Steampunk Box Lamp




This is my first Instructable, so I apologize in advance for any omissions, typos, etc, etc, etc.* I actually found Instructables when I started looking into various steampunk projects to cobble together. One of the first projects I took a shine to (punny) was Admiral Ravensdale's Expedition Light. Horatious Steam also has something quite similar.  I decided to make something in the same vein, but hopefully my changes are unique enough to warrant your attention.

You will need:
~ A small wooden box
~ 5-6 LED lights (your choice of specs)
~ A casing for the LEDs
~ A transparent cover for the LEDs
~ Electrical wire (LEDs use so little power the gauge almost doesn't matter)
~ Paracord
~ A thin piece of wood to cover the electronic components
~ A lever switch (Radio Shack or Fry's will have what you need)
~ A piece of leather to cover up the lever switch
~ 9 volt battery
~ Resistors

~ Copper Wire/Rod for embellishments (16-14 gauge).
~ New hardware if you don't like what came with your box (I didn't).
~ Approx. 2x2 copper sheet (for "reflector" plate)
~ Sandpaper (for distressing)
~ Wood stain (for when you over-distressed and to cover any modifications to the box)

* I also apologize for the picture quality. Both of my digital cameras are being... difficult... right now, so my cell phone was the only option. thanks for understanding.

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: Find a Box.

The first thing we'll do is find a suitable box (try your local craft store). You probably need an internal size of at least 2" in each direction to fit all the components, but modifications could easily be made. I didn't like the fittings mine came with, so picked up some more at the same craft store. I also wanted my box to have more of a weathered look, so I attacked it with some fine grit sandpaper. I used 400 grit simply because it was handy and I didn't need to remove much of the finish. Now, let's find the next pieces....

Step 2: Make a Lens.

We want to find a lens to cover up those LEDs so our lamp/lantern doesn't look so modern. I used the packaging from a router bit. There's about a thousand other things that might also work (part of a plastic bottle, the container from cheap vending machine toys, etc).

Currently, our lens is too clear to hide much of anything, so we want to use a very fine grit sandpaper to make it a bit cloudy. This will also serve to diffuse the light, since LEDs tend to have a very narrow beam. I started off using a pretty course grit and wasn't very happy with the result; so, I suggest trying higher grit (400-600), and working down from there.

Step 3: What Do We Put the LEDs In?

Let's go find a housing for all our lighting components. I would have loved to use a nice piece of brass, but found nothing prefabricated, and making one would be a bit more complicated than my time constraints for this project would allow. While thinking about my conundrum, I got some juice. Oh look...

Wow, that juice lid is perfect. I drilled some holes so the leads of the LEDs could stick out the back. A little brass paint and I think we have a winner. I was lucky enough that the lens fit snugly inside the lid, but trimming would be easy if necessary.

Step 4: "Reflector" Dish.

LEDs are largely mono-directional. They do have a bit of spread, but it's usually 10-30 degrees (some are larger, though). That being said, it didn't feel right not having a reflector plate, and it gives a nice metallic shine behind the lens when the light is off. So, here's what I did...

I took approximately a 2"x2" copper square (18g) and dished it out. Dishing is a fancy way of saying that I pounded it with a hammer until I got a nice even curve. Dishing/raising is a very involved method of metalwork that yields really nifty results, but is a bit beyond the scope of this instructable (here's where you go look it up and enjoy the awesomeness).

To keep it in the family, here's a nice instructable about dishing here.

Oh good, you're back! We then measure a circle (probably a 2" diameter, but I don't know what your juice lid (or other thing) looks like, so use your best judgement. Now, we drill some holes for our LED holders to fit into. Paint the LED holders so they're less obvious through the lens. One more thing before we insert them... polishing. A dremel tool and felt bit work wonders for this.

See the last picture? Look at that shine!

Step 5: Some Assembly Required...

Okay, here are all these pieces assembled (sorry for the blurry picture). Adding the lens completes the look.

Once I had this portion put together, it looked a little bland. So, I soldered up a little cage with copper wire... and voile'. That looks much better!

I chose to pressure fit this into the top of the box, that way it's simple to remove if I need to mess with wires or change out an LED. Just trim the edges of the plastic cap where it comes into contact with the lid until it fits into it with just a bit of pressure.

