DIY Hollow Out A Light Bulb

When I was growing up I had a keen interest in the sciences. Mostly because of the cool gear that scientists used, you know, beakers, flasks, Bunsen burners that sort of thing. Well, not only did I not have the money for those sorts of thing but I had no idea where to even buy them if I could. So I had to improvise. One of the better improvisations I was able to do was to hollow out a light bulb and use it for other things. The glass that makes the envelope of the build is quite heat resistant and the screw base is good to attach things to (even better if you can find old ones with brass bases, you can solder to those). I made a number of small boilers in order to learn about steam and distillation. I hope to show people that even if a bulb burns out, it can still be useful.

Step 1

Lightbulb project

You will need some common tools, a screwdriver (regular) and snips (or needle nose pliers). Use whatever bulb you have handy. *CAUTION* Never use a fluorescent bulb for this project, no matter how cool it looks. The powder used to coat the inside of them is made from phosphor and is quite toxic. You’re also working with glass, so use eye protection! You can’t see mine because I’m wearing them. You should also use gloves or wrap the bulb in a towel just in case it breaks. Yeah, you can’t see mine because i didn’t have any handy. So do as I say and not as I do, got it?

Step 2

Lightbulb project

First, grip the little solder point and give it a good twist. You will free the brass contact and break one of the wires leading to the filament.

Step 3

Lightbulb project

Once the contact has been pulled out, carefully crack the glass insulator. The chips from this are quite pervasive, they get into just about anything in the area and they are razor sharp. Use caution.

Step 4

Lightbulb project

After the insulator has been removed you can see the inside supports of the filament and the fill hole. In the old days bulbs were evacuated of atmosphere to keep the filament from oxidising and burning through. Now days the glass envelope is back filled with an inert gas like argon. The keeps the filament from burning through and makes the bulbs safer.

Step 5

Lightbulb project

Use the screwdriver to break the fill tube.

Step 6

Lightbulb project

The fill tube could be saved for a later project if you wish.

Step 7

Lightbulb project

You can now shake the filament assembly out of the tube. If the tungsten wire is still intact you could probably find a good use for it. You could make another light bulb if your stuck for something to do I suppose.

Step 8

Lightbulb project

The bulb needs a good cleaning. This powder, is called kaolin and is pretty safe. You should still be careful and keep it away from your mouth and anything you might eat near.

Step 9

Lightbulb project

Mind the sharp bits of glass in the socket when doing this. If you have some stubborn bits inside of it that you can’t get to with this technique you can fill the bulb with a little salt and shake it about. this should scour the powder off the walls.

Step 10

Lightbulb project

There you are, an empty light bulb ready for a new lease on life.

Lightbulb project

As an example I built this neo-Victorian New Age Flemming like valve out of a discarded bulb.

Boiling water

A more traditional use is as a vessel to boil water. I wouldn’t use too hot of a flame, a candle or an alcohol burner should be about as much heat as you should use. It is after all only a light bulb. Real lab ware is much thicker and can take more heat. Still, for the amateur experimenter this can be handy to have.

I hope you have enjoyed this little project and have fun making useful things out of what was once junk.


A few of the dimmer bulbs insist on sending me comments on how this will make great drug paraphernalia. Please keep those comments to yourself as I delete them ASAP.  You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to make something into a pipe and that’s not why I wrote this tutorial. Thanks.

(May 6, 2007)

Another useful that can be made with a used light bulb (more)seeds_in_bulb

Looking for other neat light bulbs? Learn all about of different lights, from neon lights to police lights to black lights — all kinds of awesome lights!

186 thoughts on “DIY Hollow Out A Light Bulb”

  1. Go ahead and use a lot of heat to boil the water.

    You can boil water in a paper cup, you know, because the thin paper instantly transfers the heat to the water, and the water can not get above 100 C, which is far below the ignition temperature of the paper cup.

    Similarly, the thinness of the bulb glass makes it very safe to boil water.

  2. You’re, not Your….
    [Ah! Thanks. I forget these things some times. I’ll go make the corrections tonight. -John]

  3. that’s great! this jogged my memory of something my dad told me. when he was young and living in central Connecticut. he didn’t have the money to buy his lab equipment for chemistry experiments. he would get the giant old bulbs from a department store. back then stores used really big incandescent bulbs. he used a heated wire to actually lop off the connector end of the bulb. that was probably around 1930, so it’s neat to see the same basic trick still in use.

