Introduction: Giant Atari Joystick Lamp

Picture of Giant Atari Joystick Lamp

This lamp is a fairly accurate scale model of the classic Atari joystick. It is made out of medium density fiberboard (MDF) and stands almost two feet tall. The red button turns the lamp on and off, and the lampshade is a collage of printouts of classic Atari game covers.

This project was a fun challenge for me, and posed a lot of little dilemmas along the way. In the end I was quite happy with the way it turned out! 

Thanks for looking. Enjoy!

Step 1: Top Piece

Picture of Top Piece

I didn't have a real joystick to study and measure for dimensions, so I went off of pictures I got online. I think I got the proportions pretty close though, just through some basic math like height/width ratios, etc.

I purchased one 2 by 4-foot panel of MDF in each of the following thicknesses: 1/4", 1/2", 3/4". I also purchased one 2 by 4-foot sheet of 1/8' hardboard. I had plenty of material left over afterward.

MDF is great for things like this. It's easy to cut, shape, and sand, and it doesn't warp, crack, or split like wood (unless it is left out in the elements, or you drill a screw straight into it). Be sure to cut, route, and sand it in a well ventilated area.

If you plan to make one of these, I would recommend finding a real joystick to work from. Measure it and make all your pieces proportional to it.

The top piece is cut from 1/2" material. See photos for details on cutting the beveled edge.

Step 2: Making the Side Panels

Picture of Making the Side Panels

The side panels were made from pieces of 3/4 inch MDF with 1/4 pieces glued on to create the step-down shape. The pieces were cut at a 5 degree angle so they would taper slightly inward down from the top of the base. See photos for additional details.

Step 3: Making the Corner Blocks

Picture of Making the Corner Blocks

I needed to make some 1 1/2 inch blocks for the corner pieces. These corner blocks were needed so I could connect all the side panels together, and provide shapeable corner pieces that could be carved into the bi-layered, tapered, and curved corner shape that I wanted.

Step 4: Assembly of Sides and Corners

Picture of Assembly of Sides and Corners

The corner blocks needed to be attached fairly well, but metal fasteners were not an option since I was planning on cutting and shaping them once they were attached. I used a combination of wood glue, wooden dowels, hot glue, and clamps to put it all together.

Step 5: Shaping the Corner Pieces

Picture of Shaping the Corner Pieces

I used a pull-saw, files, and sandpaper to shape each of the corners. Masking tape was placed on the side panels next to the corner pieces to avoid scrape marks from the pull-saw.

Step 6: Raised Ring

Picture of Raised Ring

This ring is made from 1/8 inch hardboard. In order to make this piece, I made a template jig out of 1/2 inch MDF, glue the hardboard to it temporarily with spray adhesive, and use a flush cut bit on my router to cut it out.

Step 7: Button

Picture of Button

I was kind of dumb and cut out the hole for the button early on in the project, not knowing exactly where it was headed. That's how you learn I guess.

I plugged that hole with a new piece of MDF, and glued down the raised ring on top of the base. This made it possible to make a clean, flush cut all the way through both the ring and the top of the base for the button.

Step 8: Three Rings

Picture of Three Rings

To make these three concentric rings, I had to layout and cut each one with the jigsaw. After sanding them smooth, I used my router with a roundover bit to make the curved top on each one.

In order to route these pieces safely I had to temporarily mount them to my small workbench with dowels. The shorter pieces had to have shims placed underneath so the router bit had clearance from the table top.

The heights for the rings (starting with the largest diameter ring) are 1/2 inch, 3/4 inch, and 1 inch. The 1-inch ring was made from a ring of 3/4" MDF, plus a ring of 1/4" MDF.

Step 9: Stick Pieces

Picture of Stick Pieces

The stick was made from six separate pieces of 3/4 inch MDF. They were cut at a slight taper, with all the side cuts at 30 degrees. These cuts were made with the jigsaw. To make room for the light socket, I used a pull-saw and chisel to cut away excess material.

Step 10: Stick Assembly

Picture of Stick Assembly

The six separate pieces for the stick were glued together with wood glue, using a bead of hot glue along the joint on what was to be the inside of the stick. This would hold the pieces together while the wood glue dried.

Step 11: Stick Collar

Picture of Stick Collar

To make the collar, I cut two 3/4 inch thick circles of MDF slightly bigger than the bottom of the stick. I traced the bottom of the stick onto each circle. I marked six sections on each circle piece which corresponded with the six sections of the stick, and marked each section so I knew where it was to match up with the stick once they were cut out.

