Mad Scientists Light




A Maker friendly version of the Tube Lamp by Nik Willmore. a captivating Light source suitable for normal usage and able to be dimmed down like a nice relaxing night light

Step 1: Intro / Disclaimer

*Disclaimer* This Project involves Live electrical current and wiring, although it is not too complicated, if you are nervous about such a project i suggest you skip this one, I'm not a professional electrician, and just because i didn't burn my house down and kill myself with this setup doesn't mean it can't happen to you. Please take the proper safety precautions when working with electricity, IT CAN KILL YOU. I'm not responsible if you shock/electrocute yourself, burn your house down, burn out your eye sockets or disrupt the space time continuum. and please do not try to reproduce this project for the purpose of making money, to do so would hurt the original designer Nik Willmore whom inspired this wonderful project.*

A few years ago i saw this little beauty [ The Tube Lamp] pop up online, designed by Nik Willmore and decided it was exactly what i needed for my little Mad scientist Laboratory. unfortunately i couldn't spare the disposable cash needed (or justify it) to purchase such an item, though i would still like to some day as his still has a captivating hold on me :)

This is project to show you how to make a much more cost effective version of the tube lamp design to get you by for the meantime. Rough estimate of the costs involved in this project is totaled at around or under $20 depending on the supplies you choose.

NOTE: I Have updated some of the steps to help clarify some things and changed the way certain things are setup so they are more efficient and easier to understand. and from now on i also won't wait as long between doing a project, taking the pictures, and then making the write up as that leaves too much room for error :) thanks for reading.

Step 2: The Base

A simple unfinished Pine box with sliding lid (Removed for this photo) That I picked up at the local arts and crafts store (Michaels) for about $2 a box it was the perfect size to fit the four light sockets, i sanded it all down and painted it after cuting the holes for the sockets in the bottom.

to make the lamp the box was flipped over and the bottom became the top so if i have to make any adjustments or replacements i can turn the box on it's side and slide open the "Lid"

Step 3: Box Continued

Outside of the simple Box I used for the base of the lamp, actually i bought two and this is the second one, i liked the finish of the other box much more so i went with that one to fashion the lamp out of.

Originally there was going to be wrap around text as you can see in the photo that was a quote "The best way to predict the future is to invent it." -- Alan Kay

Step 4:

Here is the insides of the box/base where you can see the back side of the light bulb sockets as well as the back end of the dimmer switch and all the interconnecting wires. the Sockets were wired in parallel (one linking to another like a daisy chain) with one end of the power cord connected to the daisy chain of sockets, and the other end of the power cord connected to the dimmer switch.

Step 5:

Another shot of the guts of this lamp.

The most expensive part of this whole project was the standard Dimmer wall switch (push in to turn on and off, rotate to dim or brighten) (the black box on the left) which ran me about $7 at the Home supply store.

There are three wires running out of the back of the dimmer switch unit, two black and one green, the green wire is for grounding, and since the box is wood and since i didn't use a three prong grounded electrical cord i just removed the green wire.

*Okay i've revised this a bit and made a much simpler and effective way to wire up the sockets, i could have sworn i wired it up one way and not another, but i completed this project a few months ago and just did the write up now, so i forgot about that change in plans sorry for the confusion*

... take all the black wires coming out of the sockets and bunch them together, i used wire ties to keep them all together, do the same with the white wires coming from the sockets use a wire nut to connect all the white wires together and have them connect to one of the wires from the power cord...

connect all the black wires from the sockets together as well and wire nut them together with one of the 2 black wires coming from the dimmer switch... then connect the remaining black wire from the dimmer switch to the other wire on the power cord

Step 6:

Simple 40w Tube Display Case Lightbulbs Available at most Home supply stores (I Purchased Mine at Lowes), you can also look around online and find other display case lightbulbs with different fillament patterns inside some are quite bland, but others look spectacular when dimmed down and you can trace the path of the filament in them .

Step 7:

The light bulb sockets set in the cut out holes, i made sure when i cut the holes they were just too small and then lightly hand sanded them till the sockets just fit in properly with a few millimeters of the white socket exposed, then used a light bit of clear glue around the entire socket and the inside of the hole to attach it as well as a thicker ring of glue around the sockets on the inside of the box.

The light sockets themselves were purchased from Lowes and are fairly cheap as well ($2 or so) and are designed for ceiling lamp repair and replacement.

Step 8:

Heres a shot where i tried to get a close up of the insides of the bulb, didn't turn out perfect but you get the idea

Step 9: Finish

The finished Product with it's Glamour Shots, it lets off a nice glow and is certainly an eye catcher, everyone wants to know what that is and where i got it from, not bad for a lamp i made under $20 (not included the sweat and blood you may or may not donate to said project)

In the second shot you can see the finished product, along with a nice black Radio Knob replacing the big boring beige knob that comes with the dimmer switch.

