Work Light and Cord Reel From PVC Tubing




About: Alan Walker a.k.a. "The Toolman" has been creative and worked with his hands all of his life. He has been employed in a wide variety of industries including a museum, a major power tool manufacturer, a natio...

I saw this Husky work lamp at Home Depot and really liked the design. Being an avid intructabler (is that a word?), I thought I could improve on it and only spend about half ($35) of what it cost at HD. I wanted to stay away from the tripod legs that are bound to brake off and go with a pedestal design where the base doubled as a cord reel. I like to keep things compact and self contained.

Anywhere I can, I like to design things with multiple uses.

Please checkout this new instructable and rate it.


Step 1: Assemble the Parts

I used:
1-piece of 48" x 4" black PVC drain pipe
1-piece of 24" x 3" black PVC drain pipe
2-3" pipe caps
1-4" pipe coupler
2-plastic screw-in lamp bases
2-100 watt fluro bulbs
3' of lamp cord
3" of appliance cord with molded plug
1-1/4"x1" loop
1-2 plug receptacle
1-2 plug receptacle cover
2-pieces of 3/4" x 18" square plywood
Various misc screws

Step 2: Make the Lamp Bases

The idea here is to mount the lamp bases on 3/4" plywood and reduce their circumference to fit inside the 3" tubing. You'll need to be careful and cut a hole on the bottom for the wire connectors and a slot in the edge to slide the connector wire from the other lamp base.

This will only work with plastic bases, you can't cut the ceramic ones.

Also, it's easier if you put solder-less connectors on the ends of the wires for hooking them up.

Step 3: Making the Lamp Holder

The idea here is to cut out some of the tubing to expose the lamps. I cut out about 1/2 of the tubing using my jig saw leaving rounded corners that look pretty good.

Take your time sanding the rough edges with what ever works.

You'll note that this design does not have a lens or cover over the lamps. I thought it would be too much to try and bend clear acrylic to create one so it's open. The bulbs are pretty cool  to the touch though.

Note: when you use a jig saw, the plastic will want to close up after you cut it so you may have to go back and make a second cut on the same line.

Next run some aluminum tape inside the back of the lamp holder to 1) reflect the light back out of the holder and 2) cover the lamp wire for the top bulb.

Next mount the lamp bases inside the tube so that about 1" of "base" sticks out of the opening. Slide the other lamp base in the other end over the groove you cut for the wire.

Now cap the ends with the 3" tube caps and screw it to the tube. Countersink the holes and use flat head screws. You should add the loop at the end of one cap prior to mounting to the lamp holder.

Finish off the holder by connecting the positive and negative wires to the appliance cord as shown.

Step 4: Making the Storage Tube and Lamp Holder Support

This step describes the tube that elevates the lamp holder and doubles as a storage tube. Slide the lamp holder into the 4" piece of tube so that it stores the holder and cord. Put a wooden plug in one end about 2" from the end and leave the other end open.

When not in use, this tube stores the lamp holder and when in use and converts to hold the lamp up off the ground mounted in the center of the cord reel.

Step 5: Making the Cord Reel

Here's the final piece. This cord reel doubles as a storage for about 70' of extension cord  that can be used by it self or when laid flat on the ground, holds the lamp support in the center of the reel.

The center of this reel is the 4" coupler and the plywood edges of the reel mounts to it from inside the coupler. The lamp support tube fits snugly inside this center.

I mounted a 2 outlet plug to power the lamp holder or maybe a battery charger. Tape over the wiring on the outlet so nothing shorts out.

Step 6: Final Results

Here's the finished product with lamp holder on top of storage tube mounted inside cord reel.

It really does give off plenty of light and is great to put in the corner of your work space.

Please let me know what you think and rate this instructable.

Also check out my YouTube video for more details and visit my YouTube Channel "TheToolManShow".

Thanks for watching.



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    32 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Here's a followup comment. After using this light for a while, I find I don't need to add any sort of clear cover for the bulbs. The lack of a cover helps cool the bulb area as well.

    Thanks to all of you who viewed and commented.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Hey! Its not PVC pipe you are using Its called ABS


    7 years ago on Step 6

    Only thing that might be a drawback is that the power going through the cord holder might heat up if you use this for too long and cause it to melt all together. Voice of Had a cord in a commercial reel holder and had it plugged into a light and there is a thing called "Electrical Magnetic Reflux" from power running through the wire and it causes heat as the power goes through. The plastic covering can take that heat if it is unrolled, but rolled there isn't anywhere for that heat to go so it melts and causes a huge short. I am going to built the light for myself for sure. Great instructable!


    8 years ago on Step 3

    How about covering it with some welded wire fabric or chicken wire? You could just bend it to the correct radius and screw it to the PVC.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I understand why you don't like the tripod base, but that limits the application to only flat, level surfaces. I have a quite hilly backyard, and if I need to work on something (like cleaning up a tree that fell) I need a tripod (with extensible legs) for something like this. Hmm.. that gives me some ideas...

    2 replies

    rocks work, or anything strong enough. i used to work for telco and use ladders all the time, Many of the back yyard runs were not level, and we rarely had the safety ladder levelers in stock. all safety films would say that rocks werent safe, but they would say they were out or budget was closed. a big flat rock , hustle up and belt into the strand, funny how the belts were just belts,nothing like a climbing harness where if you turned upside down , you would probably not fall out.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    In your situation I agree, but I would just strap the lower tube against a tree or spike I driven in the ground. I think your example is the exception not the rule. Thanks for bringing it up.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    The absolute best reflective material I've used in lighting projects is 3M™ Daylighting Film DF2000MA, this stuff is amazing, is 99% reflective and works amazing well with enhancing LED sourced illumination.

    Posting a link to this material.

    3 replies

    anyplace in the usa that sells this? that was an india resource and the usa 3m doest , it i haven't doesn't a link on where i could buy it and how much it cost


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    No worries, also placing a Fresnel lens (flexible magnifier) can assist in improving light output.

    Eye Poker

    8 years ago on Introduction

    Those aren't lights they are Transport Pattern Enhancers.


    8 years ago on Step 6

    That is an awesome build. I knew there were thousands of uses for discarded reels that can be snagged by the truckload behind my local Graybar.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    To the best of my knowledge, the black plastic drain pipe is ABS, not PVC.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I like your lamp and would recomend white Reflective Tape as my experience with it is once stuck it dose not come off.

    1 reply
    trike road poet

    9 years ago on Step 6

    Serious work light, solid design and clean build.  This is great quick patio light, backyard light, garage lamp or clean up the design a bit, paint the bottom, point the light into a corner and make a great indirect 'art form' lamp for a different sort of room light (like in a TV or media room!)

    You have a winner here.

    1 reply

    9 years ago on Step 3

    I think you should add a cover to those bulbs as they might be cool to touch but they are not shock resistant.
    Bending plexiglass is not all that hard if you have a heat gun . as seen here. Just take a piece of tubing and bend it against that and you should have perfect shape. 

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Well maybe. I'm not sold on the clear cover concept. I know they are not shock proof but I think most "workmen" will have good sense not to use it in the wrong conditions. If I went commercial with it, I'd have to have a cover. Thanks for the reminder.