RSS Feed

Category Archives: DIY projects

Eco-Friendly Household Cleaning tips.

Posted on
Advertisements

How to build a Garden Shed – on a budget

Posted on

How to Build a 12×20 Cabin on a Budget

Original Instructable article: http://www.instructables.How-to-Build-a-12×20-Cabin-on-a-Budget

Picture of How to Build a 12x20 Cabin on a Budget
cabin22 025.JPG
cabin 021.JPG
cabin 022.JPG
cabin 023.JPG
cabin 025.JPG
cabin 026.JPG
 
cabin 002.JPG
cabin 003.JPG
cabin 001.JPG
cabin 004.JPG
cabin 005.JPG
cabin 006.JPG
cabin 007.JPG
cabin 008.JPG
cabin 009.JPG
cabin 010.JPG
cabin 011.JPG
cabin 012.JPG
cabin 020.JPG
cabin 019.JPG
cabin 018.JPG
cabin 017.JPG
cabin 016.JPG
cabin 015.JPG
cabin 014.JPG
cabin 013.JPG
cabin1.jpg
cabin2.jpg
cabin22 022.JPG
cabin22 017.JPG
cabin22 020.JPG
cabin22 024.JPG
cabin22 027.JPG
cabin22 026.JPG
cabin22 018.JPG
cabin22 015.JPG
cabin22 021.JPG
cabin22 019.JPG
cabin22 013.JPG
cabin22 016.JPG
cabin22 014.JPG
cabin22 008.JPG
cabin22 011.JPG
cabin22 012.JPG
cabin22 006.JPG
cabin22 010.JPG
cabin22 009.JPG
cabin22 001 (2).JPG
cabin22 002 (2).JPG
cabin22 004 (2).JPG
cabin22 005 (2).JPG
 I wanted to have a cabin on my property for quite some time now but with the economy, The prices of having one built has more than doubled… So i had to build it myself . Six years ago i bought a 12×16 shed from a well known company by where i live. It cost 2,000.00 for them to build it and drop it off.  Now that same building  would cost 4200,00 dollars.After i was finished with this building with the door and 3 windows the total amount i spent was 2200.00 dollars

If you would like to see the finished inside instructable please click here …http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-finish-the-inside-of-a-12-x-20-cabin-on-a-b/

If you would like to see the matching modern outhouse Please check this out … http://www.instructables.com/id/modern-outhouse/

 
 
     
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: Floor Illustration

Picture of Floor Illustration
 Here is the 12×20 floor plan showing where the 4x4s and the floor joists would be located.
 
 

Step 2: Drilling and planting the posts

Picture of Drilling and planting the posts
cabin 022.JPG
cabin 023.JPG
cabin 025.JPG
1ST PIC*  Shows my  ford tractor and my neighbors post hole digger he let me borrow.
2nd pic * shows the post planted and the bottom 2×10 Stringers.
3rd & 4th  pic* Shows the upper 2×10 x 12 and the 2x10x16 upper stringers being nailed in at 7 foot 8 inches.
 
 

Step 3: Setting the center rafter board

Picture of Setting the center rafter board
This picture shows the center rafter board . I measured over 6 foot to the center . The roof is going to be a 5/12 pitch roof so the rafter board had to be 30 inches to the top of the board .

From Doula to diapers: bringing up a green baby

Posted on

From Doula to diapers: bringing up a green baby

Original article: treehugger.com//how-to-go-green-babies

From Doula to diapers: bringing up a green baby

tiny baby foot photo

A new baby entering your life can create an enormous number of unexpected changes. Along with the little one comes a whole new category of things to purchase — not only the obvious large items like furniture and diapers, but also all the unforeseen extras that seem to accumulate. While having a baby is consumer heaven, the key is to not be gulled into an unnecessary buying frenzy. In truth, a baby has very minimal needs. On the flip side, there is more to a sustainable life with your baby than cloth diapers, organic baby food, and fair-trade clothing…read on for more.

Top Green Baby Tips

    1. Choose the right diapers
      Studies are divided on the subject of environmental impact of disposables vs. cloth. But knowing that your baby will use approx 6,000 diapers before toilet training, and that disposable diapers take 200-500 years to decompose, this is certainly a key issue to ponder. Washing cloth diapers takes water and energy (not to mention time), but it’s a great way to avoid chemicals. Use natural laundry detergent then set it out in the sun to bleach out any stains. You could also consider the benefits of a laundering service. One study has found that home-washing cloth diapers has only 53 percent of the ecological footprint of disposables, and if you use a diaper laundering service that impact is halved again. Another plus is that the same cloth diapers can be passed down to future babies.

