Introduction: Build a Reading Lamp Out of Books

About: I work in mobile, edit video & host a beer show. I wrote a song for you and when I finished, I set the notes on fire.

"I like to change. A new lamp, a piece of art, can transform a room." - Madonna

I don't normally look to Madonna for life or style advice but here, she pretty much nailed it. I was in need of a new reading lamp by my chair and instead of heading down to the local furniture shop, I decided I wanted to build one that highlights my love for books. After thinking about the design for a bit, I thought it would be interesting to construct the lamp out of books and use an exposed Edison bulb as the light source. (I've always been partial to the raw look of a lamp without a shade, especially if you can find an interesting light bulb.)

Step 1: Gathering Materials

A pallet liquidation store recently opened near me and I tend to spend more time there than I probably should. During one of my trips, I noticed a 6 pack of Edison bulbs for the low price of $5. I think I was able to talk them down to $3 and with that, I had my bulbs. I then went to Goodwill to search for a selection of large science books. (I figured the subject would pair well with the Edison bulb.) I also took a trip to the local Home Depot to pick up a lamp cord, lamp fittings, a ceramic light fixture, a toggle switch, and a ceiling box mount, which I later changed to an old metal box I had hiding in the bottom of my electrical fixture collection.

I also used PVA glue, Modge Podge, clamps, rotary tool (a horrible idea but more on that later), snap-blade utility knife, a drill, screws, various extras to add some style and function to the finished product. I'll touch on that in the written article. Book

Step 2: Laying Out the Internal Structure - Base Book.

It was now time to layout the internal paths for the lamp cord as well as the toggle switch. Since the books were different sizes, I didn't really use any specific measurements for this layout. My main goal was to make sure the toggle switch and lamp cord came out of the top of the bottom book in a location that didn't interfere with the top books. I found the approximate location where the lamp cord moved from the bottom book and up through the two books on top by laying the ceramic light fixture on the top book and measuring the center point of the fixture. I then transferred that to the middle and bottom books.

I decided that the best method to cut the grooves in the pages was to use a multipurpose cutting tool on the end of my rotary tool. I added my router guide and set the depth around 1/8" for the first pass. While the rotary tool did remove a lot of material, the pages did not cut evenly, even when applying force around the cuts with clamps. After a few passes around the toggle switch location that ended with rough-edges and ripped paper, I decided the best course of action would be to continue by using a snap-blade utility knife and simply cut out a few layers of paper at a time. While this did take a few total hours to do for all of the books, the cuts were cleaner and laid flatter when the books were closed.

I then drilled out holes in the top of the book to accept the toggle switch, lamp hardware where the lamp cord came out and plugged into the wall, and where the lamp cord moved to the middle book. I took some time with some PVA glue to fix any of the ripped pages so the outside view of the book would not look so ragged.

Step 3: Laying Out the Internal Structure - Middle Book.

The middle book needed a simple hole cut above the location where the lamp wire needed to run between the top and bottom books. I used my previous measurement when finding the center of the fixture to drill a hole in the cover of the book. I transferred that hole to the first page of the book and took my snap-blade utility knife to cut the pages out. I made the hole wider than needed to make sure I could adjust the hole on the other cover to line up with my lamp wire hole on the bottom book.

After cutting the pages out and drilling a few holes in the front and back covers, I added blue painters tape along the edges of the covers which laid under the actual pages. I then clamped the book shut and used a disposable brush to add a few layers of modge podge to the outside pages. This helped seal the pages so they would not open. After that dried, I would remove the blue tape and use screws to attach the covers to the pages. (I would later repeat this step for each book.)

Step 4: Laying Out the Internal Structure - Top Book.

I took my measurements for the center of the ceramic light fixture and transferred them to the first page of the top book. I then used that measurement to layout cut lines for the metal mount box. I then used my snap-blade utility knife to cut down enough pages where the box would just fit under the closed top cover. I then cut a small hole in the remaining pages below that to run the lamp wire to the middle book.

Once that was completed, I transferred the center mark for the ceramic light fixture to the inside top cover and cut a small enough circle out of the cover to allow the electrical aspects of the ceramic light fixture to sit down below the surface of the book inside the metal mount box.

Step 5: Painting the Ceramic Light Fixture.

I wanted to give the ceramic light fixture a little more of an industrial feel so I covered the electrical aspects under the light fixture, as well as the socket itself, with blue painters tape and began to add coats of a bronze-colored spray paint. After a few coats of the spray paint had dried, I sprayed on a few coats of clear coat protectant to the light fixture.

Step 6: Wiring the Electrical Features of the Lamp.

I started the electrical by determining about how much wire I would need to go into the book, to the toggle switch, back up through the bottom and middle books, and land in the top book which would then connect to the ceramic light fixture. I cut the nipple of the lamp fittings to a length that allowed me to put a washer and nut on each side of the top cover of the bottom book. This is where the lamp cord would come out of the lamp and go into the wall. I then wrapped enough electrical tape just on the inside of the nipple where the cord could not be pulled out from the lamp.

I then ran the wires through the bottom book (follow the wiring layout image), around to the toggle switch location. I disconnected the separate wires of the cord and cut one in half to attach the toggle switch so I could turn the light off and on. After attaching the lamp cord to the toggle switch, I wrapped the internal parts with electrical tape. I then ran the line through the bottom book to the hole created towards the middle book.

I then ran the line up through the middle book. I placed the middle book on the bottom book and clamped them in place before pre-drilling some holes through the middle book and down into the bottom book that would accept a few wood screws. These screws allowed me to affix the middle and bottom books.

I then ran the line up from the middle book to the top book and into the metal mount box. I then clamped the top book to the bottom two books and repeated the step of pre-drilling and adding screws from the first page of the top book down into the middle book. This allowed me to connect the top book to the bottom two books. (Note that I did not screw this from the top cover.) I also pre-drilled and ran a few screws from the inside of the metal mount box into the books below. This affixed the metal mount box to the book lamp. I then pre-drilled two holes in the cover of the top book that allowed me to run mount screws through the ceramic light fixture, the top book cover, and into the sides of the metal mount box. These screws hold the ceramic light fixture and top cover of the book down to the finished lamp.

After clamping everything back together, I pre-drilled holes from the bottom of the bottom book up through the middle book and added a few wood screws. Now, all pages of the book have been screwed together.

I lost a few images here but after the books were connected, I added knockout plugs and a clamp connector to the metal mount box and finished connecting the lamp wire to the ceramic light fixture. I then mounted the finished ceramic light fixture to the metal mount box with a few screws. I also added a few rubber bumpers to the bottom corners of the lamp so it was not sitting directly on the table.

Step 7: Reading by the New Book Lamp

I was then able to screw in the Edison bulb, plug the lamp cord into the wall, and test out my wiring job.


I haven't quite figured out which book I'd like to read first by my new reading lamp but I am always open for suggestions.

Thanks and please let me know if you have any questions!

Lights Contest 2017

Participated in the
Lights Contest 2017