Picture of Tres lamp
For my third project as an Instructables Artist in Residence, I set out to design a simple yet sturdy desk lamp that almost anyone could make.  Drawing inspiration from scrap project materials and Hoang M Nguyen's "Lampfire", Tres Lamp is a customizable lamp that can be constructed with the most basic of tools.

Step 1: Tools & Materials

Picture of Tools & Materials

• Ruler
• Pencil
• Scissors
• Protractor
• Hand saw
• Utility knife
• Wire cutters
• Sand paper
• Electrical tape


• (3) 1/2" Diameter wooden dowel rods cut to 20" length
• Natural fiber cording (at least 54")
• Large scrap piece of cardboard (at least 14" square)
• Light bulb (E26)
• Lamp socket (E26)
• Electrical cord
• Electrical plug

Helpful Links

With all the different choices in bulbs, sockets, and cords, you can really have a lot of fun outfitting this project. I found most of my components in a great little shop on Etsy called SnakeHeadVintage. The rest of the materials you should be able to find at your local hardware store.

Step 2: Create the template

Picture of Create the template
Making a simple cardboard template will help keep the dowels in place while you're hands are busy tying the knot in step 8. Use a ruler and protractor to measure out a 12" equilateral triangle. Poke holes at each of the three points for the dowels to stand in later.

Step 3: Make the feet

Picture of Make the feet
This little detail will allow the tripod structure to sit flush on any flat surface. This will help create a more finished look in the end product. Use a pencil to mark a point about 1/4" away from one end of each dowel. Use the hand saw to make angled cuts tangent to those marks. Use a low or medium grit sandpaper to clean up the ends of each dowel afterwards.

Step 4: Make the notch

Picture of Make the notch
This step will help to create the tripod structure with the use of just a single knot. Mark a line about 5" from the top of one of the dowels and cut about 1/3 of the way deep. Leave the remaining two dowels uncut.

Step 5: Wet the cord

Picture of Wet the cord
This step will help create a sturdy tripod structure (thanks to fellow artist in residence M.C. Langer for this great tip!). Keep in mind this will only work on natural fiber cords and not synthetics; cotton, hemp, jute, or twine will work great. All you need to do is soak your cord under some running water; this will let the fibers expand and assist you in keeping the cord taught during wrapping. 

Step 6: Start the wrap

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Now that your cord is saturated, pull it down into the notch you made earlier, leaving about 8" of slack on the left side and the rest on the right. Next, roll the dowel over and position the remaining two dowels next to it. Grab your electrical cord and position it somewhere on top/ in between the dowels. Now wrap the long end of the cord around the dowel/cord bunch 4-5 times. Align the cord as you are wrapping but keep it at about a medium tightness for now...

Step 7: Stand it up

Picture of Stand it up
Ok, looking good. Fetch the template you made earlier in step 2 and stand your dowel/cord bunch upright using the slots in the template. The "feet" you made earlier should be pointing away from the center and sitting flush to the cardboard and table surface. Take a moment to shuffle the electrical cord into the center of the bunch from the top. Now you can tighten your cord to super tightness status. The wet cord and soft wood will give you clear feedback as to when it's taught or not; when you can here it creak or you can't pull any tighter, that's when you're taught...

Step 8: Make the knot

Picture of Make the knot
Ok, let's do this thing. Follow the step by step photos to secure your tripod structure. I have broken this section up into two images to help illustrate that there are two parts to the knot. In part 2, you will rotate the tripod. As step L transitions into N, O, and P, you will rotate your tripod structure to complete the second part of the knot. 

Step 9: Wire the socket/plug

Picture of Wire the socket/plug
Alright, you're all set to wire it up. Use your wire cutters and electrical tape to prep the cord. It's pretty simple here, just connect wire to terminal.

Step 10: Light it up

Picture of Light it up
Almost done! Depending on the length of the bulb, you will need to adjust the height of the electrical cord accordingly; since it is held in place by the pressure of the knot, all you need to do is give it a firm tug in either direction. Once you've got it in a good spot, screw in the bulb, plug it in, sit back and enjoy!
adamkubacki made it!11 months ago

Fun, easy project!

I decided to go with larger rope tied in a survival stand/tripod lashing setup. Personal preference, liked the idea of using simple rope techniques to make it work. I did did not need the cardboard template using this method.

How to lash a tripod: http://www.animatedknots.com/lashtripod/

tres lamp.jpg
dsweet21 year ago

for some reason the second half of the lamp knot I can't seem to get...any help??

therumroom2 years ago
Love it! I just made this today for a birthday gift :-) I bought my cord light from World Market (they come in different bright colors which gives it a nice pop) and used jute twine to tie it all together. I then sprayed the wood with clear gloss paint to finish it off. Thanks so much for the share!
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timwikander (author)  therumroom2 years ago
That's great! Thanks for sharing the pics!
is the knot you tied to really finish binding the tripod based on a sailmaker's whipping to finish off hawser laid rope? I've modified that knot to hold a tripod joint (or more than three legs for that matter) before and it works pretty well. nice work!
MCUman2 years ago
This is kickin'. Only thing I'd add, is running it off a dimmer in a box under the desk. Nice job.
timwikander (author)  MCUman2 years ago
Good idea! I think I'll try the same.
scooter762 years ago
Very nice. Well done
repurposed2 years ago
Such a fine, simple design - congratulations and thanks so much for sharing!
milliwik2 years ago
This is great! Where did you buy your bulb. I love the shape and can't find a similar one.
timwikander (author)  milliwik2 years ago
Hey, no problem. Actually I found that bulb at a hardware store a couple streets down from Instructables. It is a Satco Vintage Style 40W Cage Style bulb. The model number is S2417. I just checked and found them on amazon.com. Schoolhouseelectric.com is another cool place to find bulbs if you want to shop around a bit. :)
Oh, sorry, just saw the last paragraph.
alanemartin2 years ago
Google "tripod lashing" for another tying method. It's what scouts use to create a tripod. No need for the cardboard to hold the sticks while you tie them.

Nice job with the 'ible. I need a new desk lamp and this may just be it.
timwikander (author)  alanemartin2 years ago
Thanks! The tripod lashing methods I found online didn't do a great job of holding the cord in place, but maybe I was missing something. Let me know how it works if you try it out!
leondo2 years ago
Clean design using everyday items with just enough flare.
timwikander (author)  leondo2 years ago
Thanks Leon!
Arghus2 years ago
both Simple and Great, very good job
SHS_PnE2 years ago
this is really great
timwikander (author)  SHS_PnE2 years ago
Glad you like it!
jameso2 years ago
Reminds me of a camp fire.
timwikander (author)  jameso2 years ago
That you can put on a table or desk :)
Jayefuu2 years ago
Excellent documentation and it looks pretty! Doesn't seem very functional though.
timwikander (author)  Jayefuu2 years ago
Thanks! I suppose I should clarify that it's not really a typical task light. It produces a warm ambient light that is easy on the eyes in a dark room; the sort of light you might keep on during a movie or while on a laptop.
M.C. Langer2 years ago
Amazing instructable Tim!! I love that lamp! And thanks for the mention! :-)