       

      Cloth diapers: Reusable diapers aren’t what they used to be and the days of diaper pins are all but bygone. Go for fitted cloth diapers with Velcro or snap closures for convenience, made from an eco-friendly material such as hemp, bamboo, or organic cotton. Use an organic wool cover that is both warm and breathable, minimizing diaper rash and cold bottoms at night. Use either removable or flushable liners and when washing either use a laundering service or wash at home at lower temperatures. With a new baby around you’ll probably notice a lot more laundry piling up, so make sure you’ve optimized your setup with an efficient machine and non-toxic detergent. If you can line-dry, that is ideal, but don’t bother ironing.

      Biodegradable diapers: Made with plant-based plastics (also known as bioplastics), these diapers are non-petroleum based and are compostable. While these have been found not to break down under landfill conditions, there are other options to compost them such as using a composting toilet, an earthworm system, or a highly active and properly conditioned composting area. Hybrid diapers, like gDiapers, have removable inserts that can safely biodegrade when flushed. But be careful, some so-called ‘green’ diapers, like Seventh Generation, can contain petroleum gels,so make sure to do your research first!

    1. Feed your little one: From breast or bottle?
      This one’s a no-brainer: breastfeeding is best. It’s free, has health benefits for mother and baby, has no environmental impact, and is a precious bonding experience. However, in our commerce-driven society there are products for everything, and breastfeeding is no exception. For breast pads, ditch disposables and try re-usable organic cotton or wool felt pads. While there are many great, organic nipple creams available, some locally produced olive oil or organic lanolin does a great job. If bottle feeding becomes a necessity, pumping your own is the first choice. Beyond that, using a fair-trade organic infant formula is preferable. If this is neither affordable nor accessible, then the next best thing is to ensure the brand of formula you buy is from a company not profiteering from marketing their product to developing countries. These companies disregard or try to get around the marketing code set by The World Health Assembly.

    1. Chow down on solid foods
      At about six months, babies starts to eat real food. Rice cereal and mushy veggies turn to combinations of fish, meat, eggs, legumes, and vegetables–yep, a regular person’s diet. Buying jars of food is sure convenient, but as an adult you don’t live out of jars, so why should your baby? For those occasional situations,purchase organic or fresh frozen baby foods. Otherwise, make your own. Cook up veggies, casseroles, or tofu and lentils, whatever is your thing, and freeze it in tiny containers or ice cube trays ready to take out and defrost when needed. (Be sure you discuss any concerns over dietary requirements with your health professional)

    1. Dress your baby in smart green clothing
      All those designer baby clothes are cute and oh so hard to resist in their fruity colors. But be careful. Not only does a baby grow out of clothes amazingly fast, they are constantly sending bodily fluids flying onto those precious outfits. The baby couture might be better replaced with convenient one-piece suits in practical white terry cloth. Choosing organic hemp or cotton, bamboo or wool fabrics made without toxic chemicals are best against a baby’s sensitive skin and last longer with the constant washing. Second-hand clothing is the cheapest and most sustainable option. Get hand-me-downs from friends and family or look in thrift shops, Craigslist, or Freecycle.

    1. Lather up with natural skin care
      It’s very easy to get sucked into the constant advertising of baby powders, creams, and lotions, but avoid soap on a baby’s delicate skin – less is more for their skin care. The best baby lotion is plain old olive oil or coconut oil–cheap, natural, and un-perfumed. As for other products, keep it as natural, organic, and fragrance-free as possible. Weleda diaper creams and lotions are great. For more on this, take a look at our guides for How to Go Green: Women’s Personal Care and Everything you need to know about natural skin care.

    1. Wash up: Green laundry and washing
      It’s quite possible that our war on germs is actually making things worse. Studies have shown that children brought up in over-cleaned houses are more likely to develop allergies, asthma, or eczema. The best thing you can do for sensitive baby skin is not to cover it with synthetic chemicals. Wash nappies with pure soap and warm water. Make your own non-toxic cleansers with simple ingredients such as baking soda and vinegar. For more, see How to green your cleaning routine.

