Introduction: Glass Geodesic Dome

Picture of Glass Geodesic Dome

The geodesic dome is a remarkable geometric object, invented by Buckminster Fuller, one of the greatest minds of our time. Here I will instruct you how to make one of them with glass and silicone. Let's do it!

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

You will need only these things:

1. Masking tape;

2. 30 glass triangles A, 10 glass triangles B;

3. Sharp blade;

4. Colorless silicone.

The glass has to be cut in two triangles, like the template showed below. 30 triangles called A, and 10 triangles called B. You can scale the triangles together up or down, and use any thickness or glass color that you like. The triangles can be cut of a rectangle, like showed below, saving material. You can learn how to cut glass here, or to order it from a glass professional. Ask for the most accurate cut, because the errors will add at the end.

If you like, you could use another materials too: plastic, acrylic, pvc, wood... You can try also another types of adhesive instead silicone: two-part epoxy, pvc glue, gorilla glue, etc. Each of them will have their own different features and have to be tested before you start.

To make a dome with 40 cm of diameter, the base of the triangles will have 123,5 mm each. If you scale up the figure, the dome will be higher, if you scale down it will be smaller.

Step 2: Protecting the Glass

Picture of Protecting the Glass

Mask the edges of all the glass triangles to protect then from the silicone excess in the joints. Remember: it's very difficult to clean the cured silicone from the glass. It's far more easy to protect it first. Cut the tape close to the edge with a sharp blade.

Step 3: Making the Hinges

Picture of Making the Hinges

Separate the A triangles. Turn the tape covered triangles to the side of the unsheltered glass and apply more tape along the two smaller edges of them, leaving half of the tape exposed to attach another triangle, making a hinge between them. Cut the excess of tape.

When five of the A triangles are united with tape hinges along the small edges of them, raise then until the two remaining edges touch together and join them with tape, making a pentagonal pyramid.

Step 4: Filling the Joints

Picture of Filling the Joints

Now there are only exposed glass between the sides of the masked glass triangles. Fill the joints with silicone and remove the excess with a piece of metal or plastic. Repeat the process in all joints and make six pentagonal pyramids similarly. Leave the pieces aside until the silicone was totally cured (around 24 hours).

Step 5: Joining the Parts

Picture of Joining the Parts

Get two of the pyramids and link then using two B triangles, in the way previously described. Look carefully to the images below. One of the pyramids must be united with two B triangles, like showed in the images below. Wait more 24 hours until the silicone was cured.

Step 6: Joining the Parts - Final

Picture of Joining the Parts - Final

Now it's time to close the dome, uniting the missing parts. Link the two bigger modules with two more B triangles, and join the remainder module behind. The last pyramid on the top is the most difficult to fit, because there are a sum of errors in the measures. May be necessary some glass sanding and fine adjustments.

Step 7: Removing the Tape - Interior

Picture of Removing the Tape - Interior

When all silicone joints are totally cured, remove the inside tape hinges.

Step 8: Removing the Tape - Exterior

Picture of Removing the Tape - Exterior

Now remove the outside tape, showing all the glory of the dome.

Step 9: Finishing

Picture of Finishing

Cut the excess of silicone with a sharp blade and clean the glass. Now you have an exotic and sophisticated piece of conversation. Show it to your friends!


chuff425 made it! (author)2017-11-08

Awesome instrucable! Easy to follow and easy to do. A LOT cheaper than buying a new globe! I used 1/32" Lexan ,Acrylic fast set cement, and Copper Tape, making it ulta light as well.Thank You for posting!

Lindsley (author)chuff4252017-11-08

Nice job! you can use color acrilic or enameled glass too.

greenbriel made it! (author)2017-10-19

Great instructable, thanks for sharing! I made mine using copper foil/solder stained glass techniques and it worked out really well. Going to make more and maybe a globe.

greenbriel (author)greenbriel2017-10-20

Sorry Lindlsey, I realized that I had commented twice, and accidentally just deleted the one with your reply! But thank you!!

