Introduction: TubeLamp

This is a full, 9-bulb version that is very close to the $225 original but at a much lower cost. The goal was quality - using a bakelite box, mirrored acrylic lid, gold screws, and chrome controls - yet keeping cost under control, using plastic sockets instead of porcelain, and a cheap but functional dimmer.

Special thanks to the Mad SCientist Tubelamp author and the guys that responded with their own projects. I am posting this separately, because the "Mad Scientist" project went for the antique look and used 4 bulbs. This is an attemp to use the same modern look that the original has. It was quite a challenge, particularly in finding the right components. If you need more details, check out the Full Tubelamp DIY on my website. It has the same DIY as here but is much more detailed with tons of additional pics.

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Step 1: Materials (1 of 2)

The materials needed are as follows:

The Box - from - make sure to select the one marked "(ENC) CASE-KS12". It is a black bakelite shiny box 6-1/2" x 5" - $5

Mirrored Acrylic - 2 x 2 foot piece is $27 (enough for 12 TubeLamp tops - each top is 6-1/2" x 5" - $27

Socket Button-Head Screws - part #10495, 6-32 threadsize, 1/4" long - 11 cents apiece

Duplicolor Gold Paint - $5

Lamp Cord w/wall plug and pigtails. Or just strip a cheap extension cord. $3

Sockets - Black Plastic, from SurplusSales - only $7.50 for 10

Step 2: Materials (2 of 2)

Liquid Electrical Tape - great stuff - it will insulate anything and it dries fast - $8

2-part Epoxy - this is the true "permanent" epoxy which requires 30-min to dry - not the 5-min type that does not hold as well

ON/OFF Switch - Ancor 555700 - you MUST use a soft-switch or else your Toggle switch will lift the unit in the air when you try to flip it !! I tried several and all had stiff resistances except the Ancor switch - $12

Dimmer Core - this is a Phillips In-Line Dimmer. You just pop open the shell and use the core. The dimmer is 300 watts, which will handle being turned up all the way (nine 25 watt bulbs at full power = 225 watts) - $8

Knurled Chrome Guitar Knob - this one is from Has-Sound for $8

The all-important, Bulbs !!!
Let me clarify something - the Phillips 373944 has repeatedly been recommended - it oes not exist anymore, but has been replaced by the same bulb, different number - it is the Phillips 138131. I purchased at least 10 different 25W T10 bulbs, and compared them, and even called several bulb companies !! Here are the top 3 in my opinion:

Phillips 138131 - the best buy - these bulbs were used here, from for just $1.79 each. BUT the filaments run a bit high in the bulb leaving about an inch at the bottom without filament. No one else will notice, but you will.

GE 90905 - the best bulb available !! It's filament is longer than all the rest, but still not as long as I was hoping for. Unfortunately it is very expensive at #3.79 a pop.

Sylvania 25T10/CL/BL/6PK - the "happy medium" and the recommended bulb - this bulb is priced reasonably at $14.40 for a 6-pack, and their fimanents are nicely centered, leaving a half-inch space at top and bottom.

NOTE: I have yet to find the Taiwan bulbs from National Aircraft, that were used in the original TubeLamp, and that are the ones used for the pics use by Willmore. They span almost the entire bulb - and believe me I have looked !! Even Willmore stopped using them according to his website (he got a bad batch).

Step 3: Colored Acrylic Mirror for the Lid (optional)

Delvie's Plastics is the only acrylic vendor I have found that carries colored acrylic mirror. It is fantastic stuff because the mirrored surface makes it appear to have an incredible shine to it.

Looking at the top view of Willmore's original TubeLamp - it appears as if the mirror has a gold hue to it. It might be the reflected light from the bulbs - but I think he may actually have used Gold or Bronze acrylic mirror, which I may try on my next unit. Or as a radical twist, I may even use something "really different" like blue mirror.

Step 4: Cutting the Mirror - 1

For this step you can cut the acrylic with a saw - but it is very difficult to get a decent cut. The only way to get a really nice edge is by laser, router, or scoring. The only inexpensive way is to score the acrylic and then break it. If done right you will get an amazingly straight, clean edge !!

Draw an edge, and as shown, clamp in place on a desk edge using two large C clamps and a 2x4 board. You can buy a great heavy-duty scoring razor from or if you must, use a utility knife. Score lightly several times, then score heavily several times. The goal is to get a small incision running the length of the line that you drew. It does not take much but you definitely need to score several times at a minimum and make sure to finish with some hard, deep scores. ALWAYS SCORE ALONG A STRAIGHT EDGE !!!

