Hack-A-Lantern: DIY Salvaged Zombie-beatin’ Flashlight!

Recently, I was hanging out at the Milwaukee Makerspace, working on a simple project, when a fellow Maker offered me a used 5AH lead acid battery.

The project I was working on involved using landscaping lighting, and right there on the “Hack Rack” were some old computer power supplies. Hmmm. We also happened to be talking about Zombie movies and TV shows, when it all clicked – I have the skills and materials to build an electric lantern from scratch using just the materials that are right here!

The project started by taking apart a computer power supply. I snipped the wires from switch and power cord connection close to the circuit board, so that I would have plenty of wire still soldered to the switch. After removing the circuit board and cooling fan, I had a nice empty box to use as the case for the lantern.

Next, I snipped out the fan grate, to allow for the 12V 11watt landscaping light bulb. These things are designed to run on 12AC from a transformer, but nothing is stopping me from running it on a 12V battery instead!

I crimped on a couple of spade connectors onto the wires from the switch to go to the battery and the bulb. I also wired the power port so that it was unswitched (always connects to the battery) that way, I could use it to recharge the battery without having to open the case. I would just clip the external battery charger that I already had to the two pins of the port.

Once the wiring was done, I checked the connections, turned it on and off a couple of time, and then glued the bulb in place with silicon.

A key feature of a lantern (as opposed to a flashlight) is that it has a distinct handle on the top, which the lantern hangs from. When I’ve made handles before, I’ve usually used a pair of bolts with spacers and some sort of cross-piece of wood or metal. However, I didn’t have anything like that handy, and it didn’t seem to fit the theme of the lantern either.

I DID have all the extra wiring from inside the power supply. The main bit of it was already bundled and had a nice connector on the end. I drilled two 1/2″ holes in the case cover and ran the cable through it, then back through the other hole, and pinned it in place with a few zip-ties.

I also glued two bits of foam on the inside of the case to cushion and help hold in place the battery. With that I put the cover back on and reinstalled the four cover screws.

There ya go! A lantern made completely from repurposed, recycled, and salvaged materials! Whether you like tinkering, being ready for the zombies, or just like being prepared, the Hack-A-Lantern is for you. Why don’t you try making one and see what you come up with!

More DIY Eco-Projects at http://ecoprojecteer.net

Computer Case

I hacked this semi-portable computer case together in one weekend as a “proof of concept”, so it’s a little rough around the edges, but I’m pleased with the way it turned out. I’d like to build another one, with some changes to the design.

Larger pics here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/24308938@N04/sets/72157626087260849/

It’s made from 1/2″ oak plywood. The computer is in the bottom, with an open bin on top for the keyboard and trackball. I appreciate high-quality keyboards, so the length is dictated by the size of the keyboard (Unicomp used to make a smaller one, but they discontinued it, and so far I haven’t found another small one with high-quality keyswitches).

The main problem I ran into is that the center of gravity isn’t quite right, because I didn’t realise how heavy the LCD was (it weighs about 8.5 lbs). When I use it on my desk at home, I keep a couple of old DigiKey catalogs in the bin to make sure it doesn’t get accidentally knocked over.

Also, it’s kind of heavy– about 40 lbs total. The wooden parts weigh about 12 lbs. I’m thinking it might be possible to remove the LCD from its case and mount it differently– the standard VESA mounting puts all the stress in the center of the back, instead of distributing it around the edge. I might also try thinner plywood, although the thin stuff tends to warp. And I might use aluminum framing instead of wood.