How to Take Apart a Lightbulb

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Crafters and DIY scientists can give new life to a burnt out incandescent bulb. Recycle that old light bulb for other projects -- crafts, a mini terrarium or a water-boiling flask -- by hollowing out the insides with a few simple tools. With adult supervision, this is even a suitable project for older children interested in electricity and the mechanics of a light bulb.

Things You'll Need

  • Incandescent light bulb
  • Newspaper
  • Work gloves
  • Eye protection
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Spread out the newspaper on a flat surface in a well-lit area. Protect yourself by putting on work gloves and eye protection.

  • Use the needle nose pliers to grip and twist the solder point at the base of the bulb. This loosens the metal and breaks one of the wires inside the bulb.

  • Peel up the brass ring around the solder point with the pliers to remove both the solder and the brass. Only the black glass insulator will remain in the base.

  • Use the pliers to carefully crack the black insulator and pull out the pieces. There should be a small hole in the center of the insulator into which you can insert one side of the pliers for a better grip. Once this is removed you will be able to see the glass envelope inside the bulb and some of the wire filaments.

  • Using the pliers, break off the small glass tube sticking down from the glass envelope inside the bulb. Grip the tube gently and wriggle to break it. Remove this piece from the bulb.

  • Stick the flat head screwdriver into the bulb through the base as far up into the glass envelope as it will fit. Lever the screwdriver against the base of the bulb to break the glass envelope.

  • Remove the broken pieces of the glass envelope and wire filaments with the needle nose pliers. Hold the glass bulb upright with the base pointing down to keep broken pieces from falling deeper into the bulb.

  • Shake the bulb to remove any remaining pieces of broken glass.

  • Clean the inside of a white bulb to remove the kaolin powder coating. This will make the bulb completely transparent. Stick a rolled-up paper towel into the bulb through the base and twirl it to rub the inside of the glass clean. Another option is filling the bulb with a lot of salt and a little water. Swirl it around to clean the walls and drain. Allow the bulb to dry before use.

Tips & Warnings

  • Hold the bulb gently to avoid breaking the glass exterior. You want to preserve this part.
  • Do not use a fluorescent bulb for this project. Fluorescent bulbs contain small amounts of mercury.
  • Be careful throughout the process. Broken glass inside the bulb can cut.
  • If doing this project with children, make sure they have plenty of adult supervision.

References

  • Photo Credit andreadonetti/iStock/Getty Images
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