Introduction: Coffee Cup Sphere Lamp

Picture of Coffee Cup Sphere Lamp

I've had this idea for a long time and when I read about the Coffee cup challenge thought this would be the time to let this idea become reality: The coffee cup sphere lamp!
I must admit it isn't completely original. I just saw the same idea posted in another Instructable here, and I can remember seeing something similar in a windowshop as decoration but hey...those aren´t my story, so let get to work!

Step 1: The Ingredients

Picture of The Ingredients

So start drinking a lot of coffee, especially the bad tasting stuff at your work or school. Save the cups. be honest...I did not had the time to wait until I had collected about 300 necessary cups so I went to my local supermarket and bought them. (however I drink way to much coffee, in such quantities that there was a time it was my main source of inspirations as you can see on my website)
I rather would have had paper cups but they only had plastic ones, so I sticked with those.
Besides that Instead of using glue I picked up my stapler and ( a lot of) staples.
Further more you'll need electric wire with an attached socket, an energy-efficient lamp (with normal lamps I'm afraid the heat will meld the plastic), some (3 or more) pinbolds, a  big washer and some small ones.

Let me list that;
-300+ cups
-a stapler with staples
-electric wire with socket
-energy-efficient lamp
-big washer
-small washers
-a heatsource (a lighter or something like that)
-A sharp metal pen (for instance a scriber) with the thickness of the wire

Step 2: The Base

Picture of The Base

OK start with stapling three cups together, this will be your base around which you'll build the rest.
I found out that stapling the staples nearest to the bottom first will work the best. Changes are,with stapling the upper first, that the plastic will rip. I didn't mind because it was kind of a ghettostyle work and in the end, because of shortage on staples, I only did the lower ones.
Next time, with paper cups, I think I would try some glue. Just experiment yourself.

Step 3: Building On...and On...and On...

Picture of Building On...and On...and On...

Now you have the base you can build on around it. Because of the tapered form of the cups you'll end up automatically with a sphere (kind of).
I started with a system of weaving the edges under and over each other, as you can see in the picture of the base, but later on, I got lazy and only put the edge of the cup under the previous one.
Besides that I ended up (because of my laziness, and the will to finish it of in one evening) with some bad fitting. So the top part of the sphere is kind of messy and the form more resembles an egg than a sphere. But, so what,... even Brancussi thought the egg was the beginning form of the universe huh?
There isn't much to say about the ongoing just staple on until you've got blisters on your fingers!  Just leave one hole open for the last cup.

Step 4: Placing the Lamp

Picture of Placing the Lamp

So now you take the last cup, heat up your scriber and burn a hole in the bottom. Place the big washer under the underside, tie a knot in the electrical wire and put it through the hole from the outside. Attach it with the split bolts trough some holes (which you'll have to meld with the scriber first off course) with the small washers in between to prevent them slipping through. Now you can easily remove the cup if the lamp is broken.
Never mind the paper clips you see on the photos before, those where a first try to fix the last cup in place: It didn't work.

Your lamp is finished (only have to hang it on the ceiling and put the wires on the electricity off course. Be careful with that!).

Let it burn!


jieroarchl (author)2015-10-08

( >﹏<。)~ come by searching engine, and honestly disappointed: no, this isn't for paper cups.

sparkleball_lady (author)2015-02-10

I love this. What's really incredible is how perfectly round it is!

Dave A (author)sparkleball_lady2015-02-10

Thanx. Honoustly I have to admit that the picture shows it a bit rounder than it really was..but it was pretty round.

gaazzaazz (author)2014-11-22

I like it a lot! Thanks

There's a street food seller here in Lampang Thailand that uses all kinds of funky objects to make his stall interesting. Most recently SPOONS - the little ones that come with yoghurt. Also Thai people can be creative with cut and bent ANYTHING - I have seen fish shaped lamps that on closer inspection revealed their parents to be 2 L milk bottles.

