Introduction: DIY USB LED Lantern

About: I just like to make stuff.

Turn an old junk (or new) lantern into a nice  multi purpose light.
Looks nice on your desk or hanging in your room or perhaps a camping trip. As it USB powered it has limits, However this can also be made to be powered by  a few AA or AAA battery's and cell phone battery 3.7 volt lithium really lights these lights up good. So there are a few ways to power this device its up to you. As you can see this lantern does not have the correct globe,  or any globe for that matter so I had to come up with something and make my own globe which made this build more fun for me. I hope you all enjoy it.

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Step 1: Tools and Parts

1. Butane torch.
2. Needle nose & regular pliers.
3. Exacto knife.
4. Wire strippers.
5. Soldering iron flux & solder.
6. Small flat head &  #1 phillips screwdrivers.
7. Tin snips.
8. Hemostats.
9. Drill & drill Bits.
10. 1.4 Ohm resistor  
11. couple lengths of wire long enough to leave extra to work with. (copper is best)
12. cheap dollar store or auto store 9 LED flashlight.
13. $3.39 single pole toggle switch from Radio Shack.

Step 2: Making the Light Globe

This light bulb is just a fat decor light cost around 2.00 each I went thru 3 bulbs before I got a good globe.
First things first SAFTY! Light bulbs are under pressure and can explode in your face or cut you badly Please wear eye protection and gloves before trying this.
 You need to heat up the screw cap IT WILL STINK and smoke my basement smelled liked burnt wire for hrs...  I used an old sock to provide some padding be very careful with your torch as sock's catch fire easy keep a fire extinguisher handy and if possible do this part outdoors.
1. with some pliers in hand heat up the screw cap evenly and slow too much heat at once will crack your bulb as seen by photo's. Once it is hot gently grab with some pliers and twist off slowly try not destroy the cap as it make's a great cover for the light board. 
Brass screw caps will be more rigid and take  more abuse then the normal aluminum caps on 99% of house hold light bulbs. These light bulbs are tempered glass take your time heating up the glass so not to crack it but you can shape this glass as it will melt with a small butane torch. Once the screw cap is off break out the center filament carefully then even more carefully heat up the edges and shape it to fit the light board. this whole process took me about 5 to 10 mins of time.
2. cleaning the bulb is very simple and easy  the dust inside is not toxic from what i have read but I would advise not getting in your eyes or mouth, Put a teaspoon of table salt in the bulb and shake it around till glass is clear rinse out 2 or 3 times with hot water let dry keep in a safe place so it don't get broke.  sorry no photo for that...
3. The light board Robbed from a cheap dollar store LED flashlight, remove battery's I used a #1 Phillips screwdriver handle to punch out the lens and light board 30 sec job! 9 super bright LED'S  ZOOM ZOOM ZOOM! and if your like me you should save the flashlight body & switch for other projects down the road.
4.I like to use RTV Blue gasket maker instead of gorilla glue it don't run it's insulated can be molded and dries quickly & water proof and a little goes along way, Well as you can see I just simply glued the light board to the prepared bulb. 
5. Another cheap flashlight to rob a reflector from , This hear light is a 2 D cell light needed to have a big enough reflector to hold the bulb and look nice. apply a few dabs of RTV to the reflector, this part is critical unless you dont mind RTV all over your bulb, make sure your bulb is nice and level eye it up best you can or it will be crooked and look uncool. 
6. Last but not least solder your + and -  wires to the light board. thus completing  the light globe.

Step 3: Preparing the Lantern

Depending on your tastes clean or paint or even leave it dirty like mine I enjoy the used look to it. please make sure there is no fuel in the tank to spill or catch fire !
1. Remove the cap.
2. Remove the wic If there is one. Twist the wic holder to unlock and set aside well get back to that.
3. Remove the Globe bail.
4. Running wires in the arms is a bit tricky to do as there is alot of bends in these lanterns, I ended up using a string and a small hex nut and dropped it thew then tied my wires to string and pulled them back thew that was the best way i found and took all of 30 secs as to the hr i spent trying to fish the wires threw.
5.Drill a hole on the rear of the lantern base for you USB cable then on the front of the lantern base drill another hole for your switch.

