Introduction: Iris Lamp

Picture of Iris Lamp

The Iris Lamp is a disc shaped wall lamp with a mechanical iris built in. Turn the disc and LED lights click on, shining through the moving iris and glowing through wood veneer.

This lamp is based on the Eclipse Lamp that I posted previously. I'm fascinated by mechanical movement in design that's typically static; this project was a fun way to explore this concept further.

Step 1: Tools & Materials

I made most of this piece on a 120 W laser cutter. If you don't have access to one, this piece would be fairly easy to make using a hand drill and jigsaw. I've provided templates here that can be spray-glued to plywood and followed with the tools. Check out my Digital Fabrication by Hand instructable for an extensive description of this process.


  • 1/4" maple ply (actual thickness .23"). Most wooden components.
  • 1/8" maple ply. Backer plate with keyholes for wall hanging.
  • Veneer. Maple surface applied to the front of the lamp.



Step 2: Design

I looked at several different ways to make an iris, but I settled on the method carlbass uses in his Mechanical Iris instructable. I went with this one because it's simple (it works with 2D parts all cut from the same material), and I like the spiral shape it makes as it opens.

I designed it in Fusion 360(because it's awesome and it's free indefinitely unless you make more than $100K per year on stuff you make with it). The Youtube video here shows a preview of the joint assembly, which was a crucial part of for making the design work. It's possible to figure out this kind of mechanical assembly by simply drawing it in 2D, but it's SO much easier when you can make joints for the different parts and actually see what's going to happen mechanically when you make the thing.

Fusion 360 is free for students and hobbyists, and there's a ton of educational support on it. If you want to learn to 3D model the kind of work I do, I think this is the best choice on the market. Click the links below to sign up:



Measure twice, cut once, the saying goes... If you use good 3D software, you can avoid wasting invaluable time and materials down the road.

The .f3d file is the 3D file I used to design the piece, it may be useful if you want to make changes to the design for your own purposes (but remember, this is a non-commercial share-alike licensed design, so you can't sell it!). The PDF files are for laser cutting or any other type of CNC cutting. The "Manual" PDF file is laid out for easy jigsaw / drill cutting. The DWG file contains all of the 2D profiles that make up the piece.

Step 3: Hardware Assembly

Picture of Hardware Assembly
  1. VENEER: With the parts laser cut, I first adhered the veneer to the outer face disc. I did this using 3M 77 spray glue, taking some pointers from Jim Davidson. The right way to use spray adhesive is to spray an even coating on both surfaces to be joined, let them dry for about 5 minutes, then stick them together using a roller. Once it’s rolled, it’s stuck- there’s no turning back!
  2. LINKAGE ASSEMBLY: With the outer disc finished, I assembled the parts to make sure the linkages worked. The parts are designed to have one hole that allows the screw to self-thread for a secure fit, and the hole on the adjoining part (the one on top of a given assembly) allows the same screw to move freely. It might not have been necessary, but I added a washer between the upper parts and their screw heads to ensure that the motion wouldn’t unscrew the screws.
  3. ALIGNMENT FEATURES: The first version of this design didn’t have any features to keep the inner and outer rings aligned, so the iris moved around freely- definitely not the desired result. I went back into the model and added tabs on the fixed, inner circle and slots on the outer circle ring. The tabs use a single 3/8” screw as a post that bears on the inner surfaces of the slots to keep everything aligned.
  4. GLUED PARTS: Seeing that the movement of the iris worked, I glued the slotted ring to the outer circle, using joining dowels and wood glue. I opted for this method of assembly because I didn’t want any exposed screws catching on the fixed ring with the tabs, and I wanted a consistent joint between the two pieces with no gaps. After gluing and clamping, I used a Japanese flush saw to trim off the dowels.
  5. TEST MECHANICS: With the ring fixed to the front disc, I then did a test run of the motion of the piece. I added 3/8” screws to each of the tabs on the inner, fixed ring, then screwed the entire back panel together with the 7/8” screws. The piece didn’t move smoothly enough, so I added washers between the ring that’s linked to the iris arms and the spacer rings. This did the trick, and the motion worked smoothly. for this test, I also had the roller switch attached to make sure it engaged as the outer ring moved- I designed a little ramp on the inside of the fixed disc that would compress the roller switch as the ring moved.

