Introduction: Japanese Lamp From Recycled Materials

Picture of Japanese Lamp From Recycled Materials

A cheap but attractive paper "shoji" style lamp that uses mostly recycled parts and is easy to put together.

DISCLAIMER 1: The overall design (and possibly the whole idea) of this lamp was influenced by atarax's shoji lamp Instructable. The motif on the side was influenced by Nick Falzone's superb Sangaku and Yuugou case mods. I did not steal either of their ideas.

DISCLAIMER 2: This is probably one of the safer non-computer Instructables I've written. However, hot glue is hot, scissors are pointy, bamboo can give nasty splinters and this Instructable involves wiring a mains lightbulb socket. If you are unsure of how to do that safely, I disclaim all responsibility for electrical mishaps.

DISCLAIMER 3: Yes, I got the parts images from Google image search because I built this thing before taking the photos, and couldn't be bothered taking photos of a light socket and corrugated cardboard. If I am using your image and you would rather I didn't, let me know and I'll replace it with one of my own.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials
You will need the following.

  • Glue gun
  • Craft knives
  • Scissors
  • Diagonal/wire cutters or nail clippers


  • Strong corrugated cardboard, preferably 2-layer
  • Paper- I used regular lined paper but if you wanted to be fancy you could used textured craft paper or tracing paper
  • Bamboo/wooden chopsticks or kebab skewers
  • Straight batten lightbulb socket
  • Plug
  • A couple of metres of flex (2-core or 3-core is ok)
  • (optional) Inline switch
  • Lightbulb- I use an 11W CFL, I'm not happy about the idea of an incandescent bulb in a box made of paper

Step 2: Make a Frame

Picture of Make a Frame

Before doing this you will need to decide how big you want your lamp to be. You are constrained by the length of your chosen framing material (unless you want to go hardcore woodwork and make joints) and the size of your paper. I chose a shape a little smaller than the A4 paper I was using in roughly the same aspect ratio. If you are very keen on mathematical aesthetics you might like to use the golden ratio, but a slightly tall rectangle is generally a good way to go. Avoid a shape wider than it is tall, your lamp will look squat and weird.

Cut two stick-like things (hereafter referred to as "sticks") to the height of your frame and two to the width of a side.

Glue a short stick to a long stick. (Image 1)

Glue another short stick to the free end of the long stick, then get as right-angley as possible and glue the remaining long stick between the two short sticks. (Image 2)

Step 3: Motif, Part 1

Picture of Motif, Part 1

Now you have to decide what, if any, motif you want on the side of the . I used this asymmetric square pattern because I liked the way it looks- anything within the bounds of reason that you can construct with a glue gun and bamboo skewers, go for it. I will provide instructions on how to construct this motif which can be generalised to many rectilinear patterns.

I was intending for the small rectangle in the middle of the motif to be square, but screwed up my measurements, and by complete chance it ended up having the same aspect ratio as the side which actually looks much better. The exact lengths are unimportant but I will assume you have "short motif sticks" and "long motif sticks".

Measure one short motif stick length from one long side of the frame, at the top and bottom (Images 1 and 2). Glue a long motif stick to one of the points you just marked, along the line connecting the two points. (Image 3)

Step 4: Motif, Part 2

Picture of Motif, Part 2

Essentially, repeat the process at 90 degrees to the first stick- measure away from one edge with sticks of one length and glue a stick of the other length along the line. (Image 1)

Repeat for the remaining sticks, gluing all the points they meet at. (Image 2)

Step 5: Skin It

Picture of Skin It

Now you should have a glued-up frame. Admire its spindly beauty.