Step 4: Finishing and Installing the Globe

1.Trim all but 1/2 inch of the wic guide off 
2. We need to remove all the guts but the turn key out the wic adjustment cap.(Tin snips work great but so will a nice dremel.)
3. Now we need to put the screw cap back on the globe with a little RTV.
4.I did not replace the retaining clip for the globe base as it will be easy to remove the globe should you have to if the clip is not installed. With some RTV fill the area where we trimmed off all but 1/2 if the wic guide, set the globe in place make sure it is level or again it will look uncool. let dry an hr or so before touching.
5. connect your wires insulate them and stuff them up over the globe out of sight.
( as you can see I did not make sure my globe was level and is now crooked and I am using wire to make it look correct. learn from my mistake)

Step 5: Wiring the Switch

This is the last part of this instructable  and should go pretty smoothly.
1.This was a printer cable. Just cut off the end that goes to the printer.
2. Insert into the hole in the rear of the lantern base.
3. Strip back a couple of inch's exposing 4 wires Red Black Green White, We want to cut away the the Green and the White we only want to use the Red & Black wire's.
4. I have to say the best way to gain access to the tank area was to just grab the Tin Snips and cut the bottom out and be replaced with a thin piece of wood or plastic cover of some kind I have yet to find... But tut tut it's not important as you most likely wont see the underside often unless it's hanging.
5.LED's can't run on 5 volts DC or they will burn out and all your hard work making a globe will be for nothing, so to solve this problem we need to add an resistor to the positive side of the line, I have had great success with 1.4 Ohm resistors I bought on ebay for dirt. You can see the positive side of the USB is connected to the switch on one side and then the resistor on the other side of the switch witch is inturn wired to the positive wire going to the light board. the Black wire (negative) from the USB  is wired directly to the negative of the light board thus completing the circuit. 
6.Turn on your light & enjoy!

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    15 Discussions


    6 years ago on Step 5

    question, how hard would it be to wire in a battery pack?


    Reply 6 years ago on Step 5

    Very easy.
    Just don't exceed more then 4.5 volts without a resistor.


    Reply 6 years ago on Step 5

    thank you

    If anyone needs any help with any part of this Instructable feel free to ask. :)


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    circuit diagram pl. Are 9 LEDs in series or parallel ? Sat

    Absoulty wonderful! That's my dad, he makes me so proud. It takes an Artistic person to create such cool things from scrap metal and odds and evens around the house, into things i have never seen in my life but yet the coolest things i've seen in my life. Keep up the great work dad. I love you.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    My number1 Fan!! Thank you sweetheart glad you like it.
    Bring me things to rip apart on your way home :D


    8 years ago on Introduction

    So this 9 LED setup will run on all of the power options you stated? Lithium 3.7 v. phone battery, AA's, or AAA's batteries too? Do I have to change the resistor size or anything else ? Maybe I can hide the AA's or AAA's, or 3.7 v. phone battery under the base. Along with the USB plug so it can be switched from one to the other. ? I just have to figure out the wiring so I can go from one power source to the other. Sounds like fun! Wish me luck!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Also I have a switch that I pulled off an old PSU (not for PC) I am including a photo of it Im not sure what it is called but it can do what you want


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Yes it will run on 3 AAA batteries without a resistor. As the flashlight comes with 3 AAA so there will be no problem with that power source.
    Anything over 4 volt's is kinda risky without a resistor for LED's. I'm not 100% sure on how big of a resistor you would if you went over 4 or 5 volt's. I do know that 1.4 Ohm resistor works really well for me with my 3.7 volt lithium cell battery on all my lamps, it is my power test power supply before I connect to my USB.
    The wiring is extremely simple I will try my best to make a diagram and post on the last page of this iInstructable.

    If you use batteries they will replace USB cable, wiring remains the same only the power source has changed.

    Winged Fist
    Winged Fist

    8 years ago on Introduction

    Great job! It first caught my eye because it resembles my instructable, Steampunk USB mini-lantern. Then I realized that your is actually full-size!

    Great photos, and I particularly like the way you made your own LED bulb.

    One suggestion: You might want to consider stylizing the USB cable, as I did with my Steampunk USB Cable.

    You got my vote for the Shopbot challenge!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you I am glad you like it!
    I had to make something for a globe as this lantern didn't have one when I saved it from certain death from the local trash man. And thank you for the great idea to stylize the USB cable i'm gonna look for something to cover it up and post new photo.
    And I want to thank all of you for you taking the time to look at my stuff.
    Kirk. AKA grasshopper1221