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Wood Manikin Figure Lamp with iPad - A DIY tutorial

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Picture of Wood Manikin Figure Lamp with iPad - A DIY tutorial
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The internet is a wondrous place.

The other day I was browsing Twitter for interesting lamp designs (don't we all do this?) and ran across the Colgao lamp from enPieza! studio in Madrid, Spain. While their lamp is a bit more morbid than my standard home decor concepts, I found their use of a chromed light bulb in an anthropomorphic manner to be intriguing and knew I had to do something like that myself. Thus this guy was born after some experimenting and trying different ideas out.

I felt this guy needs to be doing something to emphasize the humanity aspect of the lamp for the full anthropomorphic effect.  Originally it was going to be on the phone with a cup of coffee in the other hand, but at 1/6 scale those items are a bit too small.  I went with the iPad prop, and it looks great.    This is a 12" tall (1/6 scale) manikin, the same size as Barbie, old school GI Joe, etc.  There are a lot of props available in that scale, and one of these days I'm going to get a scale guitar and see how that looks.

The manikin is fully posable, and the light bulb socket is candelabra (E12) sized and will handle up to a 30W bulb.     While the chrome bulb looks awesome, I've tried a few others and they all have their advantages.   Be aware that the exposed bulbs like this do get hot and can burn if you touch them after they have been on for a bit.  

If you decide not to make your own but still want one, do not despair!  I have them for sale in my Etsy Shop.  

Please come take a look! 




 
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Step 1: Tools and Materials

While you don't need a huge selection of tools you do need some.

Materials:


Tools:

Step 2: Off with their head - disassemble the manikin

Picture of Off with their head - disassemble the manikin
Wood manikins have two springs inside them to keep the parts together under tension, but still allow you to move the limbs and make it posable.  

One spring is horizontal from arm to arm, and the other is vertical and connects the Head down to the Hips.  

Our first step is to remove the vertical spring at the head.  Some manikins have the spring attached via screw (as this one does) and some via pin.  If the anchor point is screwed in, just take it out.  If it's pinned, cut the spring with wire cutters or drill out and punch the pin so the spring comes loose.  

At this point you have the Head, neck, torso, waist and hips all loose and separate.  
Inside the hips should be another anchor point for the vertical spring.  You can remove that now as well. 

Now it's time to take off the arms.  We are re-using the horizontal spring between them, so be careful not to pull the arms out of the torso too much as it might permanently damage the spring.  Don't worry if the spring gets a bit stretched out but we don't want to overdo that. 

Pull out one arm till one spring coil is exposed, then clamp that with the forceps to hold it.  There is a small brass screw in the arm that the spring latched on to, take that out and pull the arm off the spring end.  Put that tiny brass screw back in the arm just to keep it where you know it is.  Now release the forceps and let the spring snap back.  Pull off the other arm and mark with pencil on the shoulder nubbins your left and right so you can tell when you put them back.  

Unscrew the base and support from the Hips.  This may take more twists than you think, generally it's really in there.  

The head, neck, old base, support post and vertical spring are now spare parts - use them for other projects. 

Step 3: Cut apart the candle lamp and the aluminum tubing.

We need to break down the candle lamp into the socket with pigtail, and the plug with cord and switch.  

Unscrew the plastic tube from the brass base. 

Carefully saw a cut around the plastic tube somewhere around 1.5" from the top of the socket.   There is an electrical cord in there so be sure not to cut it.  

Now you have the end of the plastic tube with the socket embedded in it and a cord running out.  Look in the section you just cut and see how the socket has some air between it and the tube wall - cut vertically in this section to break out the socket from the tube.  I sawed most of the way and then did the last little bit of this with my utility knife to control the final cut.   Using pliers and a screwdriver, break off the plastic tube pieces and free the socket and cord.  

Once that is done, measure about 13" from the top of the socket and cut the cord.   This gives you something you can install in the manikin and we will solder back up the ends at the end of the process. 

Now it's time to cut the aluminum tubing to length.  You want something that will go from about 2/3rds the way up the hips to one inch past the bottom of the feet.  This is about 7.5" , give or take.   I think that number should work for most 12" manikins on the market.    Again, using your small saw cut the aluminum tubing to length.  Once you have done that, use the needle files to smooth over any burrs from the cut, in particular use the round file to smooth out the inside edge.  The electrical wiring will be pulled over this edge and you don't want anything that could slice it open.  

Step 4: Drill out the manikin

We need to drill out the manikin parts so we can stuff the lamp socket and electric wiring inside it.  

I used a drill press and forstner bits for this part.  You might be able to use either spade bits or a hand drill, but I would not recommend it as there isn't a lot of room inside the manikin for wobbly and off center holes.

I clamped all the parts in place on the drill press with a wood handspring clamp and then clamped that down to the table.  The wood clamp doesn't mar the manikin parts like a metal clamp might and was able to grip the funky contours well enough for drilling.