Step 4: Electronics Assembly

Picture of Electronics Assembly
  1. LED: With the mechanical assembly working properly, I added the LED strip to the inner ring. The strip Can be cut in increments of about 1.5”, so I was able to use a 12 segment strip leaving a ~1.5” gap for the socket and wiring. I used 5-minute epoxy to fix the LED strip to the inner ring.
  2. SOCKET: Two of the spacer rings have a protruding gap in them which give the socket material for its flange and nut assembly to bear on. This feature provides a makeshift hole in the edge of the plywood pieces, allowing the power cord to connect without interfering with the placement of the piece on a wall.
  3. WIRING:
    1. I soldered a red (standard for [+]) wire to the [+] lead on the socket, and soldered its other end to the default-off lead on the roller switch. This kind of switch has one lead for default-off and one for default-on, so I made sure to test the switch with a multi-meter before soldering.
    2. I soldered another red wire (remember, this is still the [+] pole on the circuit) to the [+] contact on the end of the LED strip.
    3. I then soldered a black wire to the [-] contact on the end of the LED strip, and soldered its other end to the [-] lead on the socket. A quick test of the switch with the power connected, and it worked like a charm!
  4. SECURING WIRING: Since the roller switch is attached to the outer disc (!DESIGN FLAW!), the wiring gets moved around when in use. To keep the wires from shorting out, I hot-glued the ends of every contact extensively to isolate the contacts.

Step 5: Finished Product, Lessons Learned

Picture of Finished Product, Lessons Learned

It seems to be working pretty well, and the effect is fun. In hindsight I would have designed it so that the roller switch would be fixed to the stationary part of the lamp, and the ramp that engages the switch would be fixed to the moving part. This way, I would avoid any risk of shorting out the wires.


darrenah (author)2017-02-01

This is neat, but I think I would have made this a bigger and make it a window instead. As in... you turn it to close the shades and opened it's a portal. The outer ring of light has a sort of skylight/stained glass feel. While the inner circle is about you looking out as much as letting light in. ...Just a thought.

adeptdigital (author)2017-01-04

Hi. This is so cool!

I have a few questions/requests:

Q1: I use metric units. My available materials are:
Backing plate: 3mm instead of 3.17mm (1/8 inch)
Most wooden parts: either 5mm or 6mm instead of 5.842mm (1/4 inch)
Do I need to adjust the design at all, or are the variances within the design tolerances?

Q2: Can you break down the actual number of each length of screw?

Q3: You don't list the joining dowels in the BOM. What are the total length and the diameter of the dowels?



JON-A-TRON (author)adeptdigital2017-01-19

The plywood has an actual dimension of 3mm I think. In any case, the tolerances are built in so it should work with 3mm and 6mm plywood.

The screw lengths are listed (3/8", 1/2", 7/8"), and the closest metric screw should work without any trouble.

The joining dowels are .25". They're cut flush with a japanese saw, so it really doesn't matter how long they are- they only go about 3/4" in total depth.

adeptdigital (author)JON-A-TRON2017-01-24

Thanks for replying.

I cut a demo out of cardboard, and am loving the design.

So, 6-32 is a diameter/thread specification, and the 3/8, 1/2 and 7/8 are the lengths?

A 6-32 screw has a major diam of 0.138 inches?

I need the 3/8 for the iris, 1/2 inch for the screws that run in the guide channels when rotating and the 7/8 for joining all the rings and the backing plate?

Thanks, Brendon

SherylinRM (author)2016-09-10

I REALLY like this one.

Too bad it can not be done free handed.

Nice, thanks for this :)

JON-A-TRON (author)SherylinRM2016-09-10

You could do it by hand, it would just take a lot of patience. With a scroll saw and some paper template (provided), you could probably knock it out in a weekend!

SherylinRM (author)JON-A-TRON2016-09-12

Yeah, a LOOONNNGGG weekend lol.

Thanks :)

Amkoshesh (author)2016-07-26

my English is weak . I translated phrase with Google

Amkoshesh (author)2016-07-26

Hi I have a question. But got lost within the site. And I do not know where to ask my question. I'm gonna start a new topic. . Waves on the walls. When a point on the side of the wall with a spot on the other side were facing each other. Give us know. Something like the radar. Or Gps. To prevent the cement wall. Or wood. Please do not start a new topic. Send me the link.
The link is created. I look at myself.

ttopee1 (author)2015-08-28

i have made the out of 3mm black acyclic with a 3mm black transparent face i just now need the RGBW leds to show up with the controller and all done looks good with white 

JON-A-TRON (author)ttopee12015-08-28

Awesome! I love the clear acrylic exposing the inner workings. More pictures!