Has anyone used ping pong balls to make such a lamp - They would glow nicely.

e-beth (author)2014-11-20

As a child of an architect in the 70s, I had all kinds of different projects like this around our house. My bedroom had a light fixture made of the old foam cups. It wasn't a sphere, it was more of a concave honeycomb. I think my dad didn't use the whole angle of the cup and only glued the rims to each other to achieve that. It had the added bonus of being large enough to cover the cracks in the old ceiling around the light socket.
So I guess you could say I looked at a coffee cup project every day of my life for 7 years until we could finally move into a house my dad designed himself.

jack2001 (author)2013-06-20

the french coffee cup lamp
Merci !!!

Kelly02 (author)jack20012013-06-26


Dave A (author)jack20012013-06-20

You're welcome. Very nice result, Salut!

chuchomalaga (author)2013-05-14

Thanks for inspirate my 13 year old students of CES SAN JOSE in Malaga (Spain)! They say: Come on "Dave A" light my classroom!!

Dave A (author)chuchomalaga2013-05-14

Haha, I took a closer look and read "Reciclado", that happens to be my capoeira nickname which I practice.

Dave A (author)chuchomalaga2013-05-14

Thank you, you made my day! I hope to inspire my own 13 year old students daily, but it's great to hear I even inspired Spanish younsters!

BookyLACaUSA (author)2012-10-16

This is great, But... How to clean the dust from this thing?!

Dave A (author)BookyLACaUSA2012-10-16

Marry a good housewive..

BookyLACaUSA (author)Dave A2012-10-16

great point...

Dave A (author)2012-10-16

Strange...a part of the above comment didn't get through. Well to be honoust, I don't know. The lamp isn't in use anymore, it was a bit to bulky.

djhandwal (author)2011-11-09

i really liked the idea and made one for diwali myself....this is how it looks.....its not really round as such ....but it turned out beautiful..:)

SuperCoPilot (author)2011-08-30

I just made it a regular ball and people kept on telling me to cut a hole in the top and put a lamp in the middle. Problem? I'm too damn lazy haha

gzech (author)2011-08-24

How many cups did you use? 300?

dklepper (author)2011-08-07

WOW! Thanks for sharing!!!

Dr.Bill (author)2010-12-10

And so if we use Clear plastic cups with Christmas lights poked through the bottom of each cup, we end up with a sparkle ball that can be hung from the trees outside.

I like the design.
A single cup in the middle surrounded by six for a total of seven.

I have seen this done on another 'ible but the resulting sphere looked kind of sloppy which is ok for the application. I like smooth and round with no gaps.
The clear cups allow light to be transmitted through the 'Light Pipe' like plastic the cups are made of. Marching lights make it sparkle up high in an outside tree hanging from an unseen branch from a string.

Thank you for your design. It will make a far nicer sparkle ball I think.
I will post an instructable..............

ThreeWestCreative (author)2010-12-07

I love it! I feel like a kid a Christmas during the 80's with this kind of stuff. :) I'm making two to go on the set of my film project. Thanks! I like this also because like the others were saying, there is so much room to customize it and get really creative!

Judith756 (author)2010-10-24

My father made these in the 80's. If you take a drill and make a hole in the bottoms of the cups, the twinkle lights fit right in the holes. They make great hanging lights for parties or decorations too.

bluenebe (author)2010-08-23

It looks wonderful. Great idea!!!

azopper (author)2010-08-12

cool stuff ! , i made one for few days

kylek (author)2010-07-18

it would look really cool if you put different colors in the bottoms of each cup some how. maybe like plastic disks or even clear cups painted with semi translucent paint.

katzpawz (author)2010-06-13

I've seen these made up with multi-colored "twinkle" lights for holiday use. No matter how they're set up, they look rich and happy!

dinkin (author)2010-05-26

When I presented this project to my uncle, who works with spherical objects a lot, he asked me how I solved the problem of the bulb burning out. Having not quite read to the end of this ible, I was stumped. So what I did was drill a hole in a 1"x2" board and ran my cord through that. Slid the board into the sphere and now the whole thing is supported, hung and will be used in a movie that my sister and I are making. Thanks for the idea. I'm very pleased with my light.

jerryang (author)2010-05-18

I made mine with tiny cup.
As per request, I put it on for a try before I finish the whole thing.