Lindsley (author)greenbriel2017-11-04

It's Ok. Your work was very well done. Congratulations! If you make vitraux paintures in the glass, could be a very nice lamp.

greenbriel (author)2017-11-04

Thanks again, Lindsley, I have another set of triangles foiled and ready to solder.

I thought I'd share another really good dome calculator that has a few more options than the (excellent) desertdomes one:

Lindsley (author)greenbriel2017-11-04

Great calculator!

gjm (author)2013-06-13

This is really cool.
Another idea to join the glass panes together would be to use self adhesive copper foil tape like used for stained glass. Then solder everything together; kind of like a stained glass lampshade.

greenbriel (author)gjm2017-11-04

Done! See above :D

Lindsley (author)2017-10-20

Good work! It's very solid and you can make money with this. Paint decorations in the glass, or etch it.

greenbriel (author)Lindsley2017-11-03

Thank you! Getting some interest and working on a batch! Also found a very good dome calculator:

sarahofsydney (author)2014-02-02

Hi, I was wondering if you would mind if I (attempted) modified this ible to make a geodesic dome cushion?

YFX (author)2012-02-05

Is silicone strong enough or would you recommend any other adhesives ?

Solargreen (author)2012-01-07

I like it!. I plan to make a full sphere (and a base to stand it on) and use it as an aquarium!

macgyverfan (author)2011-03-22

I want to scale it up and live in it! An all glass, super strong, cost efficient mansion! How cool would that be?!

Aegian2424 (author)macgyverfan2011-09-14

cost effective? you're kidding right?
in the summer you'd be cooked to death and in the winter you'd freeze. glass has very poor insulatig qualities. you're bills would be sky-high.

macgyverfan (author)Aegian24242011-12-23

you could use triple layered glass. Also I mend cost effective compared to other types of glass houses. however, your criticism does bring up a few good points for me to look in to. maybe I will just build it out of wood after all.( assuming I ever do build one.)

Lindsley (author)macgyverfan2011-03-24

I think that cool it wouldn't never be. It will be a giant greenhouse!

Carlos Marmo (author)2011-09-26

Lovely work! Masterfully executed! I liked it enormously!

Lindsley (author)Carlos Marmo2011-09-27

Thanks for your comment!

crudworks (author)2011-09-14

I think you should scale it up, add a few fans and flashy lights and make this:

It looks like a very fiddley build, what do you plan to do with it?

Lindsley (author)crudworks2011-09-14

I do it because I was defied.

goomy (author)2011-09-14

If only I had seen this last year, when I had to make a dome myself... I made an enormous PS one, but it took me forever and fell apart (cause PS doesn't really glue itself to anything...)

magickaldan (author)2011-09-14 Here is the proper way and the correct measurements vary

Johenix (author)2010-10-01

Excuse me, but you only gave ONE dimention for the two sizes of triangles. Each triangle has three sides so we should have three dimentions for each (even though two or three dimentions might be identical).

So: A= ? x ? x ? and B= ? X ? x ?

One idea that I would like someone to examine is the use of an eliptical distortion of the geodesic dome as a frame for a dirgable. I think it might be lighter and stronger than what they were using in the 1920-1930's.

fretted (author)Johenix2011-02-02

Here ya go this should help you can build any size you want with the right numbers !

Lindsley (author)fretted2011-02-03

Great site! Thank you.

Lindsley (author)Johenix2010-10-02

The two triangles have the proportions between the sides determined in the image. They don't change if you scale the image. So, for a 40 cm of diameter dome, you have to scale the image until the base of any triangle (the base of both are equal) have 123,5 mm.

kelseymh (author)Johenix2010-10-01

I think the second figure in Step 1 is meant to be scaled. Both triangles have the same base dimension, and they're isosceles so you technically only need base and height (the third dimension would be redundant).

clarkt (author)2010-11-30

When worn as a hat, does this block alien mind control signals as well as a pyramid??

