Little Big Lamp was originally conceived and built in 2006 by MAKE Contributing Editor Charles Platt as a low-power alternative to incandescent bulbs, and wired to run on 12V for use in motor homes. Six years ago, when white LEDs were in their relative infancy, Charles’ project required 72 10mm LEDs, consuming 5W of power to produce the comparable amount of light as a 60W incandescent. These days, even greater brightness and spread of beam is possible, and the circuit has been updated to use 18 5mm LEDs.
This project is composed of three segments: the LED array, the simple circuit, and the lamp body. This is a good project to learn about wiring LEDs in series without resistors. The simple circuit, which combines the venerable 555 Timer with a Darlington array, will introduce you to the principle of Pulse Width Modulation. As for the lamp body, that’s where your maker chops come in! Charles used PVC components purchased from plumbing and hardware stores to build his minimalist desk lamp. You are free to follow this design, or customize your own to suit your space and needs. Some modifications that come to mind include a gooseneck, using clear plexi so all the wiring and components are visible, or rewiring the circuit to be battery powered for true portability. The possibilities are endless!
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