Wine Bottle LED Gel Lamp




Recycle an old cell phone charger and wine bottle into a gel filled LED lamp.

Step 1: Parts List

Parts needed:
- empty wine bottle and cork (I used a 1.5L bottle)
- wire
- blue and red LEDs
- 220 Ohm and 100 Ohm resistors
- small toggle switch
- gel candle wax

I got the gel wax from Michaels for $32.23 with a 40% off coupon. There is enough wax to fill three 1.5L bottles.
The wire, switch, resistors, and LEDs all came from RadioShack for about $15.
With $11 worth of wax per bottle and $15 worth of electronics, this project cost about $26 all together. You could get the parts much cheaper online, but I wasn't feeling patient enough for that.

Tools needed:
- drill or drill press
- glass drill bit
- squirt bottle
- clamp
- soldering iron and solder
- wire cutters
- hot glue gun
- funnel
- sticky tack
- a pot to melt the gel wax
- a food thermometer for the wax

Step 2: The LED Circuit

The circuit consists of two LEDs with current limiting resistors in parallel. You can wire everything together as shown in the picture below. Remember that the shorter leg / flat side of the LED is Ground. If the wires are too close together after you have the circuit built, you can wrap them with electrical tape so no wires touch.

I used thin insulated wrapping wire from RadioShack to run power inside the bottle. The wrapping wire connects the cell phone charger to the ground and +5 V of the circuit shown in the picture. You can use a multimeter to find the ground and positive wires from the cell phone charger, or you can just touch the wires to the circuit and see if it works. The LEDs will only light up when it is connected correctly.

To find the correct resistor for each LED, we use:

Supply Voltage - Forward Voltage = Current * Resistance

The Forward Voltage and Max Current are given on the LED packaging, and we know our Supply Voltage is 5 Volts from the cell phone charger. When we plug in the known values, we can solve for the Resistance.

Find the Blue LED resistor
Supply Voltage = 5 V
Foward Voltage = 3.7 V
Current = 20 mA (0.020 A)
5 - 3.7 = 0.020 * Resistance
      65 = Resistance

So, we need a 65 Ohm resistor to give the LED 20 mA of current. I used a 100 Ohm resistor I already had, so my blue LED is actually getting a little less than 20 mA.

Find the Red LED resistor
Supply Voltage = 5 V
Foward Voltage = 1.7 V (This is less than the Blue LED Foward Voltage)
Current = 20 mA (0.020 A)
5 - 1.7 = 0.020 * Resistance
      165 = Resistance

We need a 165 Ohm resistor to give the red LED 20 mA of current. I used a 220 Ohm resistor I already had, so my red LED is also getting a little less than 20 mA.

Is this safe for the cell phone charger?
The cell phone charger is rated at 0.7 A max (same as 700 mA). Each of our LEDs is drawing less than 20 mA, so the entire circuit is drawing less than 40 mA. The 40 mA we are drawing is much less than the 700 mA the charger is rated for, so we are well within the specs of the charger... maybe we should add lots more LEDs : )


Step 3: Prepare the Bottle

You have to use a special glass drill bit to drill a hole in the wine bottle. You can find them at Lowes or Home Depot for about $7 each, or a 4 pack for $16. It will take 10 - 15 minutes to drill all the way through the bottle with these.

On my first try, I broke the bottle. After the hole went all the way through the bottle, the drill slipped forward and the drill chuck cracked the bottle. On my second try, I pushed a wine cork over the drill bit so it would act as a stopper and prevent the bottle from breaking again.

To drill the hole:
1. Put a cork over your glass drill bit so you don't break the bottle with the drill (see the picture)
2. Wrap the bottle in a towel and clamp it to a work table
3. Make sure you have a squirt bottle of water and a full drill battery
4. Start drilling straight down, and squirt the bottle with water every 5 - 10 seconds
5. Expect it to take 10 - 15 minutes to drill all the way through, don't use too much pressure
6. Use even less pressure when the hole is almost all the way through so you don't break the bottle

After the hole was drilled, I fed the phone charger cable through and held it in place with hot glue. The wrapping wire runs through the top of the bottle so it can be connected to the circuit that was built in the previous step.

The cork:
Drill a hole in the bottom of the cork that is big enough for the toggle switch to fit in. The hole should go almost all the way through the cork. Then, turn the cork over and drill a small hole in the top so only the handle of the switch will poke through.

After you have the cork and bottle ready, finish connecting your LED circuit, and fit it into the cork. Let it hang outside the bottle so you can pour the wax in the next step.

Step 4: The Gel Wax

I followed the instructions on the bucket to prepare the gel wax. I had to heat mine up to 220 degrees to get it all melted, then I let it cool down to about 190 degrees before I poured it in the bottle. I poured at a lower temperature so there would be more bubbles in the end.

