Introduction: Geometric Cut Paper Table Lamp

Picture of Geometric Cut Paper Table Lamp

I've been making cut and folded paper lamps for a while now and get a lot of pleasure from designing, building and enjoying them. I was thinking that I've gotten so much from Instructables I would give a little back.

You can probably get this lamp made in an afternoon (depending on paint drying time) and it should cost about $15-$20. It uses simple techniques of symmetric and asymmetric pop folds which can be the basis for more complex designs. My goal when designing is to make things with a single sheet of paper that look like they couldn't be made with a single sheet of paper.

Enough gabbing, let's get lamping...

Step 1: Gather Materials

Picture of Gather Materials


Paper - 24-3/4" x 18" (see Step 4)
Long metal ruler or metal straight edge & ruler
Craft knife with new blade
Something to indent the paper - embosser, blunted nail, empty ballpoint pen, etc.
Tool for pressing folds - bone folder, hard thing, etc.
Double stick tape - 3/4" wide
Puck light with cord, switch & plug
3/4" wood cut to 5-15/16" square
Bumper feet about 1/4" tall
Cord holder clips
Heat shrink tubing or liquid electrical tape
Drill with 1/4" & 3/32" bits
Soldering equipment
White paint
Possibly some other stuff

First we'll build the base...

Step 2: Building the Base

Picture of Building the Base

Most pucks have a place to wrap the wire on the underside. Use this to secure the wire so a tug on the cord won't cause damage.

Take the wood piece and choose a side to be the back (any side will do). Center the puck light on the base with the cord toward the back. Mark the screw holes through the puck light and mark where the cord comes out from under the light.

With the 3/32" bit drill pilot holes for the puck. Use the 1/4" bit to drill the hole for the cord at a slight angle from the center of the top towards the back of the bottom.

Turn the wood over and drill pilot holes for the feet near the corners. Clean up the edges of the holes with sandpaper.

Now paint the entire base. You will probably lose sight of the pilot holes doing this, but when the paint dries you should see divots where they are.

Step 3: Assemble the Base

Picture of Assemble the Base

Cut the wire about 3" from the puck and feed the wire from the puck through the base (from the top). Now screw the puck into position and recut the wire so it stops about half way between the hole and the edge of the wood. Strip the puck wire and the power wire about 1/4" back.

Solder the wire back together using heat shrink tubing or liquid electrical tape to isolate and wrap the junction.

Now is a good time to test the lamp. If it's working use the wire clips to secure the wire to the wood. The clips I had used nails to secure, so I drilled a small pilot hole in the base. Make sure that the cord is in snug enough that a tug on the cord won't strain the junction.

Finally, attach the feet.

Step 4: Laying Out the Lamp Design

Picture of Laying Out the Lamp Design

I like to use Strathmore 500 Bristol 3-ply for my lamps but anything good and stiff should work. For reference, the Bristol is 375 grams/sq.meter (gsm).

On the lamp shade design drawing the solid red lines are cut lines and the broken blue lines are fold lines. The little piece on the right edge will be referred to as the flap.

Draw the pattern on the backside of the paper with a pencil. Using a very sharp blade and the straight edge cut where appropriate. Use the indenting tool to dent the paper along the fold lines. Make sure all the cuts go right to the corners and the dents are well defined. If you do not have deep enough dents in the paper it can be difficult to get a clean fold.

Now carefully erase the pencil lines.

(The zip files are .jpg versions of the lamp shade design drawing in both inch and centimeter scale. Please note that the two designs are very slightly different, and I built mine in inches. If you go metric you'll have to adjust other parts on your own.)

Step 5: Folding the Lamp

Picture of Folding the Lamp

*Disclaimer - I was folding and shooting the photos at the same time during the building so my technique is poor with a lot of pressure and curved paper and the like. You should almost always use two hands, and usually with one on either side of the paper.*

Using a straight edge, table edge, or other method, fold the 3 corners that don't have the cut out design and crease well. Unfold enough so the paper is relatively flat.

Now comes the tricky part...

Starting with the top and bottom creases fold the paper as far as it will go without putting undo strain on the paper. With this accomplished you should be able to start pushing the design into the body of the lamp.

