How to Make a USB LED Light

Written by daniel r. mueller
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How to Make a USB LED Light
A single LED is enough to make a USB light for novelty purposes. (led image by sasha from

Commercial USB LED desk lights can be fully-functional lighting devices for viewing your documents and lighting your workspace. Most do-it-yourself desk lights, on the other hand, are simple, hastily-constructed conversation pieces built on-the-fly. Building a USB desk light out of junk from around the office can be a relaxing break time diversion. Including a resistor in the design of your LED USB light is important to ensure its longevity and prevent overheating.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Male USB cable
  • LED
  • Resistor
  • Soldering iron and soldering wire
  • Soda bottle plastic lid
  • Foam cup
  • CD
  • Multitool with wire cutters, awl and knife attachments
  • Electrical tape

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  1. 1

    Cut the USB cable and expose the red and black copper wiring. Use the wire cutter on the multitool to strip away the wire insulation from ¾ inch from the end for both wires. Use the wire cutters gingerly to avoid damaging the copper cable inside.

  2. 2

    Solder the resistor to one lead of the LED and the other end of the resistor to the black wire. To solder safely, use a soldering iron in your dominant hand and feed the soldering wire to the connection point slowly and evenly with your non-dominant hand. Solder the unattached end of the LED to the red wire.

  3. 3

    Drill a hole with the awl attachment on the multitool in the soda bottle cap. Insert the LED light through the hole and tape it into place using electrical tape. Wrap exposed metal with electrical tape to insulate it and prevent electrical shock or short circuits.

  4. 4

    Drill a hole with the awl attachment on the multitool in the foam cup and run the USB wire through the hole of the CD and cup, ensuring that the reflective side of the CD is facing upwards. Tape the CD , a soda bottle lid and a foam cup together to form a sturdy frame for the USB lamp with the electrical tape.

  5. 5

    Using the knife attachment on the multitool, cut the drinking edge of the foam cup to allow the light to rest evenly on the table. Run the USB cable through the notch. Plug the USB cable into a free USB port on a computer to test the light.

Tips and warnings

  • To choose the correct resistor for the LED, subtract the voltage of the LED (as listed on its packaging) from the USB power output. Standard USB outputs are typically 5 V but vary between manufacturers depending on which version of the USB port is installed.
  • Have a fire extinguisher ready and wear protective goggles while using a soldering iron.
  • Never leave a USB light without a resister unattended, since without the resistor it poses a fire hazard.

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