Make a Pac-Man Ghost Turning Lamp





Introduction: Make a Pac-Man Ghost Turning Lamp

About: make what i share
This instructable was submitted by Xerocraft Hackerspace in Tucson for the Instructables Sponsorship Program.

The tutorial below will show you how to make your own “Mawari-Doro” or Japanese turning lamp customized to look like a goblin from the arcade classic, Pac-Man.

Here's video of the lamp in action:

It makes a great night light!

The shell spins due to convection. Heat from the bulb causes the air around it to rise. The rising air passes through the slits in the top of the cylinder and the piece spins. There is no electric motor. It runs entirely on a single incandescent light bulb.

Here I will show you how to make a better version of what's shown in the video. The eyes and color will be projected using a heat-resistant photographer's gel that can be easily removed and reapplied if the bulb burns out. The pupils will be movable so you can have the eyes look in any direction. You have the choice of printing out a cylinder that spins clockwise or counterclockwise. You'll also be able to make any of the ghosts: Blinky, Pinky, Inky, Clyde and "don't eat me!" blue.

Step 1: Assemble Your Parts and Tools

  • Cylinder template (clockwise or counterclockwise) PDF (You will need this to be printed out professionally on 17 by 11 inch, 80 pound cardstock at a Kinko's or similar business)
  • Colored gel template (Blinky, Pinky, Inky, Clyde or "Don't eat me!") PDF (Printed out on normal 8.5x11 inch paper)
  • Photographer's gel (red, blue, yellow, pink, aqua blue for body; blue for pupils)
  • 40W** (MAX!) clear incandescent light bulb, type A with a single strand of filament (see step 3)
  • Type A light socket with screw hole
  • Threaded nipple (length determined by thickness of wooden base)
  • Hex nut for threaded nipple (1/8 inch thick)
  • 120V power cable with on-off switch
  • Cap nut for 3/16" axle (Ace Hardware #884-E Pushnut. They're cheap so buy a few)
  • Metal rod
  • Ballpoint pen
  • Wooden base (wooden clock faces at Michael's have the center hole pre-drilled)
  • Rubber feet
  • **I have not tested the paper with light bulbs exceeding 40 watts and would not recommend it. I haven't had any problem with temperature except when I put electrical tape directly on the bulb that one time. In fact, with a better balance point a much lower wattage could work. Please leave your comments below. **
Tools and supplies:
  • Drill
  • Drill bit (diameter is equivalent to metal rod above)
  • Drill bit (diameter is equivalent to threaded nipple above)
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Drawing compass
  • Needle
  • light grit sandpaper
  • Scotch tape
  • double-sided Scotch tape
  • Spray paint (for base)
  • Epoxy glue
  • #11 Xacto knife
  • Metal ruler
  • Scissors
  • Wirecutters
  • Pliers
  • Drill punch
  • 5/32" chrome ball bearing
  • Vice clamp
  • Metal file
  • Pencil
  • Glue stick

Step 2: Construct the Base, Pt. 1

First, let's drill the hole in the base that the light socket will screw in to.

What you'll need:
  • Wooden base
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Drill
  • Wider drill bit
  • Threaded nipple
  • Sandpaper
  • Hex nut
  • light socket
  • power cord
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Light bulb
I bought my wood base at Michael's. Make sure that the wooden piece you purchase is flat and not warped or curved at all. Also watch out for nicks and scratches in the wood that won't be covered up by sanding or painting it.

Locate the center of the base by drawing a line that connects the piece's two farthest corners. Then draw a second line that intersects with the first perpendicularly (see picture above). The point where the two lines cross should be the center of the base. Using the wider drill bit (the one that matches the width of the threaded nipple), drill the center hole completely through the wooden base.

Sand the base down to look as smooth and clean as you want. Use lighter grit sandpaper for a smoother texture.

Insert the threaded nipple into the center hole and secure it in place with the hex nut. The hex nut will be on the under side of the base. The nipple should not poke out past the outer edge of the hex nut so that the base will sit stable (we'll add the rubber feet later). The threaded nipple should poke out past the upper side of the base at least a quarter inch so that the light socket can screw into it.