    1. Make play-time green-time with greener toys
      Get back to basics and try old fashioned wooden toys and organic cotton or homemade teddies. Because babies put most things in their mouths, go as natural as possible, then when baby is a little older, get hold of second-hand toys. Also aim for toys that help build a child’s bond with nature and the natural world. The sad truth is that the average American kindergartener can identify several hundred logos and only a few leaves from plants and trees.

    1. Rest easy with green furniture and accessories
      Babies don’t need much–a secure place to sleep, a car seat, a high chair, and a way to be trundled around. Go for second-hand furniture, everything except cot mattresses (some research suggests a link between second-hand cot mattresses and sudden infant death syndrome) and car seats, (which can have invisible accident damage). If you buy new furniture, purchase high quality, durable pieces made of sustainable, low-toxicity materials. Think about some alternatives to the regular old wooden baby bed; try using an organic cotton baby hammock or a cot that extends into a bed and lasts 6-7 years. The most ethical option for stroller (pram) is recycled. For more on furniture, see our guide for How to choose green furniture.

    1. Improve your indoor air quality and maintain a healthy household environment
      It goes without saying that alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking while pregnant are bad for a baby. But it is also very important to avoid exposure to the synthetic chemicals contained in everyday products such as paints, carpet, furniture, bedding, and pesticides which make up Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)in the air you and your baby breath. When decorating the nursery, use natural and low-VOC paints and don’t lay new carpet before the baby is born. Suspicious new items should at least be left outside to off-gas for a few days before bringing inside.

  1. Wipe out chemical cleaners and disposable liners
    Diaper wipes and liners commonly include propylene glycol (a binder also found in antifreeze), parabens (a family of compounds commonly used as preservatives) and perfume, which can be made from up to 600 different chemicals. Try using good natural organic cotton wool and water and avoid disposable changing mats and perfumed diaper bags.

 

Babies use A LOT of diapers every day by Sean Dreilinger/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

 

Green Babies: By The Numbers

    • 6000: The number of diapers the average baby uses before potty training.

    • 200 to 500: Years it takes petroleum-based disposable diapers to decompose.

    • 49 million: The estimated number of disposable diapers used per day in the United States; Australia uses 2.2 million, Japan uses 6.7 million, and the U.K. uses 9 million.

    • 53 percent: A home-washed cloth diaper has only 53 percent of the ecological footprint of disposables, and a diaper laundry service has a mere 37 percent of that footprint.

  • $1.4 billion per year: The estimated amount of money Americans spend on complicated births due to smoking while pregnant.

 

Josh Dubya/CC BY 2.0

 

Green Babies: Getting Techie

Toxic chemicals can have great impact in babies’ lives since they do so much growing and developing early in life, so it can be more important to keep them out of our youngsters’ systems. Here are some of the worst:

 

Bisphenol a is an endocrine disruptor — meaning it mimics hormones in our bodies, upsetting the delicate natural balance and changing the way babies develop — used often in polycarbonate plastic water bottles. When it’s done in baby’s body, it enters the water system, where it effects the hormonal development of fish and other aquatic life. TheFDA acknowledges it’s risky for youngsters.

Lead, which was used in paint for many years, and still pops up in some kids toys even today (yikes!), is a banned neurotoxin that can disrupt your child’s brain development. Learn more about getting the lead out of your home.

Attachment parenting, involving sleeping with and wearing your baby, while not for everyone, is said to promote a strong bond leading to a sensitive, emotionally aware child. It is based on the theory developed by Dr. William Sears that babies are born with a need for nurturing. Attachment parenting has been a controversial parenting method in the media and the extent to which it can be considered ‘green’ is debatable. Many parents who are opposed to attachment parenting feel that letting the baby sleep alone or not responding every time it cries teach a baby independence. Find out what feels most natural and go with it. Trust your parenting instincts.

Elimination communication is a technique of timing, signals, cues, and intuition to help baby/infant express his or her poo-related needs; using it may help you not use diapers at all. This is best begun before six months of age, and while it is most commonly used in third-world countries where parents are in constant contact with their children, it has been used in the West with some success.

With reporting by Manon Verchot

Mini Bio-gas System – for homeowners

Posted on

Taken from the wonderful world of http://www.instructables.com

Sahas Chitlange, aging 14, from India. here is my homemade cheap and easy to build mini Biogas plant. It burns for approx. 20-30 mins on a bunsen burner. you can add anything from your kitchen waste ( Except Onion peels and eggshells). In 12 hours the Gas is ready for use. It is very easy and cost effective to build (only 2-3 dollars) and gives many useful products.