I put a layer of sticky tack over the hot glue I used for the power cord, in case the gel re-melted the hot glue. I didn't have any problems doing it this way. I started out using a funnel to pour the melted wax into the bottle, but the wax cooled and blocked the funnel before the bottle was filled. The wax is thick enough that you can pour it straight into the bottle as long as you take it slow.

I let the gel wax cool for about 10 - 15 minutes in the wine bottle, then I put the cork with the LEDs on the bottle. I turned the bottle upside down in a cup and let it cool some more, so more bubbles would be trapped toward the bottom of the bottle. I flipped the wine bottle back and forth a few times while it was cooling to help distribute all of the bubbles.

Step 5: The Finished Product

The gel wax and bubbles diffuse the red and blue light for a purple-ish glow.

Alternatives to the gel wax that I might try in the future could be:
- clear marbles or beads
- shattered pieces of tempered glass (like a car window)
- glass etchant to solution to fog the inside of the bottle



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    59 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Added to "to do" list.


    3 years ago on Introduction

    I had one major problem and hopefully you could help. When my wax cools in the bottle I get a huge air bubble in the top center of the wax I have tried remelting the wax by heating the bottle and it liquifies but goes back to the big bubble once it cools. What am I doing wrong?


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Is there any other substance you can use instead of the gel for example water and just make sure you use waterproof el wire instead of LED's and insulate any naked wiring?

    1 reply

    6 years ago on Introduction

    I love this instructable! i gave it a try with some slow-change RGB LEDs, and I think it turned out pretty awesome. has a full video. Thanks for the idea! 5*


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I wonder in what ways the properties of the wax gel is different from possibly and alcohol free based hair gel? if its possible you could create a whole different array of colors and possibly get the gel a bit cheaper. if anyone knows about it please let me know, i love this project!! cheers

    11 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    The gel wax is not runny at all after it has cooled. When you first open the bucket of wax, you can turn it upside down and the wax won't move.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    oh i see, thank you. is it possible to inject colored pockets into the wax as it cools to create a lava lamp effect? And can you add food coloring to the wax gel itself for a different color spectrum?


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I know this comment is way outdated, but I came across this instructable and thought it was cool.

    In regards to your question, what about using something like this to inject food coloring?


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Perhaps instead of adding coloring to the wax gel, colored leds, particularly color changing leds would give the desired effect. I'd like to see one that would cycle through colors. I'd really like to do this with one of those glass head display pieces. That and a color changing led.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Easy breezy, just use gelatine like Knox, add to hot fluid and let it set, I used it with great success in Anti-freeze for a cool green glow, that should cost you about 2 dollars, I bet you could come up with some neat effects by layering the gel using different colors or adding opaque fluids such as milk, I had a good cristal look by letting the anti-freeze gel set shredding it with a sharp object, then pouring clear gel in to fill the cracks.

    Here is a pic of a tupe with the gel set up, no spills or leaks, very cheep!

    test tube 002.JPG

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Knox would be a much cheaper alternative to the gel wax. Does the Knox break down or turn liquid after sitting around for a long time?

    Good info on the diamond drill bit too. Thanks!


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I googled for a while, and I found this: "One might ask why agar, as opposed to regular gelatin (like that found in Jello), is used for culturing bacteria. The answer is agar, unlike gelatin, won't be degraded (eaten) by bacteria. Also, agar is firmer and stronger than gelatin. It's still possible, however, to use gelatin as a culture medium for bacteria if agar is unavailable."

    So yeah, gelatin breaks down, so I'm gonna try it with the agar gel :)


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I am so rude, I forgot to tell you I really do like the look you got, good job from a good idea!


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I don't know for sure but I would guess so, it is animal based so the biological contaminants would have their way sooner or later I'm sure.

    Who knows maybe the breakdown process would look interesting if I had to guess I would think a little hydrogen peroxide would slow down the process quite a bit.

    I look at these projects as short term things, build it, enjoy em for a while, and then try something new.

    Actually I would like to thank you for the idea of the gel because I have been trying to think of something to suspend glitter in so that I can shoot a red laser into and get some sparkling effect the gel may be the perfect solution, (literally and figuratively)

    Led Manlongwinters

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    ok thank you so much for the Knox idea. i am doing it now. it works perfectly and it is a lot cheaper. oh and if you want colors. get food coloring dye. mix with the water. and your good or for clear just use water for it. ;) ~ Thanks


    6 years ago on Step 4

    My friend and I used normal candle wax and melted it and it was fairly simple. But we wanted the bubbles so we started to use the gel wax but we've ran into some issues. We can't get an even good coat of gel wax. Its either too thin and you can see everything inside, or when we try to pour a larger quantity in there it turns out horribly. How do you get a good even coat on there? is there a trick?


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I love this idea and I'd love to use it for my wedding. What would I need to do if I wanted to bypass the power supply idea and use battery power instead? Would I need to change the types of resistors?