Cardboard Sky Lamp

Introduction: Cardboard Sky Lamp

About: Freelance designer in the making - Nacimos para cambiar el mundo.

Hello everyone!

this is the first project I made since I quit My job and became a freelance industrial designer/builder. I'm quite thrilled with this, and I'm taking a lot of risk, but it's worth it 100% My idea is to make decorative objects, furniture and lamps using reused or recycled materials; while maintaining good quality and aesthetics.

Well enough of me, let's talk about this lamp!

It's made with a piece of industrial cardboard tube, it's 1 cm thick, 50 cm tall and 8 cm in diameter. I'ts quite heavy, and I discovered with various tests that it can be handled as if it was wood. it can be drilled, cut, sanded and painted. it's actually more close to MDF than cardboard.

the Idea came to me after seeing this instructable ( and I'm quite satisfied with the results. It doesn't let much light through, so it's more of a night light.

Step 1: What You'll Need: Materials

- A piece of heavy cardboard tube, about 50 cm long, 8 cm in diameter and 1 cm thick. or anything similar you can find.

- A piece of 10 x 10 cm wood for the base.

- A piece of PVC pipe for sanding the inside.

-  40 cm of 6,5 mm iron rod.

- 15 cm of  20x3 mm flat iron

- 3 light sockets

- A switch and a power plug.

- About 3 m of 2x1 mm clear wire ( the one that comes paired)

- 3 compact fluorescent light bulbs

- tarnish, tint and thinner.

Step 2: What You'll Need: Tools

The main thing you'll need is a drill press. It can be done with a regular power drill, but it takes for ever. so the list is:

- Any kind of welder. (and its accessories) If you have a spot welder you can do a way better frame than mine, using wire instead of iron.

- Drill press

- Drill bits: 1,5 mm; 3 mm; 10 mm; and 5 cm cup drill bit. optional: any other diameter you want (I used 1 mm also)

- Miter box for holding the tube while drilling.

- Sand paper: 80 and 120 grit.

- wire cutters, screw driver,  (for the light fixture)

Step 3: The Tube: Drilling

For the first one I made I used a template I had drawn before. there were just small holes, and I started drilling it with a hand-held power-drill. this took too long, and did'n even finished  a half of it. So I made what anyone would do, and bought a drill-press. (I'm joking, I consider it as a big investment. it was almost a third of my previous salary) that rushed things a lot, and I could finish the whole tube in less than an hour.

Later I added the bigger holes, seeing that there was too little light going through.

the best way to do this is actually the opposite:

- First, measure the light sockets, so the bigger holes match with the light bulbs, hence letting more light through.

-Then drill 3 or 4 holes (depending on how many light sockets fit inside the tube)  with a 5 cm "cup" drill bit. The position doesn't matter. only the height.

- after this, drill about 10- 15 holes with a 10 mm drill bit. again, just  spread them evenly-ish (too even might look unnatural)

- then, drill 100 (yes, a hundred) holes with a 3 mm drill bit. spread them evenly-ish.

- and finally, the smaller holes, which will take about half of the total drilling time: drill 400 holes with a 1,5 mm bit. you can be more creative with the smaller ones, because there are going to be a lot of them. make constellations, group them around bigger holes,.. play around with the positions to give it your own personal touch.

- you could just drill the big ones, and add a few small ones around them, but it's not the same effect. (I tried it) also, you can't rotate the tube to pick your favorite part of your sky. 'cause it's not a complete sky.

- you can also try with more or less holes, bigger or smaller (I went down to 1mm!) it's up to you.

- It's very useful to have a miter box or something similar to hold the tube while drilling.

Step 4: The Tube: Sanding

When you're done drilling, take a break, go get you a drink or something to eat; an then proceed with the sanding. You'll probably end up with fairly rough edges, not only they look ugly, but also block the light from going through the holes. I used a Nº 80 sand paper (the number stands for grains per inch, the smaller the number, the rougher the paper) and for the inside, I used a piece of sand paper taped to a piece of pvc pipe.

It doesn't take much effort, it should take about 15 minutes.Don't worry too much about getting an even texture, It'll look good after you're done tarnishing.

Finally you can remove all the dust and particles with a wet cloth. Let it dry up for a couple of minutes, and you're ready for the next step.

Step 5: The Tube: Tarnishing

This should work just as any wood tarnishing. I used clear glossy tarnish, with a cedar tint. apply the coats as directed in the can, wait 4-6 hours between coats, remembering to sand it a little every time, to improve absorption (I used 120 grit) Again, don't worry about  doing it too evenly, because that will help adding a nice patchy texture. 3 coats should be enough.

Step 6: The Light Fixture

Finally I found a great way to make the base and hold the sockets, so here it goes:

I learnt of the existence of this piece, it's intended to hold a tulip. I used it to hold the light fixture inside the tube, as you can see in the photos. Then I learned that the longer the spring arms are, the better. I have not made a whole photo set of the assembly, sorry. But If i kept waiting for that, I would never finish this instructable.

Because of the height of the new base, I decided to cut down the tube, and make it for 2 lights, instead of 3. and Actually it would've been harder to make a 3 light fixture with this piece.

Step 7: The Base

For the base, I realized that the tube wall was thick enough to be drilled with a 6,5 mm bit and still hold it's shape. So I did that, and inserted 4 pieces of iron rod that I already had ( you can use wood or whatever) they are 10 cm long. then I made matching holes in the base.  And that's it! 

the only downside is that you have to find a cardboard tube thick enough to do this. I found plenty more tubes, but none were as thick as the first ones, so I'll eventually have to adapt the base. I have a few ideas in mind... what about you?

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    9 years ago on Introduction

    I'm thinking in two half tubes to hang on a wall, with a smaller cardboard tube and led lights.

    Wow, the light effect looks awesome! I thought it was made of wood at first :p great work!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Neat project! I love the effect. Do you think white Christmas tree lights work inside?

    Mad inventor
    Mad inventor

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    thanks a lot! I didn't know that writing a full instructable was so time consuming, this is my first one.

    If you manage to get them really close to the tube walls, it might look good. But remember that this material in particular is really thick and it might cover too much of the light. You could use PVC or some of the thinner tubes that also get discarded a lot.