Step 5: Cutting the Mirror - 2

Now that you have a nice score, hold the piece evenly with your palm, press down a couple of inches to get the feel of the bend - soprt of like a golder doing practice swings - then suddenly and completely with NO hesitation, push down and through - snapping the piece off at the score. You will hear a solid "POP" - then check the edge, and if it has any rough areas (a rarity) - sand it a bit.

Step 6: Admire Your Work !!

Shine the mirror with a cloth and place the piece into the box. If you scored it at exactly 6.5" x 5" - then it will fit exactly !! If too small then you must re-do the piece. If it is a tad too big - you can easily sand down the edges with a belt sander - of use a manual block sander. Take a minute to admire your work, because the first time you successfully score and break straight edges of acrylic - for some reason it gives you a great feeling !!

Step 7: Template for Cutting Holes in the Mirror

You can use a ruler but it is very difficult to get the measurements excatly right. I made an exact template using Photoshop, that will print out at exactly 6.5" x 5" and you can use it as an overlay on the mirror to mark it before drilling the holes. The image is shown below - just right-click and save it - then Print it out. Black holes are where you will make your starter holes for the Hole Drill bits. Green holes are for the eight screws. More on the holes later . . .

Step 8: Prep the Mirror

Take the template that you just printed out - and using a punch or small scissors, cut the nine, small black holes. Then lay the template on the back of the acrylic mirror - and using a Sharpie or a pencil - mark nine dots using the nine holes.

Step 9: Setup Your Drill Station

Get some thick styrofoam, available from Arts and Crafts stores - or if you must you can use wood, and just keep drilling down into the same hole to make life easier. You also need a 1-1/8" hole drill bit - they are kind of hard to find - the best thing is to invest in a kit and make sure it includes that size.

You will want to drill the holes from the back (the grey side) - as you can see below if you drill directly into the mirrored side there is a lot of cleanup to do on that side. The entrance has the most damage !!

Step 10: Drill the Holes

Drill carefully to start - to make sure the holes are accurate - then press down firmly as you drive down through the acrylic material. Do not go slow !! Acrylic melts and that will result in poor edges. After finishing, clean the holes using your thumbnail for the rough stuff, and then sandpaper to get a nice edge. The results right after drilling - and the final result after cleaning up the holes and sanding, are shown below.

Step 11: Ring Spacers

Ring spacers offer a way that you can firmly hold the bulbs to the sockets, with the mirror in between - an have NO slack !! This means you need no support structure underneath, and you do not need to glue the sockets to the underside of the mirror.

See the steps listed in the picture below to make nine acrylic rings, using 1/8" acrylic scrap (on new if you have no scrap).

The next pic shows how the rings will solidify the socket, mirror, and bulb when you screw down the bulb tightly. Without the rings, the socket and bulb will be loose even when screwed in tightly - the rings make them "grab" the mirror sirface and clamp it.

The last pic shows the rings after they have been glued to the sockets using Epoxy. This way - if a socket goes bad you can still dissasemble the unit completely.

IMPORTANT - you may wish to skip this step and go ahead and glue the sockets directly to the bottom of the mirror, because this step requires two hole cutter bits and extra acrylic. BUT the problem is it will be very hard to replace a socket should one go bad !! So you might want to use non-permanent glue instead of epoxy !!

Step 12: Make Room for the Dimmer

This project box has very tight spacing - which in a way adds to the appeal. There just isn't enough space between the two sockets in the front right side to allow for the dimmer. The fix seems radical but I found it took literally about 5 minutes to cut a space out of two sockets. Just take a dremal sand cutting wheel and on medium speed, cut two vertical slots about 1/2" apart, and then one hrizontal slot - then the piece will either drop out or you can easily pull it out.

Now you have a problem - exposed metal !! Again an easy fix (see the 2nd pic below). Wrap the dimmer in electrical tape, and paint the bare metal on the two sockets with one coat of Liquid Electrical Tape (how I love that stuff !!).

Step 13: Paint the Screws Gold

This is an optional step - and is one I added that needs to be done if you want your TubeLamp to look like the original. The orig used Gold Socket Button Screws, which I could not find in the right size (6-32). So I bought 6-32, 1/4" Socket Button Screws from Boltdepot (see the Materials pages) and painted them with 2 coats. I simply screwed them by hand part-way into that styrofoam that I used for drilling the holes, to hold them in place, and painted the heads - only the heads since that is all that shows. They did not turn out as shiny as the orig but they still look very nice (see the 2nd pic which has the Gold painted screws mounted).