Take the power cord and run the cable through the nipple from the under side to the top. Expose the wires with the wirecutters and attach them to the light socket with the screwdriver. Do not worry about polarity. Take your time here and make sure you do a thorough job. Make sure there are no stray wires sticking out and that the screws are tight. Fasten the light socket to the nipple. Test the bulb and socket before moving on.

Step 3: Construct the Base, Pt. 2

What you'll need:
  • Drill
  • Thinner drill bit
  • Spray paint
  • Plastic feet
To make the projection of the eyes as crisp as possible, it's important to get the right kind of incandescent bulb and to twist it to the right position. Look for a bulb that is clear (not frosted). Now look at the filament inside. There should not be more than one strand of filament (see first picture). Any more will cause an unfocused effect with the eyes. That's because when you're so close to the bulb each strand of filament becomes a separate light source.

To project the eyes as clearly as possible, you want the strand of filament to be perpendicular to the "front" of the lamp. Take a look at the base. Is there one particular side of it you think would make the best "front" side of the lamp? This is the side that will face outward for all to see. Mark the middle of that side with a pencil or a piece of tape.

With the bulb tightly screwed in, twist the socket until the bulb's filament points directly at the mark you just made (see second picture). You may need to tighten the hex nut again. There is a reason for this. It'll make sense later.

Now let's drill the hole where the metal rod that supports the spinning cylinder will go. First, measure the radius (the radius is half the diameter) of the wide end of the light bulb. Write that measurement down. Remove the socket from the base. Now use the ruler to make a line that runs from the middle of the base's front side (where the mark is) straight through the center of the socket hole. Once the line passes the center hole, lightly trace the line with a pencil. From the center of the socket hole, measure out the length of the bulb's radius you just wrote down. Mark that spot on the line. The socket should be between the mark you just made and the front side of the base. Now take the smaller drill bit (the one as wide as the metal rod) and drill the hole. Drill most of the way BUT NOT COMPLETELY through the base. The metal rod should fit snugly into the hole.

Now the base is ready to be painted. Once it dries, add the rubber feet to the bottom and reattach the light socket.

Step 4: Build the Axle

What you'll need:
  • Metal rod
  • Pliers
  • Ruler
  • Ballpoint pen
  • Epoxy
  • Metal file
  • Sandpaper
With the socket, bulb and metal rod in place, the rod should lightly touch the side of the bulb. Now use the pliers to shape the metal rod over the curve of the bulb. At the center of the bulb, bend the metal rod straight up. From the top of the bulb, measure about 3.5cm. Cut the metal rod at this spot.

Now you have a choice of how you want to finish the axle. I give you two options here because I found the point where the axle meets the tip to be extremely touchy and difficult to fabricate. If the friction here is not minimized as much as possible, it impedes the spinning motion.

The simple way: File the rod to a point.

Take a good look at the tip of the ballpoint pen. You want to recreate that shape at the tip of the metal rod where you just cut. Use the file for most of the shaping then use the light sandpaper to detail it.

The not-so-simple way: Use a ballpoint pen as the tip (pictured above).

Dismantle the ballpoint pen and remove the tip. BE CAREFUL! Don't get ink all over yourself. Do this part over the trash. Use the pen tip until the ink runs out (this won't take long). Seal up the open end with epoxy. Now hold the pen tip next to the end of the metal rod where you made the cut earlier. You measured that part of the rod to be 3.5cm and it should stay that way. Mark the bottom of the pen tip on the rod and cut that piece off. File the tip of the rod flat and glue the pen tip to it with epoxy. Make sure the pen tip is set straight and even with the rod before the glue dries. The ball at the tip of the ballpoint pen helps with the spinning like a ball bearing.

