Introduction: Lotus Meditation Cube
The idea: I have been dealing with a little bit of run away anxiety and stress lately so I started to practice meditation. One thing that I noticed help me stay present while meditating, was if I placed a candle in front of me and mindfully paid attention to the flickering flame. I built the Lotus Meditation Cube to mimic this positive experience and I am very happy with the results. The Smart LED bulb inside the cube gives you tons of control over how the light is emitted, and this can all be done with an app on your phone. Watching the light transition and pulse as it plays off of the lotus design and surrounding environment is very relaxing. All of the wooden components for the cube were made using a desktop CNC mill. This was my first time using a CNC machine so I was a little nervous but in the end I had lots of fun working on this project. The materials involved are relatively inexpensive and you can knock this out over a weekend. Most of the time involved is just waiting on the CNC machine to mill out your components. The Lotus Meditation cube makes a great night light, home decor piece, and mood lighting as well!
Step 1: Tools and Materials
For this project I used the Nomad 883 CNC mill by Carbide 3D to machine all of the wooden components of the Meditation Cube. As a first time CNC user I was very impressed with the ease of this machine's work flow and accuracy. Any CNC mill you choose to use should be able to make the required components. If you want to design your Meditation Cube from scratch you will also need some sort of CAD software. I tried using Fusion360 since I was already familiar with AutoCAD. Fusion360 is free for 1 year for enthusiasts or startups making less than $80,000 a year. I will provide all of the .stl files for the cube's design in this instructable if you just want to get building and not worry about designing all of the parts.
The materials you are going to need are:
1. Some 3/4 inch pine wood. I don't own my own table saw so I just went to Home Depot and had a 16"x48" board of white knotty pine cut into 8"x8" pieces for me. Link for Wood
2. LED Smart bulb. There are many options out there. Some even have their own built in bluetooth speaker which can be used to play meditation music at the same time. I bought mine off of eBay for $10 CAD.
3. E27 Bulb Socket.
5. 2 1/8" screws 3/4" long and 1 nail 3/4" long.
6. Wood Glue
7. Super Glue
8. Green Painters Tape
9. Double sided carpet tape
10. Tung Oil
11. Sand Paper
Step 2: Design
When designing the meditation cube I made sure to account for the type of wood I would be using, the size of the light bulb, and the milling capabilities of the CNC machine. I decided that I wanted the walls of the cube to have a decent thickness so that the light would look more intricate reflecting off of the inside edges of the lotus design. This is why I went with 3/4 inch pine instead of something thinner which would have milled faster. For the overall dimensions of the cube I went with 6" x 6" faces. This is a good size enclosure to house the LED light bulb and easily fits into my CNC work area which had a maximum size of 8" x 8".
I used Fusion360 to design all of the wooden components. This software is great for quickly bringing your 3D designs to life. There are tons of instructional videos on youtube for Fusion360 which make learning the software a breeze.
In order to create the lotus design cut out of the sides of the cube there are a couple of steps involved. First I quickly sketched out the lotus design with a permanent marker. Next I took a photo of the sketch and opened the photo up in Inkscape. Inkscape is a great free vector graphics editor. You can quickly turn any image into a vector .svg file which is what Fusion360 requires. Just import your image and select path>trace bitmap. Save your new image as a .svg and import into Fusion 360. This is how I laid the Lotus design onto each side of the enclosure and cut it out of the design.
The design has a total of 8 individual components to be milled.
Lotus Cube Side x4
Lotus Cube Top x1
Lotus Cube Base x1
Socket Cover x1
Wired Wedge x1
In Fusion360 export each component as a .stl file in order to produce G-Code for your CNC Mill. I have uploaded all of the .stl files for you to download below. You don't have to use a CAD software to have a 3D view of the .stl files. Your computer should be able to open them up in a native 3D viewer so you can have a better idea of what each of the components entail. For example my MacBook just opens the files up in "preview" which comes free with apple computers.
I have also uploaded the entire Fusion360 design onto the cloud. If you click this link Lotus MC 3D you can have access to a nice 3D view of the meditation cube, as well as download the entire file if you want to make some of your own creative adjustments to the design.
Since the work area of the CNC mill I used is only 8"x8"x3" I milled each component using its own individual setup. If you have access to a larger CNC machine you could potentially mill all of the components in one setup, saving a lot of time.
Step 3: Producing G-Code for CNC Mill
In order to tell your CNC Mill how to machine your components you need to create G-Code files which work out the necessary tool paths and tool path parameters. The "CAM" software I used to do this is called MeshCam. This software comes free with the CNC mill I was using. They also offer a 15 day free trial on their website.
To produce G-Code:
1. Load .stl file of component into the "CAM" software.
2. Define your stock dimensions and the position of your to-be-milled component on the stock. The Lotus Cube faces are all 6"x6" so I centred each component on the 8"x8" pieces of stock pine.