If you liked this one, be sure to check out the smoke stack lamp instructable that i'll be posting up where i used some of the things i learned from this project, right now i'm still putting the finishing touches on that project but you can see some shots of how it's coming along in my Flicker Photo stream
Thanks for checking out my first Instructable!

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2 People Made This Project!


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296 Discussions


Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

Congrats! This project has won today's I Made It Challenge. For this you will receive a pro membership!


Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

 OK, that is just cool.  You wouldn't happen to be willing to share the schematics for this, would you?


Reply 9 years ago on Introduction


I don't have any problems with sharing the schematics, as a matter of fact, I'd love to =) (all information should be free) That's why you can find it at my website: (take a look at the original sketch). I noticed I still haven't provided any additional information on the site so here some extra notes; The flashing is done using ordinary fluorescent light starters. and I used a very basic dimmer ciruit in series with the rest of the circuit (that is switches, starters and bulbs).

The components for the dimmer are:
- standard Diac (like a DB3)
- Triac (anything will do as long as it can handle the power of the bulbs, like a TIC 206 or BT136)
- 470K potentiometer
- 0.1uF capacitor (50V type should do fine, but I usually use a 250V or 400V type just in case one of the other component should fail)

you can find the dimmer circuit at the bottom of the sketch.

If you have any questions just let me know.

Ow, and if you build one yourself, I'd love to see it!


5 years ago on Introduction

Love it. I think there's a load of fun to be had 3D printing customised shells for stuff like lighting, provided the plastic doesnt get too close to the bulb or it'd melt. I quite like the idea of scanning a heat-melted PLA and printing that in harder finish ABS


6 years ago on Introduction

This is not the first time the State is launching a campaign to promote compact fluorescent lamps (CFL).
In early 2009, the then Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB) tried to implement Bachat Lamp Yojana (BLY), a nation-wide scheme of replacing incandescent bulbs (ICBs) with CFLs.


6 years ago on Introduction

Thanks for the awesome idea! made mine today out of an old cigar box.

Two Raven

7 years ago on Introduction

So happy that you posted this!
I am a novice at electrical stuff, so your guide really helped me to go above and beyond once I understood the principals. The Box on the right is my first, the second is made with Christmas lights and vintage doctor office test tubes and the third has a dimmer, stand-by light and working clock. I couldn't have done it without this instructable!!!

Two Raven

7 years ago on Introduction

So happy that you posted this! I am a novice at electrical stuff, so your guide really helped me to go above and beyond once I understood the principals. The Box on the right is my first, the second is made with Christmas lights and vintage doctor office test tubes and the third has a dimmer, stand by light and working clock. I couldn't have done it without this instructable!!!


7 years ago on Step 6

Y'know, I was planning on using Nixie tubes if ever I took this 'ible on; the bulbs look enough like Nixies that I got confused before I got to this stage. On a side not, could we get a wiring diagram? The pictures you have elsewhere look like black spaghetti and it's hecka hard to figure out what goes to where.


7 years ago on Step 6

It would look really cool if you used a cotton covered cord! :]


7 years ago on Introduction

here is my version...took a while to build, due to the bulbs were "intermediate" base (smaller than standard, but bigger than a night light bulb) so i built my own bulb sockets. i used a pine craft box from the dollar store and a few parts frm a victorian replica phone. i wanted the victorian steampunk look. i made the sockets from clear lexan tubes from discarded "under car" neon lights and 14 guage household wire, by wraping the "bared" solid copper wire arounf the base of the bulb creating the coiled threads for the socket. I then JB quik welded the coils inside the clear lexan tubes, as well as the center pin conductor pieces. as the sockets are made of clear tube i was thinking of adding a red light inside that will cause the clear ring of the sockets to glow. the outer rings on the sockets are made frm aluminum spacer rings frm discarded hard drives painted with "brass" colored spray paint. thnx 4 all the inspiration!


Nice! Now to figure out how to make a bunch of them into a numerical display for keeping track of the divergence percentage of the current universe!


7 years ago on Introduction

I started with a pink Barbie wardrobe and wired the lights in series to eliminate the dimmer. I actually used aquarium bulbs, which were much cheaper and had a glow I liked.

finished closeup.jpgpink beginning.JPGfinished.jpg

13 years ago on Step 6

I'm unable to find this kind of buld here in France. Do you have any tips to help me.?

1 reply

Reply 7 years ago on Step 6

just picked up 10 of these beauties for a project