Up Cycling to the Max

About: I am a photographer, a tinker, an electronics technology engineer, and author; I write short stories and poetry for the love of writing. I started writing poetry in high school over thirty years ago where I ...

I get all kinds of solar garden lights out of the garbage and I got these three fairy figurines this spring. Now I don’t know about you but I think these were made to be painted before you put them out in the garden.

Of the three fairy figurine solar garden lights; I was able to salvage enough good parts for two complete lights. The first garden light just needed a three layer paint job.

The second garden light I used for this Instructable; it needed a three layer paint job, the solar cell is showing polymer degradation from UV rays, and I upgraded the electronics for an RGB chip LED.

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Step 1: Tools and Supplies

Spray can of White Automotive Primer, this is a flat white paint that will stick to almost anything, and when it is dry you can work it like paper and water paint. This primer will not wipe off with a wet rag when making repairs or detailing.

Colored water paints for coloring.

Spray can of Automotive Clear Coat, for sealing and glossing as well as added UV protection.

Drop sheet I used news paper.

Screw driver for disassembling.

Masking tape

Utility knife

Soldering Iron


150 uH Inductor

1N4148 Diode

10 nF Capacitor


600 grit sandpaper for any dressing.

Step 2: Disassembling

These lights are not very stable for painting assembled.

The lens comes off by simply giving the lens a twist.

Under the lens you will find the screws holding the circuit housing together.

Remove the screws and the base plate.

If you plan to upgrade the circuit you can remove the circuit and battery or just fold the LED over.

Now when you place the figurine on its base it wont rock or move when you touch it.

Step 3: The Solar Cell

The solar cell on this fairy figurine is showing polymer degradation from UV rays, I sanded off the polymer oxides with the 600 grit sandpaper. Then when I put the final coat of clear coat on the solar cell it will be like new.

This is a more in depth Instructable on repairing polymer degradation.


Step 4: Masking

Masking is very simple; stretch the masking tape over the solar cell and any other part you do not want paint or primer on, then trim off the excess.

Step 5: Priming

Once you have everything you want masked off place the figurine on a drop sheet.

Do not try to put all the primer on in one coating or you can get sags in the primer or loose fine details in the figurines texture.

Shake the spray can of primer for a minute and lightly spray the figurine with primer.

Once you have the first coating of primer on the figurine take the can of primer turn it up side down and spray for a second to clear the primer out of the nozzle.

Primer only takes a couple minutes to dry, so wait 5 minutes, and repeat the light coatings until you have a good coating of primer.

Step 6: Painting

Strait forward painting is easy; just mix the paints to the color you want, and apply. But if you want to take advantage of the contours in the figurine, this takes a trick.

The flat white automotive primer is oil based, so water based paints paint on, stick if you leave it alone. But if you paint a feature like this rock and wipe off the high spots with a damp rag, it brings out the contours without removing the primer coat. Now your rock has streaks of light and dark gray spots.

Step 7: Clear Coat

Before you apply the clear coat, examine the figurine for defects. Touch ups and repairs will be almost impossible to fix after the clear coat.

Remove the masking from the solar cell.

Do not try to put all the clear coat on in one coating or you can get sags in the clear coat, and loose fine details in the figurines texture.

Shake the spray can of clear coat for a minute and lightly spray the figurine.

You will be able to see how the clear coat brings the solar cell back to life.

Once you have the first coating of clear coat on the figurine take the can and turn it up side down and spray for a second to clean the clear coat out of the nozzle.

Clear coat takes a while to dry; so wait an hour before you repeat the light coatings, repeat the coatings until you have a good coating of clear coat on the figurine.

Step 8: Circuit Test

Before I up graded the LED to an RBG LED; I made sure the circuit worked as it should, LED on when the solar cell is in the dark, LED is off when the solar cell is in the light.

The circuit worked fine; however the switch was bad and the circuit wouldn’t stay on so I bypassed the switch. The switch isn’t that necessary, to get too the switch you need to remove the lens. From there it is just as easy to open the hatch and remove the battery when you want the LED off for storage in the winter.

Step 9: Upgrading the White LED to an RGB LED

I have done a number of these upgrades, you remove the white LED and in its place you add a diode, a capacitor, and a RGB chip LED. Sometimes if you need to you change the inductor on the jewel thief.

First I reverse engineer the circuit and make a schematic of the circuit.

Then I tried to find the datasheet for the 0119A jewel thief chip. The closest datasheet I could get was CL0116

You can learn more from this Instructable.


Step 10: Changing the LED

I could not find the data sheet for the jewel thief, so I experimented on the additional LED circuit from the third figurine.

I removed the white LED and in its place I added a 1N4148 diode, a 10 nF capacitor, and a chip RGB LED.

When I applied power to the circuit, the RGB LED did not light up. I knew this might happen, the inductor needed to be changed to up the power output of the jewel thief.

The rule of thumb with these jewel thief’s is; Inductor up power down, inductor down power up. So I changed the 220 uH inductor to a 150 uH and tried the circuit again.

This time the circuit worked perfectly and I swapped the white LED circuit in the figurine with the new RGB circuit.

Step 11: Finish

And there you have it; a plain gray fairy figurine solar garden light, turned into a colorful RGB garden light. Last reassemble the garden light and place it where it can get a full days sun.

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