Step 5: Cut Out the Gel

What you'll need:
  • Gel template
  • Photographer's gel
  • Scissors
  • Xacto knife
  • Drawing compass
  • Needle
  • Scotch tape
  • Double-sided Scotch tape
  • Metal ruler
Download and print the gel template PDF from step 1. It will fit on a standard sheet of copy paper. The photographer's gel can be purchased at photography and filmmaking stores or online. If you're making Blinky, Pinky, Inky or Clyde you'll need two gels: One for the blue pupils and one for the gel template to color the paper cylinder (red for Blinky, pink for Pinky, aqua blue for Inky and yellow for Clyde). If you're making "don't eat me!" (when Pac-Man eats one of those big pellets) you only need the one blue gel (the same color used to make the pupils for the other ghosts).

TIP: The shops that sell photographer's gels will often offer gel sample booklets as well. These booklets are very cheap if not free. The gel samples inside are large enough to make the blue pupils from.

Tape the template paper to the gel so that the template lies face-up with the gel on top of it (second picture). You may want to place several pieces of double-sided scotch tape between the paper and the gel to help hold it in place.

NOTE: For the next part where you use the compass and needle (third picture), you could simply use a pair of scissors or free-hand it with the Xacto knife, instead. But the method I describe below makes much cleaner cuts.

Now take the drawing compass and the needle. Remove the pencil lead from the compass and replace it with the needle. You may need to wrap tape around the needle so that the compass can grab it. A sewing machine needle may work better because it's thicker. You'll use the compass to cut out the two circular shapes on either end of the template as well as the eye holes. You'll also need the Xacto knife and ruler to cut out the rest.

Choose one of the large circles and place the compass pin on the center dot. Set the needle on the other arm on the circle's outline. Swing the compass back and forth and the needle will cut through the gel, creating a perfect circular cut.

CAUTION: DO NOT do a full 360 degree cut. Leave the part that connects to the rectangular shape intact so that the whole thing stays in one piece. Put some tape over that spot to stop you from cutting there.

Now let's cut out the eye holes. Before cutting the half circles, take the Xacto knife and ruler and cut the straight lines between each half circle. Now take the compass and cut out the half circles. Once that's done, use the Xacto knife and ruler to cut the remaining straight lines.

Step 6: Cut Out the Pupils

What you'll need:
  • Blue photographer's gel
  • Scrap paper
  • Drawing compass with needle
  • Scissors
  • Scotch tape
  • Double-sided Scotch tape
NOTE: If you're making the "Don't eat me!" ghost you can skip this step. That one doesn't require pupils.

I wouldn't recommend using the compass cut method to cut the pupils out of the blue gel. Using the compass puts a small hole in the center of the circle. Instead, use the compass to cut out a circular piece of paper. Tape the paper to the gel and cut out the pupil with a pair of scissors (pictured above).

Apply a piece of double-sided scotch tape to each pupil and stick them to the light bulb. We'll position them later. Remember that filament strand I talked about earlier? The line the two pupil dots create should run perpendicular to the line created by the filament. Doing this makes the projection of the eyes clear and crisp (see picture in step 3).

Step 7: Build the Balance Point of the Cylinder

I had a lot of trouble with this part of the build. The piece you're about to make is what connects the axle rod to the paper cylinder (which you will make in the next step). This is the contact point on which the shell rotates so friction must be kept to a minimum.

What you'll need:
  • Vice clamp
  • Hammer
  • Drill punch
  • Pliers
  • Light grit sandpaper
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • 5/32" chrome ball bearing
  • Cap nut for 3/16" axle (Ace Hardware #884-E Pushnut)
The flat end of the cap nut (see picture above) must be rounded so the tip of the support rod will settle in the middle. Take the cap nut and place it upside-down in the vice. Clamp the jaws around the narrow cap end securely. Be careful not to crush the cap nut in the vice. There are two little flanges in the cap nut that you need to push out of the way. Use the drill punch or flathead screwdriver and the hammer to do so.

