Introduction: Barbie Leg Lamp
It's a major award!
For years I thought it would be hilarious to make and have my own leg lamp, similar to the one the Dad wins in the movie "A Christmas Story" (for those of you living under a rock). Only I wanted mine to be a miniature version, preferably made from a Barbie doll leg. I finally got around to it!
This was a fun little project, and is quite do-able for the average maker if you have a little persistence and some basic tools and supplies. I've tried to include enough information here to help you make your own without too much trouble, if you so desire.
Thanks for taking a look!
Step 1: Lampshade Template
Let's begin with the lampshade.
After some trial and error, I came up with a template that worked well enough to use. I made this into a pdf for easy storage if I ever want to use it again, as well as to share right here.
I printed this on card stock, and used spray adhesive to attach a piece of yellow polyester cloth to the back, non-printed side. In hindsight this is overkill, and I would recommend just printing the template on yellow paper if possible or just simply painting it yellow or gold after it's assembled.
The fabric does provide a nice textured look although it's only visible up really close.
The template for the lampshade is attached. If you use it, just print directly without resizing or "scaling" or whatever equivalent option your printer program may have.
Step 2: Lampshade Assembly
All of the lampshade parts were cut out with a hobby knife.
The side pieces have a glue strip edge that needs to be snipped 6 or 7 times up to the line. These tabs are then folded back just a little. Each side panel of the shade needs to be curled gently into a curved shape in order to mate up nicely with the others.
I used hot glue to put these panels together, one after the other. Tip: put the glue on the non-tabbed edge of each panel, not on the tabs, and affix the two panels beginning at the top of the shade.
The bottom ring is glued in place much the same way. Fold the pointy tabs back, and put the glue onto the inside edge of the shade, not on the tabs. This part is tricky, so work slowly just a little at a time.
Step 3: Lampshade Fringe
I got this little black fringe stuff at a fabric store. It was glued into the inside edge of the bottom of the shade.
Step 4: Lampshade Final Details
The lampshade was just looking kind of dull unfinished, so I added some thin strips of sticky-backed gold craft foam to hide all of the seams and clean up the edges.
That finished it up nice enough for me.
Step 5: Begin the Plastic Surgery
This project will only work with the newer style, non-bendy-limbed Barbies. They are the cheaper version. Still a Barbie, just the economy style. I got my sacrificial Barbie at a thrift store for $1.
I used masking tape to create a nice clean cut line at the highest part of the leg, just before the joint area begins. You could use a number of tools to make this cut, but if you have access to a band saw it will be quick and painless, for you and for Barbie.
Trim off the top of the leg, and sand lightly to remove any burs with 220 grit sandpaper.
Step 6: Hollow Out Foot and Leg
This is where things get a little messy. And difficult. These legs are not exactly hollow as I had assumed, so running wires through the middle required a little internal work.
I used a small carving bit on a dremel to hollow out the bottom of the foot. Then I used a 3/32" bit to carefully drill through the the plastic connecting pieces inside of the leg from the foot end, up to about the knee area. There's not a lot of room for error here, and I found the best way to do this was to slowly run the drill and use the side of the bit to carefully shave away the soft plastic.
Even so, you can see in the last photo that I got too close to the "skin" (from the inside) and almost had to start over with the other leg! I called this a razor nick, blamed it on Barbie and carried on.
From the top end, I drilled downward with a 3/16" bit. Once I could see a little light coming through I stopped.
Step 7: Finish Top End of Leg
I've found that I use epoxy putty a lot lately. This brand is "SteelStik" made by JB Weld, and is generally for use on metal but I use it on all sorts of stuff.
You knead the two parts together and you get about five minutes of working time before it sets up.
I mixed a little of this epoxy putty and pressed it into the top of the Barbie leg and molded it into a smooth finish.
Step 8: Lighting
For the light, I stole the guts out of a keychain LED flashlight. A couple strands of thin wire and a small switch were also acquired.
The switch shown in the photo was later swapped for a smaller one.
Step 9: Add LED and Wires to Leg
Once the epoxy was fulled cured, I drilled a 3/16" hold through it.
I attached two wires to the LED, and fished the wires through the leg and pulled them gently till the LED was sitting snuggly at the top of the leg.
Step 10: High-heel Support Wire
A piece of stiff wire was bent to match the shape of the leg. I squirted a dot of hot glue into the heel area and pushed the piece of wire into place through the glue. It locked in place very firmly.
This piece of wire is what will hold the leg to the base later on.
Step 11: Create High-heeled Shoe
I used more epoxy putty to mold a crude and over-sized shoe to cover the foot and support wire.
Once the epoxy was cured, I used a small sanding drum on my dremel, a hobby knife, and some 220 grit sandpaper to carve the shoe into its finished shape.
Step 12: Paint the Shoe, Trim the Wire
The shoe was carefully painted and the wire was trimmed to just under 3/4" below the end of the heel.
Step 13: Make Base
The base was made from a piece of scrap pine. I cut out a rough 2 1/4" circle on a band saw, and then sanded it perfectly round and smooth with my oscillating spindle/belt sander.
The base was finished with a single coat of shellac, followed by a light 220 grit sanding. I then rubbed on and buffed off some finishing wax.
Step 14: Add Some Fishnets
Fishnet stockings were added with a fine-tipped sharpie marker.
It didn't turn out perfect, but the effect is good enough for me.
Step 15: Mount Leg to Base, Add Lighting Components
Holes were drilled through the top of the base for the mounting wire and for the LED wires.
With a forstner bit and a carving bit, I removed material from the bottom side of the base to create areas to hold the little components. Everything was wired up and tested, and the switch and batteries were glued in place.
A piece of sticky-back craft foam was added to the bottom to finish it off.
Step 16: It Works!
I was happy to see the LED come on.
I'm pretty comfortable with all kinds of making, but anything with wires still kind of freaks me out. I'm working on it.
Step 17: Attach Shade
I tried to come up with the simplest way to attach the shade to the leg as possible.
A hole was drilled in the epoxy putty next to the LED, and a wire was inserted and bent into the needed shape. The shade was then hot glued to this wire.
Step 18: Bonus Feature! the Shipping Crate
You can't have a leg lamp without the shipping crate.
I cut up a scrap 3/4" thick piece of pine into 1/8" strips with my table saw. From these strips I cut 24 pieces that were 10 1/2" long, and 24 pieces that were 4 1/2" long. These were assembled as shown with hot glue to make the shipping crate.
A stencil was made to spray paint on the words "FRAGILE" and "THIS END UP". See the photo notes for a tip on how to make the "floating" sections of letters.
Step 19: All Done!
This mini leg lamp is being proudly displayed in my front window this very minute!
Hopefully I've given you enough information here that you can make your own too. Thanks again for taking a look, and be sure to share of photo of yours if you make one.