Depending on the box and plastic-lid-light-housing-thingy you went with, you may need to trim the inside of the box a little bit to close it. Grab your handy dremel or wood rasp and go for it (you'll probably want to re-stain wherever you trim).

Step 6: Wire It Up.

Okay, let's wire up those LEDs. This is just a quick overview; there's about a zillion websites online that map simple LED circuits and tell you what resistors you need. A quick internet search should yield plenty of results.

After I had the whole thing put together, the LEDs still looked too much like... well.... LEDs. So, I decided to add another one right in the middle to help merge those dots of light together. It changed my circuit up a bit, but not too drastically. I only mention this so you'll pay close attention to LED spacing.

The wires are a relatively thin gauge that you can cannibalize from almost any electronic item. I removed the central strands from some paracord and inserted the wires in place of them for that cool, turn-of-the-century look.

Note: I took this picture before I changed the wiring. The final result has the resistors beneath a false bottom in the box. 

Step 7: Finishing Touches.

Here are the final few steps....

Wire a lever switch into the circuit. This is very simple; there are numerous instructions on the web about how to do it (Admiral Ravensdale also used one in his expedition light). A lever switch is always in the "ON" position, unless the lever is held down by something. In this case, you just adjust the height of the switch so the lens presses it down.

Now, take a square piece of wood the exact interior dimensions of your box, cut a big enough circle for the lens to fit down into, and cover it with leather using contact cement or something similar. By covering up all the modern electronics, we get a much cleaner look.

On to the embellishment process. I made four copper coils by wrapping wire around a dowel and stuck them in each corner (they also serve as handles to get the false bottom out). You'll want to dye the leather, and add some more bits and bobs to the outside of the box. I opted for a very simple look. It appears to be nothing more than an ordinary jewelry box when closed, but I may add more in the future (I'll add pics if I do).

Alright, that was my first Instructable! I hope it was a good read. If you have some constructive criticism for me, please post below (it's much appreciated). If you have any questions, please do the same. Thanks all!

Father's Day Contest

Participated in the
Father's Day Contest

Epilog Challenge V

Participated in the
Epilog Challenge V

Battery Powered Contest

Participated in the
Battery Powered Contest



  • Indoor Lighting Contest

    Indoor Lighting Contest
  • Make It Fly Challenge

    Make It Fly Challenge
  • Growing Beyond Earth Maker Contest

    Growing Beyond Earth Maker Contest

21 Discussions


5 years ago on Step 7

Interesting project that like most good instructables, spawns many new ideas and extensions on this theme of steampunk lights.

Winged Fist

6 years ago on Introduction

Great looking steampunk lamp, and really well documented first 'ible! 

One stylistic suggestion, just a minor thing... It's great that you give credit in your intro, and I always try to do the same when inspired by others. But just to make it a bit neater and easier to read, I would suggest adding a hyper link to the names of the projects (using the "link" tool which looks like a globe with a chain) rather than spelling out the whole url.

Like this: Admiral Ravensdale's Expedition Light

Looking forward to seeing future projects;-) And welcome to the steampunk light maker's community here on Instructables;-)

2 replies

WOW, thank you for naming me! This is a very nice SP project.

*make a bow*

Horatius steam

Fantastic! I like the great Steampunk look of your light – very well done!! Thanks for sharing. It will be on my Todo list…
Greetings from Switzerland
The Chocolatist

1 reply

Very well done sir! I had not seen these box lights before and being a bit of a steampunk fan they are right in line with my tastes. I will be attempting something similar in the future. Thank you for a well thought out Instructable.

I like this but you didn't put in the link when you mentioned about checking out about dishing in step 4 which would be really handy as you already know about it. I know we could search but.......

1 reply

6 years ago

Thanks for posting I like the unique nature of your light it's fun and has a real steam punk flavor
I hope you will post more projects

1 reply

Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

I actually tried that, but I didn't like the outcome. It diffused the light too much, so the LEDs were obviously separate points of light... ruined the look. The whole point was to get them to blend together and seem like a single, larger point of light. That being said, I encourage other people to try diffused LEDs; they might like the effect better.