  4. Todd: No, I do not advise drinking out of the bulb. There may be bits of glass left over on the inside of the socket that might come lose and you could ingest them. That would seriously suck.

  5. Thanks John for the great tutorial! And thanks to johnpaul in the comments who suggested the idea of using some of the cool odd shapes and sizes of bulbs, such as short tubes and large spheres. This is not only easier than heating the base off with a blowtorch (it is just held on with a kind of glue) but as you say it allows you to use the screw threads for possisble fixture or mounting options. Good job!

  6. Does the valve actually work? That would be seriously cool.
    [No, I can’t seem to bend the laws of physics in my favor on this one. Anyway, I lack an adequate supply of platinum and palladium for the bias electrodes. -John]

  7. this might be of interest a plastic lid from a two liter or 20 oz bottle screws on nicely and makes a snug airtight/watertight seal if you wrap the threads w/ a litte bit of electrical tape.

  8. i saw something on wooster collective about making paint bombs from old light bulbs. they filled the empty bulb with red paint, and taped the bottom of the bub back on.
    [Yeah, you could do that but you shouldn’t. The glass is pretty darn sharp. You would do better with hollowed out eggs. Safe and eco friendly, they are after all bio degradable.
    Hollowed out light bulbs have many cool uses but you have to use your head and think of what the consequences will be.

  9. The “neo-Victorian New Age Flemming like valve” is *very* nice. That could be sold, you know. But I suppose the manufacturing (?) would have to be done in China or some other cheap-to-hand-make place.

    Nice, though.


  10. Wow, I just did this to two burned out bulbs…how simple!

    Not sure that I’m gonna be using these for chemistry, but the technique sure has opened up a whole bunch of ideas…me mudder’s gonna have gold kittens when she see’s this!

  11. Great tutorial. I’ve found that an old toothborush works great for scrubbing the powder out of the inside of the bulb.

  12. when i was a kid i filled hollow bulbs with melted wax, added wicks and after cooling gently cracked and removed the glass. they made dandy “lightbulb” candles.

    – js.

  13. I just tried this, with an IKEA lightbulb, and it didn’t work. Well, everything worked but there was no powder in the bulb. It just seemed like ordinary “frosted” glass and I couldn’t even scratch it with a screwdriver.
    Any ideas what type of lightbulb you should go for?
    I love the red crystal thing by the way!

  14. You can use salt to remove the white powder-like film. Just pour a little in, shake it up and dump out the salt and it’ll be clear.

  15. My father was a photographer from around the early 50s, and I have memories of finding odd trinkets he’d packed away (he was a bit of a packrat).

    You could very likely use this method to reconstruct older-era flashbulbs, if you happen to have a need, although I’m sure you’d need to keep the stalk for the initiator. Okay, maybe not the best way… 😛

  16. It sounds like the IKEA bulbs have some sort of painted insides. It could also be that they make the bulbs out of white glass, I don’t think that it’s the case as if it was cheaper to do this the manufacture of regular bulbs would have been doing it for years. I’ll have to make a trip down to the local IKEA and have a look around.
    I’ve had good luck bulbs from the dollar store, you get four 60 watt bulbs for a buck.

  17. had it NOT been a screw-in bulb like how we have it here in India (we have a bulb with 2 stubs that stick out (not more than 2-3mm in length), and it is stuck in the holder having a hinge kinda thing…. we get those stubs out of the bulb and can tie 2 strings and make a pot out of it — but its kinda useless coz da water remains at the bottom of the bulb and that icky green thingy develops 😀 — and da damn crows try to keep pecking at the bulb thinking therez something to eat in there 😀

  18. i have taken apart sevral light bulbs by breaking off the metal part, which was a bad idea, this way seems much safer.

  19. Okay, I found another lightbulb that did work. Lots of work though. I think I’ll just buy clear lightbulbs if I want to build something from this.

  20. While photographing Crack/Meth addicts, they too used a light bulb for a “pipe” easy to get, easy to make.

    He said all he needed was a


    and he has a pipe. He had a pair of snippers, snipped the top off poured salt in from McDonalds, dumped it out, inserted his meth into the light bulb, flame to bulb, then took the pen apart, insert into bulb and smoke.

    Smart addicts eh?