3. Establish appropriate tool path parameters for your CNC machine to mill 3/4" pine. There is a screenshot on this page of all of the tool path parameters I used for the Nomad 883.
4. View the simulation of your tool paths to make sure you are happy with them.
5. Save the tool paths as a G-Code file.
You can use the same G-Code file for the 4 sides of the Meditation Cube since they are identical components. You will need to create an individual G-Code file for each of the remaining components. You should have 5 unique G-Code files in order to mill the 8 Components of the cube.
This Meshcam Tutorial is a great way to learn the fundamentals of the CAM software.
Step 4: CNC Milling the Components
Alright it's time to start using the CNC mill to create all of your components. Since I was using a desktop CNC machine with a somewhat smaller work area I milled the components one at a time. If you have access to a larger CNC mill this process will go by much faster if you machine all of the components at the same time. I will lay out the steps for milling one component. Just repeat these steps for each piece.
1. Apply double sided carpet tape to one side of your 8"x8" stock piece of pine. I was debating whether to use carpet tape or clamps to secure the stock, but in the end was pretty happy with using the carpet tape. Clean up was easier than I expected and the process was very simple.
2. Place the stock onto the waste board of your CNC Mill making sure it is aligned as square as possible. I used one of the extra pieces of 8"x8" pine as my waste board. This allowed the end mill to cut through the stock piece and slightly into the waste board without me worrying about it. Allowing the end mill to cut slightly into the waste board resulted in nice clean edges on the cut out of the lotus pattern. Apply pressure across the face of the stock to make sure it sticks firmly to the waste board. We don't want it slipping during the middle of a cut.
3. Turn on your CNC mill and allow it to go through its homing or start up procedures. On the Nomad 883 this is all done through a controller software called Carbide Motion.
4. Load the G-Code file for the component you are about to mill in the controller software.
5. Use the Controller Software to locate your stock piece of pine. Since we are leaving an inch of excess material around the component I just touched the tip of the end mill against the lower left hand corner of the stock in order to zero the machine.
6. Make sure you have the correct end mill/cutting bit in your CNC machine. I used a 1/8th inch 2 flute ball end mill to mill all of the components.
7. Begin the machining process using the controller software and sit back to watch your CNC machine work its magic. Every now and then I used a vacuum to clear away saw dust as it built up on the part.
8. When'd your CNC mill has completed machining the component turn the machine off.
9. Use a flat edge to gently pry away the excess stock, and then your component, from the waste board.
10. Remove any carpet tape still stuck to your piece.
11. Lightly sand all faces of the component to remove any pine burs and clean up the edges. I used medium grit sand paper and went over each piece for a couple of minutes.
Repeat this CNC milling process for all 8 components of the Lotus Meditation Cube.
Step 5: Assembling the Light Enclosure
Alright, Now it is time to use some wood glue and painters tape to quickly assemble the Lotus Light Enclosure. The photos in this step should help you visualize how this will work.
1. Lay out the 4 sides and top of the light enclosure so that the inside face of each component is facing you.
2. Apply painters tape along all of the edges which will be adjacent to a glued joining.
3. Flip the 4 side components over and position them tightly against each other and against some sort of square surface. I just pushed the 4 pieces up against the back wall of the counter I was working on.
4. Apply a strip of painters tape at each joining. Again make sure when you apply the tape the two edges are snug against each other.
5. Flip the 4 sides over again so that the inside faces of the cube are now facing you.
6. Apply a line of wood glue on all of the 45 degree faces which will be connecting to one another.
7. Carefully fold at each joining until all of the faces are connected into a cube shape and apply a final strip of painters tape on the last joining. The tension of the painters tape on each edge will work to hold each joining tightly in place. This method is quick and easy. It also saves having to use an excessive amount of clamps to get the same result.
8. Apply wood glue to Lotus Cube Top component on all four 45 degree faces.
9. Firmly press the top into the rest of the enclosure and seal all of the edges with painters tape.
10. Rest some sort of weight on the top of the cube as it dries. Or use a couple of clamps to fix the top to the rest of the enclosure. I left the cube in this position over night as the wood glue dried but I am sure you could just wait a few hours and get started with the next step.
Step 6: Sanding and Finishing
After the wood glue has dried remove all of the painters tape from the enclosure. If all went well you should have a virtually invisible joining at all of the edges. If for some reason there is a slight gap or imperfection in one of the edges this can be easily fixed. First try running a hard smooth surface, such as a screw driver shaft, over the edge to try to close the gap. If this doesn't do the trick just apply a little wood glue into the gap and push some saw dust into it. Then sand over and the gap should disappear. I had a small gap on one corner of the box which i quickly fixed in this fashion.
Once you are happy with all of the edges it is time to sand all of the components. I went over all of the edges and faces with medium grit sand paper. Next i repeated this process with a light grit sand paper to properly prepare the pine for absorbing the finishing oil.