Now grab a piece of paper and lay it on top of the frame. (You can turn the frame over if you are worried about the "handedness" of your motif, ie it doesn't have reflective symmetry). Apply dabs of hot glue along one of the short sides of the frame to stick the paper to it. Work towards the other end, tacking the paper with dots of glue- seams are unnecessary and get strands of glue everywhere unless you're very handy with a glue gun, and the paper isn't structural so enough to keep it held to the frame is ok. (Image 1)

Once the glue is set, trim the paper along the edges of the frame, as neatly as you can because this will be on the outside of the lamp. (Images 2, 3)

Step 6: Make Some More

Yep- time to make three more side panels and a top panel if you so desire, exactly the same way as last time. I made all the frames in one go and then skinned and trimmed them, it's a little less frustrating if you are only doing one task at a time.

Step 7: Wire It Up

First, strip the outer insulation of your flex a few cm, and strip the individual wires' insulation about a cm (no more, the more you strip the higher the chance of a short. If there is exposed copper outside the cable connectors you should trim the stripped conductor). Wire one end of the flex into the socket- a plastic batten socket is unlikely to require an earth connection.

Strip the other end of the flex similarly and wire the plug. Check that an appropriate fuse is installed- you should only need a 1 Amp fuse for an 11W CFL, but higher wattages (especially in 110V mains areas) will probably need a 3A fuse. If you have a 13A fuse replace it with a lower value.

Install the torpedo switch close to the socket end of the flex if you desire. You can now plug it in and perform a quick test to check all your electrical parts work- if it's going to catch fire, better to do it while it isn't glued into a box made of paper and cardboard.

Step 8: Make the Base

Picture of Make the Base

Cut out some squares of corrugated cardboard the same width as the width of your side panels. Laminate them with more glue gun glue, alternating the direction (or "grain") of the cardboard for maximum strength. I recommend at least two layers of double-layer cardboard or four layers of regular (like in the image).

Cut a shallow groove from one edge of the base to roughly the centre, to accommodate the flex. Glue the batten socket into the middle of the base with the flex in the groove.

Step 9: Attach the Sides

Picture of Attach the Sides

Assemble the sides of the lamp around the base and mark where the corners sit. Now run a seam of hot glue along the inside edge where the base of each side panel meets the base, and up the insides of the side edges. Don't glue the base on, as you will need to remove it to change the bulb.

Step 10: Switch On, Stand Back, Admire!

Picture of Switch On, Stand Back, Admire!

And you're done!

A few notes- the lamp is very light and not very strong, so don't put it somewhere it will get knocked around. With an 11W CFL it gives a soft glow that is ok to read by but won't light up a whole room brightly.

Running for an hour with the lid on, the paper on the lid was slightly warm to the touch and the sides were room temperature so it's probably safe to leave on for long periods, but if you are using an incandescent bulb I would suggest not using the lid.

The lamp is not at all fire safe- don't even think about using a naked flame or other combustion-based source of light in this rather than the lightbulb. Again I accept no responsibility for what you do outside the scope of these instructions.

Step 11: Reader Submissions

Picture of Reader Submissions

More than any other Instructable I have written, this one seems to have inspired people to try it out for themselves. These pictures were submitted by four readers who built their own lamps, and all added something to the design.

Thanks to all of them for sharing their work and inspiring me to keep making projects!


TadR (author)2016-07-20

My first attempt. I used balsa wood & wax paper.

james.sapples (author)2015-12-04


looks wonderful

sonisimi (author)2015-04-08

Thanks for sharing

prosper58 (author)2011-02-20

Thanks for the great instructable. I made one, but i came out pretty bad :P I sort of screwed up after gluing the paper, so i improvised by tracing the bamboo skewers with electrical tape. At least it looks kinda cool in the dark. I'm not done yet, but i'll go ahead and take some pics.

Elusiverick (author)prosper582015-03-05

Hi prosper58 10 points for motivation & effort BUT, yes there is a Big BUTT

I recommend fitting a 200 watt lamp to your effort & recording the result on time laps.

