CD Lamp 2 From Jim Watters


After having my site mentioned on the likes of Gizmodo with “DIY CD Lamp” and Hack a Day with “lamp o’ cds” in June of 2005, I decided I must complete my second CD Lamp.  I have been wanting to create another lamp for quite a while now.  I received over 30,000 hits in about 3 days because of those two sites alone.



I had collected more than enough discs to create a new lamp.  I purchased trouble light with a fluorescent dual tube bulb.  It plugs directly into the wall so no need for external transformer.


Original light off Original light on


Here is the trouble light both on and off.  Like the last lamp, I also found this one at Canadian Tire, part # 52-5096-8 for about 30 dollars(Cnd).  The reflector at the back of the bulb makes it very bright.

Key points include:

  • On/Off rocker switch
  • 13W twin tube fluorescent bulb
  • 6 foot (1.8 m) cord


Original light taken apart


My next step was to take the light apart to see what was hidden inside.  It came apart very easily with only a couple of screws.

Just about everything is not needed.


Light circuit


This is all that is needed.  A very simple circuit.

  • Cord
  • Switch
  • Contacts
  • Holder
  • Coil
  • Bulb

If I was to try to buy these parts separately the hardest thing to find would probably be the coil.




The same caution should also apply to my lamp.


Test fit


I laid out the parts (coil, holder, and switch) to see how they fit within the confines of the disc circle.  With the coil under the lamp the lamp base will be too tall.


Test fit


With the coil beside the lamp there is no room to manoeuvre .  By removing a little of the base it will work.

Putting it together

Plywood with circles


I used some plywood I already had.  3/8 inch is the thickest I had.  I needed 6 layers of this 3 ply plywood to get enough height for the holder and electronics.


Circles of plywood


I cut them out a little bigger than the circle, with a jig saw.


Base glued together


I glued and clamped all the layers together to dry.  I did not add any glue in the center, just about one inch around the outside edge.  I needed to drill out all but one layer (3/8 of inch) of the plywood from the center.  It will be much easier if they are not glued together there, and therefore can be removed one layer at a time.


Base finished


I drilled out the plywood at the top of the base, which will contain most of the hardware.  Two more holes in the side of the base.  One is for the power cord and one for the switch.  Another hole was drilled for securing of the power cord.  The power cord was secured by two screws to the base to prevent the cord from being accidently pulled out.  I protected the base with at least 7 layers of Varathane with a light sanding in between coats.


Test base fit


To place the electronics into the base I had to unsolder the power cord and the switch from the coil.  Here is the holder and coil positioned in the base for a “dry fit” before soldering.


Back of base


I fed the switch and power cord into the base and then soldered it all back together.


Drillpress setup jig


I setup a jig to cutout a larger hole in the CDs.  I later used a similar jig to drill the 3 holes for the rods.  Setting up and all the drilling took about 3 hours.  The plastic of the CDs melted a bit and left a bit of a ridge on both sides.  I then used a grinding bit and files to clean up the edges.  This took another 2 to 2.5 hours.
CD with hole


There will be plenty of breathing room around the CD when it is finished.  It is possible to see some of the burr that is left behind after first drilling.


Stack of cut CDs


I need a stack at least 2/3 the height of the bulb.  I might use all the holes I drilled out as spacers on my next project.



The finished Product

CD lamp off


Here it is turned off.  In the end I used 61 CDs.  The CDs are grouped in pairs with the shiny side out.  I used washers between the pairs of CD’S as spacers.  To start the stack of CDs I used a single CD on the base of the unit.  To finish I covered the stack with two pairs (4 CD) on the top without their centers enlarged (untouched).


CD lamp off


I used the same nuts on top and on bottom as legs.  To change the bulb just remove the nuts from the bottom and slide the base and CDs apart.


CD lamp on


And finally the finished product and all lit up.


CD lamp on


Finished and all lit up again but at a different angle.



What I Would do Different Next Time

I have been doing a little reading on the internet about ballast for fluorescent lights.  The next time I use a fluorescent bulb, I would use a non magnetic ballast.  They turn on quicker, hum less, and use less power.  The switch on this circuit does stop all flow of power unlike most transformers that are still completing a circuit even though the device may be off.

But my next lamp will not be a fluorescent light.  I also want my next lamp to run off the 12v DC of the PC.  It will be either a LED or Cold Cathode.

My first choice is to use one of these Agilight type z-LED lights.  The rod is 14mm, which should fit snuggly over the CD without any enlarging.  The CD hole is 15mm.  If I use the “hole” bits from this project as spacers I wont need to make any holes for rods.  I am not sure how bright they actually are.  If I make one I’ll do a comparison between it and this current lamp.

The problem I see with the Cold Cathode tube or CCFL is that they have a square blocks at the end and the tubes themselves may be a little too wide.  There is even a USB version but it does not produce a bright enough light.


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