  21. This is stupid. And what does “somewhat safe” mean? What about “maybe undeadly.” Pointless.

  22. you can skip steps 8 and 9 by using clear light bulbs, no bothersome/hazardous powder removal. i would recommend this route untill we know what that powder is, as this government is notoriously scared of unidentified white powders.

  23. Yeah.. the salt works well. Incidently.. speed freaks used these for years to smoke their dope.

  24. Have you tried heating the base w/ a torch to melt the glue and then using pliers to just remove the entire base/filament assembly? The 1982 film “The Soldier” shows one rather nasty use for this.

  25. lol, not that i’m into that kinda thing, but you could make a cool bong…

  26. I would be shocked if the powder was “extremely carcinogenic”. Bulbs break all the time in the real world, and people are going to breathe in the dust. If the powder was carcinogenic, it would seem to open the manufacturer to severe liability. Since the powder’s only purpose is to diffuse the light, there are probably thousands of possible compounds that would work just fine for the purpose, so something that was toxic or carcinogenic would seem rather silly.

    As for the dust being a “respiratory irritant”, I think they are talking about the tiny shards of glass created by pulverizing the glass itself, not the powder in the bulbs.

    You could easily find out by emailing one of the bulb manufacturers. I’m sure they would be able to answer your question.

  27. how did you make that LED crystal thing in the picture? besides the lightbulb obviously. that looks wicked cool, especially if it were actually in a light socket. not very bright though im guessing.

  28. Hey #1 = Water can’t get above 100C? You’re adhering to a popular misconception. Of course it can. That’s like saying water can’t get colder than 0C because that’s when it freezes. Use your head.

  29. Pure water at sea level will only reach 100 degrees C. If you add salt it will go a little higher. If you add pressure it will go higher (pressure cooker anyone).

    While you have standard tap water in the bulb the temperature will not go over 100 degrees C

    Now if you superheat the water, turn it into gas and then continue to heat your answer is correct.

  30. yo…if you didn’t know it thats how most people smoke meth and pcp too, this won’t look too good for you if someone who knows about this finds the bulbs
    [After reading dozens of comments about this very subject (and deleting pretty much all of them) I’m convinced that if you want to do drugs you can come up with just about anything to burn, smoke, infuse, vaporize or otherwise ingest the crap. I don’t condone any of it at all. If someone wants to take me to task for writing this then I guess they will have to arrest the makers of lighters, plumbing supplies, any everything else you can heat something with. I wish the readers would grow up and thank you for your concern. -John]

  31. I spent the last few hours getting everything together for a project inspired by your tutorial, I’ve created a fishbowl for a beta out of a large globe type lightbulb I bought at the local hardware shop. Here’s a link.

    [That totaly rocks! Way to go! That is EXACTLY what I’m talking about. You should post this to the MAKE group on -John]

  32. I would try to rewire a dead bulb as an led bulb. See if I could find a way to get a small transformer in the base maybe.
    [You might not need to, I have a few strings of LED Christmas lights that just plug into the wall. I bet there is just a resistor in there and enough diodes (LEDs) in series and parallel to use all the 120VAC. Here are a few links to get you started, LED calculator for single LEDs, LED calc, Rewiring Christmas Lights – John]

  33. Look up the MSDS info on standard incondescant bulbs. Toner is more damaging to you then that coating on the inside of the bulb.

  34. THIS is so cool !! as soon as I get another aquarium going I am going to open some up put some LED’s insode reseal them and use them as decorations in an aquarium !! since I can fill them with water they won’t try to float. ! VERY cool idea !

    might also be neat to let fish USE them as habitats I can use different size bulbs to allow only certain size fish in so if they get picked on they have a safe place to go. not sure about air though I might have to try and drill some micro holes so the water will circulate with the rest of the tank 🙂

    I also want to try the crystal thing that looks pretty neat.

    Chris Taylor
    [Make sure you water proof the LEDs and the wires before you put them under water. -John]

  35. these are commonly used as vaporizors for smoking marijuana and crack. just a tidbit some people prolly didnt know

  36. John, I have joined flickr, but I can’t find how to submit photos to the make group, if you could let me know, that’d be great @my email I posted this comment with. I’ve got a friend bringing over a profesional camera today to get some decent pics.