Looking VERY forward to your NEXT attempt.



colorex (author)prosper582011-09-20

Spray water mist on tissue paper and it will stretch as it dries!
But be careful! Just moisten the paper!


for an example!

jetamkadlec made it! (author)2015-01-12

Awesome!! I've just made my own one an it's amazing :) Thanks fo this great instructable

RyanFitz (author)2010-05-26

Thanks For the idea, I kinda took the idea and ran with it. I made a night light lamp for my nephew. his favorite characters are the ones i put on there. used bass wood and acrylic paint with some super glue. and bought a bag of 99cent letters for the front. was having a hard time finding sockets at my local hardware stores so i just used what i could find. there's a night light light bulb that is 7.5watts to give the entire picture a nice glow without being to bright and the bulb is never too hot to touch or hot enough to burn paper. i added a cable with an on off switch for easy off switch total cost was pretty cheap. turned out pretty decent.

marcEmarc (author)RyanFitz2014-09-15

Hi Ryan, I just came across the project you did for your nephew for years ago and I really love it. If you get this message, could you tell me what kind of paper you used with all of the cartoon characters? I really love this idea and would love to try it out with other characters. Thank you. Hope this message finds you.

micobanff (author)RyanFitz2010-07-01

Thats an awesome idea! Great job man

iram m (author)2014-05-01

i want to make this lamp in a hut shape,is it possible?

Jerry E made it! (author)2014-02-02

Nice idea for a project! I tried it (quickly) to see if it would make a nice enclosure for a multicolor LED bulb. I like the effect, so I think I will keep refining the lamp.

blackweb (author)2013-12-30

I wonder if this would work with leftover wallpaper....will have to try.

nageeK (author)2013-04-02

Thank you so much PKM for this incredible idea, as many other have said it has inspired me to make several of these. Below you can see a version of my latest one.

The second picture depicts an "interior skeleton" if you will to help strengthen the lamp. I found that, when moving from one apartment to another, it was a very delicate item to transfer, so I sought to improve its structural integrity.

herefishyfishy (author)2011-06-30

Here is the giant floor lamp I made my mom for Mother's Day. She loved it! The panels are constructed similarly to the ible, with ripped wood, tissue paper, and a whole lot of hot glue. Spray-painted the wood black before attaching the tissue paper. Inside we ran two long wooden dowels which we attached by a piece of sheet metal across the top of the lamp, and into our wooden base. (Drill a couple tight holes in each, shove the dowels in, and hot glue like you mean it). Before securing the dowels inside though, we configured three CFLs on the dowels. Similar method- we secured the base of the light socket to the sheet metal which we slid over the wooden dowels. Probably the most pain in the butt parts of the project were tidying up strings of hot glue, and accidentally ripping the tissue paper in construction. Repairs were pretty easy though. Oh, and we put one panel on by hinges, and secured with a hook-and-eye latch. This way the bulbs can easily be changed. Turns on and off with a wheel click switch on the cord.

Pikwiks12 (author)herefishyfishy2012-04-28

Beautiful! You have inspired me to make this my first summer project of 2012. Can you post detailed instructions though?
I am a novice at this, so I'd need the help to get it right. Thanks!

Mariana8919 (author)2011-10-01

wow i like all the designs that everyone made.

Amravan (author)2010-10-01

This is my rare lamp

Mariana8919 (author)Amravan2011-10-01

Awwww!!! this one is sooooooo cute!!!! ^_^ it looks so adorable
lol it looks like its a poor little lamp
AWWW!! SO CUTE! i want it lol

d1ndian (author)Amravan2011-06-16


haunted_lady (author)Amravan2011-03-28

Wow that turned out awesome! Love your blue walls!

Coolboyme (author)Amravan2011-02-04

n looks cool with that shade of blue

controlzed (author)Amravan2010-10-11

thats really cool, love the style.

velorna (author)2011-09-21

I love it and i will try it

colorex (author)2011-09-20

You're awesome! You inspired a huge bunch of people!

pikru (author)2011-08-28

Big thanks to the OP, it's great to see how many people had a try with the project. Mine was made with bamboo sticks, chopsticks and baking paper. I kept the pattern connections all over the lamp. Glows much brighter than in the picture.

buzhik (author)2010-11-08

This one was my second variation of the lamp idea.

