Introduction: Geometric Cut Paper Table Lamp

I've been making cut and folded paper lamps for a while now and get a lot of pleasure from designing, building and enjoying them. I was thinking that I've gotten so much from Instructables I would give a little back.

You can probably get this lamp made in an afternoon (depending on paint drying time) and it should cost about $15-$20. It uses simple techniques of symmetric and asymmetric pop folds which can be the basis for more complex designs. My goal when designing is to make things with a single sheet of paper that look like they couldn't be made with a single sheet of paper.

Enough gabbing, let's get lamping...

Step 1: Gather Materials


Paper - 24-3/4" x 18" (see Step 4)
Long metal ruler or metal straight edge & ruler
Craft knife with new blade
Something to indent the paper - embosser, blunted nail, empty ballpoint pen, etc.
Tool for pressing folds - bone folder, hard thing, etc.
Double stick tape - 3/4" wide
Puck light with cord, switch & plug
3/4" wood cut to 5-15/16" square
Bumper feet about 1/4" tall
Cord holder clips
Heat shrink tubing or liquid electrical tape
Drill with 1/4" & 3/32" bits
Soldering equipment
White paint
Possibly some other stuff

First we'll build the base...

Step 2: Building the Base

Most pucks have a place to wrap the wire on the underside. Use this to secure the wire so a tug on the cord won't cause damage.

Take the wood piece and choose a side to be the back (any side will do). Center the puck light on the base with the cord toward the back. Mark the screw holes through the puck light and mark where the cord comes out from under the light.

With the 3/32" bit drill pilot holes for the puck. Use the 1/4" bit to drill the hole for the cord at a slight angle from the center of the top towards the back of the bottom.

Turn the wood over and drill pilot holes for the feet near the corners. Clean up the edges of the holes with sandpaper.

Now paint the entire base. You will probably lose sight of the pilot holes doing this, but when the paint dries you should see divots where they are.

Step 3: Assemble the Base

Cut the wire about 3" from the puck and feed the wire from the puck through the base (from the top). Now screw the puck into position and recut the wire so it stops about half way between the hole and the edge of the wood. Strip the puck wire and the power wire about 1/4" back.

Solder the wire back together using heat shrink tubing or liquid electrical tape to isolate and wrap the junction.

Now is a good time to test the lamp. If it's working use the wire clips to secure the wire to the wood. The clips I had used nails to secure, so I drilled a small pilot hole in the base. Make sure that the cord is in snug enough that a tug on the cord won't strain the junction.

Finally, attach the feet.

Step 4: Laying Out the Lamp Design

I like to use Strathmore 500 Bristol 3-ply for my lamps but anything good and stiff should work. For reference, the Bristol is 375 grams/sq.meter (gsm).

On the lamp shade design drawing the solid red lines are cut lines and the broken blue lines are fold lines. The little piece on the right edge will be referred to as the flap.

Draw the pattern on the backside of the paper with a pencil. Using a very sharp blade and the straight edge cut where appropriate. Use the indenting tool to dent the paper along the fold lines. Make sure all the cuts go right to the corners and the dents are well defined. If you do not have deep enough dents in the paper it can be difficult to get a clean fold.

Now carefully erase the pencil lines.

(The zip files are .jpg versions of the lamp shade design drawing in both inch and centimeter scale. Please note that the two designs are very slightly different, and I built mine in inches. If you go metric you'll have to adjust other parts on your own.)

Step 5: Folding the Lamp

*Disclaimer - I was folding and shooting the photos at the same time during the building so my technique is poor with a lot of pressure and curved paper and the like. You should almost always use two hands, and usually with one on either side of the paper.*

Using a straight edge, table edge, or other method, fold the 3 corners that don't have the cut out design and crease well. Unfold enough so the paper is relatively flat.

Now comes the tricky part...

Starting with the top and bottom creases fold the paper as far as it will go without putting undo strain on the paper. With this accomplished you should be able to start pushing the design into the body of the lamp.

Standing the shade upright at this point can help. Doing one at a time use the indenting tool or your fingers to push and press the paper into position. Don't do any one all at once; In order to avoid unwanted creases, tearing, or curved paper you have to do a little bit on each until the folds are established.

Once everything is going the way it should go, you can lay the paper flat on the table and carefully push it down (all the while pushing and pressing the individual folds) until the whole thing is flat. Now crease every fold very well, if you don't the lamp will tend to be out of square.

With the lamp folded over place a piece of double stick tape on the outside of the flap. If the tape has a protective strip on it, leave it in place for later. If you put a big flat thing on top of the lamp to press it down the tape will be easier to apply.

Step 6: Final Assembly - Part 1

Put a strip of double stick tape all along the edge of the base (remove protective strip if present).

On a flat surface place several risers at least as tall as the feet under the base. I used DVD cases and they worked very well. What you are trying to do is create a surface that is level to the bottom of the base so when the paper is applied it will be flush with the bottom.

Open up the lamp and place the flap on the back left corner of the base. Press into the tape to adhere. Aligning this corner well is essential to ease construction. Continue around the base adhering the paper to the tape.

If all of your components were accurately measured, it should fit easily. If it's a bit tight you can gently tug the paper and hopefully it will give enough to fit. If the paper is too big you should try to put an equal amount of gap on both sides.

Step 7: Final Assembly - Part 2

Now that the paper is attached all around the base, begin to secure the vertical seam. Put one hand inside the lamp and one outside. Starting at the bottom attach the two sides. The flap will be on the inside and the edge of the other piece should be just shy of the corner. Continuing adjusting, attaching, and pressing the pieces together until you reach the top. Hopefully you will have a nice straight seam.

Place the lamp on it's back with the flap towards the ground and the wire just off the edge of the table. Now press all along the seam to get really good contact. Press around the base to attach the paper firmly there as well doing the top edge, then rotating 90 degrees all the way around.

Stand the lamp up and look at it from above. If it is not square you can firmly, but gingerly, adjust the folds until it is.

Step 8: Light Up Your Life

Now plug it in and flip the switch.

Of course, like so many things on Instructables, this idea can be expanded upon and made significantly cooler. I wanted to do a lamp that used readily available, inexpensive parts and was easy enough to make in a day. These are great with better lighting (high power LED's. Thank you Dan), modular bases, and much more complex designs.