In a previous article, I demonstrate how to build an alcohol burner for a home chemistry set. In my article, I mention that "second-hand stores like Goodwill, Salvation Army, and local mom&pop shops are treasure troves of things to hack or repurpose."

I would like to mention too that close-out stores like Dollar General are also fertile ground for modding.

I found a USB lamp with a fan at a close-out store in Albuquerque for under $5.00 USD and decided to make it a magnifying lamp by combining it with a handheld lighted magnifying glass that my wife got me from a dollar store for, well, $1.00 USD (I think we used to call this kind of store a “five and dime,” or dime-store for short, but nowadays everything costs $1.00 USD likely on account of inflation).


Parts needed for the Magnifying lamp:

USB lamp with fan

lighted magnifying glass

3 rubber bands

Use a small flat blade screwdriver to remove the magnifying glass retaining ring. It's really easy to pry the plastic ring off the magnifier.

You can temporarily attach the magnifying glass to the lamp with the three rubber bands.

For a more permanent solution I decided to use sugru to attach the magnifying glass to the lamp. Why sugru?

Many of my projects are designed for ages 8 and up. Whenever I can, I try to find substitutes for solder or hot glue (we don’t want kids burning themselves, or setting the drapes on fire). In an email exchange, however, with a sugru representative I received the following information:

“One thing about sugru is that we can't recommend it for young kids' use due to the risk of swallowing it, and it not being food-safe - but kids aged 10 or so and up are fine with sugru, at least when supervised. In any case, if you mentioned this in your post I'm sure that'd be fine from a health/safety point of view.”

Anyway, I just wanted to see if it would actually work and, besides, my sugru was past its use-by date so, I really needed to find a use for it. I was able to restore only two of the packets and it took a lot of kneading to get it back to its original consistency. Unfortunately the third packet couldn't be fully restored no matter how much kneading I tried and it ended up looking like dried out dough. No, it ain't too pretty but the sugru seems to hold the magnifying glass to the lamp fairly well.

The USB magnifying lamp and can be used for close-up photography to document your experiments--as long as your camera lens is smaller in diameter than the hole in the top of the light, such as cell phones, iPods, and smaller consumer still cameras.

In some cases, you'll have to be careful to angle your camera just so--so that the glare from the light doesn't obscure what you're trying to shoot. If you’re going to be shooting a lot of close-ups of, say, circuit boards, you might want to consider cutting a ring out of wax paper, for example, and installing it over the LEDs before you add the magnifying lens. I searched for diffusion gels on Google and it turns out the cheapest I could find was $7.99 USD which would cost more than the lamp and the lighted magnifier combined.

Example of picture with obscuring glare.

Example of picture without obscuring glare.

Occasionally you may need to crop the glare out of the picture.

Example of picture before cropping.

Example of picture after cropping.