Drewproject86 (author)buzhik2011-04-28

Could you give me some instructions and/or list of materials used to make mine look like yours? I love your design.

buzhik (author)Drewproject862011-08-01

Sorry, didn't see your comment earlier... In case you are still interested in making this lamp here's what I've used:
-7 plywood squares (bought pre-cut from Michael's; check pieces against one another to make sure they are identical in size and completely flat)
-craft paper (also from Michael's). The paper I used was sold in a roll. It was a little bit hard to glue because it was thicker than rice paper; but not impossible.
-thin dowels for accents
-light socket
-spay paint

I glued all pieces together. It took time because I could only glue a couple of pieces at a time and wait till it dries.

Drewproject86 (author)buzhik2011-08-22

Thanks! I'll post when I get the time to get the parts and make this!

Near24 (author)buzhik2011-07-28

That lamp is simply stunning! Marvelous work! What did you use for the paper?

buzhik (author)Near242011-08-01

Thank you for checking out my design :) I used a roll of craft paper from Michael's. Also, I've posted additional details about the project in the comment below.

The Bulldog (author)2011-07-24

Ill try to make something a lamp like this with LED's I'll post the result here :P

tooabstract788 (author)2010-08-13

Here is what I came up with. Made my a hanging lamp and left the bottom open for more light.

Here is a new one with a better design

edina2015 (author)tooabstract7882011-07-19

I like this pattern much more than the one on the instructibles, its more eligent.


Thanks for the idea on how to hide my ugly kitchen light fixture!

hunnybaby (author)2010-08-22

awesome build! it inspired me to attempt my own. I bought tin foil to line the bottom of my lamp to reflect more light AND also going to use parchment paper (high heat baking paper) as the paper liner because parchment paper can with stand temps of 400 deg Fahrenheit!! So, if I chose to use an incandecent bulb there would be less risk of fire (fingers crossed). Thanks for the awesome idea! You saved me close to $100 on lamps for my new house! :) :) :)

edina2015 (author)hunnybaby2011-07-18

I love the parchment paper idea but is it flurescent?

hunnybaby (author)edina20152011-07-19

I tried to use the parchment paper, but because its used for cooking and "non-stick" I couldn't get the hot glue to stick to attach the paper. :(
I ended up using a CFL (spiral) bulb for low/no heat for the light source and regular roll of white paper for the lantern walls.

Andreus Felipen (author)2011-07-06

Thanks, it is realy great!

d1ndian (author)2011-06-16

Aweasome tutorial dude. I always wanted to make one. After this summer m gonna be converting my room into a Japanese style room. I'll post a few pics here if i finished it the way i want it to be.

imillspaugh (author)2011-04-03

I have that same printer. Also, the lamp is nice.

brandonduh (author)2009-05-07

woooo just finished i decided to paint the wood matte black :]

haunted_lady (author)brandonduh2011-03-28

Yours turned out really cool!

AdamVigneaux (author)2011-02-25

This is my take on the project. Simpler than most of the ones posted in these comments, but still a beautiful result.

Thanks for the idea!

Shades of Grey (author)2010-12-03

I'm sure a comment similar to this is on here somewhere but I don't really want to shuffle through all of them to find out. If it does, mea culpa.

You could use an LED light similar to the one used in this instructable:
and pretty much eliminate the fire hazard from the bulbs. I am sure there are models with less bulbs for less light or vice versa. That way you could customize it for a night light or table lamp, etc.

Very cool , I plan on making one or two for presents this holiday season because of this 'ible.

jakyo (author)2010-12-02

ILike this a LOT ,I am going to try this with my own spin on it [will post result!]

buzhik (author)2010-11-08

Cool idea. I was inspired to make this...

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