I Make Projects . com
On the right project, some bad rust looks better than some good paint.

Main | Projects | About | Contact and Services

This is an older site. For my professional site and contact information, visit AE Innovations. You can also visit my new site at It Came From The Workshop.

Steampunk Glow Crystal Lamp

A simple art piece blending an electrical, mystical, and antique look.

What This Is

I was inspired by this piece by JohnKit on Flickr, which I ran across while reading about hollowing out light bulbs.

I decided to do my own, but with a twist. I started with only the idea that I wanted two colors - and a fluid-filled light bulb as the container. The light bulb would contain a liquid that would glow when hit with ultraviolet light... and of course, the other LED for the crystal would be a UV led. The LEDs would be positioned such that it would appear that the light is emanating from the crystal.

What This Isn't

This isn't exactly a How-To. This is a how-I-did-it, and if you have the interest and ability to make something similar, all you'll need is some of the details about how I did mine so you can take it from there. Quite probably the methods I used here are not optimal anyway, but the results are encouraging.

Key Parts and Concepts

A hollowed-out light bulb is used as the container (A How-To is here).

Trimming LEDs with a file can be done to make the LEDs fit in small spaces. Just don't hit any of the bits inside when filing.

An Ultraviolet LED illuminates some materials. I used the contents of a highlighter marker diulted into an alchohol solution. You don't need much! Too much highlighter liquid actually interferes with the illumination by UV.

A small parts box where you keep springs, small gears, and other assorted bits comes in pretty handy.

Epoxy was used to seal up the base of the light BEFORE filling with fluid. The lamp was filled via two small hollow brass tubes (inject liquid in one until it comes out the other, clean up and dry, then seal with epoxy).

Some knowledge of microcontrollers comes in handy for that extra little theatrical touch. I used a small PIC (12F629) to power the Red and UV LEDs - this allowed me to make them blink and pulse during power-up for a nice visual effect.

How It Got Made

I started with a hollowed-out light bulb that I liked, a UV LED (from a counterfeit money-detector), a highlighter, and some alcohol. The alcohol went into the bulb, and I pulled open the highlighter and dunked it into the alchohol to soak. A shine with the UV led shows that it glows nicely.

After this I emptied the liquid into a bottle to use later. This makes a high concentration solution -- in the end I filled the bulb with hardly a tenth of this concentration of highlighter-juice.

Next I constructed the bits to go into the bulb. I settled on a small brass tube with two LEDs in it (I had to file the LEDs down). One was a high-brightness red LED, the other was the UV led from the counterfeit detector. The rest consisted of whatever I had on hand that looked interesting. The small crystal would perch on the LEDs and the other end I wanted to look like an electrode.

These two items were carefully inserted into the bulb and held in place with a small amount of epoxy. I also inserted two tubes, to be used for filling the bulb with the highlighter solution later.

Then a test run -- making sure the LEDs work and it all looks pretty. First the red, then the ultraviolet.

Now fill partly with alcohol, then add some highlighter-juice solution. Then the end was sealed shut with more epoxy.

The effect when the red is on is nice, but the UV is stunning! Check out the video below for how it looks in operation.


I made a simple little program with a microcontroller (a BASIC Stamp for example should be fine) to blink and pulse the LEDs at powerup. I wanted it to look like the red is mostly on while the unit is unstable, flickering, and powering up, then it suddenly becomes stable and the deep green glow begins to pulse lightly. The audio effect was edited in (the actual device is silent).

Main | Projects | About | Contact and Services

Original Content - Copyright 2010 (Except where specified)