Introduction: Alien Flower Night Light

Picture of Alien Flower Night Light

Start drinking milk! To create this light you will need the plastic from 10 gallons of milk in addition to the DIY lamp standards such as electrical wires, switch, plug, etc.

There are many variations to this polyhedron theme. Dan made a good instructable on the subject. To make mine I modified a simple model I found here which is based on slipping 20 triangles together. By changing the shape to a star of David I avoided having holes in my shade.

A key element to this design is the small color changing LED bulb -- some blend smoothly from one color to the next, however mine was "cheap" ($9 on Canal Street in NYC) and just flips color every few seconds. My kids don't care though, they love it just the way it is..

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

10 empty gallon sized plastic milk bottles
12 inches green rubber tubing
24 inches rigid electrical wire with a "solid" copper wire inside (as opposed to many thin strands).
Electrical cord with plug attached (preferably cut off some broken appliance)
on/off switch (I chose a button, but you could use a toggle or even a switch on your electrical cord -- if it came off a lamp it might already be there)
Lightweight keyless socket with an edison base (i.e. regular light bulb size)
4" clay flower pot
small plastic container (such as an empty paint sample jar) which fits in the pot
Sticky colored styrofoam from a toy store
green electrical tape
And of course the small color changing LED light bulb

Step 2: Cut and Assemble the Shade

Picture of Cut and Assemble the Shade

Prepare the milk bottles by cutting them so you have 20 flat, clean pieces. Use goo gone if necessary to remove the sticker gunk.
Print out the template (make sure you print it at 100% size)
Place the plastic over the template and using an exacto knife cut 20 stars. Be careful to hold your plastic so it doesn't slip as you're cutting (alternate: trace the shape with a fine sharpie and cut the star out with scissors). Be as precise as possible.
Assemble 19 stars. It's much easier to do than to explain with words... the pictures will help. The plastic is a little slippery at first, but when more stars are assembled they hold together nicely.
For your last star, use a pencil to trace your socket. You should get the smallest, most lightweight socket you can find so it will fit inside the star. Cut a hole which is SMALLER than the circle you traced so that when you screw in the light bulb it will hold the star in place.
Don't put the last star in -- set it aside for later.

Step 3: Wire the Lamp

Picture of Wire the Lamp

Cut your rigid electrical wire in two and push both pieces through the green rubber tube (you can probably find this in a hardware store. I got mine at "Canal Rubber" in NYC). Mark the wires so you know which is which.
Make three holes in you small plastic jar: one for the electric cord coming in, one for the wires going up to the light bulb, and one for the switch.
Make a hole on the side of your clay pot big enough for your electrical cord to go through. You need a masonry bit, but you don't need an electric drill. My little hand drill worked just fine.
Connect the two rigid wires to the socket as indicated in the pictures. Mark the wire that you connect to the white screw (the one which connects to the side part of the socket).
Run your electric wire through the hole in the clay pot, then through your little plastic jar. Connect the neutral wire (the white one, or, if it's not color coded, the ribbed one) to the rigid wire you had marked as neutral. Connect the other rigid wire to the switch. Connect the hot wire from the plug to the switch.
Before going on to the next step, test it now with a standard bulb (not the LED, in case something is wrong...) to make sure you've connected everything correctly... If the light turns on and off, keep on going. If not, unplug it and check all the wires again.

Step 4: Assemble the Lamp

Picture of Assemble the Lamp

Hold the plastic jar in the center of your pot and secure it in place with plaster. I also put pebbles in to give the pot extra weight. You can use joint compound, but I'd recommend mixing some Plaster of Paris instead: it dries much faster and it's stronger. Keep the jar immobile with a little tape while the plaster cures. Don't worry if you make a mess, it comes off easily.
I did this in two steps, filling the pot up to 1/3 the first time, adding some pebbles, then when it had dried I put extra plaster in to fill it just under the jar's cap. If for some reason there's a bad connection I can always open it up and fix the wiring.
When it's completely dried, put the remaining star on the socket and screw in the color changing LED bulb. Attach the shade to the star.

Step 5: Decorate

Picture of Decorate

Use green electric tape to cover the socket. Not only does this protect the wires from curious fingers, it also secures the shade to the lamp.

I used sticky colored styrofoam to cover the base and simulate weird alien growth... If you've got kids you have probably come across the stuff in toy stores. It's fun and it keeps its shape well, but it gets pretty nasty when it's used around dog hair. On this light it should be good for a while.



