I'm going to show you how I went about designing and making an really neat lamp, a lamp that is small and dim for mood lighting, and tall and bright for practical lighting. It has an internal counterweighted scissor-lift mechanism, and a translucent paper shade.

The whole structure is made of old corrugated cardboard boxes and a few other fasteners from sustainable and recycled sources. It's low-impact stuff. The non-eco-neutral parts are the electrical bits, but these all stay discrete and complete enough that you can reuse them for other projects when you get tired of this.

One of the main purposes of this is to show how good corrugated cardboard is as a material - it excels as a free prototyping material (can often use instead of foam-core), can be easily sawn or cut with knives or sanded and is light and easy to handle, but is also strong enough to make certain kinds of finished product from. It isn't toxic and doesn't make dust when you cut it, so it doesn't need a workshop either. It lends a guilt-free disposability to a product, since it is intrinsically so easy to recycle (biodegradable even, if it never gets to the recycling centre), and by rescuing it from an early demise you've already extended it's lifespan considerably. It's free if you know where to look. Seriously, a lamp like this is what packing boxes dream of being made into.

The vast majority of this lamp is paper-based, and paper is easily recycled and biodegradable. The board has already been recycled at least once. It's not a half-hour project to construct this lamp, but then, that's usually the way with re-use. Instead of the embodied energy going into running a giant machine to make an injection-moulded product in a factory thousands of miles away, and flying it here, the embodied energy come from your muscles and your brain, and is gradually injected into the product over the course of a few evenings of attention.

This project was something I did initially in a rudimentary way many years ago, and then have recently been developing further - spurred on by the promise of easy fabrication services (a la Ponoko http://www.ponoko.com). Because I've got the materials to detail the design process, I'll do that too and show how I arrived at the design using a few sketches and whathaveyou. If you just want the cold, hard facts, and none of my sparkling insight and shady drawings (I never was very good at the sketches), jump straight to the how-to on step 5.

Step 1: The Brief

I had a project once to build a lamp, with a particular customer and application in mind. I went for what I knew and started looking for something that would appeal to a handy, craft-orientated student who had to use a single room for all of his or her occasions (me).

This led to a number of conclusions pretty quickly:
1. The lamp needs to be adaptable - because it must be able to light a room enough for relaxing, for entertaining, and also to be bright enough to be usable when you actually need to be able to see things.
2. The lamp must be cheap - simply put, students don't have a lot of money.
3. The lamp must be reasonably neutral in style - Student's rooms aren't designed from scratch by interior designers, and while some might be contrived (you know the usual, mirrorballs, pink fluff and walls full of photographs), most are generic, and the lamp can't be so stylised that it'll look odd.

I've attached a few sketches that I did of what are, essentially, characterised angle-poise-type lamps. These met the brief of being adaptable - and then some, and I loved the idea. I admit I have a number of pet "things" I like to see in products, in things. One of them is the idea of a mechanical creature - a development perhaps of having a skeleton displayed (which was a staple of tv scientists laboratories when I was younger) - and these first sketches tapped into that theme nicely. I was reminded gently by my lecturer that one must be careful not to be "cheesy", and that is an extremely valid point. These kinds of design broke rule 3 by their nature.

The second sketch shows a rough working-out drawing for a modular system based on a number of lit cubes with connectors on all sides. The theory being that apart from one which would be connected to a transformer, these could just be fairly simply thrown together, and where they touched, they lit, and so light could be controlled very easily by just adding more cubes, and it could be removed by taking cubes away. Direction of light could be changed by turning the cubes, or by stacking them high, and intensity by making rows rather than clusters.

A third idea (not shown) had the lamps on a wire track system just like a lot of low-voltage lighting, but the lamp units themselves were motorised and could drive along the wires like railway tracks, and so light could be very easily moved to certain areas, and pointed certain directions, and furthermore they would be, by default, autonomous, and would drive about as and when they please. The complexity and cost of this idea was prohibitive, but I admit I still love it in concept.

The last sketch shows a petalled, nesting kind of shade.
That was awesome! Best Instructuons ive seen yet and I enjoyed the preamble and explanation as to how you came to the design...you could almost write a short story novel for this project ha. Thank you.
Great job,let me at it with my watercolors,I see cherry blossoms on limbs painted around an already pretty lamp.
Beautiful!!!! And will be so more eficient if have lamps that will bright as so on up higher, and turn-off if decrease, or go down.
Kudos on an interesting lamp! <br><br>I think a different way of doing this would be to have it fan out from a center point, similar to an open book. This would be a lower profile Desk Lamp,
Hey thanks, did you mean a horizontal stretch or a vertical one? I've always tended to work on vertical patterns for this lamp, because it simplifies the loading an awful lot. Everything is stacked in one axis so it's easy to balance. I've been trialling a tilting version and it's a right pain - easy to balance as long as the axis stays straight, but as soon as it tilts a little and the play in the joints lets it sag a bit, then the balance all goes off and it goes a bit wrong.<br><br>You could quite easily make this lamp with the main bearing rod being in the centre, so it expands upwards and downwards at the same speed - I planned that version for a standard lamp sized piece. That'd be quite easy because it wouldn't need much of a counterweight - both sides would probably weigh more or less the same anyway.<br><br>Cheers!<br>Sandy Noble
have you ever thought of motorising it and adding motion sensors so that when a person walks in the room it expands and then after awhile of no movement it went bak down?
Yeah, a motorised / automatic version is kind of the logical conclusion isn't it. I don't think you'd want a fully automatic one for a home (would it go back down and leave you in the dark if you stayed still for too long?), but it's certainly an option for a more transient space, and appeals even more as some kind of installation/art piece. Lots of them in alcoves along the walls of a bar, and they &quot;come to life&quot; when someone walks up. I'd mainly thought about a motorised version in terms of making it remote controlled rather than necessarily fully automatic, so you wouldn't have to lean behind the sofa to pull it up/down. A fragile shade would be protected from dirty/clumsy fingers too. Thanks for your comment!
thanks i might have to make one of these it looks great, mine probably will look horrible and thrown together in ten minutes. (wich it probably will be)
Well it does need a bit of care so as to not end up all wonky, but even wonky, it's still pretty neat I think. Let me know if you get a version working!
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Wow love the structure and the mechanics, simple yet complex all in one. <br /> Im 14 and im designing my own version of this.<br /> Even better for me because you did it out of cardboard which i can acquire easily. <br />
Glad you liked it - Good luck!<br />
This whole instructable is just so....I don't know....sexy.
Thanks threadbare, sexy was what I was going for!&nbsp; You're the only one that noticed. <br />
amazing work.&nbsp; so much dedication easily deserves the favorite i gave it.<br /> keep up the hard work and ingenuity!
Cheers GeekyAdam!<br />
Great! I heart the eco-friendly aspect, and admire your sturdy design as a cardboard advocate, myself. I also really like the feature where the lights turn on as the structure lifts. It seems to be the most difficult bit of circuitry, but you explain it very nicely. The paper folding looks really labor-intensive! I can think of a whole host of methods that would also be cool; your comment on knitted shades got me cogs turnin', and to keep the eco-friendly spirit, why not knit or macrame a shade out of plastic bag "yarn" (a la some other I-bles)? I might try to emulate this for my roommate, who is moving into a single dorm room next year and who is hot on decorating. Thanks for the inspiration!
Hi Erosser, thanks for the comment - much appreciated! You're right that the paper folding bit is the most awful bit - by far. Plastic bags are an excellent idea - right kind of translucency certainly, as long as the structure is soft enough to collapse nicely where it gets compressed, I think that might be a winner. The reason the paper is ideal is that it holds a crease, so the way it compresses is controlled. If a plastic bag shade can be controlled (either by folding, or with some kind of internal web of elastic or something), then I don't see why not. I don't know if you've looked, but I've got some pics of other lamps around this design (smaller) on my website (www.euphy.co.uk), along with a lycra-type tube shade that some people prefer to the paper zig zags. Thanks again!
Cool, will check it out. Nice work, again, and happy building!
Wow.. This is awesome, and what a Instructable. This is something i would love to tackle. Thankyou for so much details and so many videos. It really has helped get my head around things. Also congrats on the win. :)
Thanks a lot LadyDragon, I'm so glad you liked it - The videos don't have much detail in them, but it was hard to get the "point" of the lamp across without them! The first one is particularly annoying because the auto-exposure of the camera meant that the room never got brighter, even when the lamp was fully on! Thanks again, and I'd love to see anything like this that you try!
Congrats to you too Euphy :) I'm really impressed with this; such a nice bit of design to couple brightness with height.
sandy: sorry i appear to have missed the deadline for voting...sorry dude been working! good effort nonetheless old bean! glad to hear your well and the old imagination is truly firing on all 16 cylinders! keep up the good work...nick
Didn't really notice this one during voting (Lemonie is right about the image :)), but took a look through just now and it's fantastic! :)
Thanks Nachimir! I changed the image after Lemonie's suggestion, to a one that showed the finished lamp, up and down (ha ha, after I'd finished it!), but I changed it to the animated gif .. mostly because I thought it was hilarious! And wondered if it might catch the eye more of any mouseovers. I've changed it to something more ambiguous... Well, I am very mysterioso.
very excellent instructable, while reading this, i thought to myself, "i have a large empty space in a corner ABOVE my bed, could i somehow hang something like this?" just picked up a massive pack of thick skewers, and you've got my mind crankin. great job!
Thanks man! This particular counterweight scheme works upside down or this way up (ha ha!), but it's pretty straightforward, so I'm sure you can see how it could be adapted easily. It is also possible to tilt the whole thing on it's main pivot (second from the bottom), if you take the bottom axle out of the slot, but the counterweighting goes a bit weird after a while! Hope you get something done! Thanks for your comment, and good luck with the skewers!
In step 15 you talk about how the oil from your hands could cause the bulbs to explode. From first-hand experience working with lights in a theatre, i can say that the bulbs do not explode, but we have a box of lamps that have little "explosions", basically the oil heats up and causes the glass to melt and form a little bubble. The lamps usually don't work after that. That being said, these lights are in the range of 750W or 1kW, so you shouldn't have a problem with household lamps.
Also, this is an really awesome lamp.
Thanks for your comment - and thanks for the information about the bulbs. I always wondered if this exploding theory was just a theoretical risk, or if it ever actually happened in practice. I'll keep them clean anyway!
This is awesome! I want one!
Well it's got to go somewhere! Thanks for your comment mate! I'll make a desktop one for you one day.
Geez must of took a lot of time !! i have a lamp similar to this i bought from ikea from about £15( about $30) and this beats it in aestethics and Just How its made ypu show someone this they say what i say Wow lol Rated 5/5
Didn't take an awful lot of time - a weeks worth of evenings probably, but that's drawing all the plans and the Instructable of course, and updating the design along the way. If there's a shade big enough for me to use on a lamp like this, I'd like to use it. The shade is the hardest bit to do on this lamp by far. I did wonder if I could just use a few standard paper shades stuck together, one shade per "cell" in the scissor. I'm going to look into it for future iterations. Thanks for your comment - much appreciated!
Amazing! I'm inspired, now. I already have paper taped over most of my lamps to diffuse the light. I love how over-technical this is. Motorized lighting!
The motorised lighting dream lives on in my head! I think it'd be cute to have a bunch of little lights rolling around the ceiling - they could maybe learn your favourite lighting configurations for different times of the day, and start congregating where they are usually needed before they're required. Except there'd be a couple of rebellious ones programmed to attempt to disrupt the patterns. However, potentially extremely annoying if you want to read a book, and all the lights suddenly start to drive off down the other end of the room.
step 15 pic looks like something out of a saw film :P nice lamp.
Thank you. Euphy
I applaud your design brilliance and mechanical aptitude.
Thanks FuzzyBearGeek, you are very kind! Seriously, your enthusiasm is very motivating too - many thanks!
when you get sick of it throw some oyster mushroom spawn on it and then reap the harvest..cellulose praise jeebus!!!!!!!!!!!
Ha ha! "What a delicious lamp you have!"
great that you have so many pics, and detailed instructions, but this seems like it would cost more, and take too much work for the result, you are better off buying a normal lamp and a dimmer switch<br/><br/>** &amp; 1/2<br/>
I think you're missing the point. Not only is this design a one-of-a-kind, and therefore something you can't get at the store, it's a peek at the industrial design process. Now that it's been designed and made, it could be sold for profit, and well-designed lighting isn't cheap. What I'd like to see next from this maker is how the design was taken from the prototype to the manufacturing stage, step-by-step. I know, not easy, but it sure would be interesting to me.
my statement is that this is a little complicated for the average DIY.
Yes... and? That's the beautiful thing about people in this world. The diversity. This site isn't an exclusive "average joe diy". So why even make the comment when it's obvious this isn't the same type of project as say, i.e. gluing a quarter to the floor for a fun prank. Again. What a wonderful thing to have looked at today. It motivates me. I never see msyelf <yet> making something like this but it's wonderful to see the brilliance and be motivated on even just my daily art and projects around my apartment. Now, to add to my list of people to watch. Have a great day, Euphy! Thank you for the uplift in spirit and imagination! -David
Hi JZ, thanks for your interest, and comment - You're absolutely right of course in that if all you want is something you can dim, and you want it now, then this isn't it! Cost-wise it won't leave you much out of pocket, but the time investment is not (ahem) insignificant. It isn't really complicated, but it has a lot of bits! Like etlerd kindly said, it isn't something you can just buy off the shelf. There isn't anything like this in production, and I'd have to do some serious work to bring the assembly complexity down before it could be manufactured profitably on a large scale. Etlerd, I'd love to take the design further, but I don't have a lot of resources to do so right now, strictly hobbyist business! I've got a pack of pieces on its way from Ponoko right now though, and it'll be nice to work with parts that don't have that "hand cut" look! Using corrugated board for this instructable has reminded me what a nice material it is to use though, so I'll look again at the cardboard version as a final product. It was always designed to be sold as a kit, partially assembled with the fiddly stuff done on jigs and things. I'll add a few more sketches of the development a bit later. Trying to figure out how to put a video on...
How cool is this! Very impressed oh wonder colleague of mine.
Thanks for the comments folks - they are very encouraging!

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Bio: Like everyone, I like making things. I'm currently a computer programmer by trade, which I adore, but I like building physical things when I ... More »
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