Biogas at home- Cheap and Easy  by Chitlange Sahas

Image

http://www.instructables.com/id/Biogas-at-home-Cheap-and-Easy/

the end products of this system are:
1) Methane : (Can be used as a fuel)
2) Slurry     : (the spent slurry is excellent manure)

The main components of this system are:

1)  Inlet pipe
2) digester tank
3) gas holder tank
4) slurry outlet pipe
5) gas outlet pipe

Image

You will have to choose a correct size container which will act as a digester tank. My one is 50 litres tank. I got it from scrap.

Image Image  Image

Make holes in the tank for Inlet and outlet. For this I took a old iron rod and heated it to make holes. CAUTION: rod is really very hot.

Or use core-drill bit with e-drill.

Step 3: Fix the inlet and outlet pipes

Image Image Image

Glue the Inlet pipe and the Outlet pipe with any water proof adhesive.

Step 4: Making the Gas holder Tank

Image Image

I took a paint bucket of 20 lts for making a gas holder tank. This tank holds the gas produced. The tank is overturned and fixed with a valve used for plumbing purposes.

Step 5: Time to mix the cow dung !

Image

Mix the cow dung in proportion of 50/50. add 50% water and make a fine slurry. Now put the slurry in the digester tank.

Step 6: Almost finished!

Image

Put the gas holder tank overturned in the digester tank after adding the slurry . REMEMBER: open the valve while putting the gas holder tank. the mini plant takes 10-15 days for the first time to get output. For the first time, the gas in the tank wont burn as it contains Carbon Dioxide gas, if fortunately it burns then good or wait for the second time. You can detect how much gas is there in this system, the gas holder tank will rises up as the gas is produced.

http://www.instructables.com/id/Biogas-at-home-Cheap-and-Easy/

 

DIY – Fly Trap

Posted on
Fly Trap – or feed the fish !
Description; Original article; http://chestofbooks.com/home-improvement/woodworking/Community-Shop-Projects/Fly-Trap.html

This section is from the book “Shop Projects Based On Community Problems“, by Myron G. Burton. Also available from Amazon: Shop Projects Based on Community Problems.

Fly Trap

Materials

Basswood (Chap. III., Par. 31).

8 pcs. 3/8″xl”xl2 1/2″ S 2 S Sides. 8 pcs. 3/8″xl”x 7 1/2″ S 2 S Cross pieces. 5 pcs. 1/2″x3/4″x9″ S 2 S Top pes.

8 pes. 1/4″x3/4″x9″ S 2 S Trim. 3 dozen 1″ brads.

3 dozen 1/2″ brads.

1 1/2 dozen 3/8″ corrugated nails.

1 yard 24″ screen wire.

9 dozen small tacks.

1 piece 5/32″ Bessemer rod 8″ long.

2 screw eyes No. 114.

1 pair 3/4″x3/4″ brass hinges. 1 small clasp.

Introductory Statement

Recent investigation has proven that the common housefly is a very dangerous enemy to human life. The fact that it spreads disease and is in every way undesirable is sufficient reason why everybody should be as careful as possible to prevent its increase. One of the most successful ways to wage war on flies is to screen our homes so as to shut them out, and then leave no uncovered garbage pails or any other feeding places for them.

In cities where everybody has been interested in disposing of flies the results have been very encouraging. School children have helped wonderfully by engaging in fly-catching contests.

You can do a great practical good for your own home and community by making this flytrap carefully and using it throughout the fly season.

References:

The House Fly as Disease Carrier, L. O. Howard. Published by F. A.

Stokes Pub. Co., New York. U. S. Bulletin No. 459, and U. S. Bulletin No. 679, House Flies. Insects and Disease, Doane. Henry Holt & Co. Our Household Insects, Butler. Longmans, Green Co. Household Insects and Methods of Control, Bulletin No. 3, Ithaca, N. Y. U. S. Bulletin No. 155, How Insects Affect Health. Fly Traps and Literature. International Harvester Co., Chicago. Winter War on Flies, Willard Price, Technical World, February, 1915. Our Insect Friends and Enemies, John Smith. J. B. Lippincott Pub. Co.