Also, I'm sending you a free 3 month pro membership for posting an IMadeIt.

ttopee1 made it! (author)2015-08-28

i have made the out of 3mm black acyclic with a 3mm black transparent face i just now need the RGBW leds to show up with the controller and all done looks good with white

BrownDogGadgets (author)2015-08-18

Well, I know what I'm doing this weekend.

Though I'm going to have to make mine Aperture Science Themed... It seems appropriate...

Show us what you make!

mpintovsj (author)2015-08-19


i will try !!

Thanks a lot !

mpintovsj (author)2015-08-19

WOW !!!

I will try to make with my saw........:(

JON-A-TRON (author)mpintovsj2015-08-19

You can do it! Don't forget to check out my Digital Fabrication by Hand instructable for tips on how to do this sort of thing with hand tools:

mpintovsj (author)2015-08-19

Que increíble, que invento más hermoso!!!.

Que queda para uno que no tiene acceso a cortadora laser ni nada parecido.....solo envidia.

JON-A-TRON (author)mpintovsj2015-08-19

Usted puede hacer esto con herramientas manuales! Se toma más tiempo y hay que tener cuidado, pero cualquier persona puede hacerlo. Hice proyectos complejos diseñados en el ordenador utilizando herramientas de mano en mi garaje durante años antes de que yo tuve la suerte de tener acceso a un cortador láser. Mira "fabricación digital a mano" para averiguar cómo:

ChadC10 (author)2015-08-18

Very good, Me very like...Thanks

alcurb (author)2015-08-16

This is one is f***ing awesome!

My funds for using a laser cutter are limited and I don't have the right tools for doing the precision cuts required. But I like the iris part so much that I can easily make it out of pliable plastic covers found in 3-hole-loose-leaf paper binders. I saved the binders from certain death because we don't use them any more in the office. The covers are an easy material to work with for constructing things like irises. I will have to think of a use for the iris, but I just like to be mesmerized by the mechanism itself. My nerd is showing once more, I know.

JON-A-TRON (author)alcurb2015-08-16

Glad you like it! I'm sure you could get this to work with plastic that's easily cut with scissors or other means. You could probably rig something up for the switching action too if you tinkered with it a bit. Post an IMadeIt regardless of what you do with it!

MidnightMaker (author)2015-08-12

This is a very creative light fixture. Awesome work!

JON-A-TRON (author)MidnightMaker2015-08-12

Thank you!

treymartin82 (author)2015-08-11

I think I'm going to make one of these but I want a different color (blue or green maybe). Any suggestions on what to do to be able to do this?

JON-A-TRON (author)treymartin822015-08-11

Yeah, that's easy. There's really no difference in any of the steps, you would just buy a colored LED strip with similar specs to the one I added to my materials step. You could also buy a color changing strip with a remote- that could be cool!

sselby2 (author)2015-08-11

looks like the sort of lighting you would find on a Dalek ship. the onlt thing spoiling it is the hanging wires - could it not be made slightly thicker and be battery powered?

acoleman3 (author)sselby22015-08-11

my suggestion is to make a base that's the depth of the light itself, but 1 1/2 - 2 times it's diameter. if you just made it thicker, the proportions might look off.

JON-A-TRON (author)acoleman32015-08-11

Right, it would be important to place the batteries out of the way of the light.

JON-A-TRON (author)sselby22015-08-11

Agreed, it's hard to get that part right. It could definitely be battery powered as the LEDs are low voltage, it would just be a pain to have to recharge it. One solution would be to install it as a wall sconce, but that would require wiring it to a junction box in a wall.

Antzy Carmasaic (author)2015-08-06

Nice project. I noticed the iris mechanism casts a faint shadow. Is there any way around this?

I suppose you could make the linkages out of acrylic, that way the light would mostly shine through.

That's an elegant solution. I thought it will require some redesign of the plans.

desertsniper (author)2015-08-05

AWESOME! I think I will be making this soon! Thanks for the DWG file and PDFs! Ill be posting a new rubber band gun on the next wood contest, I'll also be giving away the dwg files and design. Thanks again!

JON-A-TRON (author)desertsniper2015-08-06

Can't wait to see it!

gravityisweak (author)2015-08-05

Awesome! That's a great twist on your previous design!

JON-A-TRON (author)gravityisweak2015-08-05


M3G (author)2015-08-04

Very cool!

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm a full-time Designer at the Instructables Design Studio (best job ever). My background is in residential architecture, film set design, film animatronics, media ... More »
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