Set the mood of your next dinner party with these glowing wine bottle table lamps. They are easy to build with with parts from your local hardware store and art supply shop. Plus, since they run on batteries they will last much longer than any candle. Show off your inner eco-geek by explaining to your guests how these LED based lamps are more environmentally friendly than regular candles since most candles are made from paraffin wax which is derived from petroleum! Eeek! Burning petroleum based candles is not my idea of fun. Also, since there is no flame, there's no risk of one of your inebriated dinner guests knocking it over and setting fire to your nice table runner.
Step 1: The Ingredients
To build the table lamp you'll need the following items:
- One 6 inch piece of 1/2inch copper pipe
- One 3/4 inch to 3/4 inch copper pipe coupler
- One 3/4 inch to 1/2 inch copper pipe reducer
- One 1/2 inch copper end cap
- One hot glue stick (the more transparent the better)
- One wine bottle cork
- One as-bright-as-you-can-find White LED (Note: Most white LED's like this one http://www.cree.com/products/pdf/LEDlamps/C513A-WSS&WSN.pdf Require 3.2V and 20mA to drive them. In this project we're gonna use 3AA batteries which should give us 4.5V and 40mA of current. So you have a couple options: find an LED that can handle this current and voltage, use one that can't handle the current and voltage but know that you'll be cutting the life of the LED significantly, solder a resistor in-line with the LED leads to limit the current, put two LED's in parallel to split the ~40mA giving each one ~20ma a piece.)
- Three AA batteries (Or two, depending on the LED you use)
- One empty wine bottle (not pictured)
Also needed... Crisco (or some other brand) vegetable shortening. You'll see why in a few steps,
Step 2: Tools Needed
You don't need power tools for this project but you do need tools that use power.
- Two hands (yours or a friends)
- A hot glue gun (I used a hi-temp gun but I think a low temp one should work fine too)
- A pipe cutter (or hack saw if you have one of those)
- xActo Knife or box cutter
- Metal file
- Needle nose pliers
You'll also need a pencil but I'm assuming getting a hold of one of those is not a problem. If you don't have a pencil any suitable mark making instrument will suffice.
Step 3: Cutting the Pipe
Since it is not likely you have 1/2 copper pipe lying around in conveniently measured and cut 6 inch lengths you'll need to cut your 6 inch piece from a larger pipe. Most hardware stores sell copper pipe in various pre-cut lengths. For example, Home Depot sells 1/2inch copper pipes in 2 foot lengths. I suggest buying pre-cut short pipe lengths if you can, or ask someone at the hardware store to cut a longer pipe down for you. This way you don't risk causing a car accident as you drive home with 10 feet of copper pipe hanging out the front of the passenger side car window. Just a suggestion...
On to the cutting... copper is a real soft metal so it's really easy to cut with your standard screw type pipe cutter (show in the picture).
To cut the pipe:
- Measure from one end of the pipe 6 inches in length and make a mark
- Place the pipe cutter blade at the mark and slowly turn the pipe with one hand as you tighten the screw handle with the other. This will slowly pinch down on the pipe and cut through it in a few turns.
- Use a metal file to clean the inner edge of the pipe. You want make sure that the AA batteries needed to power the light can pass through the pipe with out getting stuck. It may take a bit work to clean up the edge.
- Check to see if the pipe is the same size as 3 AA batteries. If it is then you're done. Nice work!
Note: You might also try using a hack saw instead of the pipe cutter if you have one. Just don't apply too much pressure as you cut because you might squish the copper pipe. I recommend the standard pipe cuter over the hack saw as it leaves a cleaner edge on the pipe and is slightly safer to use.
Step 4: Making the Cork LED Holder
The LED we are going to use needs to be held in place inside the pipe coupling somehow. After many different attempts I found a piece of cork works great for this purpose. And since corks (generally) come with bottles of wine this is another chance to re-purpose some materials that would have ended up in the trash. FTW!!!
To make the LED holder:
- Start by slicing off a 1/4 inch thick disk from the cork.
- Then poke two small holes in the middle of cork roughly the same distance apart as the two wires that stick out of the bottom of the LED. I used the end of my mechanical pencil to do this. You could also use a push pin or a paper clip if those are handy. These holes don't have to be big they're just starter holes to make it easier to feed the LED lead wires through the cork without forcing (and possibly bending) them too much.
- Once you've made the holes push the LED wires through the cork disk so it sits right on top of the cork.