Fly Trap

Suggestions For Original Design

Glass Fruit Jar

WlTh Opening In LlD

Fly Trap Specifications

The Side Strips

You will probably have to rip your material from stock; select the best surface of your stock for a working face (Chapter II., Paragraph 2); plane one edge for a working edge (Chapter II., Paragraph 4). With the marking gauge, gauge the width of the strips on both surfaces of the stock (Chapter II., Paragraph 6). Rip just outside the line; plane to the gauge lines. Prepare all the side strips in like manner. Saw them the required length. Notice that on two sides of the fly trap, the side strips are narrower than on the other two sides. This is done so the four sides will be equal when assembled. Miter the lower end of each strip, as shown in the drawing.

The Side Cross Rails

Rip out and plane the side cross rails in the same manner in which you have made the side strips. Cut all these rails the required length, as shown in the drawing. They may be easily and accurately sawed in the square cut of a miter box.

Assembling The Body Of The Trap

Each side is merely a rectangular frame. Lay two side strips flat on your bench top with the two cross rails in such position as to form a frame; make the angles square and fasten with corrugated nails(Chapter II., Paragraph 23). Assemble all sides in like manner. Cut screen wire the proper size and cover the inside of each frame; fasten the screen wire in position with small tacks. Assemble the four frames box fashion; they should be joined with a plain butt joint (Chapter II., Paragraph 60) at each corner; fasten with brads (Chapter II., Paragraph 21).

The Lid

The lid is a square frame (with a cross bar in the middle for the handle) joined at the corners with plain butt joints (Chapter V., Paragraph 60), fastened with brads. Square the stock for the lid (Chapter II., Paragraphs 1, 2, 3 and 4); cut each piece the required dimensions; assemble as explained; cover with screen wire. Strips of wood 1/4″ thick are to be used as a trim on the lid, to cover the tacks and add to the appearance of the work; miter this trim at each corner (Chapter V., Paragraph 64); fasten it on with brads.

The Inside Wire Pyramid

In order to cut the screen wire for this piece you should make a pattern of paper; if you will draw fourtriangles (each of the size of one side, as shown in the drawing) adjoining each other, you will have a correct pattern. Allow about an inch to make the lap; bend into proper shape; with a piece of the wire weave the open corner securely together; place in position and fasten with tacks. These tacks may also be covered with a trim just as you did the lid.

The Handle

Bend the wire to form the handle; attach with two screw eyes. Fasten the lid in position with two small hinges and put on the fastening. Plane off uneven places if there are any. Stain some dark color (Chapter IV., Paragraph 54).

Optional and Home Projects Employing Similar Principles.

1. A very satisfactory and convenient fly trap may be made of any ordinary glass fruit jar, as shown in the Suggestions. The entire central portion of the lid is cut out. A slender cone is made of screen wire with a small opening at the point. This cone may be attached to the lid by having a number of small holes punched around the opening in the lid, through which a small wire can be so woven as to bind the cone securely. A thin piece of wood, with four tacks or small nails, so driven as to extend slightly above the surface, will make a satisfactory base. In a trap of this kind the flies may be easily killed by pouring in boiling water.

2. An all-metal fly trap can be made from the lid of an old paint bucket, a few scraps of heavy fence wire and a piece of screen wire. The screen wire is rolled into a cylinder just as large as the bucket lid, which is to form the top. The screen wire cylinder is woven to the rim of the lid through small holes, as indicated in the drawing. A hoop of fence wire of the same diameter as the lid is attached to the other end of the cylinder, to hold it in shape. The inside cone of screen wire is attached to a second hoop of the same size as the first. The cone is placed in position, and if properly made will fit so closely that it will not require fastening. Small pieces of wire may be attached to form legs about a half-inch long. A sheet of tin, or an old pie tin will answer for a base.

Swimming pool – au natural

Posted on
printlogo-1329425488189.jpeg
A Natural Swimming Pool That Works for You

By John Robb (Resilient Communities). http://www.resilientcommunities.com/?inf_contact_key=284fdcfb53503b6d362a75d5644c49bb571874cfb5a179fc85273259247b692e

Robb writes on all sorts of interesting topics – here he teams up with  Shlok Vaidya as contributer

When I was a pilot, I spent years surveying the built environment from above.

One thing that amazed me is how many people own swimming pools.  In some areas of the country, it seems that nearly everyone has a pool (in some cases, the pool is almost as big as the footprint of the home itself).

But things have changed.  We don’t have the luxury of allocating that much space to a sterile, unproductive pool of water that requires constant attention and financial support?

We need to put that space to work.

