Beautify Your CFLs With Bright Idea Shades (steal This Idea!)





Introduction: Beautify Your CFLs With Bright Idea Shades (steal This Idea!)

About: +Eyebeam R&D OpenLab & Production Intern ++Bands Coordinator for Bennington College, Bennington VT +++A/V Technician for Bennington College, Bennington VT ++++Freelance Content and Research As...
This Instructable was inspired by Dan'sUniversal lamp shade polygon building kit.

We recently installed new compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) in our workspace. They use less energy and last longer, but they're painfully I adapted Dan's Instructable for CFLs using heat resistant photo gels. This custom build attaches directly onto the end of the bulb so no extra materials are needed.

A lot of offices have been replacing silver tipped incandescent bulbs with CFLs w/o taking into the account the harsh effect the bare bulb has. This idea hopefully solves that. Oh yeah and its all open source. So steal this idea and make it better!

Production by Simon Jolly
Soundtrack by I Am Jen (
SteveTouch(TM) by Steve Lambert
Project by Michael Mandiberg and the Eyebeam OpenLab

Step 1: Materials: What You'll Need

This Instructable has two methods of construction and assembly. You may either build your lamp shade by hand or if you have access to one, use a laser cutter. Whichever method you choose, the materials remain relatively the same.

For the lamp shades we used to two materials commonly used by the photo industry to diffuse light without risking fire:

Rosco Cinegel #3000 - Tough Rolux : reduces overall glare by diffusing the harsh direct light into a glow.

Rosco Cinegel #3403 - Rosco N.6 : for the front most panels reducing the glow (by 2 stops on a camera)

Both materials are available from B&H in sheets or very long rolls. Unless your making a huge amount of these we recommend you just get a sheet of each.

Step 2: Using Your Hands

Making one of these by hand is a piece of cake.

All you'll need are the two gels mentioned in Step 1

1 pair of sharp scissors.

1 fine tipped BLACK pen.

1 fine tipped WHITE pen (this is crucial for cutting Rosco N.6 as it is extremely dark in colour)

1 modern computer w/ a printer (don't worry this is just to print out the pattern).

1. First, you'll need to print out the pattern provided below. Notice there are two patterns, one with a hole in the center, one without. You will only cut the hole once per shade, so you can mount it on your light bulb socket screw later.

2. Once you've printed it. Cut the shape out with a pair of scissors.

3. Trace it 12 times onto a sheet Tough Rolux. For the 12th trace use the pattern w/ a hole in the center.

4. Trace the plain pattern on a sheet of Rosco N.6 5 times.

5. Now, carefully cut each shape out with a pair of scissors. To cut a hole in the last (end) module, gently fold it in half and cut it you would a snow-flake decoration.

6. Now that you've cut all your parts, you can assemble them. For assembly skip ahead to step 4.

Step 3: Using a Laser Cutter

These directions are intended for use in cutting with Universal Laser Systems 60W laser and CorelDraw12:

Each lamp shade is made of 12 polygon shapes 1 with a hole in the middle to fit the light bulb screw. 5 additional "shades" cover the front 5 polygons to reduce glare further.

To make your life easier we've included power/speed presets in our Bright Idea Shade Laser Cutting Kit (DOWNLOAD HERE). However each laser cutter is different, and thus our presets might not be compatible with your driver. Hence, we've included them as text below:

Each Polygon has little sections colored in ((RED)) make sure these are set to SKIP in your printer preferences. These are small sections keep the polygons from getting sucked up by your exhaust system. The everything colored in ((BLACK)) gets cut or VECTORed. Here are our settings for each material:

Rosco N.6 filters:
For the color BLACK
power: 7%
speed: 10%
PPI: 500
For the color RED

Rosco Rolux 3000:
For the color BLACK
power: 10%
speed: 10%
PPI: 500
For the color RED:

First, Download bright_idea_laser_kit.ziphere and unzip it. Inside you will find all the files you need.

1. Load rolux_kit.cdr in CorelDraw12. Print
2. Go to the "File" and select "Print". Under "Print", select your laser cutter. Then click "Properties". This is where you will dictate your power/speed settings per color.
3. Either "Load" our power settings (rolux.las) or manually enter them in from above. Make sure BLACK is the only color selected to VECT (cut) and all other colors should read SKIP on the left column.
4. Now your ready to print (cut). Click "OK". And click "Print".
5. The computer will send your file along to the Laser Cutter.
6. Place your material : Rosco Cinegel #3000 Tough Rolux on the Laser Cutter Bed and tape it down at the corners, otherwise it will fly up with the wind from the exhaust fan.
7. With your exhaust turned on. Find your file on the laser cutter's LCD screen and press the START button to begin cutting.

Repeat these steps with r6_kit.cdr and r6.las (or settings above) for cutting the three Rosco N.6 panels. Same idea, just different power setting at %7.

Step 4: Assembly: Putting It All Together

Now that you've safely (laser or scissor) cut your shapes you can start assembling them.

Each panel has two types of tabs. Straight Tabs and Angled Tabs. As a general rule: like tabs hook up with like tabs. You should never be hooking a Straight Tab with an Angled one. Also, straight-sides always meet rounded ends.

1. Lay out gray (Rosco N.6) and white (Tough Rolux) panels and pair back to back (excluding panel with hole).

2. With gray and white panels paired back-to-back, interlock 3 straight-tabs in the center to create a pinwheel. Interlock the outer corresponding angled-tabs to complete a dimensional, three-sided pyramid.