Step 14: Insert the 8 Screws

You can use a drill or dremel for the holes - I used a dremel. There are two set of screws:

4 "show screws" - these are the inner screws. They do not connect to anything other than the mirror. They are just "for show". Make these holes slightly small than the screw diameters so that they go in tight and stay in. If you accidently make the holes too big, use epoxy to secure the screws.

4 "anchor screws" - these are the outer screws. They connect to the 4 inserts in the corner of the box and they are the main supports for everything. The mirror is stiff enough so that it will not bend or bow - even though there is no supports in the center. Make the holes for these the same size as the screw diameters.

Now screw in all 8 screws to make sure all is well. Then leave the show svrews in place and remove the anchor screws so you can stil get into the box (they will be re-inserted at the end).

Step 15: Install ON/OFF Switch and Dimmer

Use a ruler and take somw "White'Out" or any bright paint. Measure as shown below and two small dots. Use a drill to make a 1/2" hole on the left for the ON/OFF switch, and a 1/3" hole on the right for the Dimmer. Then remove the hex mounting screw from both shafts, insert the devices from the inside of the box sticking out - and tighten them down with the hex nuts.

NOTE: for the Dimmer, I used my own stock of large Chrome Receiver knobs with set screw. You can either use the Chrome Guitar Knob from the link on the Materials page - or use your own knob. However, since it is a black background, this just cries out for CHROME !!!!!

Step 16: Screw in the Bulbs !!

One at a time, hold the socket behinf the mirror, push a bulb through the hole and screw it into the socket. If you used the rings then the fit will be tight. Leave the wire leads long for now. The picture below is just a sample pic using some scrap acrylic to show you how the fit should be - nice and snug. In addition the bulb should stick up very straight.

IMPORTANT: You may have noticed on the main pic at the beginning - that in my case some of the bulbs were just a tad crooked. I attribute that to the cheap sockets - not the acrylic rings. There is a simple fix that I have since done - just fold a small piece of paper over several times, creating small "shims", and insert them under one side, between the socket ring and the back of the mirror. Use trial and error until all bulbs are aligned perfectly - and you're DONE !!

Step 17: Wire It Up, Screw on the Lid, and Test !!

You will have a bunch of long leads hanging down from the sockets - they have to be cut down to or else you will never get the top on - I cut them to about 5 inches. Follow the schematic show below and use Wire Nuts to hold the wires together. You can solder if you like but Wire Nuts will allow easy dissasembly should you need to repair anything later.

Carefully solder the wires onto the ON/Off switch and dimmer as shown in the 2nd picture. Then drill a small 1/4" hole in the back as shown, and feed in your lamp cord, and solder it into place. Optionally you can use a ribber grommet for the back hole.

Once all wiring is done - screw the top down using the four anchor screws. Now you are ready - TEST THE UNIT !!! Turn the dimmer all the way down, then flip the switch on. Now gradually turn up the dimmer and make sure the bulbs go from Off to full On . . . gradually. If the dimmer ever goes out you can fix it 99% of the time by soldering in a new Triac which costs about a buck.

Step 18: The Final Product

DONE - whew !! If you need more info - here is a much more detailed work log on my ownm site. Even though I had a pic of the original Nik Willmore TubeLamp and great tips from the Mad Scientist DIY, this ended up being a very long, detailed project. But the resulting unit has a professional, polished look - and you will be very happy with it. This is sitting on my kitchen Table and everyone who visits loves it.

NOTE: the preferred dimmer setting is that of a warm, golden glow, but feel free to crank it (although at max brightness it blinds you). Don't worry about cranking it up, because 9 bulbs x 25 watts = 225 watts max, and the dimmer is a 300-watt unit.

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    12 Discussions


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    good innovation .. should be safe to use ..
    working with lamps .. author should have use some safety measures rest is great
    event management


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Why nobody used a Halogen 1000w bulb dimmed to only 40w or less?? the filament starts on the upset and overs in the botton... is perfect for this use!

    Double End Halogen Group Soft Edge.jpg

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    It looks modern. Steampunk needs to look old, and the first lightbulbs looked similar to the bulbs used in this project.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    Hehe.... I get to see this every time I fire up my RL Drake C-Line :p


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    They are two very different Instructables.


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    different yes but the outcome is the same


    12 years ago on Introduction

    hi, great instructable.. just a quick question... wy did the original tubelamp have a heatsink (i assume it's part of the dimmer?)


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    I am not cartain, but it sure looks like heat sink fins in the back. Maybe that is in case the owner sticks in 40 or 60 watt bulbs.