Introduction: Mini USB Powered Tiffany Lamp

Picture of Mini USB Powered Tiffany Lamp
Make you own miniature tiffany lamp to light up your PC keyboard in style, from a table tennis ball, some old coins and the metal end of an artists paintbrush. It's very easy and quite quick. Plus once you have made the base, you can fit all manner of little lamp shades to it... Halloween, Christmas, Chinese lanterns etc etc, so this is a really useful little Instructable.

If you make this one, then there are templates for the Stained Glass Coke logo and a bending guide for the paper clip shade frame available as a download from dadcando, where you'll find a little more about the project and Louis Comfort Tiffany, the inventor of the Tiffany Lamp.

You'll need:

  • table tennis ball
  • paper clip
  • old small paintbrush
  • three copper or silver coins of different sizes
  • a cheap mini USB PC LED light
  • coloured permanent markers (or translucent paint)
  • fine black permanent marker (or embossing craft pen if you have it)
  • Super Glue (or quick setting epoxy resin (two part glue)
  • Hot melt glue gun glue (or quick setting epoxy resin)
  • Pliers (thin nose ones would be useful)

Step 1: Draw Out Your Lamp Shade Design on the Ball

Picture of Draw Out Your Lamp Shade Design on the Ball

(Note: Use a pencil and draw very lightly and be careful not to get the surface of the ball too smudged up with pencil lead.)

Start by drawing a line round the equator of the ball. Use the seam as a guide. Then from the North Pole draw lines down to meet the equator at the quarter hours so that you have four equal segments. Now further divide each of those segments into three small equal sized segments so that in all you have 12 segments.

about 2 to 3 mm below the equator line draw another line round the circumference. Between this line and the equator draw a series of vertical lines that line up with the ends of the segment lines.

Below the lower circumference line draw little scallops round to line up with the small vertical lines.

About 10mm down from the North pole draw two concentric circumference lines.

Draw out the Coca-Cola logo. I used the reference photo and a coke can as the guide, but now I have drawn them up properly and you can download them from dadcando Tiffany Lamp project as well if you want.

I simplified the logo mainly because of the small size and the complexity was at the limit of my skill and the equipment i had. (I made this for my kids while on holiday staying in someone else's house so I didn't have much in the way of equipment.

Step 2: Colour in the Stained Glass Pattern

Picture of Colour in the Stained Glass Pattern

Using coloured permanent or OHP markers carefully colour in the design, making sure to leave the Coke parts white. Of course you don't have to do the Coke logo, you could write someone's name to personalise it, or copy another one of Tiffany's famous lamp designs.

Don't worry if the colouring in is a bit streaky, real stained glass looks just like that, it is never an even colour at all.

The photo shows the back of the lampshade. you'll notice that this logo looks slightly different to the finished one. When i drew out the front logo I didn't leave quite enough space for a second complete one so I squashed up the logo on the back slightly, by taking out the dash between Coca and Cola.

I took this photo to show the colouring stage after I had already outlined the logo in black on the front. Anyway, this gives you a good idea of how naff it starts out looking. It's only when you line it in in the next step that it starts to look cool.

Lastly when leaving the white err on the side of more rather than less. the black line will take up quite a bit of space at this scale so you need more white than you would think which means that the letter have to be a bit chunkier than they are in reality. Also remember that the original wasn't perfect, it was made from scraps of glass left over from Tiffany's window projects. that's what makes it look so natural and each one so original.

Step 3: Line in the "stained Glass"

Picture of Line in the "stained Glass"

Using a thin (the thinner the better) permanent black marker line in the lead cames (well that's what they are called in leaded lights).
I found an embossing pen at a local craft store, which doesn't give a very deep emboss, but does give quite a credible effect. Mind you a fine black marker would have easily done the job, and the embossing pen did try to blob a bit... this was my second attempt after i slightly messed up on the first one.

Notice that I have put lines across the white areas to break up the letters. In real life the lamp is made of stained glass and if you have ever tried to break glass you will know that you have to be a genius to get curved pieces. Well they were very clever at breaking the glass, but they still broke up into manageable pieces and then stitched it back together with copper or lead strips, so that is the authentic look you are going for.

Step 4: Cut Out the Lampshade

Picture of Cut Out the Lampshade

Using a pair of sharp nail scissors carefully cut out the lampshade.

using a craft knife cut a very small slot in the top of the shade, right at the North Pole about 1 mm wide and 2mm long

Step 5: Make the Base

Picture of Make the Base

The base needs to have a bit of weight and look nice, metallic even, so what better than a few small coins. They are the perfect size and glued together are as heavy as they need to be. I used Euros, well I have no other use for them in the UK, but you could use anything, although I suggest that your dad's gold sovereigns, or your uncles priceless collection of medals should be off limits.

Glue them together using super glue (cyanoacrylate) (be very very careful with super glue as it sticks skin permanently and instantly (it was designed as a tissue glue). I like it because it is quick (even quicker if you use accelerator) but you could use two part epoxy resin especially the rapid setting 90 second stuff. make sure the that coins are concentric and all centred properly.

Once they are stuck together colour them in with a permanent marker, spray or paint them black.

Then sandpaper off the corners a bit with a very fine grade of sandpaper or preferably wet and dry. I used p600.

Lastly I drilled a small hole part way into the top of the top coin to give the glue that I was going to use to attach the stem something to grip on to (see next step)

Step 6: Make the Stem

Picture of Make the Stem

For the stem I used the ferule (yes that's what it is called) from an artist's paintbrush. The great thing about the metal end of a paint brush is that it is a perfect size, it has some nice little features and when the handle and the bristles have been removed it is a very thin, walled tapering hollow tube... just what you need.

Getting the bristles out was harder than I expected. Before you take the handle outgrip the metal ferule about half way along it with pliers where the jaws have been wrapped in a kitchen cloth (to avoid scratching the metal) and grip the bristles with another pair of pliers and firmly pull out the bristles. You might have to pull the bristles back and forth quite a few times to get them to all come out.

When the bristles are out, try and pull out the handle. Or better still saw or snap it off at the ferule and then drill in to the wooden handle a few time with a little drill bit from both ends until you can pull out the scrap.

Once the ferule is empty, using pliers turn up a small part of the wider end. This will accommodate the wire from the LED in a few step's time.

Step 7: Prepare the LED Part

Picture of Prepare the LED Part

Take one very cheap mini USB LED PC light and cut the plug off as near to the plug as you can using pliers.

Slip the lens off the other end of the lamp and ease out the LED, still attached to its wire (it will also have a tiny little resistor soldered in line with one of the wires.
keep the lens and the USB plug to one side. You can throw away the outer springy sheath or keep it for another project.

Step 8: Make the Lampshade Holder

Picture of Make the Lampshade Holder

Unbend a medium sized paper clip and then bend up into a hexagonal shape with a thin prong at one corner and the two tails at the opposite corner. Follow the dimensions in the drawing (only use them as a guide) or download the bending template in the dadcando Tiffany Lamp project.

use small pliers if you have them and hold the paper clip firmly just in front of where you want to bend and then slowly bend the clip into to shape. It really helps if you mark out the bends before you start. bending a paper clip too much will fatigue the metal and it will snap. Fortunately this step is quick and paper clips are cheap so if it breaks learn from that and start over.

Step 9: Assemble Stem and LED

Picture of Assemble Stem and LED

Poke the LED wires down the ferule from the thin end and pull through gently.

Insert the lampshade support frame and arrange them so that the LED sits nicely in the middle of the frame.

Holding the stem, the frame and the LED with a piece of tissue (it will get hot) squirt some hot melt down inside the stem to secure them. Before it sets make sure that the wire is draped over the rim of the bottom of the stem where you make your small indent.

Trim off any excess glue, making sure NOT to cut the wires by mistake.

Glue the stem to the coin base. I used Super Glue again here, but you could just as easily use two part epoxy resin.

Step 10: Hack USB Plug and Attach to LED Wires

Picture of Hack USB Plug and Attach to LED Wires

Slit the plug apart down only one side and peel it off the metal inners.

Remove any rubbery bits and disassemble the plug's inner plastic housing. You will most likely pull off the wires in taking it all apart but no worries, you are going to solder the wires back on. Use the diagram to show you which pin to solder the red and black one to.

reassemble the plug using some hot melt when you put the metal case back on to pot the assembly and then slip the rubber outer back round the metal plug chassis and glue up with Super Glue (it is very good for this and sticks the plug rubber perfectly.

Back fill the plug with a little bit of hot melt to pot the plug up completely.

trim off any glue the squeezed out and use black marker to cover up any white Super Glue residue along the USB plug seam.

Step 11: Fit the Tiffany Lampshade

Picture of Fit the Tiffany Lampshade

All that's left to do is drop the shade into place and plug in.

Extra finishing touches are twisting the wire to make it neat, or twisting the wire and then spraying it black or brown for a really authentic look. The wire is nice and thin so really looks the right scale.

As I wanted to copy the reference photo, I made a miniature can of Coke too. There's a dadcando project which has instructions and label printables which can be found at the micro tin can project.

The lamp looks really nice and has a lovely weight to it. Next I think I am going to make a Chinese lantern shade from thin strips of bamboo and tissue paper to fit over this lamp assembly so that i can change the lampshade when I feel like it, but I must say, all manner of miniature funky lampshades come to mind.

Anyway, good luck and have fun making this little project.


thundrepance (author)2015-05-12

omigosh! that coca-cola shade is ADORABLE!! x^D

nomuse (author)2014-03-24

Neat project, and I really like the style of the illustrations -- they are so clear!

Winged Fist (author)2011-11-02

Kaptin Scarlet – I posted another project, inspired by your wonderful design: Steampunk USB mini-Lantern.

Thanks yes, I love your project and especially the cable... inspired.

Winged Fist (author)2012-02-16

Kaptin Scarlet  Just posted a new lamp, and gave you credit where credit is due for your inspiration;-) Steampunk incandescent USB Lamp.

Winged Fist (author)2011-10-25

Thanks for this great Instructable! I used this for inspiration for my latest creation: Dieselpunk USB Lamp. (And made sure to give you credit!;-)

Fantastic, I love it

prosper58 (author)2011-07-17
Very nice instructable. I started following your instructable at first, but then went astray with ideas. The result is something I like to all the Orb of Stroboscity.

KaptinScarlet (author)prosper582011-07-17

I see what you mean.... real migraine / epilepsy stuff going on there... nice. Looks like it needs some rings at an angle and then it could be the Saturn Orb Of Stroboscity

prosper58 (author)KaptinScarlet2011-07-18

Lol. Since I posted that comment, I've already fixed it. Now it's just my orb of light. (it doesn't do the strobe thing anymore.)

mfinn3 (author)2011-02-24

Hey! I just made one of these and they are great!

simplymod (author)2010-07-21

Very nice project. I think I will make one soon.

KaptinScarlet (author)simplymod2010-07-21

thank you, it's not that hard to make. I look forward to seeing the pictures

rc jedi (author)2009-08-17

it looked so big till i saw ping pong! great work, looks great!

PACW (author)2009-02-05

The project is obviously dazzling - what really impressed me was your use of both photos and excellently clear drawings. And well written instructions! I have never soldered, nor torn apart a USB plug but after reading this I honestly believe I could make this project. Thank you.

KaptinScarlet (author)PACW2009-02-05

thank you for your kind comments. I run a website for dads and kids (dadcando) and I try to make every project as good as possible and as easy as possible so that everyone can have a go and get a great result. To be honest, I have never taken a USB plug apart before, so that's why the instructions are clear, I tried to think what would have helped me do it without mistakes, glad you like it. The beauty of this project is that when you've done, you can make other nice miniature lamp shades from a range of different materials

rozebudd_78 (author)2009-01-13

This was taken from

thx for being so vigilant... But I am dadcando, it is my site and I have made everything on it. Occasionally I like to post a project on Instructables to remind people that I am still there and give away some thing free. Thx

KaptinScarlet (author)2008-09-25

will do

KaptinScarlet (author)2008-09-25

Amazing, but looks to me like you have done a lot more work on the electronics side, and looks to me like this would make an amazing instructable of its own. I'd love to know how to make that diddy little plasma ball, or did you just strip down a 5V one and wire up a USB plug to it... neat if you did.

gnasty gnork (author)2008-09-14

I powered mine from the scroll lock button light on my keyboard. i used a raidioshack led rated for 3.7 volts so USB will fry it.

I don't think so, if you use the right resistor you should be fine, and you do need a resistor anyway. USB is only 5V and you can over drive LEDs it'll just be brighter and might not have quite the same life, but then the original is rated at close to 100k hours, so you should be alright.

i tryed to power the same led with usb and it got really hot and it made a pop noise. but there was no resister so that was some of the problem but it would still damage the led when its on

Hi, it's the lack of resistor that is killing your LED, because the LED is drawing too much current. There are resistor calculators on the web and I have just gone to one and calculated a 68 ohm resistor for your set up, you can find the answer here.

that would work but I already had wires hanging out of my keyboard for the scroll lock key light so i just used that instead of using usb and i don't have any free usb ports anyway plus i can turn it on or off but i can't take it anywhere but where my keyboard is but your explanation will work too

KaptinScarlet (author)2008-09-18

yeah great, loads of different lamp shades to make too!

teh darkcloud (author)2008-08-30

Kaptin, you have once again inspired me! (And maybe I'll actually get this project done this time around. :p)

Grey_Wolfe (author)2008-08-21

I love this. Matches the ceiling lamp in our dining room.

KaptinScarlet (author)Grey_Wolfe2008-08-22

You could make one that matched exactly out of tracing paper, still using the same stand.

Grey_Wolfe (author)KaptinScarlet2008-08-25

Actually, I liked your design. I might try something like ours as well, though maybe with parchment, as it would have a heavier weight and the antique yellowed look. Should still have a reasonable light transfer. We've got a swamp cooler, and tracing paper would wilt fairly quickly this time of year. But thanks for the idea, and I aplaud you on yet another excellent Instructable.

KaptinScarlet (author)Grey_Wolfe2008-08-25

thx and good luck, you could also try over head projector film (plastic) as that would be generally waterproof, although parchment sounds good too.

Grey_Wolfe (author)KaptinScarlet2008-08-26

Using the film would give you a lot more flexibility on shade design if you were going to do some of the more abstract shapes. Farely sturdy too. I figured for waterproofing I'd just spray the shade with art sealant. Should stiffen up the shade a bit, too. If I get around to making one that's different from yours, I'll be sure to post.

Grey_Wolfe (author)Grey_Wolfe2008-08-26

Also thinking about trying this with a cell phone wall wart. I think my cousin would really like this, but she doesn't have a computer right now. Let you know if it works.

woomyse (author)2008-08-24

Great Job! Very cool Lamp!

KaptinScarlet (author)woomyse2008-08-25

thx, glad you like it

mweston (author)2008-08-22

Gotta Love anything USB powered!

KaptinScarlet (author)mweston2008-08-22


kaboom05 (author)2008-08-22

DUDE totaly champion U got some great idea there

KaptinScarlet (author)kaboom052008-08-22


Whatnot (author)2008-08-21

Impressively brought together, if only had artistic talent too.

KaptinScarlet (author)Whatnot2008-08-22

reach for the stars! make the stand and then make a bamboo and tissue shade like a Chinese lamtern, that way no artistic talent needed... :-)

yngla (author)2008-08-21

Brilliant - as usual!

KaptinScarlet (author)yngla2008-08-21

thx, that's a very nice thing to say.

reluctant_paladin (author)2008-08-21

I really like this! Very imaginative and unique.

Thx I have to say that I loved your steampunk fan (I have just commented) I did read about it befroe and it has inspired me to do a few things, this lamp is one of the things that while not actually steampunk, is inspired by an earlier age of elegance

Mondo..ob (author)2008-08-21

Very fun and cozy

KaptinScarlet (author)Mondo..ob2008-08-21

just the sot of thing to make those late nice presentations for work a bit more homely!

whatsisface (author)2008-08-21

Fantastic as per usual! The quality of your instructions and illustrations is fantastic! 5/5.

thx you're too knid, glad you like it

darus67 (author)2008-08-20

Well written. I like your use of illustrations.

I don't care much for the Tiffany style so I almost didn't give a second glance
until I realized that it was a miniature lamp.

One suggested improvement: Before gluing the coins, cut a slot in the largest one that starts at the edge and ends in the center of the coin. Then drill all the way through the center of the other two. This will give you a channel to run the wires through so they come out at the edge of the base like a real lamp.

If someone finds cutting up currency objectionable, you could probably find brass washers at a hardware store. The edge features could be added with jewelers files.

About This Instructable




Bio: Eldest of five, son of two doctors, 10 years in Graphic Design and marketing, then retrained as a Biomedical Materials Engineer, don't ask me ... More »
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