Standing the shade upright at this point can help. Doing one at a time use the indenting tool or your fingers to push and press the paper into position. Don't do any one all at once; In order to avoid unwanted creases, tearing, or curved paper you have to do a little bit on each until the folds are established.

Once everything is going the way it should go, you can lay the paper flat on the table and carefully push it down (all the while pushing and pressing the individual folds) until the whole thing is flat. Now crease every fold very well, if you don't the lamp will tend to be out of square.

With the lamp folded over place a piece of double stick tape on the outside of the flap. If the tape has a protective strip on it, leave it in place for later. If you put a big flat thing on top of the lamp to press it down the tape will be easier to apply.

Step 6: Final Assembly - Part 1

Picture of Final Assembly - Part 1

Put a strip of double stick tape all along the edge of the base (remove protective strip if present).

On a flat surface place several risers at least as tall as the feet under the base. I used DVD cases and they worked very well. What you are trying to do is create a surface that is level to the bottom of the base so when the paper is applied it will be flush with the bottom.

Open up the lamp and place the flap on the back left corner of the base. Press into the tape to adhere. Aligning this corner well is essential to ease construction. Continue around the base adhering the paper to the tape.

If all of your components were accurately measured, it should fit easily. If it's a bit tight you can gently tug the paper and hopefully it will give enough to fit. If the paper is too big you should try to put an equal amount of gap on both sides.

Step 7: Final Assembly - Part 2

Picture of Final Assembly - Part 2

Now that the paper is attached all around the base, begin to secure the vertical seam. Put one hand inside the lamp and one outside. Starting at the bottom attach the two sides. The flap will be on the inside and the edge of the other piece should be just shy of the corner. Continuing adjusting, attaching, and pressing the pieces together until you reach the top. Hopefully you will have a nice straight seam.

Place the lamp on it's back with the flap towards the ground and the wire just off the edge of the table. Now press all along the seam to get really good contact. Press around the base to attach the paper firmly there as well doing the top edge, then rotating 90 degrees all the way around.

Stand the lamp up and look at it from above. If it is not square you can firmly, but gingerly, adjust the folds until it is.

Step 8: Light Up Your Life

Picture of Light Up Your Life

Now plug it in and flip the switch.

Of course, like so many things on Instructables, this idea can be expanded upon and made significantly cooler. I wanted to do a lamp that used readily available, inexpensive parts and was easy enough to make in a day. These are great with better lighting (high power LED's. Thank you Dan), modular bases, and much more complex designs.


SimtechBen (author)2016-03-30

Nice instructable. I made one. i like it.

hmoody1 (author)2015-12-04

dont get the ZIP file, Please help me...thx

isarrais (author)2012-01-22

I made this. It´s 18 kg of iron. Hope you like!

jeanniel1 (author)isarrais2015-12-04

Wow, awesome!!!!

girvster (author)isarrais2012-04-04

That thing is AMAZING! does it light up?

sebastijan.sabo.7 (author)2015-01-08

one blacklight lamp will be cool too ;)

beatrix aberto (author)2014-09-03

your website never opens? need help plz

beatrix aberto (author)2014-09-02

hi there

i am trying this lamp but i dont understand how did u give folds .the folding of cutting is a difficult step please give me little details on folding i will be very thankful to you

bobcharissa made it! (author)2014-05-21

i made a prototype out of cardboard and liked it so much that i made a pair with walnut base as a wedding gift for my kid sister. I made one more but monkeyed with the dimensions to give it a slender modern look. Fun to make and change!

fuzzybunny2222 (author)2013-10-26


drumdude (author)2013-05-20

Great instructable!
I have a question...
Where did you get the "twist switch" cord?

drips (author)2012-01-22

I don't like it, I LOVE IT!!

I've thought of making metal versions before but couldn't decide on a method to build it. If you care to share your process I'd like to learn. Thank you so much for making this wonderful creation. It is beautiful.

isarrais (author)drips2012-01-22

Thanks for your comments, Andrew.
I can show you some others iron´s kirigami designs if you want.

gairon_saga (author)2012-01-19

wow this is great, hope i can make it too.

Poolshark152006 (author)2011-08-17

Used standard tagboard with 3 10mm Super Bright LED's and make a little pyramid out of semi transparent paper which diffused the light.

Wow, yours looks great!