  37. I was wondering, there seems to be a glass lining with some sort of glue (green seemingly porous stuff) on the inside of the lighbulb where the cap is connected to the glass, i was wondering how you got rid of all that while still keeping the cap on. I tried breaking it off but the metal cap fell off the glass body. Helps apprectiated, thanks. =)
    [That’s the glue that is used to keep the metal base on the glass body. That is left in the bulb, the glass post that supports the filament is the part that is broken out and removed. I hope this helps – John]

  38. The inner coating on incandescent and halogen bulbs is alumina silica. It’s a very safe material that is 49% alumina, and 50% silica with

  39. Perfect. I’ve always love science expiriments, but I had the same roadblock as you. No money = No Experiments. I’m currently using this for various electrical projects and I have made a “model” water distiller. Thanks!

  40. for a really good sized bulb, get one of the 1000 watt ones from local baseball park etc. Or if your local municipality still used tungsten street lights, try one of them

  41. Make morrocos: Paper Mache and leave hole in bottom open. When dry, gently tap and break glass. Discard glass, add dried beans. Finish paper mache to shape and paint. Makes nice musical instrument.

  42. the coke bottle cap was a great idea, but i was wondering if you had anything more classy to recomend. i’m gettin this guy i know to rig it up with LED’s, and i was thinkin putty or something like that. if it comes out good, i’ll post some pics

  43. I’ve been looking around the local hardware stores and have found a few nice brass sockets that should make good bases. The photo I have of the “neo-Victorian New Age Fleming like valve” is only partially finished. Its held up by that clothes pin that’s clipped to the brass main shaft. I’m working on a tutorial on how to make your own, check back in a few days.

  44. Found a way to make it look like you never opened the bulb at all and you can store liquids or oils, or maybe both (for looks) in it too without them spilling.

    You’ll need a syringe, one that’s NOT small or thin (AKA, 2 and 1/4 inches in circumference), well, you won’t actually need the syringe but you will need the black thing that pushes the liquid out.

    Remove it, and fit it into the bottom of the bulb, the black thing should point out.

    It’s completely removable.

    Great, now I have a way to look at the crap in my water.

  45. A tip to cut cleamly the bases from the bulbs: use a triangular jeweller’s file just below the brass (or whatever) base; alternatively use a length of (moistened) hard-drawn (telephone) wire in a saw-frame. Sprinkle liberally the cutting-site with fine emery-powder, silicon carbide, or sharp sand.

    the old trick of an oil-soaked string won’t work as the glass is low-expansion borosilicate glass.

    Best of luck,

    [Ah, very good advice. Thanks! -John]

  46. Hey that is pretty cool, and a lot easier than dragging out the torch to heat off the base. Never though about salt as an abrasive to remove stuff inside cause most will come out with a lot of shaking of the broken filament. The crystal thing looks pretty cool. Also the statement about boiling water in a peper cup is true (i didn’t believe my eyes when I saw a strung out pot head at college flick his lighter under a Mickey D’s cup and start the left over drink boiling in just a few seconds).

  47. I used to do this when I was a kid. Of course being a foolish 12 year old, what I used to do with these was fill them with gasoline and stick a rag in them. At the time I thought I was pretty clever creating easy-smash grenade size molotov cocktails. Looking back now I’m absolutely amazed it didn’t end in disaster!

  48. I bought my nephew a radiometer from a local educational toystore and it was made from a bulb.
    Don’t know how easy it would be to make but it fascinates kids. The pin is fixed and the vanes spin with the (glass?) cone keeping them supported.
    There’s a pic at the website.

  49. John, a great article! Thanks for this, I’m off to my local army surplus store to find the bigest bulb I can find!

    Also thought I’d try a high presure sodium bulb…oh hang on a minute they could be used for GROWING drugs…then again maybe access to a bit of glassware is not going to make a blind bit of difference except to a bunch of people who like to feel important by pointing these things out…

  50. I have a bulb that is covered with solder at theend where you are supposed to pull the thing out. How would i go about getting aroud this.

  51. dude this is awsome i made a holder out of one of those glass ball stands it fits a tea candle under it so i’ve dicided to try to break open those bubleing oil lights and boyal them lol
    [I wouldn’t recommend doing that. It might start a fire. -John]

  52. hey guys…kaolin’s white clay, commonly used in dishes, makeup, and ming vases, anythings toxic if you consume somehow enough, but clay?!…if Nancy Drew was accurate say 50 years ago, I recall it said they have a large deposit in China of fine quality…the salt worked in a heartbeat, hooked a paper banner off the wires that held the filament, gushy love stuff, cool…used my needlenose to position, next project a balsa ship in a bulb (Praise God I’m not a tweaker; we’d all be in trouble…)

  53. Y’all got too much time on your hands!!
    (Prehaps, but I have fun with it. -73.)

  54. COOOOOL! Been looking for an easy way to do this ‘cos I wanna build a ship-in-a-lightbulb. Flower vase (solitaire) is another use I’ve seen before.

