New Guard for a Trouble or Work Light




About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first ...

This is my trouble light, also known as a work light. It needed a new guard to protect the bulb. I decided to make my own, even though I could have ordered one. My local hardware store did not have one, even though their parent company's web site shows some of their stores stock them. I also noticed some things about the conventional design of trouble light guards that have presented minor difficulties in use, and I wanted to correct those.

Sheet metal from the outer cover of an old washing machine
1/8 inch steel rod (from concrete reinforcement wire stubs)
2 #8-32 machine screws and nuts
An old speaker magnet

Flux core wire feed welder
Angle grinder with a cutting wheel
Dremel tool with cutting wheels and grinding stones
Electric hand drill and bit
Grinding wheel

Step 1: The Old Guard

My trouble light is a cheap plastic unit that still works well, except for the broken guard. The grill was plastic and broke many years ago. I used a piece of coat hanger wire to make a protector for the bulb, but it easily pushes away and is little help. The old guard is also badly cracked. I never liked the swivel hook, either. It has never broken, but a twist in the cord will cause the light to turn away from the direction I want it to shine.

Step 2: First Step

First I cut a strip of sheet metal 5/8 inch wide by about 7 inches long, and cut this into two equal lengths. These would become straps to fit around the body of the trouble light. I bent them to the contour of the trouble light body and left a flat tab at each end. Here you can see the front strap attached to the trouble light. The old plastic strap in the foreground was used as a guide. One of these will be welded to the body of the guard. The other will simply attach with screws.

Step 3: Mark to Cut a Circle

A can of wheel bearing grease had just the right diameter (about 4 inches) to use as a guide for marking a circle to be cut for the bottom and top parts of the guard body.

I would like to have found an existing steel can from which I could remove half of the can's side. I could have folded over a lip to protect against sharp edges, but we did not have a can that large in our pantry. Such a can would have saved a lot of work, but the final product on my guard is very sturdy.

Step 4: The Discs

Make two 4 inch discs. After marking, I tried to cut one with a Dremel tool and cutting wheels. This works very well and is very precise, but it is also very slow and uses quite a few cutting wheels.

One of the 4 inch steel discs needs a center hole cut into it so it can slip over the body of the trouble light. I cut and fitted a hole a little larger than 1 5/8 inch in diameter.

Step 5: Weld a Strap to the Bottom Disc

I was able to slip the disc with the hole over the body of the trouble light and position it so it would stay in place. I rested one of the straps on the disc and against the body of the trouble light. I tack welded the strap to the disc at the flat tabs so the heat was away from the plastic trouble light body. I have had this trouble light more than 30 years and discovered some of the plastic is becoming a little brittle. There was a lip at the top of the trouble light body I wanted to preserve, but much of it cracked and broke away while I was wrestling with fitting the disc over the body of the trouble light.

I removed the strap and disc from the trouble light and made a series of tack welds along the length of the strap so it is very firmly attached to the disc. If I had a MIG welder, I could have made just the proper setting to make a continuous weld bead, but that is not really possible on my flux core welder. This is not a cosmetic project, anyway. But, my flux core welder will dig through old paint and a bit of dirt to make a weld whereas the metal would need to be bright and clean for a MIG welder to work.

Drill screw holes in the tabs on the straps. Attach the guard to the trouble light when finished with the all of the welding.

Step 6: The Main Part of the Guard

I measured half of the circumference of the discs and found it to be right at 6 inches. The old guard is about 5 inches high. I cut a rectangle of sheet metal 5 x 6 inches and bent it to a half pipe to fit the discs. I did not have a pipe about 4 inches in diameter and just made a series of crimps in my vise to get as close as I could. Then I began tack welding the main part of the body to the disc at the base of the guard. This allowed me to pull the main part into place so it fit the disc before each weld.

Step 7: Weld the Top Disc in Place

Use the same process to weld the top disc into place.

Step 8: Solving One Irritation

The grill on trouble light guards is designed to open so it is easy to replace the bulb. The hinge system is usually a weak spot. Any bend to the guard causes the grill not to fit as it originally did. I decided I could weld a permanent grill in place, but plan the spacing of its parts so that I can still change the bulb easily. I positioned the rods for the grill so I can easily screw in a light bulb without removing or opening anything. Yet, the bulb is well protected when the light rolls around on the concrete floor.

