Introduction: Color Changing Wooden Lamp

About: Trask River Productions is a non-profit vocational education woodshop ran through Trask River High School, which is in turn located inside of a Youth Correctional Facility in Tillamook, Oregon.

After months of not creating anything worth publishing, I decided it was time to start a new instructable, thus leading to my lamp.

The lamp has a color changing LED strip, with each color controlled with a potentiometer, as well as a regular incandescent lamp bulb on top with a dimmer switch.

The potentiometers allow for a custom color mix. The option of using an expensive LED controller is there, however I wanted to keep this instructable as cheap as I possible could.

I had all the materials lying around, but the cost of them would be anywhere from $10 to $20 if someone were to purchase them all.


If you enjoy this project, please be sure to vote for the contests it is currently entered in.

Step 1: Materials:

For this instructable, there isn't too many materials. You might have some of them lying around already, and some might require specific ordering from an online seller or local hardware store.

6 1/4" boards cut to your size preference. (Mine was 3 1/2" by 12")

3 RGB LED Strips

3 Potentiometers

3 50 Ohm Resistors

1 Lamp Socket w/ mounting nipple

1 120V AC to 12v DC power supply

1 120v AC Power cord.

6 Decorative Finishing Nails or Tacks

X Assorted Wiring, for both 12v DC and 120v AC

X Electrical Tape

X Some type of diffusion material (I used a spare vacuum bag)

Step 2: Preping the Wooden Sides

I used a table saw to rip down the sides of the lamp to 3.5 inches by 12 inches. Then into the planner they went. I planned them down the 1/4". After they are the correct size, each long side of the board gets a 30° cut so they stack up and make a solid 360° around the inside of the hexagon.

30° x 12 = 360°

My table saw's angles are not always accurate, so I used a digital angle finder to make sure it was preciously 30° degrees. I'm glad I took this step as my table saw was off by almost 2 degrees. Those 2 degrees would have added up to make 24°, quite a bit to be off by. I recommend using an angle finder if you are not sure your saw is correct.

Step 3: Cutting the Design Out

For the design of my lamp, I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do. I'm sure I could have done some cool scenes or a different design and it would have looked really good. But I like simple, so I went with a simple pattern, something like a single flame or a claw tear mark, either way I think it turned out well. I thought about drawing out a pattern, but I went with free hand instead.

So using a scroll saw, cut out your patterns. If you are going to duplicate the same pattern or design on all the sides, then taping and stacking them might be a good place to start. A scroll saw should be able to handle it, just go slow.

Be sure to leave room at the bottom or top of the lamp to hide the electronics behind without casting weird shadows on the designs. I made the mistake of not leaving enough room for mine, but luckily the only shadow is on the rear of the lamp and not easily seen.

Step 4: Staining the Sides

I used a dark Kona stain for my lamp, but any kind of stain will work, even going without stain is an option that should look pretty good.

Before staining the pieces, using a medium grit sandpaper (150 grit), carefully remove all the wood burrs, but don’t sand the sides smooth.

Stain all the pieces, be sure to get all the edges of the scroll saw cuts. I missed a couple small areas on my first side, so I went back and covered them and was more thorough for the other ones. Using a rag is probably the best option for stain in general, especially this project, however I have heard and seen people use brushes for staining, so the choice is truly yours.

Step 5: Applying the Diffusion Material

Though I called it a diffusion material, it’s simple an extra vacuum bag I had lying around.

If you do not have a vacuum bag lying around, virtually anything slightly transparent will work. Frosted Plexi-Glass, Thick cardstock or paper, thin fabric materials, even the packaging plastic/foam they use to wrap new electronics in such as a television (my second choice if the vacuum bag didn’t work).

Taking your material and a razor blade, cut 6 strips roughly the same length and width of your wooden sides. Don’t worry about the lines or edges being straight or square, once the lamp is finished you’ll never notice the difference.

Once the strips are cut, use a hot glue gun and glue the material to the wood. Start on one side and pull the other side as you work, so it’s nice and tight with not very much slack or give. Be sure to face the angled edges up so you glue them to the inside of the sides and not the outside of them.

After the gluing is done, use a razor blade and trim the materials down so they don’t over hang the edges and get in the way of the next step.

Step 6: Gluing the Sides Together

This was a lot easier than I had originally imagined it would be. The trick is to use the masking tape to hold the sides together on the outside, while the glue dries on the inside.

I started by placing the sides down flat and taping them together on the outside of the wooden sides. Make sure the angles edges are facing down, and the outside of the sides is facing up.

Apply plenty of tape, being careful to pull the sides snug together and not leave a large gap in between the sides. The tighter it is the better it will look when it’s all glued together and done.

After the tape is applied, flip the sides over so the tape is on the bottom and the angle edges are facing up.

Apply the glue on the gaps between the edges where the angle is cut out at. Use plenty of glue, as it's easier to clean up any excess later than it is to add more glue once it's dried together and in a hexagon shape.

Once all the glue is in place, carefully fold up the edges to form the hexagon shape. Be gentle and don’t tug on it or the tape will become loose and it won’t hold in place.

Once it’s in place, tape the rest of the lamp in place with more masking tape. Then use 2 or 3 rubber bands to secure the lamp nice and tight in its final shape and form.

I left my lamp to dry over night, but a couple hour should be sufficient enough for the glue to dry.

Before moving on, look for areas of little amounts of glue. The glue not only holds the design in place, but it also blocks in any stray light. So fill in any gaps and let it stand to dry a little bit more again, refer to the photos if needed.

Step 7: Top Lamp

Before the Top Lamp could be attached, the top wood piece needs to be cut out and mounted.