Blakeney (author)2009-03-09

Great instructable - what about an e12 socket and bulb? Not sure how to affix the socket to the base, though. Could use threaded pipe, but you'd need to thread the base.

drips (author)Blakeney2009-03-09

Yeah, that's why the puck is so nice - it's easy! I've used lots of different parts and if you want a regular screw in bulb you could try something like these:
(surface mount socket - medium base)

It would be essentially the same mounting technique as for the puck but you'd have more bulb options.

kwoodham (author)drips2011-10-19

These LEDs from Ikea are great for the less technical-minded among us:
They also come in a colored version for people who like that. They've got a nice long cord to each light, too, so you can spread them out all over the place.

keraiwailjs (author)2011-08-07

:D I like it.

vsree (author)2011-08-07

nice :) <3

smoke399 (author)2011-01-28

These lamps are amazing. Is there any way to get directions for your other lamps? I'd really like to give Eight a try.

chinchymork (author)2008-10-18

This is a really sweet lamp!!! I made one out of thicker 8.5x11 in. paper and it still turned out really good. I used green LED's for the light and it is amazing. GOOD WORK!!!!!!

bwool1 (author)chinchymork2010-10-15

Congrats on the first place trophy in the second pic!

chinchymork (author)bwool12010-10-15

lol i didn't even notice!

acosicris (author)chinchymork2010-08-13

think green! I like this!

drips (author)chinchymork2008-10-18

Nice mood light! I love it in green. :-)

lasermaster3531 (author)drips2008-11-28

you know what else you could do? you could build a circuit with a potentiometer so that when you turn the dial, the color would change. (red, green, and blue leds, 1-5 megaohm pot. say, 1 meg.=all red, 2 meg.=all green, 4 meg.=all blue, 5 meg=purple, and anywhere in between would be different shades.) just an idea but this is awesome! 5***s!

greenrangr125 (author)2010-01-30

 made it this afternoon, i am in love. thank you.

lamalamalama (author)2009-12-24

Made it last night! Amazing instructable. Thank you :)

krhansn (author)2009-09-19

You are brilliant and I can't wait to give your lamp a try. Thanks!

computer_guy (author)2009-04-11

That is mass pwnage!!!!! btw if you replace the bulb with a led with a weaker battery source, then: 1) it's going to last for, oh, i dont know, 50 YEARS, 2) nice candle glow.

echeung (author)computer_guy2009-04-18

how do we set it up with an LED? (We would need a several to get the same sort of glow, right?)

drips (author)echeung2009-04-18

The easiest and most expensive way would be to buy an LED puck light but the good ones are pretty expensive ($40-$100+ USD). You could also redesign the lighting to use a different fixture (GU10, MR16, etc.) and slap an LED bulb in there. To save some money and have more fun you can build your own LED system. I'd recommend checking out any of Dan's great Instructables on the subject. Be aware that it can get to be a pretty complicated and awesome experience to make your own lighting, especially if you want multiple LEDs, dimming, optics, or other cool stuff. All in all, it's a worthwhile project though. Good luck!

matbh (author)2009-03-17


mbear (author)2009-03-16

You know, if you put some of these under a cantilevered bed they'd look pretty cool too.

darkferret0 (author)2009-03-14

this is so cool i made a somewhat smaller version of the regualar lamp but not as small as the metric lamp and then i sealed up the top and put a rrainbow color changing led base inside of it. It looks awesome.

Nunavutnewsrules (author)2009-03-13

I am thinking incorporating golden rectangles some how *starts feverishly drawing*

drips (author)Nunavutnewsrules2009-03-13

LOL @ "feverishly"! So true... I was heavily into ratios and other mathy stuff for a while. I was designing everything from the size of the paper, size of the finished piece, spatial relation and size of the cuts to the paper and to each other, and on and on, to be mathematically appealing or clever. knew that probably nobody would ever notice, but I took pleasure in knowing it was there. Then I went a little crazy!! So I went back to a freer design concept and just went for pretty aesthetics. I love the idea of the golden rectangle but beware my friend - those math guys and girls have a tendency to go batty!

