The young are known to be great innovators. A student at Union College in New York, for instance, has created an LED flashlight in an Altoids tin! Freshman Nicholas Brenn’s invention turns a single LED, a resistor, a coin cell battery, a push-button switch, some wire and an Altoids Minis tin into a fully functional flashlight. (The Altoids tin acts as the housing for the LED flashlight.)
Brenn’s company, NGB Enterprises, has sold hundreds of Altoids tin LED flashlight kits, mainly to educational toy distributor Edmunds Scientific. Moreover, Brenn was recently featured in an upcycling segment on CNN reporter Anderson Cooper’s daytime talk show.
Brenn’s success as an inventor spurred us to get creative about LED flashlights. We wondered what unexpected items could be created with an LED flashlight. Below, here are a few projects you can build with LED flashlights.
1. A Lamp
An LED flashlight can enjoy a second life as a reading light with this simple hack. Here are the items you’ll need:
- An LED flashlight
- A lamp shade (the kind with a hole in the top)
- A base for your lamp
- A mirror that fits inside the top hole of the lampshade. (Craft stores often sell circular mirrors in different sizes.)
Charity resale stores are great places to scrounge for funky, usable lampshades and bases.
You’ll need to get creative as you assemble your LED flashlight-lamp. First, find a way to suspend the lampshade on the flashlight. (Hopefully, you double-checked that the items you gathered will fit together properly.) Some lampshades may be so evenly balanced that they will happily sit on top of your flashlight. Others may require a little finagling; duct tape is your friend.
The same innovative approach will serve you well as you attach the LED flashlight to the lamp base. (For a very small reading lamp, you may not need a base. Simply top the LED flashlight with a cute, cottage-style shade, and you’re good to go. Many LED flashlights are sturdy enough to balance on their own.)
In case you’re wondering, the circular mirror goes in the hole at the top of the lampshade. Unless you redirect the light down, your LED flashlight will shine straight up onto the ceiling—not the most convenient reading light. A circular mirror can reflect the light back down into the lampshade and onto your book.
Although this hack might seem a bit tricky, the good thing is that once you have it figured out, you’ll be able to enjoy thousands of hours of light on a single LED bulb.
2. A Pet Safety Light
Bikers and runners are advised to carry a light with them on the road. Pedestrians who carry LED flashlights are much more visible to drivers. Lately, we’ve noticed more and more pets running around with their own safety lights, as well. If you don’t want to buy a separate collar light for your pet, you can turn an LED flashlight into a collar light.
The main difficulty with this project is finding a way to fasten the light to the pet’s collar. We recommend using a very strong rubber band or a strip of Velcro to securely attach a strong binder clip around the flashlight. (If you’re looking for more of a permanent pet light, hot glue or another strong adhesive will probably work better.) Once the clip is in place along the length of your LED flashlight, simply attach the clip to your pet’s collar, and you’re good to go.
Another option is to attach a mini LED flashlight to the housing of a retractable dog collar.
3. A Laser Pointer
This final project is the perfect way to use any extra mini LED flashlights you happen to have lying around the house. Because many websites explain this LED flashlight hack in great detail, we’ll just divulge the basics here. You’ll need a DVD burner, a mini flashlight and some very small tools, such as jeweler’s screwdrivers.
Removing the laser diode from the DVD burner is your first step. Next, you may need to install the diode in a special housing, depending on the type of LED flashlight you intend to use. A little soldering may be required to connect the laser diode to the flashlight’s electrical system. Finally, you’ll slide the laser diode into the flashlight’s case, and voila! You have the most powerful cat toy known to man. This is certainly not a project for those who lack electrical engineering experience.