3. Interlock rounded-ends of next three panels to straight-sides of pyramid.

4. As show below interlock additional three panels to the previous three. Again, each straight-side should meet each rounded-end and tabs should meet each like tab.

5. Construct another dimensional triangle. This time include the panel with a hole in the center. As before, connect straight-tabs at the center, and angled-tabs at the outer.

6. Interlock the second dimensional triangle anywhere on the peripheral of the construction thus far. So long as you join like tabs with like tabs and like sraight sides with round ends you should be fine.

7. At this point your construction should have a gentile curve to it. To complete the three-dimensional shape, connect each like tab with each like tab. Your completed shape should resemble a spheric-like-organic structure.

To install, simply remove the rear panel (the one w/ a hole in the center). Insert your bulb and re-interlock the panel with the hole fit around the screw socket end.



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    CFLs don't get hot? I don't think so - I just tested the one next to me - not something I want to hold on to for more than a half second.

    1 reply

    hahahaha i have one shining above my desk at home. I got bored and melted a eraser on it. :) smelt really bad

    i am a little confused. this entire concept of the translucent pieces, with that shape, was invented and copyrighted by Holger Strøm. What exactly is the difference between his multiple shapes of lampshades, and this one? I am confused as to how this can be under a "creative commons license" when it isnt your invention and has already been copyrighted and trademarked by someone else. btw "creative commons" means you can NOT use the idea for profit, right? You are naming this "Bright Idea Shade", but it is actually IQlight by Holger Strøm.. huh?

    6 replies

    We've looked into this and talked to some attorneys before releasing. Working in the OpenLab (where everything we do is released with open licenses and without patents) these are the kinds of issues we deal with on a regular basis. Here's some points we considered:
    - there is more than one designer who makes claim to that concept.
    - copyright doesn't protect concepts or ideas, it allows one to protect the execution of that idea.
    - we changed the design in several substantial ways (size, purpose, including a mounting hole for the CFL bulb, the tinted covers) thus creating a new work.
    - our design does not impact the market for Holger Strøm's work.

    And to answer your question, Creative Commons "licenses provide a flexible range of protections and freedoms" and there are several licenses available. Some specify that you can't use the execution of the idea for profit (you can always use the idea – thanks again founding fathers) but the license we used only requires attribution to the OpenLab. Creative Commons licenses allow the creator to specify whether people are free to share, remix, or reuse commercially or non commercially, with or without attribution, and whether or not they can be "remixed" or create derivative works with the original.

    Here's some good links for more info:

    i hate to be the "negatron" or whatever, and im sure OpenLab is a really cool thing. But it worries me that you believe this idea is "substantially different" from his work. It uses the same basic building block, which is the basis for the entire design: the geometric shape of the pieces. You take someone's product, make a hole in it, and put tinted covers on it(which are also a copy of the original design), and that's a whole new thing? This shade might not be a big deal, but your general principles do not hold water, and someone who actually cares about defending their product will probably get upset. Just FYI.

    alright, well... you might think so. But the only way we'll ever know is if the owner of the original design can be determined, and that person decides they feel their design and the market for it have been infringed upon, and the case were to go to court where a judge were to weigh the four factors that make up a fair use claim and then make a decision.

    This is one of the frustrating things about copyright; that fair use can only be determined in court. Weighing those four factors, and having talked to an attorney that specializes in these things, we're pretty sure we're in the clear. But even in the most obvious cases, no one can know for sure unless it went to court and a judge ruled on it.

    I'm guessing, but it sounds like you're identifying with the original designer a bit and I understand. No one wants to feel like they've been ripped off. But I will leave you with a quote from Ben Franklin, who had a hand in founding the patent office, but never patented anything.

    "as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously."

    Just to be really clear, There are three inconclusive competing claims on authorship on the original shape.

    [] says this:

    "Design by Francisco Luján, 1999"
    "based on the original 1964 modular construction system by Antonio Carrillo" IQLight says:

    "The IQ light system was designed in 1972 by Danish designer Holger Strøm"

    All of this is separate from Steve's discussion of copyright determination.

    Also, it'd be great to see your first published instructable was a design for a lampshade that was done some other new and innovative way. We'd gladly support it.

    I believe that there are going to be new CFLs released that use less mercury, burn brighter, and burn longer. Can't complain too much about that if you ask me!

    Buy lighting gels. um.... here's a more DIY approach. Use some old milk cartons for the frosted gel, and then cover three pieces made from the milk carton with window tint (cheap at Wal-Mart) or black spray paint. Don't worry about heat, CF's don't get hot, only warm.

    So Freaking Excellent. Not only the idea but the vid and music too. I really lurve this.

    Does it allow any ventilation? The electronics in CFLs get got and need air flow.

    1 reply

    yes there are little vents all over the shade. everywhere the panels meet and join there is a vent created b/w the rounded edge and the joining straight-edge. good question. this was something we didn't consider. the heat resistance of the material was our only concern/that and its material safety when laser cut. but the design actually accounted for ventilation. rad!

    I really like this idea, thanks. Do you know the expected longevity of these gels? Do they become brittle over time?

    1 reply

    This kind of photo gel is meant for long term use in really really hot conditions. Considering the CFL bulbs aren't *that* hot, I would expect there would be no problem. BUT its not like we've done long term tests! (smile) We have had some up in the Eyebeam R&D Lab for 6 months or so. We'll report back in a year or two to see if they got brittle!

    tried to access the link, but it says page not found (

    1 reply

    I love this. This is especially good, because the CFL's soemtimes don't fit inside standard light fixtures/covers. Great work.