The ball bearing is the surface that will round the end of the cap nut. Place the ball bearing in the cap nut. Take the drill punch and hold it to the bearing. If you're lucky like I was, your punch will have a rounded, concave tip that rests nicely on the bearing. Take the hammer and start tapping the drill punch to create the convex, round end in the cap nut. Take your time. You don't want to warp the cap nut or tear the metal. Keep an eye on your progress between the jaws of the vice. Eventually the cap nut will get to the point where the end won't round any further and the nut will start to warp in the vice. At this point you probably can't round it any more so consider this step complete. Take the cap nut out of the vice and twist it back into shape with the pliers. Use the light grit sandpaper to clean it up. Make sure the inner surface where the rounded cap nut will make contact with the support rod is as smooth as possible to reduce friction.


Step 8: Cut Out the Cylinder

What you'll need:
  • Cylinder template
  • Scissors
  • Xacto knife
  • Metal ruler
  • Gluestick

Download the cylinder template from Step 1. You have the choice of which way you want the lamp to spin.

REMEMBER: The blades on the cylinder point in the direction the cylinder will spin.

Have the template printed out on17x11 in. white card stock paper. I recommend 80 lb. card stock.

Use the Xacto knife and metal ruler to cut out the cylinder. The side that has the template printed on it will be the inside of the cylinder. That way any printed lines that remain on the template after you cut it out will be hidden.

Place the template flat with the printed side facing up, just as it was when you cut it out. Fold the large tabs on either side of the cylinder in along the dotted lines. Fold the tabs at the end of each of the 8 blades inward as well. Pick up the template by the two large tabs on the sides and bend them toward one another. The template will now take on its cylindrical shape. Glue the two tabs together on the inside of the cylinder.

Take the large, donut-shaped tab at the tip of the first blade in your hand. In the other hand, take the tab of the blade right next to it. Glue the tab to the donut. Now take the tab on the next blade and glue that to the donut next to the previous tab (see picture above). Repeat this process until all 7 tabs are glued to the donut. Glue them in their proper order from the second blade to the seventh.

Take the cap nut you rounded in the previous step and place it through the donut hole. The rounded end of the cap nut should point out the top of the cylinder.

Step 9: Put It All Together

Place the gel over the bulb (see picture above). Reposition the pupils as you see fit.

Screw the bulb into the light socket. When you finish screwing it in, the pupils should stare at the "front" of the base.

Insert the support rod and position the balance point directly over the center of the light bulb.

Place the rounded cap nut on the tip of the support rod.

Place the cylinder on the cap nut.

The cylinder should be balanced over the light bulb. Try spinning it with your fingers to make sure its motion is unobstructed. If it touches the bulb, move the support rod over slightly.

The point of the support rod should not brush against the inside of the cap nut. If it does, the resulting friction may cause the cylinder not to spin.

Turn on the lamp. The cylinder should start to spin in under 2 minutes. If it doesn't spin, try helping it along by giving it a little spin with your fingers.

If the cylinder still doesn't spin, re-examine the point of contact between the rod and cap nut. The contact should be as minimal as you can make it. Make sure the inside of the cap nut is as smooth as possible to reduce friction. Try adding a SMALL amount of grease or WD-40 to the contact point.

This is my most complex Instructable so far. If I left out some details or you need additional help, please make it known in the comments below.



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    Whoooaaa! This is definitely something to keep in mind! Excellent Instructable!

    1 reply

    Thanks for such a great project to use as a springboard for my own one. I took your template, put a fractal design on it, cut it out in a lasercutting class I took, and then used a candle as my heat and light source. I finally put it together, and it works great! I modified the hardware at the top by using a brass lamp fitting and a washer that it just fit into. I glued the washer on the inside of the top and then put the fitting in that. The stand sticks into the rounded inside of the fitting for a smooth, low friction axis.

    1 reply

    Interesting! I'll look into that. It looks like a basic crown nut...

    You can also use one of those metal snap on buttons (for clothing) as the balance point :).


    I've had trouble with gels in direct contact with light bulbs. They get burnt out. A 1" air gap would solve this.