by Rebecca Rockefeller
I’ve been seeing photos of beautiful vases made of burnt-out incandescent bulbs, and I wanted to see if I could make one for myself. It was hard to believe that my rather gray frosted bulb could become a thing of beauty; I was worried it would become a pile of glass shards instead. Read on to see how I fared, and how you can upcycle your burnt out incandescent bulbs…
- I started with one burnt out but otherwise undamaged incandescent bulb, a pair of needle-nose pliers, a spool of annealed steel wire, and a pair of wire cutters.
- I used the needle-nose pliers to remove the soft metal tab from the center of the bulb’s base. This was surprisingly easy!
- Next, I used the same pair of pliers to crack and remove the glass below the metal tab. In the bulb I was working with, the glass was a beautiful shade of blue, and quite thick. I stuck the pliers into the hole left behind when I removed the metal tab and exerting force to crack the glass. At this point, I realized I’d better put on a pair of safety glasses!
- As the blue glass piled up, I realized I’d better cover my wooden work surface with something – Some of the glass was more of a dust, and that’s hard to sweep off of wood!
- I set down a layer of newspaper for the next step. Now that most of the blue glass was gone, I could see the guts of the bulb – the metal filaments and supporting glass you can see when you look into an incandescent bulb. I tried lifting them out in one piece with my pliers, but gave up and used a flat-head screwdriver to jab down into the bulb (being careful not to jab too hard or too far) to detach the innards. After that it was easy to shake out the small pieces and pull out the larger ones with the pliers.
- I used the screwdriver and the pliers to remove the stubborn glass that was still stuck in the grooves around inside of the bulb’s metal end. I did this as gently as possible, but the metal is very soft and getting the glass out deformed it a bit. Move slowly and carefully here if you’d like a symmetrical metal end!
- Now I had an empty bulb, hurrah! I poured in some baking soda, added a bit of water, swished it around, then rinsed it. The smudgy gray residue inside the bulb washed clean out, as did the wattage information printed on the glass.
- I decided on a hanging vase, so I cut a piece of the rather thick (16 gauge) steel wire I had on hand, a bit less than 2′ long. I used the sharpest end of the wire to bore a hole through the metal base of the bulb, which was going to be the top of my vase. I eyeballed it to get two holes opposite each other through the metal. Instead of making two separate handles, I settled on using one piece of wire, threading it through both holes so that the wire runs across the center of the bulb vase’s opening.
- I centered the wire so that I had the same amount on either side of the bulb, then I folded each side up to form a tall loop.
- Where the two sides of the wire crossed above the bulb, I used my hands to form one side of the wire into a smaller loop, then I wrapped the other side of the wire around the base of this loop to hold it all together. I trimmed the excess wire and put the remnants in my scrap metal recycling container. The smaller top loop of wire is what I hang the vase from.
That’s all there was to it! Overall, I was surprised by how sturdy the glass of the bulb was and by how soft the metal parts were. It took me about an hour to complete this first bulb vase, but the next one will come together more quickly. And I will be making more of these, just as soon as I’ve got more dead incandescent bulbs to work with.
And if you have great reuse ideas you’ve tried yourself and want to share, please do in our comments below or through our crowd-sourcing page.