    Anybody have an idea of how to get rid of the brand/wattage printed on the glass? Some kind a solvent?

  55. Oh! And the other thing I’ve seen made out of an old bulb is a spirit lamp. It sat in a wire stand. Don’t rememver how they fastened the wick.

  56. The book I first saw this in when I was a little kid had an example of a spirit lamp. The wick was held in place with a cork and a metal tube.

  57. This brings back memories. I used to do this when I was younger. Of course, I’d boil stuff more dangerous than water. I remember one setup with a lightbulb full of rubbing alchohol over a candle, under another lightbulb full of rubbing alcohol. Just add flame, and make sure the house has good fire insulation or insurance.

  58. I tried the salt trick with a standard GE 60w bulb, it didn’t do a thing. Neither did the toothbrush. My conclusion? The frost is on the outside. Can’t work out how to scrub it off. Why don’t they make clear bulbs any more?
    [It might just be the brand of bulb. It could be that they acid etch those kind. -John]

  59. If it’s etched, that should mean that heating the bulb isn’t dangerous? I tried an OSRAM brand bulb and it’s exactly the same.
    [Hum, I don’t know. Your using an incandescent bulb right? Not a fluorescent one. All the bulbs I’ve tried here in my area have been coated with that clay stuff.]

  60. What would be cool, is if someone could fit the buld out with a super bright LED, with a swith and small 3V camera battery in the base. Portable lightbulb. Might try this one out!

  61. Love all the brain storming ideas. I’d like to try filling the empty bulb with a clear epoxy resins with a family photo or other harlooms then turn it into a door knob. Does anyone have any good ideas on which type of epoxy resins I might use? Keep up the good ideas all.

  62. They make really cool vases to hang on windows. Just wrap some wire around the threads and hang it on a suction cup.

  63. I do not think you have clearly addressed the “Victorian crystal in the bulb” question about which quite a few of us less technically inclined mopes have been wondering. In addition, it should be pointed out that the vast majority of you mind-numbingly brilliant science geeks have absolutely no command of the English language. This could be viewed as yet another example of how much our two camps absolutely rely on one another to get our non-mutually exclusive operations accomplished successfully. Concurrently, it could simply be viewed as an example of something at which your people simply suck.

    [I apologize for not following up with a tutorial on how to build the lamp that I stuck inside the bulb. I’ve been busy and I haven’t made time for doing the write up. It is on my ‘big list of important things’ and is near the top, so it should be done soon.
    I also apologize for my poor writing skills, even as English may be my primary language I have never professed a total mastery of it’s intricate grammatical structures. However, if you are referring to the many comments on this article I can only say that the world is a big place and for many it’s a cracking task just to get your point across. I don’t feel a need to proof what people say, it’s their right to use their own voice in crafting a reply. -John]

  64. man, thanks a lot. most people wouldn’t publish this kind of info because of dumb ass druggies taking advantage of the information. once again, thank you, i will enjoy having my own flask to add to my homemade lab.

  65. I am a teacher trainer for elementary science and would like to show teachers how the lightbulb works. Do you know of a way to take off the bottom of the bulb to show how the wires are attached to the metal collar and how a wire comes out the bottom?

    [I think you could do this by careful use of a file and small metal clippers. Or you could use a motor tool such as a Dremel. The metal screw base could be dissected with some care exposing the connecting wires and the glass insulator can even be left in place is you go slow. I hope this helps, I’m all for teachers getting hands on practical knowledge. -John]

  66. Re: Barbara and teacher training.
    I havn’t tried it, but you could also use a torch to melt the glue and remove the whole assembly. It’s from a movie, so I’d doubt its actual use, but you could give it a shot.

  67. For those interested, the bulbs available in Tescos in the UK, the 60W pearl ones, are chemically frosted inside, not powdered. (Bah).

