The Global FlyFisher
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GFF DIY LED tying lamps
Looking for a cool, compact and cheap fly tying light? Look no further. This project will give you a nice light for about 10-15 US$
I covered a whole bunch of fly tying lamps in my recent article about the tying light, and found models on the market sold for up to almost 300 US$. Personally I always liked the compact, stem mounted type, which just lights up the fly, and in the process of researching for and writing the above mentioned story, I made my own, cool, lamp using cheap parts - and a bit of epoxy.
I give you the 10 dollar GFF DIY USB LED Lamp!
If you want to go bigger, read on, and you will find instructions on making a larger and more powerful lamp - for less than twice the price!.
I give you the 10 dollar GFF DIY USB LED Lamp!
My DIY post lamp
So my new favorite lamp is now a small DIY thing, which I made from the following items:
- An IKEA Jansjö USB lamp (5 US$).
IKEA shops and on IKEA's web sites.
- A USB 2.0 extension cable (1-2 US$).
Almost any electronics store, online or off. You may have one laying around.
- An AN3 fuel hose 3/8” (9.5mm) line clamp (3-5 US$).
Autoparts stores, online or bricks and mortar.
- A bit of epoxy and a wing nut to replace the nut on the clamp.
- USB power converter.
Basically any phone charger or USB output will power the lamp. If you're like most of us, you have several left over from phones or cameras.
The idea for the lamp actually came from looking online for compact LED lamps useful for fly tying. There are lots of lamps on heavy feet and a few with clamps meant to clamp onto a table, but I wanted something that could sit on the vise stem.
Small LED lamps on goose necks are available in drogues if you look at places like eBay, Amazon. LightInTheBox or DealExtreme, but even though many of these are pretty inexpensive and OK looking, I found the cheapest and best designed lamp in my local IKEA warehouse.
I had some Jansjö LED lamps already, and when I was looking for the price, I discovered the Jansjö USB gooseneck lamp. I bought a couple and could see that they were well suited for the job. I just needed to work out some kind of mount for it.
Since the lamp is fed with 5 volts though a standard USB plug mounted directly on the gooseneck, I'd need a USB cable for it. A normal USB 2.0 extender with a male/female plug could do it. These are just 1-2 US$ in many shops – on as well as offline – and I found one with a good solid female plug, which could server as a base for my lamp mount.
You can decide the length yourself. The cables from as short as 30 centimeters or 1', but cables up to 5 meters or 15' are widely available. You will need just an extension cable and not a so called repeater cable, which has some electronics in it. You should also prefer a cable with a closed female part, where the metal collar isn't exposed.
Standard vise stems are 3/8 of an inch or 9.5 millimeters in diameter, and in order to mount anything on the stem, you will need some kind of clamp that can hold onto that stem.
Luckily that diameter is quite common in many pieces of equipment, and I found what I needed in the auto parts section when searching online. An AN3 aluminum line hose clamp, meant to clamp down 3/8” or 9.5mm fuel hoses in cars and on boats, looked like it could do the job.
I ordered one locally, and got it the day after (and even got a free coffee mug thrown in), and eureka! It was perfect for the job. It consists of two halves and opens fully, clamps onto the stem and can be tightened with a bolt and nut. I used a wing nut in stead of the locking nut that came with the clamp, and I had the perfect, compact vise stem mount.
The next step was to attach the female plug to the clamp, and I opted for the crude, but efficient way: epoxy!
I scuffed the backside of the plug (withouth the USB symbol) and one side of the clamp with a file, mounted the screw with a bit of epoxy and joined the plug and the clamp under the pressure of a clothespin, and let cure for a couple of hours.
What remained was just to collect the two clamp halves, mount it on the vise stem, plug in the lamp and locate one of the gazillion surplus USB chargers we had in the house.
I now have a cool looking, very compact, cheap and very nicely working vise light. It won't light up a building lot, but it will shine a nice light onto the fly I'm tying.
If you think this light will be too concentrated and harsh for you or the spot is too small, there are plenty alternative USB LED lamps out there, some with larger lamp heads and multiple LEDs, giving a more diffused light.
Lamp on clamp
Depending on your mood and the nature of your USB extension cable, you can also glue the lamp itself to the clamp. This allows you to use any extension cable available, and allows you to leave the lamp on the vise, not having the cable attached to it. If you already have a tool holder or another thing clamped to your vise's stem - a bobbin rest or a gallows tool - you can also consider simply gluing the lamp onto the clamp that holds that.
The process is the same: scuff both surfaces and glue them using epoxy. Make sure you keep the tightly together while the glue cures. Clothespins are your friend here.
My puny little lamp will probably seem like an insult to many tyers who want some more substantial light. Well, it's not difficult to extrapolate the idea and simply select a larger lamp with a longer gooseneck. You probably won't get that with a USB connection and you probably can't mount such a lamp using glue to a small clamp like the one I used.
But then select a lamp with a foot. The IKEA Jansjö lamp series also has a lamp mounted on a heavy foot, and that comes disassembled, ready to be mounted on a suitable clamp rather than on the foot. It has two screws in the end of the gooseneck, and can be connected to some suitable stem mount or plate.
As an alternative you can consider using another fuel hose clamp, this one called a separator. It is larger than the one I used, has two 3/8” or 9.5mm holes, and is easy to adapt to become a lamp clamp. The Jansjö gooseneck isn't quite 3/8" or 9.5mm, but a few wraps of gaffer tape lets the clamp grip firmly. My clamp is also slightly larger than the stem diameter, but sits tightly enough to work. The solution isn't quite as elegant as the small USB lamp, but with a cost of less than 20 US$ for all the parts plus a bit of tape and glue, you can't really complain.