I cut out all these pieces with a jigsaw, and placed them back around the stick where they matched. These were all glued in place with hot glue and covered with a couple layers of wood filler. To make the top taper of the collar, I filled it with a few layers of wood filler. Then I gently sanded the collar and the taper smooth.

Step 12: Bottom of Base

Picture of Bottom of Base

The bottom outside edge of the base was rounded over with the router, and sanded smooth.

The bottom panel was cut from 1/2 inch MDF, with 1/4 inch circles glued on to it. To attach this to the base, I added cleats to the inside made of 1/2 MDF.

Step 13: Lampshade

Picture of Lampshade

The lampshade was made from a simple kraft paper lampshade from Walmart. It was covered with printouts of classic Atari game box covers.

I got the pictures of old game covers from the Atari Age website. I made them all the same size and then printed them from my home printer.

The pictures were glued to the lampshade with spray adhesive.

Step 14: Finishing, Part One: Priming

Picture of Finishing, Part One: Priming

I primed all the pieces with two coats of gray spray paint primer, sanding with 320 grit sandpaper in between.

Step 15: Finishing, Part Two: Painting, and Lamp Assembly

Picture of Finishing, Part Two:  Painting, and Lamp Assembly

All the pieces were painted with spray paint. The base is coated with black textured "hammered-look" spray paint. The raised ring is shiny black. The three rings and the stick are flat black. The button was coated with full coat of red, and then got a light coating of fluorescent orange.

The directional markings are craft foam painted golden orange and glued in place with spray adhesive.

I attached the three rings and the stick with hot glue, and then drove a couple of screws up through the bottom of the top of the base into the bottom of the stick to keep it sturdy (pilot holes were drilled first to keep it from splitting).

For the lamp assembly, I used an old cord along with a basic socket and a push-button switch from Home Depot. I fed the cord through a hole that had been drilled in the back of the base prior to painting, and set up the switch following the instructions that came with it. The switch was hot glued to a small wooden bracket I had glued into the base below the button hole opening. To the bottom of my red button, I attached a small block of wood with a shallow hole reamed into it so it would sit balanced and centered on top of the switch button. I used some hot glue to attach the red button to the switch through the the button hole opening.


NathanielJ6 (author)2016-05-23

Awesome! This looks like a great addition for a living room with NES controller coffee table (

nathanielg (author)2012-07-29

i have an atari i been playing for the past couple weeks, i found it in my grandparents attic and about 4 of every type of controller so i think i am going to take on this project in honor of the best game system ever built!

bobthebuilder728 (author)2011-10-30

i want to do this when i get some time

northernmagnet (author)2011-02-24

this is clever

Some Dork (author)2010-10-26

LOVE this! I think I now have a winter project. :D

yokozuna (author)2009-01-05

Very well done, are you a member at AtariAge? It's a great website. Also, is the orange button the on/off switch?

seamster (author)yokozuna2009-01-05

The orange button is the on/off switch. I'm not a member at AtariAge. I found the website while working on this project and really enjoyed all the nostalgic memories is brought up. I'm really thinking I need to track down our old 2600, (if it's still in the family somewhere), or buy one. The old games were so much fun.

pressroom86 (author)seamster2009-01-06

Awesome lamp!! You got my vote. For Christmas this year I got my wife Activision Anthology for our PS2. It has all the the Activision games ever made for the 2600 (plus a couple that they never released). What a blast from the past. If you can't find an old 2600 you could look into that instead. Again, great job and very well made instuctable. I hope you win.

matbh (author)pressroom862010-05-03

atari remake here:

made in china of course!

PCvsMac (author)pressroom862009-04-17

God damn it! That was the name of the game I've been looking for, for absoultly ages! (Remember seeing it at a charity shop at one point for £5, regretting that I didnt buy it...)

RcStumpman (author)2010-03-05

Awesome job! Brings back lots of memories! :-)

getbusy21 (author)2010-02-20

You'd have to be 50 or 60 feet tall to play with that thing. Imagine he size of the cartridges. Awesome!

kcls (author)2010-02-07

It would be super cool if you could turn the light in by pushing the action button on the joystick!

seamster (author)kcls2010-02-07

Check out the intro, third sentence. 

kcls (author)seamster2010-02-08

Oh yeah, look at that! Just goes to show ya my lack of attention.

sickdog74 (author)2009-11-15

Awesome! This rocks! I love it!