AD6 (author)2014-12-03

could you possibly make a video on how to assemble the light? or possibly just some further instruction? I love your idea BTW, it's just that the pieces aren't fitting together correctly. So, if you could, it would be a lot of help and greatly appreciated. THanks!

belsey (author)AD62014-12-03

I'll try, though I know for sure I won't have time before January. It's not complicated but it IS a little tricky to get the pieces to stay together as you're assembling it, the plastic tends to slip a bit, so you have to keep going back and pushing the pieces back together as you're working. Having 20 fingers would be helpful....

AD6 (author)belsey2014-12-04

Thank you so so so much! if you could also possibly just type them out that'd be extremely helpful as well. Im in a program called TSA which stands for Technology Student Association and we are doing this for our Go Green Manufacturing project. It's really cute and a great idea!

ZombieMonster (author)2011-04-06

Loved the last pic! So recyclable!

SRRPC (author)2010-03-07

hey will that "styrofoamish" stuff harden?

belsey (author)SRRPC2010-03-08

 No, on the contrary. Over time it tends to get even more sticky and gooey than it was at first.

swartley3ga (author)2009-05-30

I really like it and I think your instructables are very thorough =)

jolico (author)2009-03-03

mitsubishi anyone?

craftyclaws (author)2009-02-04


jaxsy (author)2009-01-24

smartylampsThis is great! sells those danish darlings of the designer lampshade world. For a long time been looking into pushing things forward and making them from recycled / milk bottle plastic also great to find people making these polyhedra shapes..theres some great geometry to get to grips with, more research needed. Good stuff. Going to link you to and hopefully have some proper plastic shades on there soon, check out this guy - Nick Sayers - he's made the Iq light sphere from estate agents boards! He's perhaps run out of materials now the housing market has dived. Anyway this is not and essay. Top site.

belsey (author)jaxsy2009-01-24

Thanks for the links, I enjoyed looking at his work.

jaxsy (author)2009-01-24
smitasrivastava (author)2009-01-17

its lovely !!!!! Hey you r very creative Keep it up.

belsey (author)smitasrivastava2009-01-21

Thanks -- you should post something too. It's kind of addictive, and submitting projects for contests is a way of getting motivated to turn all those ideas in your head into something tangible...

libraryCat (author)2009-01-19

I was thinking someone should do a variation like this for this contest! Good Job!

belsey (author)libraryCat2009-01-21

I'd been plotting this for a while, (collecting the bottles) when the contest came around and motivated me to get it done. It's definitely a variation on a theme, this type of shade has been around for a while, still I like my little flower...

mbudde (author)2009-01-19

Also, it might be cool with a black light in it.

belsey (author)mbudde2009-01-21

That's a great idea -- I think I'll try that when I save up enough milk bottles!

mynameisjonas (author)2009-01-18

five stars and faved! but does the plastic melt if you leave the lamp on for too long?

belsey (author)mynameisjonas2009-01-21

Thanks! No, the plastic doesn't melt, at least not with the low watt LED bulb I use which is completely cold even after hours of use.

Sparkington (author)2009-01-17

That wiring look dangerous and could shock someone. You could have use a decent electrical box and and a light switch. I wouldn't recommended that anyone to wire up the light switch like this. Is the socket got a plastic cover to cover the live terminals? If not electrical tape will break down and could hurt someone. But it is an awesome lamp shade.

belsey (author)Sparkington2009-01-21

I do concede that as it is, I could not market this lamp as a UL listed fixture -- I could have used a better socket, such as some of these. However, unless you are armed with a pair of scissors and the determination to shock yourself, I can assure you it is safe. In all my years of taking apart lamp fixtures I have never encountered one with a "true" electrical box. Those are designed to be put inside walls, and are not needed inside lamps. The plastic jar I used here works perfectly to protect and isolate the wiring, especially with the extra insulation I wrapped all the connections with before putting it together (I didn't take a picture of that step, but I did mention it). I also mentioned that the wiring can be done more simply by using the type of switch which goes on the cord. I don't happen to like that kind much because it is more likely the lamp will get knocked over -- but not everybody is as clumsy as I am...

mbudde (author)2009-01-18

This looks really cool. We go through a lot of milk at our house, so I'm sure I'll be able to get the jugs.

finfan7 (author)2009-01-18

Regarding the styrofoam "growths": Awe man, I finally get my martian light rose to bloom and it gets the pox. Anyway, cool project. Different from what I was expecting when I clicked the link but very interesting.

agdollison (author)2009-01-16

looks like a model of a virus

About This Instructable




Bio: I am a paper engineer, writer, maker and chemist wannabe. In addition to pop-up cards I design and build furniture, lights, costumes or whatever I ... More »
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