Introduction: Folding Fairy Lantern

This little lampshade fits over a rechargeable LED flame bulb that mimics the movement of a flame. It’s more of a mood light than something you could work by, but it lends a bit of whimsy to a camping trip. The lampshade is made from the type of plastic they use in ceiling fixtures to diffuse the light from fluorescent tube lights. I went to a plastics store and bought a piece of scrap they had lying around; they call this smooth-rough, as it’s smooth on one side and has a texture on the other side. The only other materials, besides the LED light I bought on line, are wood grain duct tape, and clear duct tape.

You’ll also need a craft knife, ruler, and a file would come in handy for smoothing any rough spots.

I found the rechargeable LED flame bulb on the internet:

Step 1: Measure, Mark and Cut the Plastic Material

You need to cut out four top pieces and four side pieces. This plastic is quite brittle, and it can be kind of finicky to work with. For the stuff I’m using, I found that the best way to cut it was to scribe lines along the smooth side, and snap the pieces apart sharply. It didn’t always work, and some of the edges were a bit wobbly, or had spurs of material that didn’t break away. I used a file to dress up anything that stuck out past the cut lines. Don’t worry if there are chipped corners or little bites out of the broken edge, you can easily hide most of these with tape. Don’t try to snap off too thin a piece, even if it seems wasteful, it will save you trouble to leave about an inch or more beyond the line where you want the plastic to break.

The top pieces are 6-inches wide along the base, three and a quarter inches tall, and 1 ¼-inches wide at the top. The bottom parts are 6-inches along the top edge, 4 ¾-inches tall, and 4-inches wide at the bottom.

The photos show a couple of prototypes made from old mailing envelopes. Feel free to change the shape and size to suit your needs.

Step 2: Assemble Sides and Top

Lay two of the side pieces on your work surface, smooth side up, with the corners matching. Cut a strip of wood grain duct tape to connect the pieces, corner to corner. I made the tape pieces narrower at one end to look more like natural tree branches. Do the same hinge setup on the other two side pieces, and do the same with the top pieces. After you have all the parts paired up and taped, fold the parts in half, and cut some more tape pieces to wrap around the outside of the folded edges. You should have two sets of side pieces and two sets of top pieces that fold in half, but only in one direction.

For the lantern to fold, you’ll need to leave gaps in the hinges that form the next two sets of corners. One gap will need to be a little wider than the other to fold the lantern completely.

With the two pairs of sides unfolded, smooth side up, join the pairs along one edge with a strip of tape, leaving about an eighth of an inch gap between the parts. Now fold the smooth sides together and wrap a piece of tape around the outside of the hinge. The four side pieces are now joined together, fold them, accordion style, so the two untapped edges are on the top and bottom, and the rough sides of the plastic are facing outward. Lift the top edge and secure a piece of tape to the underside (smooth side) of the top piece, leaving enough tape sticking out to wrap around the two inner pieces and attach the other edge of the tape to the smooth side of the bottom piece. This will complete the shape, for the lower part of the lantern, and all that is needed is to attach another piece of tape to the outside of this last hinge. Add this last piece of hinge tape after the lantern is folded, wrapping the tape around the outside edge of the folded stack of parts. This completes the lower part of the lantern. Do the same for the top parts, so you have two parts that can be folded in quarters.

Step 3: Assemble the Lantern

Now match up the wide hinges between the top and bottom of the lantern, and attach the top to the bottom with a piece of clear duct tape along the inside edges. Assemble the lantern, and complete this hinge with another piece of clear tape on the outside. Make two more pieces of clear tape with folded-over tabs on one end, and attach these to the opposite sides the lantern, so the top and bottom can be joined together forming the completed lantern. The pieces should fold easily in one direction without binding. If any parts bind, remove the tape and try again.

Step 4: Decorate the Lantern With Branches

Now that the basic lantern is finished, get creative with cutting strips of tape to make branches on the sides of the lantern. I used a piece of scrap plastic and put strips of the wood-grain tape on the rough side of the scrap, and then used a craft knife to cut wavy lines to form branches. You can add as many or as few as you like, just don’t get the branches in the way of the closure tapes (the pieces with the tabs).

The LED flame bulb fits up inside the lampshade, with the hook sticking through hole in the top of the lantern.

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