Chikara (author)2009-11-15

you must make one of an actual joystick!!

russm313 (author)2009-08-30

This was a GREAT instructable! I loved this so much, that I made my own. You can check it out here if you want.... Mine isn't as nice as yours, but it was a ton of fun to build. Thanks!

seamster (author)russm3132009-08-30

I'm impressed with your lamp! I love to see others try out my ideas. I'm glad you made one. I really liked the nintendo arcade set-up you made. ...Although all that electronic stuff scares me to death. Wiring a lamp is about all I've ever done!

deathshells (author)2009-05-19

WOW THIS LOOKS AMAZING! gotta build this when i get the parts ATARI FOR THE WIN!

punkrules (author)2009-02-16

this is really awesome. too bad i'm not so great at projects like this or i would make one for myself.

radiorental (author)2009-01-29

Hmmm, I was sure you would have made the final 10. Ho hum )o;

Metsker (author)2009-01-26

is there any full list of what thickness MDF you used in each step?

seamster (author)Metsker2009-01-26

Not a complete list, but I mentioned in various photo notes some of the thicknesses. For convenience though, here they are: Top and bottom pieces: 1/2" Sides: main piece was 3/4", with 1/4" piece glued to it Corner blocks: 1 1/2" square (made from two 3/4" pieces) Stick: 3/4" Raised ring: 1/8" (hardboard, like masonite) Three rings: 1/2", 3/4", and 3/4" plus 1/4" (to make the tallest ring 1") Stick collar: 3/4" (two rings to make 1 1/2" collar) I bought one 2 by 4 foot panel of each of these thicknesses of material and probably had enough left over to build at least one more of these.

A.J.B. (author)2009-01-23

That is the most awesome lamp/art piece that I think I have ever seen. Kudos!

Culturedropout (author)2009-01-21

Bravo! That's amazing. Excellent craftsmanship! And great details!

bustedit (author)2009-01-12

Very nice, accurate copy of the original! How about an Atari paddle dimmer switch????

atarifan4ever (author)bustedit2009-01-18

That is the perfect addition to this project a paddle controller dimmer switch, this keeps getting better and better!

atarifan4ever (author)2009-01-18

This great!!! I love all things Atari.

I just bought some brand new Atari 2600 shaped USB joysticks from Legacy Engineering. Bought them back in October, took several months to come, but they are absolutely perfect, feel just like the original Atari 2600 joysticks, I've tried them with all of my PC games and with mame on my iMac - love em!

check them out:

Now somebody needs to come out with an Atari 5200 joystick! :-)

AtariAge (author)2009-01-13

Great project, I love the attention to detail! And trust me, I've seen more than my fair of Atari CX-40 joysticks! I just posted this up as news on :)

seamster (author)AtariAge2009-01-13

Sweet! So I guess you don't mind that I "borrowed" some images to make my lampshade?

AtariAge (author)seamster2009-01-13

Nope! Although I wouldn't object to a link to AtariAge in that step. :)

watermelonhead (author)2009-01-09

that's awesome! it's like an i-spy books, very discreet but cool.

cincygeek (author)2009-01-09

Great work, awesome detail! You get my vote! I've got an odd piece of wood trim glue to a door (long story) that I've been trying to figure out how to cut, and I realize now that what I need is a Japanese pull saw! Thanks for the tip. One can never have too many tools (isn't that why we do projects, an excuse to buy more tools?).

slimguy379 (author)2009-01-09

awesome alot of work, im wanna build one for myself.

ElChick (author)2009-01-08

I am absolutely astounded and flabbergasted!! This is one of the most detailed and lovely projects I have ever seen!! I love the nostalgia and the craftmanship that went into it. My hat is off to you!
The only *tiny* gripe I have is that while I love the subtle humor in the notes on the pictures, and the inventiveness of the jury-rigged jigs, the small plugs about how you could do better with nicer tools got a little old after a while.
I still gave 5 stars, favorited, and voted for you tho! Congrats on a beautiful piece of work!!! (8O])

seamster (author)ElChick2009-01-08

Thank you for the vote and the five stars. I'm glad you noticed my silly jokes!

The_Harbinger (author)2009-01-08

I am in awe of the amount of work this took to produce. I'm guessing you don't have a second one for the other table at the end of the couch...? :) These must also weigh a TON. It would be great if lighter versions were available for purchase.

seamster (author)The_Harbinger2009-01-08

Surprisingly, it doesn't weigh as much as I thought it would. It's about 10 pounds.

askjerry (author)2009-01-08

This is an awesome project!

