Introduction: Universal Lamp Shade Polygon Building Kit

Picture of Universal Lamp Shade Polygon Building Kit

One simple cut-out shape lets you build all sorts of different designer-looking lampshades! You can make dozens different geometric forms using various numbers of the cut-out shape made from paper or plastic. All the standard mathematical polyhedrons and such are possible.

The pieces just fold together by hand into rigid forms, and you can take them apart and build into new shapes any time!

this is fun and educational for kids and adults alike, and you get a really nice lampshade when you are done.

As seen in ReadyMade Magazine, Dec. 2007/Jan 2008 issue

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Step 1: What You Need

Picture of What You Need

I saw a lampshade made out of the shape below at a friend's house, so I traced the shape and made my own. the lamp i saw used thin plastic for the pieces. I believe the original design for this lamp was done over 30 years ago by the firm Iqlight, they sell pre-cut parts in case you do not want to make the parts yourself.

Below is the shape as an image, and i've also attached a DXF file.

You will need sheets of paper or plastic that allow light to get through. The stiffness of your material determines how large your pieces can be - stiffer material for larger pieces and larger lamps, thinner material for smaller pieces and smaller lamps. (see next step)

You will need a lamp fixture - just a raw socket on a cord. I found some nice ones at Ikea for $4, and some fluorescent bulbs. Use a compact fluorescent bulb so you can get more light without melting the plastic.

I experimented with a number of different plastics and sizes for the parts, here are my results:

- HDPE: works well, looks good, cheap and easy to get. I used 0.8mm thick stock for 8cm pieces (measured flat-side to flat-side). That's about the smallest you'd want to go with that thickness, you could go up to 12 or 15cm with that thickness. this is the least expensive plastic by far. One of the commenters suggested using plastic milk-bottles, which are made of HDPE, this is a good idea!

- Acetal (delrin): this seems to be the best choice for looks, it has the purest white color and best light dispersion (basically, looks just like acrylic except it doesn't crack as easily). I used 0.35mm stock for 6cm and 8cm pieces, and 0.5mm stock for 8-12cm pieces, and 0.65mm stock for 12-15cm pieces. It still is a little brittle and harder to work with than HDPE, and more expensive. if you cut this with scissors it will be somewhat tricky due to the brittleness, but possible.

- Vinyl: I did not try it, probably want to use thicker pieces since it is not very stiff. but you can use colors!

- Paper: I did not try paper but it should be good for smaller constructions.

- Laminated paper: this is a great idea suggested in the coments section. try laminating color tissue paper, then cut the pieces from that. very unique and colorful!

- Acrylic: too brittle, it will crack when you try to assemble. too bad!

- Nylon: has a yellow-ish look when lit up which makes it undesirable.

- for a large construction use stiffer material for the same size piece. ie, if you are making a lampshade with 12 pieces use thinner material than if you are making a shade with 100 pieces, assuming same size pieces.

Where to get it:

HDPE 1/32" sheet: sheet: item number 42584

Acetal sheet, 0.015" and 0.020":: item number 8738K52 and 8738K53

Step 2: Cut Out Your Pieces

You can cut your pieces in a couple ways:

- trace them out with a marker, then use scissors or a knife. this is slow but can be done easily by anyone.

- make a "cookie cutter" out of sheet metal in the shape of the part. then heat the cutter with a torch and use it to stamp out the parts (only works for plastic)

- use a laser cutter

Step 3: Assemble!

Picture of Assemble!

just try fitting the parts together! they go together in many different ways. you can make a variety of corners with 3, 4 or 5 adjoining pieces.

there are several ways to think about and categorize the different types of geometric shapes that can be constructed. below i've shown top and bottom views of every different type of vertex (corner) that can be built. all larger assemblies are made up of a combination of the types of corners shown below, so think of them as your building blocks.

corners can also be 'left handed' and 'right handed' - mirror images of each other.

Step 4: Assemble!

Picture of Assemble!

you can make forms with anything from 8 to 100 or more pieces each. the only drawback seems to be that there is no way to make concave corners, only convex corners are possible.

you can see my examples below, and you can see more at this site:
that site also sells the parts if you don't want to make them yourself (but i think it is pricey).

