bucket lightA bucket light makes an easy, durable camping lantern. That’s usually why they’re made. If you want to build a bucket light for camping, scroll down to the bottom of the page.

I use my bucket light for something completely different – photography. Good light for photography is highly dispersed, which means instead of tight and focused it’s wide and scattered. That’s why a cloudy day is better for taking photos than a sunny one.

So here’s my bucket light. It’s very easy to make, it just requires a bucket sized right to your lamp. In my case, my lamp fits best with the 3.5 gallon bucket pictured below.

bucket lamp 3 gallon bucket

Bucket Light Safety

cfl bulb bucket lamp light
If you’re using an incandescent bulb you have to drill a bunch of extra holes for the heat to vent. I’ve not drilled any because I’m using a CFL bulb which produces very little heat. If I was using incandescent, I would make sure the bottom of this bucket was completely riddled with holes.

Building the Bucket Light

To turn this jumble into a lamp, just drill a hole in the exact middle of the bucket. Just make sure the hole is smaller than the size of your cap so your new bucket lamp shade won’t fall off. That’s as technical as this project gets.

bucket light hole drilled

attaching bucket lamp shade to bucket light

This bucket used to hold a bag of rice and I want to still be able to use it for kitchen storage when I’m not photographing. That’s one reason I didn’t remove the handle. This single bucket gets many many uses in my home.

I also think it looks more authontic with that handle hanging around.

Here’s a shot of my bucket lamp side-by-side with the old lampshade.

bucket light and lampshade

The bucket lamp actually puts out much more light than the lampshade did. A lampshade seems to block most of the horizontal light in favor of downward light. That works great for reading – but not for photography.

Future Plans: Stained Glass Bucket Lamp

I would like to paint my bucket lampshade just to see what the lighting effect would be.

Stained glass lampshades already exist – what about stained plastic?

plastic stained glass bucket-lamp

As a kid we had stained glass lampshades and I was very, very hard on them. None of them survived to my adulthood. I’m sure some artists would be able to make it actually look quite attractive.

Commercial Bucket Lights

ikea bucket lamps

bucket lantern

The Swedish furniture company IKEA regularly hires designers to invent new creative things – and the most recent creation to come from them is the assortment of bucket lights pictured above.

For even more money, you can purchase this “fire bucket” oil lantern from Norm.

Camping Bucket Lights


As I’ve already mentioned, the most popular use for bucket lights currently is for camping purposes. There’s already plenty of good resources for building one of those, so I’ll leave you with this video from someone who has actually built one for camping.

Halloween five gallon jack-o-lantern bucket light

bucket halloween light

If these ideas aren’t fun enough for you, how about a Halloween jack-o-lantern bucket light? Take a bucket, cut a face into it, complete with eyes, nose, downward pointing eyebrows and a crooked smile, for an original evil look. Place a light in, either a candle or an electric one. If you use a plastic bucket, take an orange one, or consider painting it orange.

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