Introduction: Cute Magnetic Owl Lamp


This is an owl lamp I worked on with my girlfriend Sylvia. We are both students of design & technology in NYC and built this together as a fun soft-circuits project. Our goal was to make a small night-lamp that was both cute and functional.  

The project is very simple - anyone can follow this Instructable to build their own owl lamp. We encourage you to imagine other characters or animals that you can create with this design. 

Step 1: What You Need

  • Soldering station
  • Solder
  • Thin coated wire
  • 9V battery with enclosure
  • Glue gun
  • Ultra bright LEDs (we are using 1W star LEDs)
  • Resistors (~100-300ohm)
  • Knife
  • Copper tape 
  • Adhesive velcro pads
  • Mini high strength magnets (the ones we used were 5x5x1 mm)
  • Material for laser cutting
You should be able to get everything you need from the following stores: Radio Shack,,,

Step 2: Animal Design & Laser Cuttin'

Our owl is made with three layers. We chose to use three layers so the middle layer could hide the magnetic feet - notice the little square cutouts on the feet of the middle layer .

It is very possible to make the owl lamp with just two layers, or even one if you had slightly thicker material. In the future I would prefer to do a two layer design with thicker material.

If you don't have access to a laser cutter you can use online services like Ponoko. Alternatively if you have skilled hands you could build the body from scratch.

The laser cutting PDF/AI files are included below, however, I encourage you to come up with your own unique design. 

All the details of the laser cutting design may not be clear until you read the remaining steps of this Instructable. 

Step 3: Ping Pong Eyes

Ping pong balls make nice eyes. They also help to diffuse the light. 

Cut your ping pong ball approximately in half with your knife. Continue to trim your ping pong ball so that it is just slightly larger than the laser cut hole on the front layer. Push the ping pong ball through the back so that it fits snug. Your ping pong ball should not pass all the way through the hole or you likely cut it too small. Use hot glue to secure the ping pong ball in place. 

It is wise to laser cut your hole less than the diameter of a ping pong ball, which is 40mm. We used 37mm holes. 

Step 4: Le LEDs

The LEDs rest directly behind the ping pong eyes on the back layer. 

We used the adhesive velcro pads to secure the LEDs. 

Also notice two short wires are stripped and soldered to the LEDs at (+) and (-). Later we will be connecting these wires to the copper tape. If you are new to soldering check out this helpful step I created in a previous Instructable. 

Step 5: Le Circuit

We built the circuit using copper tape. We love copper tape!

The trick to using copper tape is not to cut it. Use one continuous piece by folding it at the bends (see picture).

Layout your circuit as shown in the images. Cut a small slit for the resistor. 

Note that we are not connecting the 9V battery at this time, rather, leaving two 'open' copper connections at the feet. 

Step 6: Solder Components

There is an important trick when soldering to copper tape. The tape must be hot! Solder wont stick to the copper tape unless it is hot. 

Solder the components as seen in the images. 

Refer to my soldering tips if you are having problems.

It is wise to test your circuit at this point. Grab the (+) and (-) leads of the battery, press the against the legs and ensure your LEDs light up. If they don't, check your solder connections and your circuit. Remeber LEDs are polar, thus must be connected the right way. 

Step 7: Easy Assembly

Use the velcro pads to connect the three layers. This will enable us to easily assemble and disassemble the owl if something breaks. 

The velcro pads we bought were from the dollar store - not recommended - the velcro is stronger than the adhesive side causing them to often unstick from the wood. Best spend the extra dollar on the high quality ones. 

Step 8: Le Feet

The feet are an important and tricky part of this Instructable. 

The magnets hold the owl in pace on the nest. The copper conducts electricity and lights up the eyes. We must apply copper tape overtop of the magnets to ensure a connection is made between the battery and the LEDs.

In the case you chose to do a three layer design the feet are connected on the middle layer.

Pay attention to polarity of the magnets. Make sure you know which pole you are putting down. It is best to put a (+) pole down on one foot and a (-) pole down on the other foot. This will avoid you from plugging in the circuit backwards and potentially ruining your LEDs. 

I created two slots for magnets of the feet but only ended up using one. The magnets turned out to be much stronger than I anticipated. 

Step 9: Pads on the Nest

The magnetic pads on the nest function similar to the magnetic feet. 

Use lots of copper tape to keep them locked into place and secure.

Ensure they are not countersunk or no connection will be made - they must be flush or slightly protruding from the top layer of the nest. 

Match the polarity of the magnets with that of the feet. Remember, we need to make sure you can only plug in the owl lamp one way. 

I used two layers of magnets to match the thickness of the material. This makes them easier to secure. You may also want to try some crazy glue. 

You may be asking, why are we using four pads? Well, one position is the 'on' and the other is the 'of'f''. Only the on position is connected to the battery. 

Solder wires to your 'on' position. Pay very very very close attention to the polarity again. You need to ensure (+) is connected to red. To refresh your memory, the (+) is the foot which is connected to the resistor. 

Step 10: Connect the Layers

If you chose to do a three layer design you may have noticed there is no connection between the back and middle layer, ie, the feet are not connected to the rest of the circuit. 

This is one of the challenges of the three layer design. Maybe a two layer design is better (yes there are always improvements to be made). 

I used small springs to connect the two layers. You could also use some soldered wires. The springs press the copper tape connections together when the layers are velcroed together. The connection wasn't 100% reliable. Once our owl lamp is tested and working I will likely switch to a wire connection.

As you may know already, one of the feet will be connected to the (+) and another to the (-).

Step 11: Finish the Nest

I used glue to secure the supports and battery to the nest. 

You can also see those odd looking slits had a purpose. They allow the wires to pass through to the underside of the nest. 

I also used a dab of glue to connect the two layers of the nest together. I want to ensure if something breaks I can take it apart for repair so I just used a small amount of glue. 

Step 12: Le Eyes

We attempted to make realistic looking eyes for the owl with nail polish but they looked a bit creepy. You can see our cardboard prototype had lifelike eyes. In the end we just used the velcro pads for the eyes of this version. I am sure there is a better way to do the eyes. Be warned, most things don't stick well to ping pong balls; that includes most paint and permanent marker. 

Step 13:

You are complete! 

Please share the animal lamps you built so I can post them here. 

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