Light Up Rock Wall Stairwell, With Solar Lights





Introduction: Light Up Rock Wall Stairwell, With Solar Lights

Solar garden lights are designed to be shoved into the dirt along a sidewalk path, like spikes. I wanted to illuminate the stairwell of my rock wall, at my Civil War-era farmhouse. This shows how I did it, with cheap, but bright Westinghouse solar lights - $4/each, at Wal-Mart.

Step 1: Remove the Rod on the Bottom

This is one of those $4 Westinghouse solar lights. You don't need the stake on the bottom, just the top part, which contains the solar cell, battery, light and lens. I had to doctor the picture below - basically remove the stake and save it for something else.

Step 2: Bend the Wire Into a Ring, With Legs

See the black line in the picture? That is some thick galvanized wire, ten inches long. You could also use thick copper wire, like home electrical wire, but really, crackheads will steal any copper they see, so why invite that? Plus, grey wire will blend in with concrete. This wire is the thickness of coat hanger wire, but you should use galvanized wire, so that it doesn't rust, like a coat hanger would. If it rusts, you might get rust stains going down your wall.

I bent the wire into a circle (a ring), a little wider than the clear plastic lens (tube) that surrounds the LED light, then out an inch on each side, and then bent a leg out, on each side. Then I just stuck the light's cylindrical clear lens inside the ring, with the legs sticking out to the side.

NOTE: Although the picture shows a perfect circle in the ring, I made the ring a litle more oval than a perfect circle, so that the lens would friction-fit (so it would stay tight) inside the ring.

Step 3: Insert Legs in Crack Between Rocks

See the legs? I stuck them inside a crack between the old rocks in the wall. I lifted the rock above it up, and stuck the legs under the rock, so that the leg would have some weight on top of them. That will keep the wind from blowing it out. Then I stuck it right up against the rock.

That's it! You are done! Do this for each light. I did four; two on each side.

Step 4: Right Side View

Here are the lights on the right side of the step. See, there was no place to drive the stakes into, anyway; it is just 100-year old rocks everywhere here.

Step 5: Left Side View

Here are the two lights on the left side of the step. You can also see the old wrought-iron gate to the left. The gate is just sitting there, leaning against the stairwell wall, because the hinge pins rusted out, but we don't care. It looks rustic, and we would never shut the gate anyway.

That's it - I just wanted to light up the steps - they are very crooked, and it is quite difficult to walk up them in the dark. I don't have a picture of the steps lit up in the dark - I forgot to take a picture after dark, but it is nice and bright.

Our farmhouse is ~143 years old, and I don't know how old the stairwell is - I have a picture of the house from 1911, which shows the steps. Anyway, the steps are at least 100 years old.



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    19 Discussions

    What a fantastic it adds that "candlestick" look to the light sockets in the civil war, eh? Thanks for the mind is thinking of so many uses!! ????

    This is what the lights look like at night - note that it is very difficult to take a picture at night, even though you can see, because our eyes are better than cameras. The lights are quite bright, and without the stakes on them, they look like "custom" wall lights.

    Rock Wall Lights At Night.JPG
    1 reply

    thank you for the night shot ,i have a circular stone wall i made ,i have to back around every morning,now i will be able to make it much more visable at four a.m.

    You inspired me, I am in the process of building a rock wall and last week I came across your instructable, here are some photo's with my twist

    1 reply

    Fantastic idea. Thanks for taking the time to make & post an instructable. You've given me some ideas for using those lights around my home in areas where a stake wasn't practicle.

    Instead of making an oval shape ring, what you could do is make a circle that is a little smaller then the lens(tube) so that the tube is pushing outwards in the have the same result

    I'm having a hard time finding the lights at Walmart. Any chance you could provide a part number? Great Idea BTW !!!!

    1 reply

    I love solar garden lights - a solar panel, a bunch of LEDs, a light sensor , AA battery and a charging circuit...what else could you want in a dirt-cheap consumer electronic? If you're gonna be re-wiring them, why not put the panels on top of the stones making up the staircase walls? You could run the wires down through one of the cracks then along the wires holding it in, so it wouldn't be much more visible, and you'd have the benefit of a much wider arc of sunlight, which could more than double your power without any more panels.

    1 reply

    In considering a re-wire, I was merely offering a suggestion to 'ventifact', to resolve the shady area charging dilemma they described in their location. I would not re-wire the solar lights in this instructable; that would not be necessary or prudent. There is enough ambient light to charge the lights as is; to move the solar cells to the top of the wall would actually put them in harm's way. Tree limbs could fall on them. Sometimes people put things on the top of the wall, like watering cans, tools (while working nearby), etc. Sometimes people sit on the wall. Having the lights below the top surface of the wall protects the light on one side; that lowers the risk of falling debris hitting it by 25%.

    I have a similar set-up in a very shady area. Every few days I move the lamps to a sunny place to recharge and replace them in the evening.

    1 reply

    I also have some other solar lights (the old plastic kind), with replaceable AA NiCad cells. You know, if you are good at soldering wires, you could extend the wire a little, and move the solar cell to a place where it could reach the sunlight, but leave the electronics and LED bulb+lens in the original location. Of course, the longer the wire is, the more current it would take away from recharging the cells. And you should try to use the same wire thickness. Think "extension cord" here. Polarity is important; keep the red wire going to the red wire, black wire going to the black wire. If you do this, you could/should wrap the solar cell panel in clear strapping tape to protect it from the elements, i.e., "laminating" it. Currently, most of these solar cells has a thin film (or the like) over the top/bottom to protect the wire part of teh solar cell.

    Solar Cell Lengthening.jpg

    Nice idea. To get a better photo at night switch your camera to A (apature priority) then you can adjust the shuter speed to 25 or 40 not 400, 800 or 1000 as the camera does in auto. You will need to hold still but, you will capture more light (the shutter stays open longer) Just hold still and you will get what you are looking for. But, as a side note this is not a photo instructable it was meant to show you how to use inexpensive solar lights to light a walkway without disturbing the 100 year old stone work. Was I the only one to get that :) Nice instructable, thanks for taking the time to put it together.

    Should've gotten some night pictures so we can see them in action. Do they light the stairs up very well?

    i've been thinking of getting some of those light's for my deck but couldn't evaluate the bright are they? could you take a night time pic to show how bright they are maybe? perhaps? please?

    1 reply

    it depends on the ones you buy some are brighter than others go to the shops and buy just one and test it out

    A night shot would be cool to see. Also, I wonder if some redundancy could be added to this setup. Like buying 4 of these lights instead of 2. Basically you would put one set on top of the other and they would both charge during the daytime. At night the top ones would would be lit and the bottom ones won't turn on until the top ones become too dim essentially doubling the time a set of light are on. You could even put the solar panel for the top one underneath the bottom so that the light from the bottom one recharges the top one a bit more and it can turn on a bit more when the bottom one fades out.