  68. Thanks for this – a very cool tutorial. Does anyone have any idea how to remove the black ink from the top of the bulb? I have tried everything I could think of – acetone, vinegar, alcohol, toothpaste, and even salt and sugar as mild abrasives but nothing seems to work. The writing doesn’t appear to be etched but I can’t seem to take it off … any ideas?
    [I wish I did, it’s most annoying how permanent it is. -John]

  69. Can anyone tell me how to melt a hole in the lightbulb without it eventally shattering? I’ve used a torch to soften, then poke the hole through, but as it cools, it always shatters. I’m not blowing on it, touching it, or anything….

  70. Amy: What your getting is thermal shock because the glass is being cooled too quickly. The process is called ‘annealing’. You can read a step by step ‘how to’ at this link:
    You can do something similar with an electric hot plate and a ceramic flower pot full of Vermiculite. There should be something on the ‘net about this process.

  71. Sup man

    Having trouble getting the frosting out :- neither salt/water/scrubbing gets it any cleaner than a dull mist -as in I can see my fingers from the other side, but not very clearly. Is this just British bulbs and is there a solution?

  72. Alex: I’d say you should try a different brand of light bulb. I think the one you have has been etched on the inside to make them frosted.

  73. Steel wool takes the writing right off. I’ve never had it scratch the glass.

  74. Hi, using the hot wire method detailed above, is it possible to cut through the ’round’ part a glass light bulb?

  75. Neil: I’m not sure, I haven’t tried that yet. It should, just take your time, wear glasses and be careful.

  76. I have always been fascinated by vacuum tubes. Your copy of the Flemming diode is awesome! Why not up the ante and add a control grid and make a triode tube. That would be wicked!

  77. You can do the same sorts of things with neon bottles. They have a similar shape (but larger – about 5 inches in diameter) to a lightbulb and are available for free from any neon bender.

    These containers are what the two neon gasses come in. The gas is safe, and the empty containers are of no concern. Oh, they have no coating inside, just clear glass.

    I once made a flower arangement for a mothers day present from one. I inserted artificial flowers through the neck and siliconed (or something – it’s been at least a decade) them in place, and then siliconed that in a small flower pot and filled in around it with some spanish moss (or something). It came out looking like a hot air ballon. Pretty cool, actually.

  78. G: That’s a great idea, I’m going to have to find my local neon shop and pick up a few. Thanks.

  79. I love the idea of putting photos inside the glass. The two part epoxy that i would use is sold in wood crafting stores. I think the trade name is mirror coat. It’s the same thing they put on bar tops. Hope this piques someones interest.

  80. noonerightsme: That is a good idea. You could pull a vacuum to get rid of some of the bubbles. Do you know if the epoxy would discolor the photos?

  81. You’re right if people want to use this for ILLEGAL purposes than that’s they’re problem. I personally think what you’ve shown here is pretty quite cool.

  82. You know i don’t know if mirror coat would molest the pictures. I have embedded butterflys, leaves, coins, stamps, etc in the stuff, but never pictures. There is but one way to find out. I’ll let you know what i discover, but it may be a week or so. Also, it takes about 24 hours for this stuff to set, as long as you stir it together with care you shouldn’t have much for bubbles and it won’t yellow over time like regular epoxy. Piece

  83. The lightbulb could be used to make a homemade vaporizer, which does require some ingenuity to make and isn’t just a method of smoking

  84. A vaporizer can be used to extract compounds from any substance you’d rather not burn. Doesnt have to be something ilegal

  85. ?????????: Try a different brand of bulb. Some makers will frost them with an acid to get the frosted look.

  86. hello, now i know how you hate people refering to drug stuff with this, but here is a tip for cleaning out the white powder. put a little salt, a teaspoon or two, and heat it with a lighter or candle, when it starts to melt together, shake it around the light bulb. this workes very well,and it helps get any tiny bits of glass out. just ask any methhead homeless dude.

  87. to make a hole in the glass use a blowtorch and put it on the spot you want the hole then make that sm=pot red hot. blow into the light bulb whil its still red hot, and bublble will apear. it will pop, leaving a hole. if you are a pussy, then use some of that white medical tape or threadig tape, wrapp some around the metal base of the light bulb, and put a bottle cap ion it. make a hole in the cap and use a staw or hose in the cap to blow air into the bulb. by the way,, dont get cought doing this, cuz itsd how you make meth pipes.

  88. William: Yeah, I think that people that use these for drugs are idiots and should get help. But, just about anything can be subverted for evil stupidity.
    I might try the blowtorch technique to make holes in the envelope to pass wires or motor shafts. Maybe a wind-up key…

  89. What about making your miniature garden inside the hollowed up bulb? I think it could be easy to find the appropiate blend of sand and fertile material. Any seeds, humidity, temperature, light and patience could do the rest.

