Where can I get light bulb filaments?

I’m working on an art project to make my own light bulbs out of bottles. I’ve experimented a little bit with filaments that I’ve taken out of light bulbs but that gets expensive (and wastes light bulbs). Does anybody have an idea on where I can buy filaments? I’ve tried ebay and searching the web with no luck.

If it was practical I wouldn’t mind making my own filaments. Has anybody tried that?

Can you pull a hard vacuum? Or fill the bottles with Argon? Because, if not, they’re not going o last very long (like, seconds).

This site might help http://graysci.com/chapter-two/build-your-own-lightbulb/

If it is just for an art project and you don’t mind not having a bright white light, you can use nichrome wire (which can be found at electronics distributors; for example), which can operate at yellow-orange heat in air (1,680°C / 3,056°F for the example I gave, there are slightly different compositions) without burning up.

One thing to note, if you are using atmospheric pressure instead of a vacuum/low pressure, you will need a lot more power to reach the same temperature due to convective heat loss (the difference is great enough that in experiments with miniature Christmas bulbs, breaking the bulb results in the filament barely glowing red at normal voltage).

Thanks for all the replies. I appreciate the help.

I have a vacuum pump that can get down to 750 microns and a tank of argon. I’m still working on creating a tight enough seal to keep oxygen out. The argon may have some CO2 mixed in; do you think that would be a problem?

I’ve seen sites like that but they don’t tell me where to get filaments (or how to make them). I got some tungsten wire on ebay but they are too thick and they generate a lot of heat.

I don’t mind having dimmer light but I’m concerned that the nichrome would get too hot. I’m also not finding wire that’s thin enough (after a short search).

The easiest thing to do is to buy a light bulb, smash it open, and extract the filament that way.
Lots of places sell tungsten in different sizes. Here’s one site with fine tungsten wire:


Look at this website - it has lots of different filament wires -you can surely find one that suits your need.


Also - look at the electron tube parts - it may help you with your project.

Also - remember that the tungsten filament is a coiled coil - that means, you first make a fine coil out of the fine wire. Then you make another coil out of the coil you just made (albeit with a bigger diameter). This way you pack in a very small diameter wire in a compact space so it heats up to a higher temperature.

For cheap projects where life is not a big concern, you can buy steel wool from stores and extract the wires from it.

Hope this helps

Those last two links look like they might have something I can experiment with. Thanks!

Looking at the book, he used a tungsten wielding electrode (1/16") and a wielding power supply (30V, 50A). What power supply are you using? It’s good that you have argon, it’s heavier than air. He says with argon to use a bowl, right side up. If you keep the argon flowing, you won’t need as good a seal. Alternatively, use helium, and an upside down bowl.

If your filament smokes, there’s not enough helium, or your helium isn’t pure.

You can use a pencil lead. A 6volt lantern battery will be enough to make it incandesce. It will last a while, longer in an inert gas enviroment. You could use a DC adaptor instead of a battery. Hard leads will work better. Just attach the wires to the lead about 1 - 2" apart and turn on the juice. There will be a slight puff of smoke the first time as the binders burn off.