Nunavutnewsrules (author)drips2009-03-13

"Haven't you noticed we are all a little mad?" Alice in Wonderland very creepy but so true lol

e_lectro (author)2009-03-07

I was looking up the Strathmore 500 Bristol 3-ply paper and saw DickBlick carries two versions, Vellum and Plate. Which version do you use for your lamps?

drips (author)e_lectro2009-03-07

You may already know this, but for the benefit of any interested party here's a quick comparison of the two types: - Vellum (Cold Press) has a toothier finish and looks flatter (i.e. not glossy). - Plate (Hot Press) is smoother and can look shinier than vellum. I use the vellum because I prefer the way it scatters light and I think it looks more 'dead' (even / flat). It won't have an impact on the structure of the lamp so you should use which ever you think looks better. Also, if you are going to do anything to the paper (like draw on it) the vellum is used more for softer media like charcoal and colored pencil while the plate finish is for ink and fine pencil.

Raila (author)2009-03-05

I adore this and am seriously thinking about doing one (or more) for my home, but I have a question. Have you tried to cut on an Angle yet? Im not sure if it would work with the dynamics. As far as coloring would be colored pencils ( paper after all) or maybe some shapes of color inside with colored tissue paper making it very light on the overall weight and connecting with a glue stick or something that has no wetness to it? Can add additional geometric dimensions with that. Also, could it be possible to do a spiral setup?? Actually rotating around? boy questioned you out didnt I? :D

drips (author)Raila2009-03-06

Starting with the basics of a paper box you have a ridiculous amount of techniques you can use. I sometimes have to stop exploring the many ways one can cut and fold the paper so I can actually get stuff done! That being said, angles can be done in many ways and I have created the illusion of the paper rotating, although it didn't really. I'm sure it can be done, and you can figure it out! :-) Inside additions are another technique that can go on and on with possibilities. You might try a spray-on contact adhesive which is pretty dry when applied in moderation. Mostly I'd just say that if this kind of stuff is up your alley, nothing beats sitting around with a stack of paper and some scissors and knives and experimenting. Then you can figure out how to make a colorful, twisting, angular lamp and post the pics! There are also lots of good ideas in the other comments. Good luck!

Mr. Poe (author)2009-02-27

This lamp is beautiful! If I can get a hold of the supplies I think I may have found a project for tomorrow. :)

co2h2o (author)2009-02-19

Thank you for sharing your talents and such a beautiful project. I do have one question before I get started. If I'm using the same paper you describe in your instructions and I want to add a tiny color in the form of paint, which is the best to use? Would simple watercolors work or is there a special type of paint that would stand up to the heat be best?

drips (author)co2h2o2009-02-19

I don't think that the heat will be an issue with this set-up. I'd be more concerned with buckling or warping the paper. The paper I used can get pretty out of shape with a wet paint. I think you want a thicker/drier paint or possibly a paint with a solvent so it will evaporate quickly. I have used a marker with no problem but when my friend painted on one it got wavy and dried very stiff. Sorry but I don't have much experience coloring the paper yet. Also, UV light may fade the color - both from the lamp (not much UV I think) or from the sun if the lamp is in it. Please report back if you find a suitable coloring agent and post pics. Good luck!

co2h2o (author)drips2009-02-19

Boy are you fast! I think I'll avoid water colors. I should've realized the word 'water' itself wasn't the best combo with paper. Maybe a dry brush type painting using water colors (minimal water and fast drying) or even something sprayed, like a can or an airbrush. I saw some other lamps similar to yours (though not as nice looking!) with color and I can't figure out what was used. It almost looks as if the color is printed right on the paper. With the right equipment maybe it is. Or maybe they're appliques of some sort. The options with this are truly endless. If I only had the time... oh and the talent! Thanks for the inspiration.

hobbssamuelj (author)2008-12-24

Really fun project!!! After doing it in paper, i'm going to try it in hammered aluminum. we'll see how that goes. a dremel cutting wheel should do the trick...

ScottMcLeod (author)2008-12-22

Just made one of these for my mom (in secret.) I'll post the photos in a bit. Total cost: 3-LED Battery Powered Puck - $1.00 Sheet of bristol board - $1.00 Pack of AAA Batteries - $1.00 Tax: $0.35 3.35$ + 15 minutes of my time It also casts AWESOME shadows on the ceiling. The unfortunate bit is that the LEDs are Cool-white, but that can be fixed by modding the puck ;-) I'll post photos in a bit.

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