Introduction: Shoji-style Table Lamp

Picture of Shoji-style Table Lamp

I'd been planning to build a floor lamp using bamboo for the pole, and a lampshade that was kind of inspired by shoji screens (I'm trying to get a Japanese-style decor going), I like that look of light through translucent paper. By the time I'd built the base and the pole, and then the lampshade, I realised the shade was too big and would have made the lamp look top-heavy.

Instead I decided the shade would look good as a table lamp (I did something else for my floor lamp - see here). Since I made this I've found that it does look quite a bit like an actual andon! (Like a cross between this, this and this, say)

Step 1: Making the Panels

Picture of Making the Panels

I bought an A3 sheet of tracing paper (90g/m2) and cut it into quarters. (It would be easier to get 4 sheets of A4, of course!)
I had way more chopsticks than I can ever use, including 20-odd cheap square bamboo ones, and they seemed like an easy way to make the frames (in my local Asian supermarket you can get a pack of 20 of these for under 2 euros). I sanded off the pattern that was stamped on, and cut down 8 of them to the width of each sheet of paper. (Ideally I would have split them in half lengthwise but couldn't think how to do this easily)

Then I applied a very thin layer of wood glue along one side of the chopsticks and stuck them to the paper, lining up the outside edge of the chopstick with the outside edge of the paper. You can see how I laid them out in the photo. (Sorry, I didn't think of taking photos while I was making the panels, but I think the photo of one side of the completed shade gives a good idea.) Weigh it all down with some books or something and let the glue dry. You'll want to make 4 of these panels. If necessary you can trim the paper by cutting along the back side of the chopstick with a sharp knife and peeling off the extra.

Glue along the sides of each the front and back panels, on the back of the paper, and fit the 4 panels together to make a cube - well, one without a top or bottom (see diagram for how I fit them together). This was the hardest bit, because I had to support it while the glue dried, but the paper is quite delicate so I couldn't put much pressure on the sides! A pile of books on each side should do it. Just try to line them up closely and make it as square as possible! (Mine was a bit off..)

Step 2: Hacking the CFL Bulbs

Picture of Hacking the CFL Bulbs

Once I had made the shade, I wanted to see how it looked with a bulb inside. It lit up nicely but I wanted it brighter, so decided to use 2 compact fluorescent bulbs. (I've been replacing all my incandescents with these for any light I leave on for any length of time!)

I was originally going to buy lamp sockets for the bulbs, but when I Googled to see whether it was better to wire them in parallel or in series, I came across this page - funny the number of webpages with detailed discussion of CFLs that are about using them to grow weed :) - which shows how to open up a CFL to wire directly to the bulb (see halfway down that page). This means you can avoid using lamp sockets, which was good because I was trying to keep the price down, and also makes the bulbs shorter, so they sit closer to the base and don't risk sticking out the top of the shade.

I tried pulling the metal base off with locking pliers as suggested, but couldn't get it to budge - and while I was trying I dropped the bulb and cracked it. Stuck the bulb in a lamp socket to see if it worked but it was dead - well, at least it gave me a practice bulb before trying the others.

I actually found it was easier to use a hacksaw to cut through the bulb screw-thread, then once I'd cut the bottom off, I crushed the bottom with the pliers to break the glass (I guess that's what it is) to get the wire out - safety goggles probably a good idea ;) In fact it would be safer to just snip the wire as low down as you can, especially since I'm just assuming the glass stuff is non-toxic! Though I guess it would have to either be glass or at least some inert resin, because it's the insulator between the live and neutral. btw, you do want to be careful if you break the bulb of a CFL because they contain mercury.

Then I peeled off the rest of the metal using pliers, and used a small file and chisel to cut a notch in the plastic base to put the wires through (easier than opening up the ballast and drilling holes like the original page suggested, but this wasn't actually necessary in the end.)

Step 3: Making the Base

Picture of Making the Base

I had some plywood lying around that was large enough for the base, so just cut that to the same size as the base of the cube (in fact it was a little short in one direction, but if I line it up square at the front, it just leaves a gap at the back for the cable to go down through. It would be neater to cut a proper square and drill a hole for the cable though, I guess.)

I hunted around for some way to fix the bulbs to the base, and found some left-over bamboo from making the pole for my floor lamp. I cut a few short lengths, split them into halves lengthwise, then for each bulb I wood-glued 4 of these pieces to the base to make a sort of cup to sit the bulb in, using rubber bands to hold the pieces tight against the bulb to keep the right shape while the glue dried.

Step 4: Wiring It Up

Picture of Wiring It Up

From what I've seen online, it seems it's better to wire bulbs in parallel than in series.
I had to extend the wires from the bulbs so I could wire them in parallel to the mains cable. For these wires I soldered the connections and used heat-shrink tubing, but decided to use a terminal block to connect these wires to the mains cable, to make it a little easier to change bulbs if I need to in the future.

