UFO Light




About: I've built houses, decks, custom cabinets, furniture of all types. Ive done furniture repair and restoration, residential and commercial remodels, restaurant seating and tables and hotel furniture. Ive been ...

This little novelty UFO light is sure to get a lot of attention! This is a UFO desk/table lamp. Made on the lathe from Walnut, Maple and Oak. It has 8 LED's around the perimeter of the disk. The LED's came from hacking up a dollar store flash-light. I used the switch as well, from the flashlight. I used an old cell phone battery to power the unit. and The Universal charger I won from the Green design contest has charged it successfully! Thanks instructables I really like that handy little device.

As far as my electrical knowledge goes, I can wire a house, do minute repairs on automobiles. I really and truly know nothing about electronics and circuits and boards, so please forgive my crude electrical work, terminology and soldering skills.

Step 1: Grab Some Wood!

I had to glue up some stock to make the blanks for this UFO. The saucer disk blank should be 9"x9"x1" and the cockpit should be about 4"x4"x3".
The saucer disk will be attached to the lathe using the worm drive screw. The cockpit will be mounted to the 3" face-plate.

Step 2: Mark Center and Prepare the Blanks for the Lathe

Using the angle square, mark centers on one side of each blank.
On the saucer section, drill a hole in the center of the blank all the way through. Use the proper size bit for your worm screw.
On the cockpit section mount the faceplate. I placed the faceplate centered on the blank and looked into each screw hole to alighn the drawn line center in the holes. then center punch them to create divots. I then pre-drilled the marks about 1/2" deep. then using 1" wood screws, install the face-plate to the blank.
Moving on.

Step 3: Round the Cockpit and Prepare to Marry It to the Saucer

Now, I rough rounded the cock-pit and flattened the bottom, in preparation to glue it to the saucer section.

Step 4: Prepare the Saucer Section for the Cockpit

Now its time to work on the saucer section of the UFO.
Before you mount it to the lathe we need to cut the grooves for the landing gear.
I installed the 1/2" dado stack on the table-saw and simply cut two grooves centered and perpendicular to one-another.
Now we can install it on the lathe and rough it in preparation for the cockpit.
Install the worm screw in your chuck and then screw on the saucer section with the grooves facing the tail-stock.
rough turn it round and then move your tool-rest to the face side and flatten the bottom. at this point, I gave the saucer bottom a slight curve as pictured
I also cut the battery compartment/chuck recess.

This block of wood was giving me a lot of issues with tear-out. I saw tiny stress cracks so I decided to stabilize the grain with some sanding sealer. This stiffens the grain fibers that are loose and allows you to get a much cleaner finish cut.
I then removed the saucer from the worm screw and then flipped it around to mount it with the top facing the tail-stock.

Step 5: Drill the LED Holes

I have 24 index points on my lathe. I wanted 8 LED's around it. doing some quick math in my head I figured out that every 3rd index point will get a mark to drill the hole. That will give me 8 evenly spaced holes around the perimeter of the saucer.
Next, Move your tool-rest to the faceplate side and flatten and smooth the top of the saucer . I also sanded with 80 grit sandpaper.

Step 6: Marry the Cockpit to the Saucer

Now grab the cockpit and run a bead of glue around the perimeter of the bottom. Then using the tail-stock, hold it in place centered with the saucer section. Let it dry for a couple hours.
Now you can remove the faceplate from the cockpit.
Next I cut the top of the cockpit to get it to the rough size I was looking for. (What looks best)

Then finish cut and sand the cockpit and saucer section.
I then applied 2 coats of tung oil. and sanded it with micro-mesh.

Step 7: Make Some Landing Gear

Now we need to make the legs for the UFO. I used 1/2" thick red oak.
I first made a small template for the landing gear. This was simply drawn by hand and then cut and sanded. I also placed three tiny holes to allow me to transfer the hole location to the legs.

I then cut the legs to 2"x1.5". Then transfer the template shape and hole locations to each leg and cut them out with a bandsaw or a scroll saw. Then drill the holes on the legs.
Finish sand the landing gear. Once that's done, I used a small brush and brushed the landing gear holes with tung oil.
Then, using yellow wood glue, I glued the gear to the saucer assembly.

Step 8: Wire and Install the LEDs

I had an old dollar store flashlight that had 9 bright LED's in it. I took it apart and de-soldered each LED to remove it from the circuit board assembly.
I had some old CAT 5 cable on hand for the wires. I just needed to solder the LED's to the twisted pairs.
When looking at the LED's the smaller point (inside the LED) is the positive (I think). Either way. while you are soldering the wires to the LEDs, make sure you keep the correct wire to the same point on each LED.
I found a small Jacobs chuck that held the LED tightly while I soldered the wires to the tiny exposed posts on the LEDs. This actually worked quite well, I had them all soldered in about 30 minutes.
I checked each LED wire assembly with the battery to make sure they all worked before installing them to the UFO. Even then, I still had one that went bad after installation. So check each bulb before installing them in the UFO.

Once you checked them all, Its time to install them. Install each LED and wire into the holes around the saucer and bend the wire up in the center.
Next, un-twist the wires and separate them. Group the white stripes together and the solid colors together, strip them and twist the grouped colors together. Make sure you test them again before soldering them together.
Once they are tested, solder all the wires together. as well as a single wire for the lead for connection to the battery.
solder connecting wires to the battery and connect the switch.
Now, stuff all the wires and the battery into the chuck recess/battery compartment. I used a 1/4" piece of plywood to act as a compartment cover and a single screw to hold it closed.

Now you have an almost finished lighted UFO. Its time to spray the top-coat.
I sprayed it with Polycrylic semi-gloss top-coat. 3 coats with micro-mesh sanding in-between and finally polished by hand with wax.

This little thing turned out pretty cool. And a lot brighter than I though it would be.
I think a little light sensor to turn it on and off would be a very nice addition to this piece.
When my son saw it he said "This is out of this world" LOL

Thanks for looking!



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    20 Discussions


    you can get a used one pretty cheap... keep your eyes peeled on craigs list. the wood lathes sell as quick as they are posted. :)

    This is just awesome :). What a beautiful curvy thing :). One small suggestion. Instead of open LEDs, there can be a engraved lining around the edges where you can tuck the LED strip lights and then cover the lining with may a plastic strip or something, so that the light looks soothing.

    1 reply

    lol we think alike! I was already looking at ways to make a new better design. and this was one of my concerns. :)
    Thanks Tarun

    LOL I rummaged through my daughters "little people" crate to try to find a cow. lol
    But its funny you said that, I am trying to figure out a way to put a window on the cockpit with a little alien head and make it lit up as well. I'm thinking an old watch bezel would work.


    5 years ago

    oh by the way that is some Harry arms you got there on "Step 6", might want to get that looked at. :)

    1 reply

    5 years ago

    love the work you did. I would not worry about a cockpit. love it the way it is. maybe an alien standing next to it would be cool.

    1 reply