Step 5: Other Ideas

Picture of Other Ideas

I think the design i've presented is my favorite because it is reconfigurable into lots of shapes, but i thought i'd put some links to other styles which can also be made from sheets of paper or plastic.

the lampshade shown below i spotted hanging from the eaves of a hotel in china. it is made from i think 6 identical pieces (possibly 7 or 8). each piece is a large diamond shape with slots cut in it to allow sliding the pieces together. it looks like each diamond is slid into itself to form one of the central vertical tubes, its free tips are then slid into the other pieces to hold the whole thing together. (i have not actually made one yet, so please comment if you have).

also see:

you can also usually find one or two polygon-inspired lampshade designs at your local designer lighting store, and at Ikea.


mloehmann made it! (author)2017-08-21

These are tricky at first, but we love making them. I've decorated my classroom with them, and my daughters have different sizes hanging in their rooms. A wonderful "snow day" activity!

DukeP (author)2017-01-08

Lovely version of the copyrighted and protected work by the Danish designer Holger Strøm.

Please don't setup an etsy shop selling these. ;)

If you are not making them for yourself, go here and buy the original:

Klode (author)2009-06-09

Has anybody tried it with 1/32" birch plywood? I can't seem to find this kind of plastic in Canada and our milk is sold in cartons not jugs... So i am tempted to try it with thin plywood... I am looking to make the 80 piece model... Thanks for your help!

kerrym (author)Klode2010-03-06

I'm in Canada, too.  I made mine using those super-flexible plastic cutting mats sold at the dollar store.  They come in different colours, but I used the clear/white-ish ones.

DeniseM121 (author)kerrym2016-10-01

ansleybleu (author)kerrym2011-09-26

How many piece make the bottom & top? Do you have a photo of the bottom of this lamp? This is the one I want to make, but cannot figure out how many pieces go on the top & bottom.
Thanks for any help!

jns02c (author)kerrym2011-08-22

This is great! So you used the cut out listed at the top of this page? How many pieces is it? Did you just play with it until it became this shape? Thanks.

kerrym (author)jns02c2011-08-26

Yes, I used the template given above. This is the 80 piece variation as seen on the Iqlight site. I used their photo & diagrams to figure out how to assemble the pieces to get this shape.

flyingpuppy (author)kerrym2011-05-20

Thanks for the material suggestion! This is going to be my Christmas present to a few people this year!

jsiew1 (author)kerrym2011-04-09

Very nice... i like it very much. do you have the pic of the original shape per piece? i would like to try doing it for my new house :-)

velorna (author)kerrym2011-03-29

beautiful and what a great idea

tangela (author)kerrym2010-09-30

Plastic cutting mats? The ones that are sold for chopping vegetables on and such?

kerrym (author)tangela2010-10-01


giannacl (author)kerrym2010-06-19

thats beautiful! how many pieces to make that size?

kerrym (author)giannacl2010-06-19

This one is the 80 piece variation

giannacl (author)kerrym2010-06-19

one more question (blush): what size did you choose?

kerrym (author)giannacl2010-06-23

I just measured them, and each piece is about 5" long and 4 1/4" at its widest point. The finished light is roughly 15" in diameter, 11" high.

giannacl (author)kerrym2010-06-23

thank you!

DeniseM121 (author)Klode2016-10-01

woodNfish (author)Klode2010-10-04

Where are you looking for suppliers? Look up industrial supply sources in your area. Worst case you can order over the internet or scavenge other products like kerrym suggests.

Ex0 (author)Klode2010-02-19

I'm in Canada too..I was thinking...would 2 litre pop bottles work?

Moomoomilk (author)Klode2009-06-21

I LOVE CANADA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! <3<3<3<3

Creaflux (author)2016-03-28

The original lamp is made by Holger Strøm, and it is Danish design at its best :)

warrenmarc made it! (author)2016-01-02

this is another of my creations... lots more new shapes never created by anyone else on my facebook page

knutmo (author)2007-04-30

can someone please help me out on how to make the HUGE ball with 120 modules? I keep ending up with 30 module ones....

bpark1000 (author)knutmo2015-08-25

It is very difficult. Get instructions from

You need a balloon that can be inflated to keep the pieces from curling inward. They curl inward so much that the lamp rips apart as you are trying to assemble it.

dan (author)knutmo2007-05-07

i've added some more photos in the last step including an 80-piece construction which is built very similar to the 120-piece one

knutmo (author)dan2007-05-27

thanks for the extra photos, but I still can't seem to do it. I really fail to see the patterns in your examples and in the few drawings I have found. I'm able to make the 30-piece balls when I follow the steps and the video that's on the IQLight website, but I have nowhere found similar instructions for the bigger ones. If someone has step-by-step instructions I'd be really grateful!!!

