Introduction: DIY Steampunk Lampshade Using Brown Paper

About: I help people make awesome costumes that are cheap to make and don't require a bunch of specialized tools. I do lots of steampunk, but others as well.

I found a discarded lampshade on the side of the road, and though the shade was pretty much trashed, I really liked the shape of it. Perfect opportunity to try and steampunk it up and save it from the landfill!!

Here are the tools and materials I used:

Brown Paper: I had a roll of brown paper laying around the house. I expect you could also rip up brown paper bags for the same effect.

White PVA glue

Measuring Cup

Medium Sized Tub: To pour the glue mixture into and soak the paper

Oil Based Stain: I used a Walnut color

Clear Coat: I used ModPodge Gloss, but if you don't want it shiny, you could use a matte finish

Poster Board: I cut several strips the same height as the lampshade.


5-Minute, 2-Part epoxy: Make sure you mix it very thoroughly or it may not cure.

Match Stick: To apply the epoxy rivets.

Black Paint: I like Liquitex Basics, but whatever you have on hand will work

Metallic Paint: In the video, I use Rub 'n Buff metallic paste, but since then I have changed my preferences and now use DecoArt Americana Decor Metallics acrylic paints.

Hot Glue Gun: To glue the strips to the shade

*****Safety First: Paper is flammable, and lights can be hot. Be absolutely sure that the lampshade is not going to get too hot and catch on fire! I recommend using with LED lights which do not get as hot as incandescent lights*****

Note: The above links are Amazon affiliate links, and as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Step 1: Get a Sad Old Lampshade

You need a base to start from, so the first thing is to find a shade in a shape that you like. Try looking in thrift stores, garbage dumps, garage sales etc. The more trashed it is, the better, because you'll be able to get it for a great deal or even free! Just make sure the cloth covering is relatively intact (a few holes doesn't matter) and that the metal framework isn't damaged.

Remove any decorative bits and pieces so that you have a smooth surface to work with.

Step 2: Make a Glue Mix

It's important to dilute the PVA glue a bit so that it can soak into the paper. I used a ratio of 2 parts water to one part PVA glue to give me the consistency I wanted. I was using cheap glue so it might depend on the glue you have as to how much you will need to dilute it.

Mix the glue and water thoroughly.

Step 3: Ripping, Scrunching, Soaking

Tear your brown paper into pieces. I tried to aim for ones that were roundish, about the size of my palm (10 cm/4" diameter)

Take each piece and scrunch it tightly in your hand and then open the paper again and submerge it in the glue/water solution.

The paper needs to soak in the solution long enough for the liquid to start to permeate the paper along all the fold lines made by scrunching. You will need to experiment a bit to get the right soaking time, depending on the paper you use and the viscosity of your glue mix.

I found it worked best to do about ten at a time, and by the time I had the tenth one in the mix, the first one was ready to come out.

Step 4: Start Covering

Take the soaked pieces of paper out of the glue solution and start placing them on the lampshade.

It is best if you work equally around the shade, not just from one point and spreading out, so that the overlap of the pieces looks random. So, at the beginning, the paper pieces will be like many islands surrounding the shade and then as you go you will fill in all the gaps between them. (This is just for aesthetics - feel free to place the pieces where you like:)

If edges of pieces are not sticking down, you can paint on a little bit of full-strength glue to hold them down.

Step 5: Tips for Corners and Edges

Applying the paper to relatively flat spots is pretty easy. Where it gets a little trickier is when you need to cover an area that has compound curves or goes around an edge.

The general concept is that the smaller the piece of paper, the less it will wrinkle as it goes over an edge. If you have pieces of paper that have thinner sections, it's a good idea to save those for the edges. You can place the larger part of the piece on the flat area and then have the narrower part of the piece go over or around the edge. Another good trick is, if a piece is not going smoothly around a bend, you can place it and then create a rip in the piece perpendicular to the edge it is needing to fit around.

Once the shade is covered, let it dry fully.

Here's a good time to mention that you don't want any extra drips of glue running down the sides of your finished lampshade, so, every once in a while as you are making, wipe off any drips with a soft paintbrush. I'll show you why this is important in the next step.

Step 6: Stain It. If You Want.

Staining will help emphasize the patchwork nature of the lampshade, but it is not necessary if you are happy with the natural look you have already created.

I used "Walnut" oil-based interior stain.

With a rubber glove and a soft cloth, apply a bit at a time with a circular motion, overlapping sections as you go.

In the last photo, you can see where some of the glue mixture ran down the side of the lampshade while I was gluing the pieces at the top. I didn't notice until it was too late, and it didn't show up until I applied the stain.

Step 7: Protect It.

Once you are happy with the stain, give the whole steampunk lampshade a clear coat. I used Mod Podge Gloss to cover it.

Step 8: Cut Some Strips

Cut strips of poster board that are about 15 mm (1/2") wide. Make sure that they are long enough to span the lampshade from top to bottom with a bit leftover at each end.

Cut one to cover each metal support on the lampshade (or more if you desire).

Step 9: Make Some Fake Rivets

Squirt out a small amount of 2-part, 5-minute epoxy. It is important to dispense equal parts or else it will not cure properly. The syringe dispenser is notorious for being inconsistent in how much it dispenses, so the first thing I do when I get new epoxy is cut the two plungers apart so I can control each one separately.

Mix the two parts together really, really, really well.

Dip the head of a wooden match or something similar into the epoxy and lightly touch it against the place where you want your rivet.

Slowly lift the match head away, leaving behind a small blob of epoxy. As the epoxy cures, it will get thicker until it is leaving long strings behind when you make your dots. This means it is time to make another little batch of epoxy.

I placed my fake rivets about every 20 mm (3/4") along each strip of poster board.

Step 10: Paint the Strips Black

Once the epoxy is completely cured, paint the strips black. It will likely take 2-3 coats to get nice even coverage.

Step 11: Turn Paper Into Metal!

My favourite metallic paints tend to change over time, but right now I am quite liking DecoArt Americana Decor Metallics Vintage Brass.

My technique for creating an antique metal look is as follows:

Put on a tight fitting rubber glove. This keeps your hands clean as well as preventing fingerprint smears in your metallic coating.

Put a small blob of metallic paint onto a piece of scrap cardboard. Dip your fingertip lightly into the paint and then rub it onto a clean section of cardboard. Rub in a circular motion until almost all the paint is off your finger. It is especially important to watch the tip of your finger because paint can build up there, so you want to rub off any accumulation that occurs.

Rub your finger on the poster board strip. Slowly build up the metallic colour, repeatedly going back and getting more paint on your finger.

By using your finger to apply a small bit of paint at a time, you will only be applying it to the raised areas of the strip, leaving some parts dark, which gives an aged look.

Step 12: Glue the Strips

Using a hot glue gun, glue the strips down to the lampshade.

Fold the strip over the lampshade at the top and bottom and secure those ends with glue as well.

******Use of hot glue is assuming that you will be using LED light bulbs inside your lamp, and that the shade will be far enough from the light so the glue will not soften from too much heat*******

Step 13: Smile, You Have a New Lamp!!

That's it, you can put your new steampunk lampshade on it's lamp, and gaze on it with the proud knowledge that you gave an old lampshade new life! Well done.

Thanks for hanging out with me!

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