I hot-glued the terminal block to the base for strain relief so the mains cable doesn't pull directly on the soldered joints. Once it's all wired up and all the connections are insulated, fit a plug and plug it in! You could fit a switch but I decided not to bother.

Once you've checked the electrics are all OK, all that remains is to run a line of wood glue around the edges of the base, fit the shade onto the base and weigh it down while the glue dries - though nothing *too* heavy, the shade isn't exactly built for strength :D mine was creaking under the weight of a glass chopping board...

Step 5: Lastly

Picture of Lastly

Of course this is mains electricity (so standard safety rules and disclaimers apply etc. etc.) but I think it should be fairly safe - the lamp itself is wood, and there is no metal anywhere that it's possible to touch: in some ways it's safer than a socket. I haven't found that the CFLs get too hot for the bamboo holders either, especially since they don't hold them too tightly.

Not using sockets does make it harder to replace the bulbs when they fail, but CFLs last for years, I can see the paper getting torn before the bulbs are dead... Replacing them would only mean hacking new bulbs and wiring them in, though, but using proper sockets would be a better permanent solution!

Oh, just for an idea, here's what I spent on this:

2 euros - 20 chopsticks (I had mine spare already though)
1.50 euros - A3 tracing paper
1 euro - 1.5m mains cable (2-strand)
the bamboo, plywood, terminal block and mains plug I had lying around

4 euros - two compact fluorescent bulbs (probably not normally this cheap, I got them at 50% off)

so maybe 5 euros in total not including the bulbs. That might be 7 or 8 if you had to buy all the parts. I'm happy to have something that looks like I wanted it to, for the same price as a cheap lamp from IKEA :)
My 1st instructable btw so hope you like it - comments welcome, especially because as soon as I put it on the speaker I knew I should make a matching lamp for the other.. so it'd be good to hear any suggestions for improvements before I start on it!


sdfgeoff made it! (author)2016-07-29

Here's a small version: 10cm cubed. Got an LED, powered over USB, checks time over Wifi and acts as an alarm clock.

IsabellaS (author)2014-08-17

isn't tracing paper highly flamable?

Yonatan24 (author)IsabellaS2015-12-10

Probably... If you use LED's they won't get hot enough to catch fire

IsabellaS (author)2014-08-17

isn't tracing paper highly flamable?

IsabellaS (author)2014-08-17

isn't tracing paper highly flamable?

MightySimon (author)2014-01-23

I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it, so I made one for myself. I
used lamp socket and not a CFL bulb, just a regular one which gave
problems, but I didn't finish the base. Everything is just standing on a
piece of styrofoam for now. It needs bulb replacing as paper was
getting really hot and smelling smoky lol.

atarax (author)MightySimon2014-01-23

Looks fantastic! But yes please do change from an incandescent bulb to a CFL, and think about something more suitable for the base - the combination of the words styrofoam, hot and smoky is rather terrifying :D

realife11 (author)2013-03-21

Instead of CFL bulbs (which contain a small amount of mercury, and no amount is a safe level, AND they require proper safe disposal!), I have used bright white L.E.D. xmas lights, rolled into a wad and placed inside. They never get hot, are incredibly bright, and if you want a warmer glow, just change the paper in the lamp to a warmer color. It works great and is super cheap (especially around xmas time when all the lights go on sale.

20millon (author)2011-05-08

I had a spare lamp component from a previously broken IKEA lamp and decided to use the insides for this. I made it for Mothers Day today and my Mum loved it, thanks for this great idea! Took me only a few hours to assembly =D

Ben The Builder (author)2010-03-26

 As long as you keep using Compact fluorescents you don't have to worry about heat, Fluorescent light bulbs don't work the same way incandescents do, Incandescents heat up a filament in a cloud of argon I believe, the resistance through the wire releases energy in the form of both heat and light, when you use fluorescent bulbs the gas inside them is excited by the energy (which is vamped up inside the base of the CFL) and the gas actually emits UV radiation but when it hits the coating on the inside of the bulb it is converted to visible spectrum light, no heat released, unless it's from the amplification circuit

That's what SHE sayd!

Wrisk81 (author)los cerezos2011-04-17


manutea (author)2009-09-29

It like it, thank you !!!

truenos (author)2009-08-26


gulshan20 (author)2009-08-23

yeps...use of bulb holders would be lot easier....:D

trapz (author)2009-08-09

thx..its awesome

NikkyG (author)2009-05-20

I think you have a lot of work on your hands when it is time to replace the bulb. It might have been better to have used 2 lamp holders instead?