  90. Alvaro: Absolutely! Using a light bulb as a terrarium is a brilliant idea! That opens up a whole new world of possibilities for your little environments. Moss, cactus, green plants, you name it and it should work. Way to go!

  91. do you know how to drill a small hole in the glass safely with house hold tools? im trying to get air flow

  92. Pingback: Glowy Lamp Ideas
  93. John, thanks for the tutorial….

    I’ve been into the Victorian retro-sci-fi (a.k.a. Steampunk) scene for some time, and had about 50 dozen ideas of what one could do with hollowed out light bulbs, especially the tubular Aquarium/display cabinet type….

    Near the top of the list is to get one of those LED clock kits from Jameco, and instead of soldering the LEDs directly to the board (as is intended), use several hollowed out tubular bulbs with the LEDs mounted in them somehow to get the effect of a Nixie-tube clock, but without having to scrape up actual nixie tubes for $40-$60 each.

    Another idea would be to use a hollowed out display lamp bulb or one of them vaccum-tube looking Halogen bulbs (although I don’t know how safe using one of them would be, since the term “Halogen” refers to such chemicals as Chlorine, Bromine and Flourine…..) with some metal bits and either a neon glow lamp or amber LED to give it a Vaccum tube look for one of my Stempunk creations.

    I even saw an article in Popular Electronics about 10 years ago that had how to hollow out an old Radio tube and put in an actual radio circuit made out of SMT components with either a neon lamp or Amber LED (can’t remember at the time) to give it that Vaccum tube glow… An appropriately shaped hollowed-out light bulb would be perfect for such a project.

    Once again, thanks for this wonderful tutorial.

  94. Hi there, great tutorial by the way, but i’m having a trouble getting the Kaolin of the glass? Maybe the bulb i have doesn’t contain Kaolin, do you have any suggestions?

  95. Hi all you tweakers. Guess what?
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  96. FBI: Thank you for ruining the sting operation Special Agent Smith. Check your paycheck for a pink slip this Friday.

  97. Corfitz: You may have a bulb that is acid etched on the inside. If that is the case you should find a different brand of bulb.

  98. i hope the powder is safe cause if its not im gunna have one hell of a lung problem

  99. I only have 2 ceiling lights left in my house that use incandescent rather than fluorescent light bulbs (because the glass domes won’t fit over the fluorescents) so I didn’t have any regular bulbs handy but I did have the bulbs from my aquarium that burned out a little while ago. They are a roughly 1 inch diameter cylinder with a rounded end, kind of like a test tube so it’s a really great shape if you can get some.

    For the people worried about the powder, kaolin is a type of clay which in other forms is ingested so it’s pretty inert, you aren’t going to get cancer or anything from it. However breathing in any sort of dust (especially dust which might contain bits of glass) isn’t safe for your lungs. A simple dust mask costs like a dollar so it’s a small investment for your safety (same goes for safety goggles).

  100. something interesting to do w/ the light bulb is making it into a small vase for a plant. after u hallow it out, find a long (about half the size of the lightbulb), slender piece of glass or metal. tie a long sting around the piece or glass or metal. insert it in the lightbulb, then pull the string. this should allow u to hang the bulb. i but a piece of ivy in it and hung it around a curtain rail in my kitchen. dont forget to water it. *remember to change the string every so often because the water could break down the string*

  101. Jeremy: Thats a good idea. Use a toggle to hold the bulb up. Nice one. If you used nylon line the water would have little effect on it.

  102. 3rd try and got it rigth ^^
    2nd bulb got a crack but were otherwise perfect =P
    when i get a photo up ill link =)
    (i sat down and figured out something that was not mentioned in the tread, and built it…
    …makes a really good gift or such)
    will try to get a photo up soon…

  103. Thank you so much for this. I was looking for a way to poke a hole in a bulb, but found this to be so much cooler. I needed to make a project for my intermedia class, and this was the first thing that came to mind.

    Also, thanks for the salt in the bulb trick. awesome job.

  104. Another trick for cleaning out the bulb is to pour some table salt into it and shake it vigorously. Works great!

  105. You can buy clear bulbs in b&q – they’re about 40 british pence each, and in tesco you can buy clear candle bulbs for 50 gb pence each. You could try the coloured bulbs aswell.