I have a shopsmith and a laser cutter... and I have NEVER made anything remotely this kool! OUTSTANDING job! Your use of jigs and thinking out each step... that's fine woodworking and planning. Again... OUTSTANDING!


jongscx (author)2009-01-08

Did you HAVE to use wood for the stick? methinks that some sort of pipe would have been easier? In any case, ridiculously awesome work. Are you working on a an NES lamp now?

radiorental (author)2009-01-07

truly awesome. I'm sure it wouldnt take as long to make a second.. or another variation. Well done and good luck in the comp, this deserves a win. Even though I'm in the comp too.. you're getting a vote from me for the hard work.

seamster (author)radiorental2009-01-07

I appreciate that. Thank you. My wife and I got a kick out of your alarm clock. Very nice. And Leafman was terrific, we'll definitely be doing that next fall. (And I see you're a Rockler man--I'm jealous of your router table!)

radiorental (author)seamster2009-01-07

Regarding the router, I have a bad habit of buying a good tool, without necessarily being an expert on the tool, so I am then motivated to become more proficient with it. The router is such a versatile tool, great for crafting. My alarm clock instructable.. well its not necessarily the best example of how to make something. The end result isnt exactly Bang & Olson grade and its not as 'professional' as your build, I was aiming to inspire people to use what they've got (everyone has a drill) to become more of a designer. Its not so much what you make, its lowering perceived the barrier of expressing creativity/ideas. I'm just in awe of your atari lamp. Thats just classic. Pictures of your build are top notch too, the main image in step 14 says a lot knowing what it takes to build and photograph. Its just a shame the 20K cant be shared a little more.. I think between us we're at least up for a shot of the $500 2nd prizes. All the best! /pauric

radiorental (author)radiorental2009-01-07

I didnt realise you were the guy that build the desk for your kids, top notch too. One thing you may want to look in to. Its been years so maybe stuff has changed but it used to be the case that chipboard, mdf & the ilk gave off evil chemicals in a fire. Correct me.. I know there's a general move away from that nastiness but this stuff is never going to be the same as pure pine or even ply. Let me know what you find out

seamster (author)radiorental2009-01-08

I googled "medium density fiberboard msds" and it brought up some interesting imformation. A fairly current material safety data sheet from a maker of fiberboard noted that MDF contains wood dust (obviously) and formaldahyde. Wood dust is a known human carcinogen, so people ought to have good ventilation practices, and possibly wear respirators where copious amounts of wood dust are produced (from power sawing, sanding, and shaping, for example). Wood dust surely can't be worse than most of the chemicals we use to finish it. However, I'm no expert on the subject. If anyone is really worried, they should do some further research into it.

Transquesta (author)2009-01-06

Beg pardon if I mirror Capt. Fat just wee little bit. :-) This is, indeed, the most meticulously laid out project I've ever seen! You went to a LOT of trouble here and it shows in the quality of your handiwork. Not may people would have gone to this degree of difficulty for something so 'trivial (to some!)' as a lamp. It makes ME wanna build one. . .only I wouldn't go to HALF this much bother before I chucked the whole thing out in the road in complete exasperation. I like building 'zen projects,' too, but I know my limits. :->

seamster (author)Transquesta2009-01-07

Good observation--most people think it's crazy to put so much effort into something rather silly like this, and they'll tell you that you've got too much time on your hands. (When people say that to me, I point out that we've all got the same number of hours in a day, and then ask them how many hours of TV they watched last week. That shuts them up!) I could try to explain why I think I'm wired this way and inclined to do stuff like this, but I think this website caters to folks like me (and you), so you already know. We make for the sake of making. We enjoy the challenge, and ultimately, it's one of the ways we choose to derive pleasure out of life. Am I right?

Transquesta (author)seamster2009-01-07

Absolutely you're right! I have a whole house full of demonstrations (but my office, especially, looks like something from a sixties sci-fi flick). :-)

Capt. Fat (author)2009-01-06

This is the far coolest thing i have seen on this website!!! If you win the contest, why not make others and sell them on ebay or something... Or try makng lamps with different themes like a wi lamp, playstation lamp, xbox lamp, or even a rockband Lamp!!!!

About This Instructable




Bio: I got an old sewing machine when I was just a kid, and I've been hooked on making stuff ever since. My name is ... More »
More by seamster:Farmhouse Play KitchenTop 100 Instructables of 2017Making Quick & Easy Work Tables
Add instructable to: