Introduction: Giant Atari Joystick Lamp

About: Hi, I'm Sam and I like to make things - check out some of my projects below. I worked for this site from 2014 - 2023 and have nothing but love for the Instructables community. Keep making great stuff!

This lamp is a fairly accurate scale model of the classic Atari joystick. It is made out of medium density fiberboard (MDF) and stands almost two feet tall. The red button turns the lamp on and off, and the lampshade is a collage of printouts of classic Atari game covers.

This project was a fun challenge for me, and posed a lot of little dilemmas along the way. In the end I was quite happy with the way it turned out!

Thanks for looking. Enjoy!

Step 1: Top Piece

I didn't have a real joystick to study and measure for dimensions, so I went off of pictures I got online. I think I got the proportions pretty close though, just through some basic math like height/width ratios, etc.

I purchased one 2 by 4-foot panel of MDF in each of the following thicknesses: 1/4", 1/2", 3/4". I also purchased one 2 by 4-foot sheet of 1/8' hardboard. I had plenty of material left over afterward.

MDF is great for things like this. It's easy to cut, shape, and sand, and it doesn't warp, crack, or split like wood (unless it is left out in the elements, or you drill a screw straight into it). Be sure to cut, route, and sand it in a well ventilated area.

If you plan to make one of these, I would recommend finding a real joystick to work from. Measure it and make all your pieces proportional to it.

The top piece is cut from 1/2" material. See photos for details on cutting the beveled edge.

Step 2: Making the Side Panels

The side panels were made from pieces of 3/4 inch MDF with 1/4 pieces glued on to create the step-down shape. The pieces were cut at a 5 degree angle so they would taper slightly inward down from the top of the base. See photos for additional details.

Step 3: Making the Corner Blocks

I needed to make some 1 1/2 inch blocks for the corner pieces. These corner blocks were needed so I could connect all the side panels together, and provide shapeable corner pieces that could be carved into the bi-layered, tapered, and curved corner shape that I wanted.

Step 4: Assembly of Sides and Corners

The corner blocks needed to be attached fairly well, but metal fasteners were not an option since I was planning on cutting and shaping them once they were attached. I used a combination of wood glue, wooden dowels, hot glue, and clamps to put it all together.

Step 5: Shaping the Corner Pieces

I used a pull-saw, files, and sandpaper to shape each of the corners. Masking tape was placed on the side panels next to the corner pieces to avoid scrape marks from the pull-saw.

Step 6: Raised Ring

This ring is made from 1/8 inch hardboard. In order to make this piece, I made a template jig out of 1/2 inch MDF, glue the hardboard to it temporarily with spray adhesive, and use a flush cut bit on my router to cut it out.

Step 7: Button

I was kind of dumb and cut out the hole for the button early on in the project, not knowing exactly where it was headed. That's how you learn I guess.

I plugged that hole with a new piece of MDF, and glued down the raised ring on top of the base. This made it possible to make a clean, flush cut all the way through both the ring and the top of the base for the button.

Step 8: Three Rings

To make these three concentric rings, I had to layout and cut each one with the jigsaw. After sanding them smooth, I used my router with a roundover bit to make the curved top on each one.

In order to route these pieces safely I had to temporarily mount them to my small workbench with dowels. The shorter pieces had to have shims placed underneath so the router bit had clearance from the table top.

The heights for the rings (starting with the largest diameter ring) are 1/2 inch, 3/4 inch, and 1 inch. The 1-inch ring was made from a ring of 3/4" MDF, plus a ring of 1/4" MDF.

Step 9: Stick Pieces

The stick was made from six separate pieces of 3/4 inch MDF. They were cut at a slight taper, with all the side cuts at 30 degrees. These cuts were made with the jigsaw. To make room for the light socket, I used a pull-saw and chisel to cut away excess material.

Step 10: Stick Assembly

The six separate pieces for the stick were glued together with wood glue, using a bead of hot glue along the joint on what was to be the inside of the stick. This would hold the pieces together while the wood glue dried.

Step 11: Stick Collar

To make the collar, I cut two 3/4 inch thick circles of MDF slightly bigger than the bottom of the stick. I traced the bottom of the stick onto each circle. I marked six sections on each circle piece which corresponded with the six sections of the stick, and marked each section so I knew where it was to match up with the stick once they were cut out.

I cut out all these pieces with a jigsaw, and placed them back around the stick where they matched. These were all glued in place with hot glue and covered with a couple layers of wood filler. To make the top taper of the collar, I filled it with a few layers of wood filler. Then I gently sanded the collar and the taper smooth.

Step 12: Bottom of Base

The bottom outside edge of the base was rounded over with the router, and sanded smooth.

The bottom panel was cut from 1/2 inch MDF, with 1/4 inch circles glued on to it. To attach this to the base, I added cleats to the inside made of 1/2 MDF.

Step 13: Lampshade

The lampshade was made from a simple kraft paper lampshade from Walmart. It was covered with printouts of classic Atari game box covers.

I got the pictures of old game covers from the Atari Age website. I made them all the same size and then printed them from my home printer.

The pictures were glued to the lampshade with spray adhesive.

Step 14: Finishing, Part One: Priming

I primed all the pieces with two coats of gray spray paint primer, sanding with 320 grit sandpaper in between.

Step 15: Finishing, Part Two: Painting, and Lamp Assembly

All the pieces were painted with spray paint. The base is coated with black textured "hammered-look" spray paint. The raised ring is shiny black. The three rings and the stick are flat black. The button was coated with full coat of red, and then got a light coating of fluorescent orange.

The directional markings are craft foam painted golden orange and glued in place with spray adhesive.

I attached the three rings and the stick with hot glue, and then drove a couple of screws up through the bottom of the top of the base into the bottom of the stick to keep it sturdy (pilot holes were drilled first to keep it from splitting).

For the lamp assembly, I used an old cord along with a basic socket and a push-button switch from Home Depot. I fed the cord through a hole that had been drilled in the back of the base prior to painting, and set up the switch following the instructions that came with it. The switch was hot glued to a small wooden bracket I had glued into the base below the button hole opening. To the bottom of my red button, I attached a small block of wood with a shallow hole reamed into it so it would sit balanced and centered on top of the switch button. I used some hot glue to attach the red button to the switch through the the button hole opening.