Meragness (author)2010-11-26

this looks dishwasher safe

cbg3868 (author)2010-11-14

It would be interesting to use stained glass and copper foil and solder this project. I am not sure that I would have the patience.

swimstl12 (author)2010-10-15

When I tried to download the PDF file of steps and instructions for the Geodesic Dome, the link does not download these instructions. It downloads instructions for LED throwies. Someone should correct this error. I very much want to make the dome.

Shadow13! (author)2010-10-03

This is a pretty amazing project. I've been a big fan of Buckminster Fuller since I wrote a report about him in 7th grade. I am always amazed at how many people know what a geodesic dome is but has never heard of Fuller.

Lindsley (author)Shadow13!2010-10-03

Thank you.

qwertydan1 (author)2010-10-03

how did you cut out the trianges? i tried to draw lines along which i could cut but it was way too messy and inaccurate.

Lindsley (author)qwertydan12010-10-03

First print a image aligning the triangles in a line, like the third photo.

Lindsley (author)qwertydan12010-10-03

Put the glass above the printed image and make the cuts. You could learn how to cut glass here.

musicalbee2003 (author)2010-10-02

Is it just me, or would this make a fantastic terrarium?

Lindsley (author)musicalbee20032010-10-03

Good idea. You could cut the point of the triangles at the top, making an air vent.

Nucleus (author)2010-10-03

Great instructable must agree since I was lucky to find a sheet 3 square meters of textolite
covered in copper if your not familiar whit the name of textolite its a simply the material that you make PCBs on

Lindsley (author)Nucleus2010-10-03

Thank you. You can soldering the copper sides of the edge plates, making the dome.

Nucleus (author)Nucleus2010-10-03

I accidentally pressed the post comment button so I have one question is
Does the triangle B have all three identical sides?

Lindsley (author)Nucleus2010-10-03

Yes, the triangle B is a equilateral triangle.

thelandlord (author)2010-10-02

On a small scale - up to about a yard or so across - soldered construction works very well indeed. I've successfully used it to make a terrarium for myself, and a class of teenagers I was working with had about a 90% first-time success rate.

The way to do it is to use self-adhesive copper tape wrapped around each edge of each pane of glass, then simply solder the copper tapes together. :-)

You have to work quite quickly otherwise you risk thermal cracks in the glass, but what's worked very well for me is using an old-fashioned copper soldering iron, the sort you heat up on a gas-flame.
If you give the copper a good coat of flux the solder will whet it very well, and once the structural joint is made you can wipe over the whole surface with the iron to give a nice even coat of solder... the finished effect is a lot like a leaded window.

Once complete, this type of construction is very robust and can withstand a lot more rough handling than you'd expect.

piperjon (author)2010-10-01

How well sealed and how strong do you feel this may be in a larger project? I'm thinking greenhouse/shed sized. If something other than silicone were used to enhance strength, what do you think would work best?

I've always loved geodesic dome houses, back when they were being made in the 70s, kinda sad the idea didn't catch on.

And yes, it's a lovely build, and a lovely instructable! - Pj

Lindsley (author)piperjon2010-10-02

Ironsmiter is wright. A larger dome will need some stronger structure along the lines to support better the weight and the wind. Silicone is very flexible and there are little contact area to join bigger and heavy plates. But for small scale it's OK.

ironsmiter (author)piperjon2010-10-01

aluminum channel. possibly steel channel.

While the silicone works well on the small scale, it's strength and flexibility change from feature to liability as you scale up.

At a 4' dome, a stiff wind would likely knock over your structure.

But, don't throw out all that caulk.
you'll probably want it for bedding your glass into the channel, to avoid chipping, movement, and to make the structure rain proof.

jongscx (author)piperjon2010-10-01

For a LARGE structure, I'd suggest building a metal frame (or some creative carpentry) and hanging the panels on that mechanically (with screws or bolts).

Carleyy (author)2010-10-01

This is beautiful!

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