ATG (author)NikkyG2009-06-14

agree....tht wud be a lot easier....

Ultimatebrut (author)2008-11-25

I love it, planning on making one.

Two_sweet_cheeks (author)2008-10-20

Great instructions. That has definately given me a better visual understanding of the process. I've had trouble lately making shades for lamps, and you've definately lit a few bulbs in my mind!

Hillrider (author)2008-08-19

Wow, Nice one. Thanks

redmoon96 (author)2008-08-12

That was a great instructable, but to make it seem even more asain, you could find a japenese or chinese symbol that you like, get some thicker paper for one of the sides, and paint the symbol on.

n0ukf (author)2008-07-07

Why bother with two CFLs for more light? I've seen them anywhere from 40W to 150W equivalents if not a wider range than that for single units.

matt1992 (author)2008-06-15

could i maybe use normal paper for that? another thing that could make it pretty good is if u mounted that onto suming like ur peaker but made poofy (haha) black leather

$ NAB $ (author)2008-03-21

I'm a big fan of japanese decor.I'll make that today itself

unspecified (author)2008-03-07

Wow - this looks great - making an aesthetically pleasing something from "nothing". An easy way to split small pieces of wood lengthwise is to use a sharp knife - embed in in one end and tap on it till it drives through - works for me anyway.

SMRUDOLPH (author)2007-11-12

I have to echo PKM and say this is a first-class instrucable.

It inspired me to make something similar when I redid my bathroom (an ongoing project). You can see a couple of photos here --

Every time I get out of the shower and the room is filled with steam, I think of PKM's suggestion that you spray the lamp with water to tighten up the paper.

zorro3355 (author)2007-11-10

well itrued to do it but i failed.i got a problem sticking a A4 paper onto hose chopsticks

PKM (author)2007-10-03

This is your first Instructable? It's perfect- clear, concise, well written instructions, good photographs, a little relevant background and useful links. You get a + from me. A couple of comments - I believe if you lightly spray the paper with water (use a plant sprayer or an empty kitchen cleaner bottle rinsed and filled with water) just after you glue it, it will shrink slightly and pull taut to the frame to eliminate wrinkles. I'd be more inclined to add a light socket so I could change the bulbs, but I had no idea you could wire straight into CFLs like that so appreciate your angle. There's a surprising amount of difference in the reported cost of CFL bulbs on Instructables- the last one I bought cost about £2.80 (maybe 4.50 euro, or $5.60), someone in America reported them costing about $15 or $20, and yours cost 2 euro? Price differences between different stores can't account for all this variation, surely...

JoCat (author)PKM2007-10-15

I just picked up six for $1.05 each. ACE Hardware has them for cheap as part of a 'green energy initiative.'

atarax (author)PKM2007-10-04

thanks, I appreciate it! Yeah, that 3-pack was 6.15 euros - but they were half-price, and they're cheap no-brand bulbs, only energy band B. They take a little while to warm up and change from pink to white... I just bought a single CFL for my new lamp and that was 6.60 (own-brand from Bricorama - think B&Q;), but it's band A and supposedly 150W-equivalent. It certainly is bright! I'll try out your idea for the paper, but yeah I think anything more than a really light spray risks crinkling the paper even more? I'll experiment. PS You're in Cambridge then? That's where my brother's studying. also, how long you been a traceur? I've been on the point of starting doing parkour for years now! Need to find someone here who's a keen beginner too and just get on with it..

Browncoat (author)2007-10-04

What a great idea for a friend of mine who is basicly Serenity-izing his home. Very sleek!

WileECoyote (author)2007-10-03

I like the looks of it, I am also planning a Japanese style decor. But electrical stuff scares me so I'll probably have to use a premade light socket of some sort.

atarax (author)WileECoyote2007-10-03

sure, if you're not confident it makes sense not to experiment with mains stuff! but if you've ever managed to put battery-powered things together, say, it's really no different: if it's wired up ok it will work ;) just make sure the last thing you do is plug it in, once you're happy with it. if you use terminal blocks it's just like lego :) btw, I'm finishing up my other new lamp (the floor lamp I originally designed this shade for), I'll try to get that up here in a day or two, same kind of look (bamboo and paper)

thebluemartyr (author)2007-10-02

that is awesome, i would make that with led's so its a portable reading light or the like, very sweet looking, you've earned my +

atarax (author)thebluemartyr2007-10-03

thanks for comments, glad you like it! I haven't played around with LEDs much but that's a neat idea, though I guess it would have to be smaller to be bright enough. but a tiny version would be really cute :D

Azn Hitman (author)2007-10-02


About This Instructable




More by atarax:bamboo floor lampshoji-style table lamp
Add instructable to: