Instructables

Mechanical expanding cardboard lamp - This way up!

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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.
 
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spylock1 year ago
Great job,let me at it with my watercolors,I see cherry blossoms on limbs painted around an already pretty lamp.
klaatu7772 years ago
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!

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,
Euphy (author)  fresnelman903 years ago
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.

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.

Cheers!
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?
Euphy (author)  DehLeprechaun3 years ago
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 "come to life" 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)
Euphy (author)  DehLeprechaun3 years ago
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!
leadace3214 years ago
Wow love the structure and the mechanics, simple yet complex all in one.
Im 14 and im designing my own version of this.
Even better for me because you did it out of cardboard which i can acquire easily.
Euphy (author)  leadace3214 years ago
Glad you liked it - Good luck!
threadbare4 years ago
This whole instructable is just so....I don't know....sexy.
Euphy (author)  threadbare4 years ago
Thanks threadbare, sexy was what I was going for!  You're the only one that noticed.
GeekyAdam4 years ago
amazing work.  so much dedication easily deserves the favorite i gave it.
keep up the hard work and ingenuity!
Euphy (author)  GeekyAdam4 years ago
Cheers GeekyAdam!
erosser4 years ago
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!
Euphy (author)  erosser4 years ago
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!
erosser Euphy4 years ago
Cool, will check it out. Nice work, again, and happy building!
ALadyDragon4 years ago
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. :)
Euphy (author)  ALadyDragon4 years ago
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!
Nachimir4 years ago
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
Nachimir4 years ago
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! :)
Euphy (author)  Nachimir4 years ago
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!
Euphy (author)  mrmoonshineman4 years ago
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!
elephants4 years ago
Ingeeeeenious
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.
Euphy (author)  Cartermarquis4 years ago
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!
DaveTheRave5 years ago
This is awesome! I want one!
Euphy (author)  DaveTheRave5 years ago
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
Euphy (author)  stephenniall5 years ago
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!
Euphy (author)  WallaceTheSane5 years ago
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.
jamwaffles5 years ago
step 15 pic looks like something out of a saw film :P nice lamp.
c_typing5 years ago
Thank you. Euphy
I applaud your design brilliance and mechanical aptitude.
Euphy (author)  FuzzyBearGeek5 years ago
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!!!!!!!!!!!
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