To do this, set the lamp on a small board, something less than ½” thick works perfect, and trace the inside walls of the lamp. Be sure the lines are nice and dark so there is no guess work.

Using a band saw, carefully cut the inside plug out. It’s okay if it’s too large at first, but too small and it will require some more work. For my lamp, I sanded one of the sides in a little more closer so there is a small gap for some air flow. This is all by choice, but I would recommend it.

Dry fit the piece and make sure it’s going to fit correctly. Be careful not to get it stuck because we’re not done with it yet, we still need to mount the lamp socket.

Find the center of the top plug, to do this quickly, draw a straight line from each point of the lamp to the one directly across from it. Where the lines meet is the direct center of the lamp, that’s where you drill the hole.

Drill the hole for the lamp nipple to go, I think the standard is 3/8”, but don’t quote me on that and I would recommend checking it first.

Before attaching the lamp socket, stain the piece the same color as the rest of the lamp.

Wire the lamp socket with two wires, be sure to use two heavy gauge enough to handle 120v. If you are not sure about the wire, use an old power cord that was used for 120v AC so you know it can handle 120v AC.

Mount the lamp socket to the top piece, using the nuts to tighten it down nice and tight. Be sure the wires for the lamp socket are pushed down into the lamp through the nipple of the socket.

The final step is to push the top piece into the walls of the lamp and attach it was a couple nice decorative tacks or nails. Be careful not to hurt the lamp when you hammer the tacks or nails in.

After the top is nailed in place, drill a hole in the bottom of the back of the lamp and push the power cord through the hole, and tie a knot in the cord so it doesn't pull through the lamp.

Step 8: Adding All the Lights

I have an incredibly hot glue gun, so I had no problem with this step.

However, hot glue does cool fast and on most glue guns, the temperatures do not get very hot. So if you glue gun does not get very hot, you can either try to do this step very fast, or look for another source of adhesive, such as wood glue.

Before gluing anything, be sure to have the LEDs connected to wires already. If yours have the connectors like mine did, then simply attach them and using some electrical tape to fix them snug and prevent them from becoming disconnected. If your LEDs require soldering, now is the time to do this, and wrapping that with electrical tape is probably a good idea as well. Be sure to use plenty of wire so you have room to work.

Every other corner of the hexagon gets an LED strip, so they combine together and distribute the light evenly.

If your LEDs have an adhesive back, remove the paper first. I found my LED’s adhesive back was not enough to fix the LEDs in the corner of the lamps. On a flat surface it would probably be enough, but not in the corners like I was doing.

To glue the LED strips down, apply an ample amount of hot glue to the back of the LED strips. Before the glue starts to cool and harder, push the LED strip into place and hold it until the glue cools and sets.

Note: Make sure you leave room at the bottom of the lamp for the bottom base to fit inside of the lamp. In other words, don’t block the space with your LED strip.

Step 9: Mounting the Potentiometers

Because we are using 3 potentiometers, we need to mount them to the back of the lamp. I chose the back of the lamp because they are not aesthetically pleasing to me, though you might disagree and would rather attach them to the front of the lamp, the choice is all yours.

We are using 3 different potentiometers, one red, one blue and one green, so we need to drill 3 holes.

Using a bit gauge, determine the size of the hole for the shaft on the potentiometer. Mine was something like 3/8”.

After the correct size has been determined, carefully drill the holes. The lamp should be dried now so it is nice and solid, but be careful anyways.

Before attaching the potentiometers, solder some wiring to the pins on each of them, as it will be virtually impossible to do once they are attached to the lamp.

Each of the 3 pins gets a wire soldered to it. They are kind of close together, but as long as you only use a little bit of solder you will be fine. Refer to the wiring diagram in the next step if you need more help.

If your potentiometers happen to have a nut to screw down and hold in place, then use that; if they don’t, then simply refer to the hot glue gun again. In my case, they were taken from an old audio mixer, so they did not have a nut, and they were still attached to a circuit board, a perfect base to hot glue.

Make sure they are all attached in the same direction, or they won’t start and stop at the same place and it will look a little weird.

Finally, push the decorative caps on the potentiometers so they are held in place a little better and look a lot better.

Step 10: Wiring

For this step, I've made a couple wiring diagrams. I've also included a

lot of photos from my project.

The wiring looks a little complicated at first glance, but once you break it down, it’s fairly simple, just keep these 3 key points in mind and it all make sense:

1. Each Potentiometer controllers each color on the LED, so Red, Green and Blue.

2. The top lamp needs 120 volt AC to power it, and the LEDs need 12v DC to power them.

3. The LED strips all share the same Positive voltages, and all use their own negative voltage.

Note: I used a 50 Ohm resistor on the negative side of the potentiometer, I’m not sure if there is much of a difference with it though. So the resistors are purely optional. My thought was that it would allow a lighter voltage, thus lighter color of LED, for the negative side of the potentiometer, but I didn’t notice a difference. Maybe a higher resistor value would do the trick though.

Step 11: Attaching the Bottom Plate

Simple enough, put the bottom plate inside the lamp, and attach it with 3 decorative nails, just like the top plate.

I left a little air gap in mine so there is a small amount of ventilation. I’ve used my specific LEDs on multiple projects and I know their produce little to no heat and ventilation is not truly required, but I do it anyways.

Step 12: Admire Your Work

Turn down the lights, turn on the lamp, choose a color and admire your work.

LED Contest

Participated in the
LED Contest

Lamps and Lighting Contest 2016

Participated in the
Lamps and Lighting Contest 2016