But are there any other options?  Is it possible to build a pool that does more than just support our playtime?

I believe there is.   It’s called a natural pool.

20130329-113853.jpg

The natural pool, doesn’t fight nature tooth and nail.  It embraces it in a very tangible way.

Instead of engaging in chemical warfare, the natural pool uses an ecosystem of plants to cleanse and filter your swimming water.  To do this, designers create a wetland in a shallow and distinct area of a pool to act as a biological filter.

20130329-114229.jpg

This include the following components:

  • Microorganisms. For example, zooplankton eat algae to keep your water clear.
  • Aquatic plants. They absorb the nutrients that the bacteria break down. Indigenous plants are used as much as possible. You can also grow edible plants, for example, rice, watercress, or wasabi.
  • An inert substrate. This way the plants are forced to draw their nutrients from the water itself, thereby keeping the water clean.
  • Retaining wall. Enables water flow between the two areas but prevents the plants from doing so.

In practice, the shallow water of the wetland area is circulated into the deeper water of the swimming pool.

This circulation enables your bio-filter to cleanse the water as it goes. Upkeep is minimal – one simply has to trim the plants as necessary and remove fallen leaves.

There are no chemicals to buy, minimal electricity costs (one pump), and no PH level monitoring. If needed, the bio-filter can be supplemented with an automated skimmer or UV sanitizer.

As an added bonus, because the wetland is a distinct area, it can be added to an existing pool in a retrofit with minimal additional digging.

Resiliently Yours,

 JOHN ROBB;- Resilient communities.

PS: Because the pool is designed for circulating water, the threat of mosquitoes is minimized.  Additionally, wildlife (frogs, dragonflies) will be attracted to the vegetation-filled part of the pool you don’t swim in. They’ll provide a free pest management service.  In contrast, when a chemically treated pool isn’t maintained, it can quickly collapse into a cesspool of larva (as we saw during the foreclosure tsunami a couple of years ago).

PPS:  I’ve been experimenting with aquascaped environments over the last couple of months, and I can attest that these systems can take care of themselves if you build the system correctly.

Resilient communities editor, Shlok Vaidya, contributed to this letter.

=====================================================================================

Natural swimming pools provide all of the fun of a standard swimming pool, but without the chemicals and the maintenance.    As you can see below, a natural pool system can turn a recreational pool into a productive asset rather than merely a chemically laced cost center.

Planted ponds

The secret to a natural pools is something called a biofilter.  To clean the pool, you pump water through the biofilter (images via Gartenart).

GartenArt

What is a biofilter?  It’s usually made with porous rocks or gravel.  Essentially, any material that has nooks and crannies that bacteria can breed in.  With a biofilter, you actually want the bacteria to grow because they eat the pollutants in the water, cleansing it in the process.

Make a solar garden lamp out of a jam jar

Posted on

Make a solar garden lamp out of a jam jar; http://www.treehugger.com/slideshows/gadgets/make-solar-garden-lamp-jam-jar/#slide-top

Megan Treacy
Technology / Gadgets
March 26, 2013

Intro

solar garden lamp

credit: Ugifer

Instructable user Ugifer put together this DIY project for a solar garden lamp for a science experiment that he was doing with his daughter and her friends and he’s given us permission to share it with you all. The skills and lessons taught would make it great for parents and educators to share with kids as an introduction to green tech, but it would also be a great beginner level project for those just getting into making their own electronics.

Ugifer says, “It’s simple and fairly quick to do so although it does involve some soldering I don’t expect that we will have trouble doing this with our small group of carefully supervised 7-year-olds.

The idea for this project was inspired by this article over at Evil Mad Scientist although the circuit is modified to be a little more efficient. Because it’s made up from a simple set of parts it would make an ideal beginner’s electronics kit.

This is a nice, sustainable-energy kit, with all the power for the lamp being sourced from renewable solar energy. It uses scavenged jam-jars as the enclosure but could also use some scavenged parts such as toroids from old CFLs.”