To drill out the torso to take the socket, use a 3/4" forstner bit.  Drill to a depth of 1.25" from the top of the torso, centering on the existing neck hole.  This is enough room for the socket and wiring and should make the top of the socket just about flush with the top of the torso. 

Carefully drill out the torso.  Take your time, there isn't a rush and you want to make sure not to mar up any of the manikin parts. 

After you have drilled out the torso, test fit the socket. It should be a flush or a bit below the top of the torso.  If it's sticking up a bit, put the torso back in the drill press and drill out a bit more.

Now drill out the waist with a 1/2" forstner bit, centered on the existing hole.   This gives more room for the electrical wiring and elastic cord to run in.  Drill it out all the way though. 


Finally we need to drill out a 1/4" hole in the hips where the aluminum tubing post will go.  Secure the hips in the handspring clamp and make sure the legs are out of the way.  When setting the position I don't center exactly on the existing hole, but put the 1/4" forstner a hair forward towards the center of the hips.  I want the 1/4" hole to include the existing hole but as far towards the center as I can.  Drill all the way though the hips to where it breaks out.   




Step 5: Carve out and assemble the torso

Now that the manikin parts are drilled out, it's time to work on the torso.

FYI, on my original prototypes I tried to replace the vertical spring with another spring.  I tried a lot of different models and types and even hacking the existing spring and never get it to work well.  Even if I found the perfect spring replacement, sourcing it would be a problem.  So finally I punted and replaced it with elastic cord. 

Take one of the anchor point tabs (from the head or the hips) and put it in the bottom of the torso, on the lip created by the larger hole you just drilled.  This will act as the anchor point for the torso when you attach elastic cord to it.  Screw it in place with it's original screw or a smaller one of you have it.  When you are putting it in, be aware of where there is enough wood for the screw to bite into and put it in on an angle as much as you can.   

Now that you have a secured anchor point, it's time to carve out the chest cavity.  We are using the original horizontal spring for the arms, but we have to make room for both it and the light socket in the cavity.  This is where the rotary tool comes in.

Setup your rotary tool and flex shaft, putting in the 115 Dremel bit.  Carve a channel in the front of the torso between the two arm holes (see photos).  Go all the way down to where the bit is as deep as it will go, keeping the shaft parallel to the north-south axis.  Be careful about marking up the neck, it's easy to have a slip and find yourself dealing with a visable gouge on the upper torso.  

This will give the spring someplace to go when we put in the socket, and also locks the socket in place.  I found that the depth that the 115 bit will give you works out just right.  

Now that the channel has been carved out, it's time to put back the arms.  Put in the one arm that has the spring attached to it and using your long tip needle nose pliers pull out the spring and put on the forceps to hold it in place. 

Once you have that secure, put on the other arm and lock it in place around the end loop of the spring with the tiny brass screw.  Remove the forceps and slowly let the arm snap back into place.  Now the arms are installed with the spring between them, just like when they started.

Now install the socket.  Twist the socket around so the skinniest part is up against the spring, and using a screwdriver from below to push the spring into it's channel, push down on the socket and lock it in place.  Eventually it will all slide in together.  

Once you have that, it's time for the elastic cord.  Push one end into the anchor point and tie a figure-8 knot in the end.  I put a piece of scotch tape on the end and then cut it to keep it from fraying. 

Once you have the elastic cord secured, congratulations, we are done with the torso.  







Step 6: Assemble the rest of the manikin

At this point it's a matter of putting the pieces together.  Feed the elastic cord and wiring through the waist and then through the 1/4" hole in the hips.  Pull it all tight.  

Take the aluminum tubing and feed first the elastic cord than the electrical wiring though it.  Push the aluminum tubing up and into the hips, twisting it back and forth to get it in deeper.  Be careful, that tubing is thin and will bend easily.   Keep pulling the lamp wiring and elastic cord to make sure it's all tightly assembled.  

You want about one inch of aluminum tubing past the bottom of the feet, the rest should be up in the hips.  If you can see the tubing coming out the stop of the hips but it's sill too long past the feet, you might need to pull the stuff out and re-cut the tubing.  

Step 7: Prepare the base

I must beg an indulgence of you.  

I forgot to take any photos of the making of the bases.  I did a production run on them in a rush and never thought to break out the camera.  So we start with the bases already cut to shape, lacquered and with the 1/4" hole already drilled. 

The bases are made out of 5/4 pine stair tread material.  I wanted a thick and heavy base to support a skinny/tall lamp like this, and figured 1" thick pine would do it.  Stair treads are about the only way you can get full 1" thick wood at the big box home improvement store or at least at my local version.  

The bases where cut to 4" x 4" on the bottom, and beveled 10 degrees on all edges upwards, so the top is about 3.5" x 3.5"
I drilled the 1/4" hole slightly off center towards the back.  Centered side to side, but 2" from the front edge of the top.  That way the center of the manikin will be over the center of the base.  I used two coats of lacquer, with a light sanding of 600 grit after each coat. 

Now that we have the base shaped and drilled, it's time to use the forstner bits to hog out some working room in the bottom where the wiring and elastic cord will go. 