Nevermore78 (author)knutmo2007-05-28

First of all, thanks Dan for this great instructable. I've had a lot of fun building this things. As a small contribution, I created a "roadmap" for the 120-piece one. I painted the pieces with two colors, to distinguish between the two faces (some pieces go face-up, and some go face-down). I also added a view of the bottom part to make the beginning a little easier. I built a 14cm diam. version with paper (this is how I understood the structure). As you can see in the pictures, it looks more like a dodecahedron rather than a sphere. .

starcana (author)Nevermore782012-02-21

Hi, thanks so much for this. Have just bought 120 pieces in Thailand. Sorry to be thick but can you tell me - do you make each of the top elements first (as my instruction sheet, then add the long row, then the next long row and then the bottom elements. Hope that makes sense, what I'm asking is what order did you put this together in. thanks

Nevermore78 (author)starcana2012-03-05

Hi Starcana!

The way you describe it is pretty much correct, except for the fact that it is a lot easier if you take the bottom element as a start. You have to assemble the first five pieces (the white ones in my diagram) forming the pentagonal base, and then you continue growing that bowl-like structure row by row (adding "circles"), until you get to the closing phase, where you'll eventually end up with the last five top pieces, that you'll just have to interlock.

It may look complicated, but you'll se that once you've done the first couple of rows it's pretty straightforward. Just keep an eye of the orientation of each piece.

Happy building!

starcana (author)Nevermore782012-03-07

Thanks for this but I'd given up and have just completed the 60 piece one which is probably a better size for where I want it. Just the flex/bulb to get in now without it collapsing! Thanks again.

byte_me (author)Nevermore782009-11-22

i did it! i finally did it! thanks nevermore. i couldn't have done it without your help :) i made mine with HDPE plastic from plastic bottles :)

Nevermore78 (author)Nevermore782007-10-04

Hi! I used regular printer paper, it's OK for that size. The pieces I used are 4.5 cm in its long diagonal. They're quite small, so be patient with the scissors.... Using those numbers you'll be able to predict the final size of the ball. Have fun!

feelgoodlost (author)Nevermore782007-10-02

amazing! what kind of paper did you use? im afraid normal printer paper will be too flimsy. also, what was the approximate length of pieces that made a 14cm ball? id like to to be able to predict what size it comes out to.

knutmo (author)Nevermore782007-06-03

thank you SO VERY VERY VERY MUCH for your excellent roadmap!! This is exactly what I needed to build my 120-piece behemoth lamp! I couldn't have done it without you guys!!! If you're ever in Utrecht, The Netherlands, be sure to look me up and I'll buy you beer.

dan (author)Nevermore782007-05-31

thanks for posting the photos! this is a more attractive shape i think than the 80-piece one, i think i will have to upgrade my 80-piece to a 120.

nickpeer (author)knutmo2007-06-20


nickpeer (author)nickpeer2007-06-20


jtp139 (author)2012-05-03

oooooh! How do you attach it to the light?

bpark1000 (author)jtp1392015-08-25

For hanging, you get a cord and socket set. Put bulb in socket. Assemble polygon. On corner where 5 sides meet, loosen it and open a hole. Drop lamp end of cordset in, adjust lamp in center of polygon, and re-tighten polygon around cord. see

Rose MarieL (author)2014-09-05

Where can we buy pre cut pieces for this universal lamp shade - beautiful. Can we get colored pieces

bpark1000 (author)Rose MarieL2015-08-25

Buy from

cardboardguy (author)2011-11-09

My version upon this tutorial made with beer cans, with labels facing inwards. It gives the shade a crisp aluminium look. Cutting the template out from each can was a killer, but the result was worth.

VerenaA (author)cardboardguy2015-07-04

I pinned the idea for this light fixture from pinterest a while back and was scrolling though the lamp diys that I had collected, trying to decide which idea I wanted to try. I followed the link back to instructables, and found your post. I love love love this idea! I wish you had posted a pic of what it looks like lit up.

bpark1000 (author)VerenaA2015-08-25

There are gobs of photos on

and you can purchase the pieces there.

foobear (author)cardboardguy2012-08-22

How many shapes did it take to make the complete sphere?

cardboardguy (author)foobear2012-08-22

30 pieces.

bedragon (author)cardboardguy2011-12-15

This is SUPER!!

cardboardguy (author)bedragon2012-03-05


About This Instructable




Bio: Dan Goldwater is a co-founder of Instructables. Currently he operates MonkeyLectric where he develops revolutionary bike lighting products.
More by dan:Giant Xylophone made from Bed SlatsEasy Mothers Day Fudge (with small child)Mosaic Tile Pixel Art Car
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