What you’ll need

solar garden lamp kit

credit: Ugifer

The parts that you will need are:

Kit:

5V 70 mA Solar pannel (around 60x60mm)
Twin AAA-size battery holder
2 AAA-size NiMH rechargable batteries (around 1000 mAh works well)
Circuit board (see last step for Eagle files)
2N3906 general purpose PNP transistor (or equivalent)
2N3904 general purpose NPN transistor (or equivalent)
1N5817 low forward voltage schottky diode (general purpose – e.g. 1N914 – diode would probably work)
Slide switch
Ferrite bead/toroid (scavenge from an old compact fluorescent lamp if you only need a few)
LED (high brightness – diffused ideally but I only had water-clear so scratch it up with sandpaper)
22K resistor*
4K7 resistor*
1K resistor
1nf ceramic capacitor (some parts of this ‘ible refer to a 2n2. Either seems to work fine)
30 cm 22-guage solid copper wire (from an old ethernet or telephone cable works well)

Optional items::

Old (empty) jam or pickle jar to house your circuit (we will assume you are using this).
Sparkly things (e.g. acrylic jewels) for the bottom of the jar (makes it look pretty)
Glass paints (could be included in kit)
Small double-sided sticky pad (optional but useful)

Tools:

Soldering iron & solder
Side-cutters
Drill press or punch
Hot glue gun & glue (epoxy would be fine but slower). I use low-temp hot glue with the kids.
Metal file
A little tape to hold things in place
Medium grade sandpaper (tiny bit)
Helping-hands type tool also very useful

* These resistors may need adjusting depending upon the performance of your solar cell and LED. The 4K7 and 22K make a voltage divider that controls the light level at which your LED comes on. Increase or leave out the 22K for darkest switch-point. Decrease the to switch on when it’s lighter. But be careful – depending on your solar cell you may need a pull-down to make the PNP switch on fully. A 100K trim-pot would probably work well if you wanted to control this.

The circuit

 solar garden circuit

credit: Ugifer

As indicated, the circuit was inspired by this article at Evil Mad Scientist. Thanks to Windell et al. for that.

The schematic is shown in the picture.

Essentially, the circuit can be divided into the charging part to the left, the light sensing part in the middle and the LED lighting part on the right.

During the day, the voltage across the solar cell is high and current flows through the diode to charge the NiMH battery. Charging at up to C/10h amps (where C is the capacity of the battery in amp-hours) is supposedly safe for continuous trickle-charge. So with 1000 mAh batteries we should be able to handle 100 mA. Our 70 mA solar cell in practice generates 50-55 mA in UK direct summer sunlight so we are safe by a factor of 2 there – pretty much ideal for fairly quick charging but keeping the battery pack in good condition.

When it gets dark, the voltage across the panel drops. This can consume significant current from the battery (so-called “dark current”, which sounds like the evil side of the force to me). Hence the diode. I have used a low vF diode to reduce how much of or energy we burn getting past it. We can tap into this voltage drop to turn on the light when it gets dark. That’s where the PNP transistor comes in.

By making a voltage divider between the solar panel and ground and attaching this to the base of the PNP, we sink a very small emitter-base current when the solar panel stops pulling a voltage. This allows a larger emitter-collector current to flow. The voltage divider between the solar cell and ground can control the switch-point voltage and thus the light level at which our lamp comes on.

Once our PNP turns on, a current flows to the lamp circuit on the right of the diagram (and board).

From here we have a “joule thief” circuit for the LED light. Explanation of this is rather beyond this summary but, once again, Evil Mad Scientist comes to our rescue: see here for a great Joule-thief articleand here on Wikipedia for a more in-depth explanation. The overall effect is that we light a 3V white LED from a 2.4 V rechargeable battery and can continue to use the battery as its voltage drops. The capacitor is not an essential part of the circuit but it’s great for efficiency. Without it I was finding 100mA being drawn from the battery! With a 1nf capacitor that drops to around 18mA but the LED is just as bright.

Finally, the switch isolates the joule-thief part so that we can continue to charge the battery but have the lamp turned off. If you turn this off then the 5-10 mA that are generated in the shade might just allow you to charge the battery in the winter to give you light about one night a week!

Add the panel to the jar lid

 solar garden lid

credit: Ugifer

As a first step, we need to attach the solar panel to the lid of the jar and pass the connecting leads through. We want to do this in a way that will seal the hole so that we can leave our lamp outside without it filling with water or bugs!

We are starting by putting a hole in the jar lid. To do this, I’m using a small drill-press but that’s as much to get small girls comfortable with using power-tools as for any real need. A punch into a block of wood would work well too, I’m sure. However you do it, you’ll want to clean up the hole with a file and thread the wires from the solar panel through.

Next, cover the solder points on the panel with hot-glue or epoxy and then glue the panel to the jar. I’m using blue-sparkly glue so that you can see it but normal glue is fine!

