The I Hate Halogen Light




I work in construction and often need a work light. I tried using those cheap work lights with aluminum shades, using 200 watt bulbs or rough service 150 watt bulbs, but 200 watt bulbs and rough service bulbs are expensive, and rough service obviously means something different to the people who make them, as dropping the light from a height of one inch will often break the filament. Either kind of incandescent bulb will shatter if you drop water or spackle on it when it is hot.
Occasionally I would buy a halogen light, but they get dangerously hot, are inconvenient to move, especially from stilts, and I could never get them to work again after the bulbs burn out, after all the trouble of taking it apart, replacing the bulb without touching the new one, and putting it all back together.
My solution after several attempts is the I Hate Halogen Light, A.K.A The Photon Torpedo or the Bucket o' Photons.
First I tried putting one of the aluminum shaded lights in a five gallon plastic bucket, cutting the bottom partially out until the light fit down into it snugly, wiring it in place and attaching a stick to the side to set it down and move it around while on stilts.
This was pretty good, but the bulb was still vulnerable, so next I tried wiring the light in the bottom of the bucket as before, and cutting the bottom out of another bucket and jamming it snugly onto the first as a kind of shade and protector to the bulb, using the existing handle in place of the stick. Better, but then I thought, "Why not use the better properties of the new fluorescent bulbs to improve your light?" Hence....

Step 1: Items Needed

2 - 5 gallon plastic buckets
3- cheap bulb fixtures
1- electrical cord
Wire nuts and/or epoxy putty
3 new-type spiral fluorescent bulbs
Various epoxy, epoxy putty, hardware, junk box odds and ends
utility knife or fine saw
drill or poker of some kind
Caulk and caulk gun

Step 2: Place the Fixtures

Remove the handle from one of the buckets with pliers and place it on the floor bottom up and find and mark the appropriate position for the fixtures so that the wires can be put through to the inside of the bucket and attached together inside. Drill or punch holes for the wires and push them through. Drill holes for the bolts or screws holding down the fixtures. ( I used a screw gun, drywall screws and covered them with epoxy putty for nuts and epoxied the fixtures down too.) Take a short piece of wire (less than a foot long) with a plug attached and wire all the white wires to one wire of the plug and all the black wires to the other,( Twist them tightly to avoid loosening or arcing) This is so that if one bulb goes out the other two will still work. I'm sure most of you know this is called a parallel circuit but it resembles an octopus more than anything parallel I've ever seen. Attach them together tightly with wire nuts or epoxy putty

Step 3: Make the Shade

Cut the bottom off the other bucket, including about 2 inches of the wall, leaving the handle on. After everything sets up, jam the shade bucket over the bucket on the floor until it reaches a point where the bulbs are recessed, but high enough inside the bucket for your purposes. It can be epoxied also when you are sure it is to your liking. To avoid dust collecting, fill the crack where the buckets meet on the top side with caulk.

Step 4: Avoiding Trouble

Cut a hole in the side of the bottom bucket large enough to insert the end of an extension cord through. Plugging it in inside the bucket and securing it well will avoid unplugging it when it is least convenient. Attach next to the hole some type of arrangement, made from your favorite junk, to clamp your extension cord to the inside of the bucket. I used a wing nut, a bolt and random piece of plastic for this.

Step 5: Light Up Your Life

Install 3 spiral fluorescent bulbs, the supposed equivalent of 100 watts each being the most you should use I think. ( I'm certainly no electrician but so far 23 watts each or 69 watts has caused no smoke or fires. I wouldn't leave it on forever or unattended. Anyone has any safety suggestions please share them!) Insert your extension cord through the hole, clamp it down and plug it in. (Plug in the other end too when you are ready!)

Step 6: Room for Improvement

Finally thought of and executed ways to decrease the bulk and weight of the light. First, I cut a five gallon plastic bucket about 2 inches off the bottom , turned the bottom around and inserted it into the bottom of the cut bucket, pushing it up about 3 inches and pop riveting and hot gluing it to make the underside deep enough to hold the wires. Then I cut holes (very tightly measured) and attached rubber bulb sockets to the bottom of the bucket, wiring it as before in parallel, (all white together and to one wire of your salvaged vacuum cord and all black together and to the other wire of the cord.) Twist the white wires tightly and the black wires tightly and cover with some kind of epoxy putty for insulation and hot glue the sockets and wires in place. Don't have pix of this one, but I bought a THREE gallon bucket and made one even smaller, pix above. Now I can't reach it off stilts when it's on the ground, but it's always something isn't it.



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    10 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    An interesting concept. I'm thinking a few tweaks could be done to make this even more useful. Though none in the comments I've seen so far.

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    More recently I took a 3 gallon bucket (actually had to buy that one) cut the bottom off, turned it around and reattached it to make room for the wires. Wired 3 rubbery light fixtures into it and attached an old vacuum wire to it. Just as bright and much lighter, tho it is harder to reach off stilts. Pix to follow.

    Great idea, but I would add a screen to the top opening so any debris doesn't collect around the bulbs. Also, for those who are too hesitant to try re-wiring the lights, plug the sockets into a cube-tap then run it out to the extension cord.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    This is great! I think the fourth image in the first step might make a more compelling lead intro image!


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Put a lid on the bottom too. You could use a longer cord and coil it in the base. Just cut like a 3" or 4" hole in the center so you can reach in and grab the plug. Only pull out what you need as you need it.


    Great Idea! You can get CFLs in several different color temperatures or shades. Bright white would probably be the brightest and best for color matching. I wouldn't worry about it overheating. CFLs don't put out as much heat as their equivalent incandescent bulbs. The only problem with heat build up may be with the ballast. It would just shorten the life of the bulb, 3 years instead of 5. You could probably even go bigger with like a 150W. 150W is almost double the lumens output of a 100W.


    7 years ago on Step 5

    This is a great idea for general work lights, but seems like a lot of stuff to lug around. I can see the need for such a light for projects such as painting, but wouldn't the flat light from flourescents be difficult to work with? Don't halogens show flaws better.

    Good instructable,

    I myself use a LED headlamp. Much lighter and easy to carry around. Try it!

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Step 5

    It is kind of bulky but it's lightweight and a convenient design for working and carrying around at the same time