Intro: Upcycled Shotgun Shell and Pallet Wood Lamp
Searching through the internet for shotgun shell lamp projects, I mostly found images of lamps shaped like a shotgun shells that did not use actual shotgun shells or Christmas lights with shotgun shells placed over the bulbs. I could not find one lamp that incorporated actual shotgun shells into the lamp to diffuse light like I wanted. I make this Instructable with the hope of inspiring others to make a shotgun shell lamp or providing a resource for others to research a method of doing it.
A unique shotgun shell lamp like this makes for a great gift to others and adds unique visual appeal to a room. Properly made, it is enough to make others ooh and aah over its design and functionality. On this note, here is my method of constructing a shotgun shell lamp.
Step 1: Gather Supplies
As always, the first step in making any project is to gather all necessary materials for the project. For this shotgun shell lamp, you will first need (you guessed it) shotgun shells. Depending on how much light you want the lamp to project, you will need a good handful of bright-colored shells, as they work best to diffuse light instead of block it; in my case, I chose to use some spare 20 Gauge yellow shotgun shells I acquired after shooting clay pigeons with family. Next, you will need wood to make the base of your lamp; I chose to use some pallet wood from a local business.
For tools, you will need:
-Various saws (table saw, radial arm saw)
-Quality drill bits (primarily Forstner Drill Bit Set)
For electronics, you will need:
-Micro-USB female port
-Micro-USB to wall adapter
-20 AWG stranded wire
-32 LEDs (30 white, 2 other colors)
-1 Single Pole, Single Throw, 3 terminal switch
-1 solar light ($1 at local dollar store)
Step 2: Plan and Begin the Project
After cleaning exterior writing and gunpowder residue from the inside of the shotgun shells, I organized the components I planned to use on a clean portion of a pallet stringer. I wanted to incorporate a solar element on the lamp that would light two LEDs on either side of the switch to illuminate where the switch is and possibly act as a night light, turning off when the regular lamp was turned on and vice versa.
After cutting a mostly-clean 13.5 inch segment of the stringer to act as the body of the lamp and cleaning the piece, I cut a thin cover plate to hide the future electronics from one of the top slats of the pallet and cleaned it up as well.
Step 3: Construct the Power Adapter
To supply power to my lamp, I decided to use the USB adapter from an old cell phone. After removing the USB port, I clamped the male USB plug into my vice. After plugging in the wall adapter, I connected the female port to the male port and tested voltages. I found that one wire supplied 5.1 volts while another supplied 4.5 volts. The current sourced on each of these lines varies, however. The 4.5 volt line sources such low current that it could barely light one LED rated at 4.5 volts (it was likely the USB data line). I opted to use the 5.1 volt line, as the voltage will sag as the load of 30 LEDs consumes energy. I labeled the three wires' polarity as my multi-meter displayed.
Step 4: Build the Electronics Housing
I used my router to cut slots for the electronics compartment in the larger of the two wood blocks (lamp body), re-placing components in the slots periodically to ensure proper fit and layout. Using a 1 1/4 inch Forstner Drill Bit, I drilled a hole to act as a housing for the switch, forward-facing LEDs, and wiring junction to sit. I drilled a perpendicular hole into this 1 1/4 inch hole for the toggle mechanism for the switch, later routing a path for wires to run from this hole to the rest of the wiring compartment. I then extended the switch compartment by drilling two shallow holes with a 5/8 Forstner Bit for the solar/LED driver board to sit in.
To accept the micro-USB female adapter plug, I drilled a shallow hole from the electronics compartment into approximately the center of the board. I then drilled several perpendicular holes from the back of the lamp, resulting in a hold wide enough for the adapter, but not so large it obtrusive.
With the interior mostly finished, I lined up the cover plate to how it would be mounted and pilot drilled, recessed, and ran screws into the wood to secure it. With these mounting points finished, I removed the cover plate.
To mount the solar cell, I set my table saw blade to 45 degrees and trimmed the edge off of part of the pallet stringer. Once 1-2 inches of the wood was cut to the desired angle, I stopped and trimmed off the angled wood from the rest of the stringer, leaving an angled slice of wood to mount the solar cell on.
Setting up a jig, I drilled a pilot hole in the wood and the angled solar cell mount and connected the two with a screw. I then drilled a hole through both the housing and solar cell mount to accept wires from the solar cell.