Finally, make sure you fill the hole with glue to keep out those bugs!

Lay down some components

 solar garden board

credit: Ugifer

Next, we want to start populating the board.*

Since my group will be taking turns at the solder station, we’ll do several components at a time. On your own you might prefer to add them individually:

The resistors are easiest and can go in first – either way round. Bend the legs out a little to hold them. I am not using the 22K resistor to ground but if you include it then your light will come on at slightly higher light levels.

The diode is equally easy but needs to go with the stripe at the end shown on the board.

Then add the two transistors. The PNP (marked 3906) goes to the top left and the NPN (marked 3904) goes to the bottom right. Make sure the case goes the same way around as marked on the board (flat edge towards the bottom).

Finally for this step, add the LED. You can leave as little or as much lead length as you wish but the longer lead (positive / anode side) goes nearest the right hand edge of the board. I was expecting that to be marked on the boards but it didn’t come out. It’s on the current version.

Now, for each component, carefully solder the leads to the bottom side of the board and clip them close with side-cutters.

*Throughout this ‘ible, the pictures of the board are of my first “proof of concept” board which had a track missing (long story) and lacked the 1 nf capacitor. The final board design is shown in a later step and is very similar but I haven’t actually had them fab’ed yet.

The Toroidal transformer

solar garden toroidal

credit: Ugifer

The Joule Thief part of the circuit requires a small hand-wound toroidal transformer that we will make and add in this step.

I’m using ferrite beads around 9.8mm wide by 7.5mm deep with an 6.5mm diameter hole. Whatever the size you use, you’ll want enough wire for 6-8 turns. For beads the size of mine, take about 20-30 cm of a pair of insulated 22-gauge solid copper wire (I use wire from an old 3-pair telephone cable). Contrasting colours make life easier. Push the wires through your torus leaving around an inch (2.5 cm) sticking out at one end. Now loop the long ends round until you have made 6-8 loops spread evenly round your bead. My beads are pretty much full after 8 turns of this wire.

I have made a few joule thieves and in my experience the ferrite bead is the most likely part to cause a problem. Some types of beads work and some don’t and I have not yet devised a way to tell before trying them.

Cut down the leads to an inch at most (say 2cm-ish) and strip the ends. At this point it’s handy to use a small sticky-pad to hold the torus in place.

Now take a wire of one colour from one end of the torus and the other colour from the other end and put them into holes 1 and 2. The other ends go into holes 3 and 4 so that the hole in the torus now points across the board. It should fall naturally so that the wires connect from holes 1 to 4 and 2 to 3, but check or it won’t work! Bend the wires out a little to hold them, turn the board over and solder it.

Power connectionssolar garden power

credit: Ugifer

All that is left to attach is the power switch, the battery and the solar cell. These go in the marked spots towards the edges of the board.

Place the switch in its holes and hold in place with a little tape. Turn over the board and solder. The switch has much more thermal capacity than anything else we have soldered in this project so the solder tabs will take a moment to heat up – don’t panic!

Same with the two power sources: Red to the + terminal, black to the -, tape in place and solder.

You now have the complete circuit. If you insert charged batteries and cover the solar cell you should see the LED light up.

Final assembly

solar garden final assembly

credit: Ugifer

Finally, hot-glue the board to the back of the battery holder with the LED pointing as you wish. For a very wide-necked jar you could glue the battery holder flat to the underside of the lid and leave the LED sticking “up” (really down) from the board (not pictured).

For most jars you will have to bend the LED past the end of the battery holder and glue the end of the holder to the lid of the jar (as shown).

If you used a water-clear LED you may wish to scratch it up with some medium grade sandpaper at this point to diffuse the light a little.

You can put some acrylic jems, pieces of metal, shiny plastic or glass (or indeed 10 carat flawless diamonds if you wish) into the bottom of the jar to scatter some of the light and give a pleasant effect. Once they are inside, screw up the jar.

Finally, take some glass paints and paint a stained-glass effect onto the jar. Or have your 6-year old do it.

A day of full UK sunshine should provide more than enough charge for one night’s light, and a full battery should hold enough charge for several nights, so in summer you might keep alight every night. In winter that’s not so likely, at least in the UK. There is a surprising difference between the charge developed in shade (5-10 mA) and in full sun (50 mA+) so find a sunny spot if you can.

You now have a pretty, self-charging, LED garden light.