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Small Cabin Forum / Off-Grid Living / LED lighting project (Electrifying Kerosene lanterns)
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# Posted: 27 Nov 2011 01:18 - Edited by: TomChum

For awhile I thought I would use Kerosene lamps for lighting. It satisfied sometimes but more often,,,,, NOT. I tried adding reflectors of tinfoil which doubled the light but was still not sufficient. I did not give up easily. I bought an "Alladdin" mantle-type kerosene light ($260!), which actually was equivalent to a 60w bulb, but not without problems. For example I looked up from reading a book to find the mantle almost completely sooted and a 6 inch flame coming out of the chimney! It could be a good backup in case the batteries run dead, except that a moth has gone down the chimney and annihilated the mantle.

Kerosene was simple, in a way, but nowhere near the convenience and brightness of electricity. I still like using Kerosene lamps in the morning before the sun comes up. But having open flame lighting day in and day out is asking for trouble in the long run. The only questions are who; and when?


I'm building these 12v LED lighting fixtures at home. They are old style Kerosene lanterns. The wires required to run these lights are tiny, and easily concealed. I will fuse these wires at the source with the appropriate tiny fuses, but haven't yet worked that out.....

There are a pair of tiny 1/5w LEDs in place of the flame. I cut a little flame profile out of a white oil quart bottle plastic, and when the LED is placed behind this white plastic it looks yellow like a flame. Sort of ;-)

I put a microswitch under the fuel filler cap, so turning the fuel filler cap operates the switch to turn off the bright downlight then the lantern looks like it has a flame. When operated with only the flame they consume 0.4 watts each.

Here's what it looks like with ALL LEDs burning. The two bigger lamps are 6.5 Watts total. The little one is 3 watts total. This 16Watts is plenty of light for my 12x16 cabin. I have a couple reading lights too.

The big red lantern has an AR-111 flood light (5.8w). The little red lantern has an MR-16 flood bulb (2.8w). The silver lantern has a "spot" bulb (6w), therefore it has to hang about 8 feet above the stove to spread the beam enough to provide provide usable downlight.

In this photo the main lamps are "off" and only the "flame" LEDs are burning. (0.5 Watt) /

# Posted: 27 Nov 2011 13:32 - Edited by: TomChum

Here are the components. I decided NOT to use the MR16 socket, rather I soldered the wires directly to the LED bulb pins because the amperage is so low and it's more compact. I covered all bare wires, and pins with hot glue for isolation.

The large MR16 bulb here is 1 2.8W from MR16-WW48SMD: Warm White ($14.95)

The small LED here is a 1/5W "Little Dot" LD1-WW: Warm White ($1.99) from the same place. For a flame I used two LEDs, glued back-to-back.

Here's a photo of a "flame" made from a white plastic quart-oil bottle, glued around a pair of 1/5w LEDs (with hot-melt glue). The oil bottle was "old" and had used oil stored in it, thus the plastic was yellowed a bit.

I decided to add two more tongues of flame. The glass globe was a little dirty and sooted. I was careful to not disturb the soot in hopes that it would look more realistic. It would not be difficult to re-soot it with an actual flame just before final assembly. I'm happy to report that it looks authentic when lit (from 3 feet away). When not lit it looks like pieces of hot-glued plastic....

Photo from below. First try with holesaw was a little rough to say the least. It threw the entire lamp out of my hand. As soon as the saw breaks thru you have to slow down and just let it chew away, with the teeth dropping off into the cut, not cutting up out of the hole. The next 2 lamps have much cleaner holes.

# Posted: 27 Nov 2011 18:02

Awesome and looks like it works great. It is always fun to build and invent.

# Posted: 27 Nov 2011 21:53

Those are really cool. You could sell those online or at a craft show I suspect.

Just a quick question: All total, how much money do you have in each lamp, including the lamp housing itself?

# Posted: 28 Nov 2011 00:16 - Edited by: TomChum

Each lamp cost about $45 for the components. Lantern ~$20, LEDs, $15+2+2, switches + wires $5 and it took about 8 hours to get all 3 assembled. I suspect it took me 5 hours just to gather up the lanterns to start with, walking thru antique stores then finally driving across town to meet a craigslister. In retrospect I could have bought new Taiwan lanterns at Wal-Mart for $16.95 in 10 minutes, but I do enjoy a quest.

I had a certain look I wanted for my lighting:

- Authentic Log cabin furnishings appearance (old lamps not new)
- super low power consumption, 12vDC
- good light with proper color output
- ultra-low-power nightlight 0.4W

There was only one way to get it and that's to make it myself. Anyone who has Googled for "12vDC LED fixture" knows there is NOTHING interesting available on the internet or Amazon or eBay and especially for cabin decor. Anyway that's how I'm justifying the inordinate amount of time invested ;-)

Here's a photo showing the on-off switch. When the fuel cap is screwed inward, it pushes a microswitch to turn OFF the (bigger) downlight and leaves just the "flame LED" burning.

I hid the wire as best as I could....

Owen Kellogg
# Posted: 27 Sep 2012 12:06

Amazing work, Tom. This inspires me to change a few things about my cabin lighting.

# Posted: 30 Sep 2012 17:11 - Edited by: davestreck

Somebody must gave read this post and fast-tracked some Chinese factory to start cranking 'em out:

Olde Brooklyn Lantern

Looks like a real junker (or a scam) but you gotta love the "As seen on TV" over-the-top video narration..."But wait! There's more!!!"

# Posted: 4 Oct 2012 11:22 - Edited by: TomChum

If they used "warm-white" LEDs it might be a nice light, but the blue-white LEDs would turn me off. An array of blue-white LEDs would not satisfy my quest for 'vintage' lighting.

But in any case, if you look around at all the LED fixtures currently available, it might me one of the more interesting options for cabin decor....... up until the point when you actually turn it on.
I assume they run on batteries but it does not say. I wonder if it has a glass or plastic globe? It looks like it's easily worth $12.95 though.

WHITE LEDs with Dimmer

# Posted: 5 Oct 2012 22:18

I think its a plastic globe, and I agree that the blue-white light is no good.

Worth $12.95? I dunno. I suspect I'd end up chucking one of these things in the trash after 5 minutes of use. That works out to $2.59 per minute. I think your home-made ones are the better deal. Better built, better light, last forever, and just plain cool. Well done! I want one.

# Posted: 3 Nov 2012 18:03

Lol very clever,Tom.I love the look of them old lanterns.And the gas cap on/off switch,,,sweet!

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