Lightning Bolt Through Light Bulb




Introduction: Lightning Bolt Through Light Bulb

About: My name is Troy. I'm a Mechatronics graduate studying Mechanical Engineering. I like to make things and spend time outdoors (especially SCUBA diving). I am a Community Manager for Instructables.

After making the infamous Arrow Through the Coke Bottle six months ago, I wanted to make something similar but original. Having a fondness of electricity and simplistic minimalistic shapes, the combination of this solid wood lightning bolt and glass light bulb fit perfectly.

If you like seeing how impossible objects are made (and how to make your own), you will love this solution!

Step 1: Tools and Materials



Step 2: Wooden Lightning Bolt

Download the attached PDF template and adhere it to a 1/2 inch pine board. Cut it out on a bandsaw or scrollsaw. Remove the template and sand the lightning bolt smooth.

Step 3: Bulb Holder

In a small bucket, make a holder that will assist holding the light bulb underwater for the drilling and filing process. This step is shown with a real light bulb as that was the original plan for this project, I will talk more about why this didn't work in step 8.

Drill a two inch hole in a scrap piece of wood that fits in the small bucket. Double this up and cut out one side to create the holder that will allow the light bulb to nest in the wood.

Attach another board on the back of the holder to index the location of the hole through the stem of the bulb.

Hold a piece of rubber (bicycle inner tube) to the bottom of the holder to seal the bottom of bucket when attaching it with screws.

Step 4: Drill Holes

Fill the bucket with water and place it on the drill press. Keeping the glass below water, drill with a 9/16 inch or 14 millimeter diamond drill bit. Use light pressure with your drill running about 1000 RPM to cut the hole. When one hole is complete, rotate the bulb and drill the second hole.

Step 5: Lightning Bolts

Once you have a few lightning bolts made, boil one end for 45 minutes. This will make the wood extremely pliable. Using a strong clamp or vise, compress the wood until it is as small or slightly smaller than the middle of the lightning bolt. Use only one bolt per clamp so maximum force can be applied. If you notice that small cracks are appearing, that is alright. Small cracks will disappear later (large cracks will not disappear).

Set the lightning bolts aside and let them dry for 72 hours (48 hours minimum depending on your local humidity). If you notice that the lightning bolt is starting to expand again when opening the vise, clamp it down again and wait another 24 hours.

Step 6: Finish the Hole

Using flat diamond files, submerge the bulb underwater and finish the hole. Use the completely dry lightning bolt to verify the size (try to keep the arrow as dry as possible). Start with the coarse file from the set and once it is the right size that the lightning bolt can pass through it, polish it up with finer files.

Step 7: Boil the Lightning Bolt

Boil the tip of the lightning bolt. This will rehydrate the arrow and allow it to expand to its original size. This step can take up to 10 minutes. Once the lightning bolt is back to its original size, remove it from the water and allow it to dry for 24 hours. Once dry, hand sand the rehydrated end.

Step 8: Failures and Possibilities

I started this project wanting to use a real light bulb. After saving burnt out bulbs for the past two years, I started this project and ended up with a pile of broken bulbs. I attempted to follow the same procedure previously shown, and every bulb broke. I tried to use a Dremel with all variations of cutoff discs with no success. If anyone has an idea on how to do this project with a real bulb, I would love to hear it!

What are your favorite impossible objects?



    • Creative Misuse Contest

      Creative Misuse Contest
    • Water Contest

      Water Contest
    • Tiny Home Contest

      Tiny Home Contest

    28 Discussions

    при температуре отпаяйте цоколь лампы , там будет стеклянная маленькая колбочка - ее отломайте пальцами , после этого в ней вакуума не будет . потом аккуратно сверлите алмазным буром , но только еле нажимая !

    1 reply

    at the
    temperature solder the base of the lamp, there will be a glass small
    cone - break it off with your fingers, then there will be no vacuum in
    it. Then gently drill with a diamond drill, but just barely pressing!

    translation by Google Translator.

    And thanks for the tips on cutting holes in the bulbs I've never worked out how to do that.

    I open up light bulbs all the time. standard bulbs, chandelier bulbs tail light and flashlight bulbs
    I start by breaking out the hot contact in the bottom., the bit with solder on it. I use a razor blade to pry it up then needle nose pliers. Next I crack away the ceramic insulator with a series of screwdrivers, each one slightly larger than the last. Next I carefully break out the glass filament holder or whatever it's called. it looks like a transparent Zorak (remember Space ghost coast to coast.) This is the trickiest part of a tricky job.. I use a phillips screwdriver and twist rather than push. it's fragile it'll break right out. Slowly enlarge the hole with bigger and bigger screwdrivers. Shake the broken bits of Zorak out and that's it.
    While it's not perfect I think my failure rate is about 20% which I think is very not bad.

    The glass on real light bulbs is so much thinner and less forgiving. I think it could be done with a CNC machine doing very very slow moves with an abrasive bit.

    Genius idea, well executed. You should mount an LED in the screw end and make the light work....


    7 months ago

    A blowtorch will melt a hole thru a lightbulb pretty easily, check youtube there are videos on melting holes in lightbulbs. It might be hard to control the shape and size of the hole but the best part would be that the edges of the hole would not be rough they would be smooth and I would imagine a bit thicker. With a stand that you screwed the lightbulb into so it stood up would look very cool.

    1 reply

    Reply 7 months ago

    Well thought out, supporting everything underwater, nice technique. There are lots of times building a custom base to hold things would come in handy.

    If you remove the metal bottom you can then drill or puncture a hole from the the bottom part of the bulb as that part is much ticker than the glass. I used to do this when I needed to empty the inside of the bulb to use it as a flower vase.
    Like your idea. Well done.

    You drill two small holes in the stem of the bulb big enough to insert a syringe. Then with a syringe, which you can get from any online place where you can get refillable ink cartridges, you inject a liquid into the bulb, water, filling it all the way up until the liquid comes out of the other hole in the stem.. This will give you the internal support you need to cut the thin lightbulb glass....

    Well, this is amazing! Awesome!

    I wonder if the real light bulbs glass is just too thin and the fake bulb has thicker glass for stregnth.

    4 replies

    Whoops, forgot to mention, super cool project.

    Thanks! That is the problem, but I just couldn't figure out a solution.

    Probably. But since you can't reach the inside of the bulb very well, maybe a yellow stain in the boiling water at the end might do the trick. Definitely some improvements to be made.

    remove the metal top then fill the bulb with salt, pack the salt by taping the bulb between your hands to settle the salt, put as much salt as you can fit in the bulb. then tape or melt wax the end up to seal it. this will give the bulb a solid backing.

    It's not just that the glass is too thin -- it's also that there's a vacuum inside the bulb. As soon as you pierce the glass, fluid rushing in to fill the vacuum shatters it. As a start, you'll want to drill a hole through the metal base, to fill the lamp with air. Still won't be easy, but you'll get nowhere unless you do that first.

    1 reply