I'm using the 1" forstner bit, but anything around there should work.  Install it in your drill press and hog out the bottom of the base towards the back edge to a depth of 1/2".  This will give plenty of wood for the aluminum tubing to grip and plenty of room for your wiring and whatnot.   I hogged out about a quarter of the bottom, towards the back of the base. 

When finished, chisel or cut a small channel from the hogged out area to the back edge.  About 1/4" wide and 1/8" deep.  this is for the electrical cord.  I've found that giving the electrical cord a specific place to go is a good thing in lamp design.  

Step 8: Assemble the manikin and base together

Feed the wires, elastic cord and aluminum tubing into the base from the top.  Twist the base back and forth until the edge of the tubing is visible on the bottom. 

At this point you will note that the manikin is droopy.  We need to tighten up the elastic cord. 

Pull the elastic cord taut and put the forceps on it to keep it that way.

Push the #6 washer down the cord till it hits the forceps.  Right behind that, tie a figure-8 knot to hold it in place.  Put a piece of tape on the cord after the knot and then cut the cord.  Now you can place the base down and pose the manikin, it should hold its pose via friction 

Now to solder the wires.  

Step 9: Final assembly of the Manikin Lamp

It's time to solder the wires back together. You could use wire nuts but I like soldering to save room. Strip the ends a good 3/4" each, wrap them around each other and then solder them together.

Make sure you match up the correct wire to the correct wire.  One of them has little ridges on it, and one has writing.  Pay attention and line it up correctly. Be sure to put heat shrink tubing or electrical tape over the exposed bits.  

Once you have done that you can test the lamp and see if it works!  Put in a bulb and plug it in.  Oh no, no light!  Try the on/off switch.  Hey, now it lights up!  Yay team. 

Tie a knot in the wiring and put that next to the channel you carved into the bottom.  At his point, flood the bottom with hot glue to hold it all in place, making sure the wires don't stick out above the hogged out area.  There should be plenty of room.  

Finally, cut some of that 2mm black foam sheet to about 3.75" x 3.75".  Stick it on the bottom of the base to cover over the hole and the wiring and the hot glue, and to give the base a pad to rest on.  At this point, the lamp is done.   Now it's on to finishing up the iPad prop.  


Step 10: Make a 1/6 scale iPad prop and put it all together

I'm using black picture frame matting for this, but my first prototype used box cardboard.  Use whatever you have laying around and it should come out well.  

I did a google search on iPad photos and found a good set of front and back full size ones.  This is a first generation iPad for those that care.  I scaled those down, duplicated them and put them in a PDF file for printing.  That file is included, and make sure you print at 100% sizing.    I then printed the PDF file on cardstock. 

Using a utility knife or craft cutter of choice, cut out a front and back set.  I used the front as a template for cutting out the black matte.  Once you have all three pieces cut out to size, glue them together, making sure the front and back have the same top and bottom.  

I use a gluestick and it works well.  

I then cut the corners at a angle to mimic the rounded edges and get rid of any white from the cardstock still showing. 

Once that has dried, take your silver sharpie and carefully color the edges, as iPads are that white/silver on the side.  Your iPad prop is now ready for mounting on the manikin lamp.  

Place some of the craft tack on one hand of the manikin and put the iPad on it, like it was being held.  Position the other hand to point at the iPad, put in the bulb and have the body bent over forward just slightly with the legs bent so it looks like they are walking and reading at the same time.    

Congratulations, you are now done!  Enjoy your new lamp.  
DaveNJ made it!7 days ago

I made this and the instructions worked out great. I made a guitar as a prop rather than an iPad. I made a Fender Stratocaster and Gibson Les Paul in Draftside CAD then cut out on my homemade cnc.

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Photomancer4 months ago

The choice of bulb really makes this great. Plus it should direct the light down. Simple but elegant - I have one of these wood models sitting on a desk screaming to be upgraded!

grooverjamesr made it!9 months ago

I made this!!!

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grooverjamesr9 months ago

I got my Forstner bits today and started drilling, I feel like crap now i mistook the 5/8" for the 1/2" and wrecked the center ball badly, had to glue it back together. I guess it will work. I am so looking forward to getting my 1/4" tubing soon, I ordered it. I have all the rest, I found a deal at a local store for Christmas lights for a Christmas Village house set, and I ordered 4 bulb from eBay and they are pretty cool, silver and all. I am working on getting some micro screws now and such to reattach the springs inside.

[Hivemind]2 years ago
I think the ipad is kind of weird, but i really like the concept!
blkhawk2 years ago
Your creation reminds me of Gyro Gearloose's little robot Little Helper
byproduct02 years ago
Cool idea. Consider making an iron-man version with an LED light either in the chest or out of his hand. :)
This is really cool, ive been experimenting with lamps lately, and seperately the little wooden guys... you combined both of my time consumers.
flyingpuppy2 years ago
Yes, I much prefer your take over the Colgao lamp! Nicely done!
Mimikry2 years ago
WOW! Great one!
Like it! The choice of bulb is a nice touch as well!