Step 5: LED Holder and Break Time
After the last step you should now have something that looks like what is in the picture below. If not, maybe you should start over. If you do however, good job! Pat your self on the back and take a quick break from all this hard work.
Step 6: Bending LED Wires
Use the needle nose pliers to bend the negative (-) lead on the LED into a curly pigs tail type shape like the one in the picture. The negative lead (-) is the shorter one on the same side as the little flat part of the base of the LED. This curly part will act like a spring that will touch the negative part of the AA batteries. Just bend the negative lead enough to curl it and try line up the curl so it's in the center of the cork. Bend the positive lead away if it the two leads are touching but make sure you leave the positive lead straight for now. We'll be bending that one it in a few steps.
Step 7: Seating the LED Cork Disk
Now we'll need to seat the cork disk with the LED into the 3/4 inch to 1/2 inch copper reducer piece. To do this push the cork disk into the larger side of the copper reducer. It should be a snug fit. You'll want to push it evenly around on all sides as you do this. To get the disk in a little deeper use a pencil or the needle nose pliers to push around the edges of the disk. Don't set the disk in too far otherwise the light from the LED will not be as bright. Ideally, you want the crown of the LED to be at the top of the copper fitting as shown in the lower right corner of the photo.
Step 8: Greasing the Coupling
The 3/4 coupling piece will serve as the mold for the glowing part of the LED lamp. Since this part is made from cooled hot glue we'll need to grease the inside of this piece so that the glue can cool without actually sticking to the inside.
This is where the vegetable shortening comes in...
Apply a liberal amount of the vegetable shortening to the inside of the 3/4inch copper coupling piece (the same amount you would use if you were making brownies and had to grease the bottom of the pan... mmm... brownies). Once thoroughly greased, fit the coupling piece over the reducer (the part with the LED) as shown in the lower two quadrants of the picture below.
Now go clean that grease off your hands before you get it all over the furniture!
Note: I've tried both vegetable oil and Vaseline prior to vegetable shortening, neither one worked (meaning I couldn't get the mold off because the glue was able to do it's job). If you don't have vegetable shortening you might try some lip balm or chap stick (no promises though I have not tested this theory).
Step 9: Hot Glue Time! (we're Almost Done... I Promise)
Okay. Time to plug in your hot glue gun and get ready for the excitement.
With the 3/4 inch coupling fully greased and in place over the LED in the base we can start filling it up with hot glue. Do this on a level surface where you are not likely to bump it over. We're putting almost a full stick of hot glue in this tube of copper and let me tell you from experience it gets HOT. Fill the coupling up to the top with hot glue and let it stand (without touching it) for 20-30 minutes as it cools. You can tell when it's started the cooling process as the glue which was once rounded on top and clear turns translucent and concave. Once the glue has fully cooled you can move on to the next step.
Seriously: Don't touch the copper pieces until the glue inside has fully cooled. Copper conducts a lot of heat and after you put all that hot glue in there the heat is trying to escape. The heat escaping is what makes the surface of the copper very hot.
Step 10: Removing the Coupling
Now that the glue is cool remove the outer copper piece to reveal the formed glue. You might want to use some soap and water to clean off some of the vegetable shortening left on the outside of the formed glue. Just try not to get any water in where the LED wires are.
Step 11: Bend the Positive Lead
Bend the positive (+) LED lead over so that it is touching the copper wall and not touching the other lead. The outer casing of the lamp (the copper tubing) will act as a conductor for the positive terminal of the batteries whereas the coiled pig-tailed negative (-) lead will conduct the from the negative terminal of the batteries.
Step 12: Assemble!
With these three parts plus your batteries you are all ready to assemble your light.
Step 13: Put in the Batteries
You're now ready to feed the batteries into the 1/2 copper tube we cut in the first few steps. You'll want to put the 1/2 end cap on one end and feed the batteries in with the positive side of the batteries facing the cap. Like how it's shown in the photo.
Step 14: Done!
At this point, when you've got the three pieces together you should see the LED light up in all it's silicon based light emitting diode glory!
If not, well, you should probably double check the connections:
- make sure that positive end of the battery is touching the 1/2 inch copper end cap
- make sure that the pig-tailed LED lead (-) is touching the negative end of the battery (you may need to pull it out a little so that it can make contact)
- make sure that the positive LED lead (+) is touching the copper and NOT accidentally touching the positive one by accident.
I hope everything went well for you in this instructable. Feel free to leave comments and/or questions.
Step 15: Gratuitous Finished Project Photo!
Just for fun... one more picture of the finished product. Glorious!