  107. Bomaryl: No need to shout and no need to make comments with rude email addresses. I can see IP addresses in the posts. Your work looks very interesting, send me an email to the link on the upper right (“Send me a suggestion”) with some details and your web page please.

  108. Am inspired to make something with a burnt out lightbulb. However, i only have that other kind…you know the ones that have those little metal bits sticking out the sides…is the removal of the inside bit the same?

  109. I usually just cut the metal part near the top with a sharp knife. It’s pretty soft metal, so you can cut it easily. After this, break out the small glass tube, and then break the inside tube *very carefully* using a screwdriver since it’s easy to destroy the whole bulb. This can be done in minutes easily.

  110. I’m looking to open up a bulb to remove the metal base/element assembly, solder an LED to the element assembly and close it up again.

    Does anyone know if you can open a bulb without disturbing the element, and put it back together?

  111. The incandescent bulb stuff is great. But one or two later commenters are suggesting large non-incandescent types from sports stadiums — somebody mentioned sodium types — sodium and mercury vapor types will contain toxic substances (as in their names), and should not be used.

    Also there’s a nice how-to on cutting light-bulbs for ships in bottles, using a Dremel tool here:

  112. hydrogen peroxide will clear the bulb of the powder pretty well without the need to scrub it.

  113. Can we use this empty bulb like the soda can experiment thing?

    You boil water inside of it for a little, so the steam pushes out most of the regular air, then quickly throw it into a cool bucket of water and have it implode? This probably wouldn’t be too safe, but has anyone tried this with the bulb?

  114. Just wanted to let you all know, Kaolin, the white powder in regular bulbs, is rather safe. Wikipedia kindly informed me that it’s a natural clay from tropical regions used in a great many things from food and toothpaste additives, to coated glossy paper. It might not be the coolest thing to inhale, just like anything else out there, but swallowing it is as safe as eating from unglazed clay plates. Spiffy tutorial by the way!

  115. hmmmm, seems like this may be a good candidate for an LED conversion project? Not sure how to get the power converter and regulator into the bulb. Any ideas?

  116. Buy the way I have this neat looking small globe CFL that seems pretty tough with a heavy piece of material around the base, I guess to protect the ballast. Anyone know how I can remove the inner contents or disassemble to convert into an LED light. I am rediscent to take this bulb apart as it has mercury inside. Would appreciate input please from the genius’ out there?

  117. You can extract the LED set up from the cheap lighters that have them. The whole battery rig is narrow enough to be inserted into even the thinner screw in bulbs. A bit of electrical tape and they’ll stay on.

    If you need a little extra width take a pair of pliars to the metal, gently squeezing will crack the glass there so you can scrape it out. That’ll leave you with bare metal inside the screw part.

    Anyone know how to put a switch in?

    p.s. love the fish bowl!

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  121. using salt will remove the paint off the bulbs too, if you don’t already have a clear bulb handy to use.

  122. Great tutorial, thanks. Suggestion: I’ve seen very nice oil lanterns built from hollowed out light bulbs.

  123. Thanks very much for the tutorial. I continue to be amazed, both by people’s ingenuity and ignorance. Your instructions and the subsequent ideas were fabulous, and the occasional crude remark from individuals who perceive themselves as more important and evolved than the rest of us, but in reality, are simply people who troll the internet, offering nothing but offensive, and frankly, lame commentary, was handled with humor and integrity.

    My plans for the lightbulbs will include an attempt at a fresh herb garden, and using some smaller (thinking appliance bulb size) bulbs to make a spice rack. I think the rack itself could be up-cycled from coat hangers or other wires and assembled in a similar manner to a wine bottle rack.

    I have also taken a combination of lightbulbs, cheap bells from a craft store that I patina-ed with food coloring, pieces of glass with a hole drilled in with a dremel (immerse the piece of glass in a container of cool water and drill – the dremel is totally fine as long as you only submerge the drill bit portion- I set my glass on a piece of of wood and drilled right through, without harming my container), and old keys, and hung them from a wire “tree” by pieces of coiled up copper wire – makes a very interesting conversation piece, alternative christmas tree, or just a piece of art.

  124. Hey! thanks for the information! now I know how to do these 😀 .. I´m from Mexico and I saw your website on a TV program, It´s an interesting idea giving a use to the Light bulb… Sorry I´m not so good in English, but thanks so much!

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