, when you're cutting out the mold, try to be as careful as you can because I broke my wrist from getting too excited. Haha, my plaster wrist of course. And lastly, make sure that your plaster hand is dry and strong, mine just happened to be wet still and that caused me to break all my fingers while I was filing down the inside of my hand. I can be a bit aggressive when I'm excited. So yeah, take my advice and do not end up with a fist with severed fingers lying around.

I will indeed try this once more, fixing up my previous mistakes, and hopefully I will succeed. Learn from your mistakes right?

These can be nice in a haunted house attraction. And although it is not upcycled, I still added it to my collection of upcycled desk lamps because it deserves to be there.

This is SO cool!! Really clever.

I think this is really interesting and it seems very easy! I just have one suggestion for you. If you're going to make more, you can carefully cut the mold apart instead of tearing it up. All you have to do is cut it so that you can get it together again with as small a seam as possible. It might not work well to cut something that will have a hole in it (like you curling your fingers to hold the light), but if not and the alginate is very expensive, you could always do a two part mold. That's a bit tougher though. I really like this and I might just try it!

1 reply

I too have done many of these in various positions. And as you say, the plaster just isn't strong enough. I'm thinking of trying Durham's Rock Hard Water Putty. It's in powder form and mixes like plaster but is far stronger. It is yellow in color but I paint all my pieces anyway.

This is one of my pieces, hope you don't mind my posting it.

2 replies

I love it! What a fun project...would be cool to do with little kid hands! Congrats on being a finalist!

yeah - good stuff, but you mentioned fun ? what is that again ?