Step 9: Solving Another Irritation

As I mentioned earlier, the swivel hook on my light's original guard does not always stay where I want it, and the light twists to one side or the other rather than shining on my work. I wanted a way of turning the hook so it stays in place. I decided to weld a hook I made to the back of an old speaker magnet. I can position the magnet wherever I want it, and it stays in place, even when the cord has a twist in it.

This magnet makes my trouble light a little top heavy, but I can easily remove the magnet and hook when I do not need to hang the light from anything.

One additional thing--A trouble light takes some bumps and jarrings. A rough service bulb costs very little more, but lasts so much longer.



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    22 Discussions


    1 year ago

    If you like, you could try what I just made. I bent a steel rod into a hook shape, threaded one inch of the straight end, put a locknut and a flat washer on the inside of the cage top, then a flat washer and a wingnut on the outside of the cage. When you turn the light to where you want, tighten the wingnut and there you go, all set. For those of us whose eyesight is not so good anymore, get a pair of dollar store reading glasses and slip them over top/in front of your regular glasses and your vision will be good for close up work again. It won't be good for more than a foot or so. Just don't walk around with them on as you won't be able to see.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Nice job. You protected the bulb, now protect yourself. Adding a piece of aluminum foil behind the bulb will keep the metal cover cool so you don't burn yourself. Nearly all my car buddies have burned themselves some time or another, and I still have a burn scar on my arm from 20 years ago. The aluminum foil will also reflect more light.

    2 replies
    Phil Bgraydog111

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you for your concern born of personal experience. I may use some sheet aluminum and mount it with an airspace for insulating value. So far, I have always reached for the handle rather than the shield.

    graydog111Phil B

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    The problem is not "reaching for the handle", it is brushing your forearm against the shied while reaching into a tight place, like down to air conditioner or alternator on one of these newer cars where there is not much room. Mine was at least a second degree burn. Foil makes a tremendous difference.


    7 years ago on Step 9

    Great I-ble, fair warning to allow bulb change ... very ingenious hook widget
    Bill Drissel

    1 reply

    Another excellent instructable from you my friend.
    I was just wondering if the inside had a more reflecting surface if that would have helped in any way, and maybe a low energy saving bulb.
    Normally I don’t work with metal, but I was thinking how this could be done with wood which will be also more heat resistance. Just saying... like the challenge :)))

    1 reply

    Thank you, Steli. I think it could be done with wood. My suggestion would be to make the wood guard a little oversize. Then get some sheet aluminum of a thin gauge, perhaps even from a soft drink or beer can. Mount it inside the guard as a reflector, but use spacers, like washers, to hold it off of the wooden surface about 5mm. Broad head screws could hold the aluminum and the washers to the wood. That would insulate the wood from the heat of the bulb and would also provide a reflector for more and better light.

    Phil Bprestux

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you. I expect something LED could be added. Because LEDs are pretty durable, the sturdy guard could be pared down.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Nice one, Phil!
    My trouble light guard has seen some better days, it's never been the same since it was backed over with a car I was working on

    1 reply

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Good work, Phil. I have still one of these work lamp, all yellow plastic. The worst thing of it was the switch, I had to change it. Then I added a reflector behind the bulb, that improved it a lot.

    1 reply
    Phil Brimar2000

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    My switch is still good after all these years. I cannot imagine using one of these without a reflector. It would be very distracting and annoying.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    For those of us who do not have welding equip. I would guess soldering with a big iron or plumbing torch would also work ( on steel ). Use an acid or similiar flux ( plumbing probably ok ) and wash off at the end.

    1 reply
    Phil Bruss_hensel

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you for mentioning that. I thought a little about someone who does not have welding equipment or a friend who welds. I probably would use pop rivets in that situation. Pop rivets would require leaving some tabs to fold down for drilling a hole through both pieces to be joined. Soldering would require galvanized sheet metal as the metal used.