Spananierin (author)jerryang2010-05-22

 Awesome pic!! You made our day a lot happier!! :D

zappenfusen (author)jerryang2010-05-18

The ultimate end.

kcls (author)2010-05-09

Uh-Oh... I won't tell anyone, but, these are plastic cups. Only paper cups are allowed in the contest.

Dave A (author)kcls2010-05-09


But my plan, as I mentioned,  originaly included paper cups, however those where not available at my local shop. I had spring-holiday last week so I couldn't collect paper cups at my work (I'm a teacher so there is a LOT of coffee drinking going on there!). But tomorrow I have to get back to work so I'm thinking about do one with paper cups. The bigger (American) ones would be cool but we only have the small ones there.

StrangeRover (author)Dave A2010-05-16

Just don't drink your coffee from those plastic cups! Yuck!
I've also seen this done with polystyrene cups - which are horrific on all levels, including to touch, drink from, listen to, and to contemplate the environmental horror...

I'm thinking of making one of these from thimble-sized cups!

kcls (author)Dave A2010-05-09

Oh. You did a great job anyway, though! I especially like the front picture.

AkKrock (author)2010-05-14

Nice and useful. =)

AT (author)2010-05-13

That is very cool looking!  Seems to be an easy project.  If you could get some colored cups, there could be some extra designs added to this.  AND if you had LED's for light source, you could have the light source color change.  To complicate it even further, use a string of holiday lights and put one through the bottom of each cup!  Ooooo! I think I have a project for the holidays.

Dave A (author)AT2010-05-13

Haha, well, I wanted something for my living-room, not a disco-light!

AT (author)Dave A2010-05-14

Hmmm, disco-lights......  Maybe I could find some plastic sliver cups and but the bottoms off, then put a multicolored light source in it, have it spin and have a party ball light!  Great idea you had.

Oreh108 (author)2010-05-14

 So quick question. After all is said and done, how do you replace the light bulb?

Dave A (author)Oreh1082010-05-14

As you could read beneath in another question, thats why I used pinbolds, so the cup with the lamp is easily removed.

coolboy45 (author)2010-05-13

do you think this could be fitted onto a normal table lamp?

Dave A (author)coolboy452010-05-14

If you take smaller cups that would certainly be possible. The diameter with these cups is about 65 cm (2' )

Peter Sanders (author)2010-05-13

I made my first cup sphere lamp in 1973. So, as you say,  the idea has been around for a long time.

Dave A (author)Peter Sanders2010-05-14

Haha, I was born in 1973, so they were around as long as I can remember ;-)
But I believe in the post-modern idea that nothing is new anymore, everything is done before so you only can add your version of the story.

rbormann (author)2010-05-13

When I was much younger, I made one of this but I used glue, not staples and it worked very well, the cups never got loose.
The only difference in my construction is that I started by making the middle  circle, and went building the ball.

Dave A (author)rbormann2010-05-13

Yes, that was I thinking after I made it; beginning in the middle. Glue would be a good replacement for staples, especially if you use something like silicone-caulk. But I wanted something quicker, and I always like to use mechanical junctions.

rbormann (author)Dave A2010-05-13

You're right. Glue has it's own setting time and I also can't wait to see it built, he, he, he...
The only advantage in building it from the middle is that you can fix the socket with more ease and if you have someone to help you, you both can work it out in the half of the time!

Very good instructable and very well documented. Well done!
fenris (author)2010-05-13

Seems to me you could stop when you had it about 3/4 built and put it on your head when you dress up as a clown.

Dave A (author)fenris2010-05-13

You should wear it yourself, your so funny.

About This Instructable




Bio: I am an arts and crafts teacher in a secondary school in the Netherlands. ( I love making things. Especially out of nothing ... More »
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