Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Task Light Helper

This weekend we went to Point Reyes National Seashore for our anniversary.  Kayaked on Tomales Bay one day and hiked around the next.  The lighthouse at the southern tip of Point Reyes was pretty cool.  It's very foggy there much of the year, so the lighthouse was sorely needed when it was built in 1870.
Point Reyes lighthouse
Last year I upgraded my shop lights from two single-bulb 48" fluorescent fixtures to four 40" LED fixtures.  While the light situation is much, much better, I still sometimes have a need for a direct task light. Several months ago I bought a relatively cheap battery-operated LED task light for the shop.
Task light has 7 LEDs
It's been handy to have, but sometimes I need it in places that are hard to get it.  The light has a magnet on the bottom, so I thought about making something to help get the light where I need it.
Magnet on bottom of task light
First, I experimented with how strong the magnet was.  I found the circular magnet was really only strong around its perimeter.  So I tried setting several screws in a block of wood to see if the magnet would hold well enough.
Screws to attract the magnet
It held, but not very strongly.
Light held to screws, but would fall off easily
Then I tried placing the magnet on a flat piece of metal, in this experiment a saw plate.
Holding strong to a saw plate
This was definitely the ticket.  Even though this saw plate is junk and I could cannibalize it for a piece of steel, I went out and bought a small piece of steel (mending plate?) at the local hardware store.

Then I set about designing and building a frame that would allow some flexibility.
Sketchup drawing of the plan
The upright is 44" long on top of a 1 1/4" thick base.  The design allows the 24" boom arm to angle up or down and also to come forward or back about 12".  The slotted design of the upright allows the boom arm to be locked into position with a hex-head bolt and knob.

This is made from scrap oak for the upright and boom arm and pine for the base.  I only got a couple pics of the actual woodworking, but here's the base being marked to width using the panel gauge I built recently.  Worked great.
Gauging the width of the base with new panel gauge
I allowed myself a tiny bit of personal flair by beveling the top edges of the base.
Beveling the end grain of the base
The hole in the upright that holds the bolt was mortised out in the hex shape to house the bolt head.
Hexagonal mortise for bolt
And the other side gets the knob.
Adjustable boom arm is fixed in position by tightening the knob
I attached the steel plate to the end of the boom arm with screws.
Steel plate on end of boom arm
The steel is only about 1/16" thick, but the light's magnet really holds well.
Task light held to boom arm by magnet
And the finished product:
The task light stand
I know this will be nice to have when I need more light in a specific area.  For example, when sharpening saws or when sawing to a line that I can barely see.


  1. That is a good solution to finding a way to hold that lamp. I have a similar one and I may be stealing this from you.
    As an aside your comment on the books went south on me. It'll be a while but I post something on them as I read them. Can you send the books he recommended to you to me again?

    1. Steal away on the lamp holder. The books that Dennis Laney mentioned are "Modern Practical Joinery" by George Ellis (reprint); "Modern Cabinet Work" by Percy A. Wells & John Hooper (reprint). Dennis also said "If you are really interested in classical measurement and design, pick up a copy of Vitruvius", which has a lot to do with geometry.

      I've found both the Ellis and Wells/Hooper books in full text on the internet and it seems that the latter is more of what I'm looking for. Ellis goes through a lot of architectural woodworking that is WAY beyond what I'll ever do.

  2. Hi Matt,
    that's a great workshop helper.
    And a smooth transition from light house to shop lights. :-)


    1. Funny, I didn't even make the light house to shop light connection - er, I mean, yeah, I meant to do that.

  3. Hi Matt
    Well done, that should be a handy addition

    1. Thanks Bob - it's already come in handy a couple times.

  4. Point Reyes looks like a beautiful place! I'm curious about the light house structure, was it made of stone?
    Nice looking light stand you made, I'm sure that was well worth the time to make. I'm getting to the age where I can't have enuf light on a project sometimes.

    1. Stephen, the only info I can find about the lighthouse structure is that "some components of cast iron were brought by ship ..." The lighthouse is situated about a third the way down a tall cliff, guessing about 300 ft above sea level at the LH. With the typical high fog in the area, they needed to build the lighthouse lower on the cliff. They used dynamite to blast away rock to create a reasonably level surface on which to build. The fog horn is situated another 150 feet below the lighthouse. There are 308 concrete steps now to get you down to the lighthouse from the cliff above. The original Fresnel lens, made in Paris, is still in the lighthouse. An automated light is used now, but the original is still there for historical reasons. Great stuff.

    2. I did a youtube "tour" of the lighthouse this morning. It appears to be a iron and wood structure, which is probably a good thing since its done some hopping around in several earthquakes over the years. If it was stone, it most likely wouldn't have survived.