For finishing the cube I decided to use tung oil. I wanted the aesthetic of the Lotus Cube to be simple and natural. I thought tung oil would work well to bring out the grain in the wood and preserve the natural colour and beauty of the White Knotty Pine. This also seals the wood.
To apply the tung oil:
1. Dip a rag or old t-shirt into the oil and apply a generous coat by rubbing the oil into the wood.
2. Take a clean rag and wipe away the excess oil on the surface of the wood.
3. Wait at least 20 minutes before repeating the process. I only applied 2 coats of tung oil. You can apply more if you want your finish to be a bit harder and have more of a sheen.
You don't have to finish your cube in this fashion. You could experiment with some wood stains to darken the finish or change the colour of the cube. I am tempted to try using a stain or darker wood when I make my next one for a friend.
Step 7: Base Assembly and Electrical
Alright, lets start wiring the electrical components of the project. Make sure all this work is done with the plug not connected to power. Also if you have an old lamp or similar appliance that is broken you could just salvage that cord and plug to be used.
1. Cut your lamp cord to a desired length. I made mine about 6 feet long so it had lots of reach when the meditation cube is plugged in.
2. Use an exacto knife to separate the two wires.
3. Use an exact knife or wire strippers to expose the two copper wires. Exposing about 1/2 an inch should suffice.
4. Make a hook shape in both exposed wires and screw them to the inside of your plug. Make sure to take note which side of the wire is hooked up to the gold screw. You will want to wire the same side to the gold screw on the socket. This makes it so one does not receive a shock from touching the exposed wires.
5. Close the plug housing tightly over the lamp cord by screwing it together.
Now to wire the other end of the lamp cord to the bulb socket and fix it to the wooden base:
1. Use an exact knife again to separate the two wires, but this time pull the wires apart much further down the cord (about 2.5 inches)
2. Expose the two copper wires same as before.
3. Tie a knot out of the two sides of the lamp cord.
4. Make a hook shape in both exposed wires and screw to the bulb socket housing. *Remember which side you wanted to fasten to the gold screw*
5. Apply some super glue to the bottom of the bulb socket housing and firmly hold into position on the wooden base. Hold for 10 seconds to allow proper adhesion.
Next hammer a 1/2 inch nail into the small wooden rectangle you milled. I am calling this the wire wedge. Hammer the nail and wire wedge into the wooden base so that it is tight against the knot in the lamp cord. When you tug on the cord you want the knot to pull against the wedge. There should be zero tension on the split wires actually fastened to the light socket when the cord is pulled. This will make the base much more resistant to damage should the cord accidentally receive a rough pull.
Apply some round vinyl bumpers to the bottom of the wooden base to stop the lotus cube from slipping around when on a smooth surface. This also reduces the chance of scratching any surfaces you might be putting it on.
Finally, fasten the wooden socket cover onto the base using 2 3/4" screws. The lamp base is now complete.
Step 8: LED Smart Bulb Remote Enclosure
This step is completely optional since I have a feeling most people will operate the LED Smart bulb with the app on their phone or computer which comes with the light. The LED Smart bulb I ordered also came with its own little remote to use if you don't have your phone handy. The remote has less features than the app provides, but you are still able to cycle through colours, change transition types, turn the light on and off, etc.. Since I had a lot of fun designing and building the Meditation Cube I decided to quickly design and build a wooden casing for the remote so it matched the aesthetic of the cube.
Step 9: Plug It in and Start Playing With the Light!
Your Lotus Meditation Cube is now complete! Just place the wooden enclosure on the base and plug it in. The LED bulb is completely cool to the touch and safe to leave on inside the box. You will be able to turn it on using either the app on your phone or the little remote. Have fun playing with all of the different colours and transition settings. The phone app is amazing because it gives you tons of control over the way the light performs. You can cycle through hundreds of different colours and adjust the timing of the different transitions. When meditating I actually like to have the cube set on one colour and slowly pulse on and off at a speed that feels natural with my breath. This is great for staying focused on the present and mindfully paying attention to the light. When I have the cube set up as a night light or for mood lighting I just let it cycle through the array of colours using the smooth setting.
I had tons of fun building this project and actually found the process quite relaxing. It was my first time using a CNC mill and first time writing an instructable so I ended up learning a lot. Seeing a design idea come to fruition as something tangible was really satisfying. In the end the most challenging part of the project was trying to get quality photos of the Lotus cube which showed how great it looks in person lol. I still feel like I struggled to achieve this.
If anyone wants to attempt building one and has any questions do not hesitate to contact me. I would love to see someone else have a go at this project! I am going to try building another one as a Christmas present for a friend. This time I want to try dark walnut wood and put a battery enclosure in the base so it is more portable. I will load some photos of this when I complete it.
Thanks for reading!