25 January 2009

The Bidon Lamp

You have probably seen the Bidon Lamp (“bidón” meaning “barrel” or “can” in Spanish) in photos and videos of the R3project. Here is how you can make your own.

You need:

-a used translucent plastic container
-a CFL bulb
-a bulb fitting with plug
-a sharp Stanley knife

In Barcelona, you can easily find these vessels near the plastic recycling containers or unfortunately just dumped in the streets. They are normally made from HDPE (High-density polyethylene), a recyclable plastic (number 2 recycling symbol) but we prefer to reuse it as a lamp before recycling it.

First, you need to give it a thorough wash, inside and outside. We recommend you wear gloves as some may have contained toxic products, like photo-chemicals, or just cooking oil.

Then you unscrew the lid and mark the diameter of your bulb fitting on the inside of the lid. With a sharp Stanley knife cut out the circle. Then you screw the light fitting to the lid so that the cable is on the outside of it. The energy efficient light bulb is to be screwed on the inside of the lid just before you put it back on. It is important that you use a CFL light bulb because incandescent light bulbs give off too much heat and would cause a hazard with this design. Et voilà, plug in the bulb and enjoy!

Here a few different versions of the Bidon Lamp:

As a ceiling lamp:

A cut-up wall lamp:

As a seat…

The Bidon Lamp
has been designed by Petz Scholtus, but is open source design, for all of you who like DIY.

Petz likes to thank Julien Gressier, her ex-flatmate when she used to live in London, who made a similar lamp back then that was used as stool or low table depending on what was needed.


Unknown said...


Thanks for posting directions on how to build this cool light. Is there any danger of fire or burns to the plastic? Is it safe to have a CFL bulb in a plastic container?

I am concerned this light might get too hot and burn.


Brooklyn, NY

Petz Scholtus said...

Hi Michelle,

It is safe to use a CFL light as they don't give off heat like incandescent bulbs. But just to be on the safe side, make sure the bulb doesn't touch the plastic.

Happy lighting!

lightsplash108 said...

hi Petz
I am surprised with the success of the CFL bulb. I ahve read of folks who've had a broken light bulb(CFL), who have been told that they must do a complete health-hazard-containment, or something like that, due to the vapors, and they ended up having to seal off the bedroom, as it was too $$$.
What have you heard in this regard?
Chandra in the us of A

Petz Scholtus said...

Hi Chandra,

You're right: CFL bulbs are very poisonous IF they break due to the mercury they contain. BUT... they save lots of energy ($, CO2,...) compared to incandescent bulbs. LEDs are the best but not quite available/affordable yet as bulbs.

TreeHugger has written quite a lot about CFL light bulbs and how to dispose of them.




Let's just try not to break them...

anusha said...

Amazing work. You are so talented. I just read an article on NY Times about your flat in Barcelona. I am so inspired. Regards,Anusha

Scott said...

this is awesome, I will try one

MGM said...

Such a setup also lends itself well as a DIY light diffuser for tabletop photography!

The one gallon commercial condiment jars are ideal.

chm said...

This an amazing idea, and fortunately (or, unfortunately) i have access to a seemingly inexhaustible supply of 'cubitainers' that would work perfectly!

Thank you!

Roswell, GA

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Roger Bateman said...



Stuart Walker has made some wonderful lights using similar methods see his book: Sustainable By Design.

Buckets, pots, pans, sieves, funnels, bottle etc all work well as lighting reflectors/diffusers.

Enzo Mari made fabulous vases from empty cleaning product bottles: these are in the 'Eco0Design Handbook' by Alistar Fuad-Luke.

Cheers. Roger

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German Escobar/muro de contencion said...

que gran idea, muy ingenioso, lo que han hecho con los tarros, convertilos en lamparas, es un gran aporte.

plastic bins said...

i am going to try and build one of these lights/lamps this weekend. i will come back here and report how it worked out for me... Thanks for the instructions (and the inspiration)

Lucía-yoquemebusco- said...

This is awesome! Thank you so much for sharing ♥



Unknown said...

Thanks for credits ! Hope all is well in Barcelona!