Step 5: Drill Holes for LEDs and Shotgun Shells
After removing the angled mounting pad for the solar cell, I drilled two holes on either side of the front hole for the switch's toggle for the night-light LEDs. I then measured the diameter of the shotgun shells I planned to use for the project and measured marks at regular intervals (about 1 1/4 inches apart) for where to place the shells. I used the tip of one of my Forstner Bits to mark an indentation for the drill location. Each hole was drilled deep enough to hide the edges of the shotgun shells (those that were folded before the shot was used) with a 3/4 inch Forstner Bit. After drilling each of the holes, I drilled two indentations in each hole using a bit just large enough to recess the LED in the wood. Then, using a bit just wide enough to fit the LED leads through, I drilled holes through the wood to the electronics housing.
I quickly sanded all flat surfaces of the wood and screwed on the cover plate for the electronics housing to sand flush the edges where the two boards meet. On each of the sharp edges, I sanded a bevel into the wood by moving my sander around the edge. To ensure everything went together as I wanted, I quickly assembled the pieces. Happy with the result, I disassembled it and prepared to stain.
Step 6: Finish the Wood
I was happy with the colors of the wood as it was, so I decided to stick to more of a natural colored stain. This said, I used a natural Danish Oil finish, using screws in the already drilled holes to prop up the work after applying the oil. After approximately one hour, the wood had absorbed the oil; I assembled the pieces one final time and prepared to wire in the electronics.
Step 7: Assemble the Solar Circuit
I began by de-soldering the original wires and LED light from the solar light's driver board. I then soldered new wires into the holes left for the battery, load, and solar cell.
To assemble the battery compartment, I salvaged the battery clips from a solar light and soldered a set of new wires to them. Using a chisel and small drill bit, I built a small recess in the wood for the clips and hot glued them in place. I cut and soldered the battery wires to the appropriate wires from the driver board, while trying to minimize the amount of wire used.
I soldered wires to the solar cell and ran them through the hole in the slanted mounting block to the driver board.
To wire the switch, I took the negative wire from the load of the driver board and soldered it and the negative 5.1 volt line from the power adapter to the center, common terminal of the switch. I soldered a wire to one of the other terminals of the switch and cut and soldered it to the LEDs beside the switch, ensuring the two LEDs were in parallel. I then wired the positive wire from the driver board to the LEDs beside the switch. On the final terminal, I soldered a wire to be connected to the negative lead of the main, 30-LED bank.
In the pictures, the color codes for wires are listed below:
-Orange: solar/battery positive
-Red: Solar driver board load positive
-Green: Solar driver board load negative
-Yellow: main 5.1 volt positive
-Brown: negative (ground) wire for most elements of circuit
After wiring the solar element and switch, I hot glued all wires and connections to prevent movement and short circuits.
Step 8: Wire the 30 LEDs
Now for one of the most tedious parts of the entire project: wiring the 30 LEDs in parallel. To start, I installed the main power adapter through the rear hole and all LEDs through the top of the project, bending leads over and lining up positive and negative terminals. From here, all you need to do is solder like terminals together, adding wire jumpers as necessary. Once complete, you can wire the adapter wires to the main LED lines. Wire the negative line to the negative switch wire, the positive 5.1 volt line to the positive LED line, and the positive switch wire to the negative LED line. (In all honesty, the polarity of the switch does not matter, so if you forget which wires from the switch were what, there is no need to worry or rummage through the junction hole.)
At this point, (if you have not already) you should also hot glue your solar cell to the angled mounting block. Before finalizing the wiring by hot gluing, test the lights and ensure everything works. Whatever you do, do not forget to hot glue the power adapter in place, as you can pull it out if you are not careful!
Step 9: Attach the Shotgun Shells
This is one of the most rewarding parts of the whole process. Like the classic "reveal" scenes in movies, you get to see whether your efforts paid off.
The best way I found to attach the shotgun shells was to apply hot glue to the edge of the shell and quickly and carefully place the shell in the hole (careful to avoid the LEDs, of course). Once in the hole, twist the shell to ensure an even spread of glue across the surface. Repeat for as many shotgun shells you are using, and voila! Your shotgun shell lamp is finished!
This project took me approximately two weeks to complete and quite a bit of planning beforehand to figure out just what I wanted the lamp to look like. Total cost of the project (excluding cost of shotgun shells, as I did not purchase those) came to be around two dollars. I hope you enjoyed this Instructable. This project is definitely worth building if you have the time and resources.