Introduction: How to Make a Lamp Out of (almost) Anything

This project is meant to demonstrate that you can make a lamp out of practically anything, even a stinky kimchi jar! I was trying to decorate my new apartment room on a student budget, and all those dope-looking lamps I was eyeing cost at least $30 (which normally isn't too much, but hey it's still like a few days worth of groceries). So anyway that's how I decided to attempt a zero-cost* lamp by using nothing but scraps I found around the house.

In this instructable, I will detail exactly how I made my lamp, but keep in mind that this is a highly customizable project and you can use anything that you find. Get creative!

*By zero-cost, I mean that it didn't cost anything for me since I had all I needed on hand. However, there are a few things you will need to purchase if you don't happen to have these, detailed below:



1. Lightbulb socket and cord—I couldn't find the one I originally purchased since I got it years ago, but here's something similar for about $9.

2. Lightbulb—you might already have replacement bulbs for other lights lying around as I did, but if not, get yourself a bulb so your lamp can actually fulfill its purpose. Walmart sells 4 packs for $5!

CUSTOMIZE (these are the specific materials that I used):

3. Kimchi Jar—functioned as a lampshade. It had a nice red cap and a jar size that was a perfect fit for the bulb I had. Alternative ideas I considered: tin can (from canned foods), milk jug, solo cup, chip bag (I thought the shiny internal foil would be nice for reflecting, but it would probably need structural reinforcement lol).

4. Power Bank—not integral to the function of the light, but I thought it would be a nice feature to have to be able to charge my phone from the lamp. Again, I had this power bank on hand from a previous project, but I probably wouldn't have gone out of my way to purchase one if I didn't have it. For an upgrade, it would probably be cool to integrate a wireless Qi charger instead, for a sleeker look.

5. Wood Frame—I used to screenprint shirts, so I had a lot of these homemade printing screens that I no longer needed. I used the parts to create the linkage bars so I could make my lamp adjustable.

6. MDF board—similar to the wood frame, I had a scrap MDF board that I cut from to create the part of the linkage that connects to the lampshade.

7. Nuts, Bolts, and Washers—ok I sorta cheated here because I actually had to get two ¼"-20 wing nuts and bolts from Home Depot for the hinges for the linkage bars. I did have 4 washers on hand though.

8. Glue—Since most of this lamp is made of wood or wood-related materials, I used wood glue to fix everything together. White glue would've probably worked as well.

9. Paint—I had a lot of acrylic paint and spray paint at home, which I used to decorate my lamp.


Coping saw, drill, 35mm hole saw bit, ¼" drill bit, box cutter, had planar, ruler, clamps, sandpaper, paintbrush

Step 1: Make a Sketch

Before building your lamp, you might want to draw a quick sketch of what you want to make. It does not need to be an exact blueprint, just something to guide you. These are the sketches I made initially, and I ended up changing a few things as I started building.

Step 2: Lampshade

The lampshade was fairly simple to make. After washing to container and removing the label, I cut off the bottom of the jar with a box cutter. The technique here is to score around the jar multiple times so you get a nice straight cut, and also be careful to not apply too much pressure so it doesn't slip and cut you. Then, take the lid (or whatever surface you're gonna put the socket through) and trace the socket outline onto it with a pencil. Using the box cutter, remove the inner circle, making sure the hole is smaller than the socket. This time, it's more efficient to make small, deep cuts all the way around the circle rather than scoring. To finish up, use some rough sandpaper to enlarge the hole until the socket can be pushed through. It should be a tight fit. If you accidentally make the hole a tad too large, you can wrap the socket with masking tape until it is able to fit in the hole snugly.

Step 3: Linkage Bars

The linkage is made out of 2 (technically 3) parts: the wood frame sticks, and the MDF cutout. The wood frame had a little lip to it, so I first used a hand planar to shave it flush. Then, I cut out 2 pieces from the frame, both 9" in length. Most of the measurements I used were arbitrary, with only aesthetics in mind. These 2 pieces will be on the outside of the MDF piece, effectively sandwiching it.

The top part of the linkage is basically a rectangle with a hole on top and the 2 corners cut out on the bottom. Since my MDF board was only ½" thick, I cut 2 identical pieces using a coping saw and glued them together to create a thicker piece. The 35mm hole saw was the best fit for making the socket hole, though I did end up wrapping 2-3 rounds of masking tape on the socket for everything to fit nicely. After gluing the pieces together, I drilled another ¼" hole through the center of the cut corners. This is where the bolt will go.

After everything was cut, I sanded all of these parts so they have round corners and soft edges. Then, using a ¼" drill bit I drilled holes centered at 1/2" away from the edge of the wood piece. Do this on all 4 ends of the wood pieces.

One important measurement to note if you are using this design is that the width of the corners cut from the top part of linkage have to match the thickness of the wood pieces, and the length and depth of the cut corners have to be a bit larger than the width of the wood pieces. This way, the linkage bars will be able to rotate freely. So in my case, the dimension of the cut corner would be approximately ½"x1"x1".

Step 4: Base

For the base, I found this puzzle board that worked really well, since it had a border that helped contain the power bank. To start, I measured the power bank dimensions and marked out the pieces to cut on the puzzle board. I utilized the 4 corners of the puzzle board for the top and bottom of the base and created height by cutting up the border into small strips. I also ended up cutting a large piece from the center of the board as a sort of veneer to cover up the line between the 2 top corner pieces.

After slapping on some wood glue and clamping everything down for an hour or 2, the base was ready to go.

Step 5: Linkage Anchor

This is the part that attaches the linkage bars to the base. I apologize for the lack of process photos, but the anchor was basically made by whittling down a piece of redwood scrap. The dimensions are 2"x1.25"x1.25", and I carved out a canal lengthwise in the center (usinng a combo off coping saw and drill) so I could put the cord through there. Then, I marked out a 1.25"x1.25" box on one of the larger faces so I could drill a ¼" hole for where the linkage bars attach to the anchor. Lastly, for aesthetics, I rounded off one end with sand paper.

The image above actually shows the anchor upside down, so the canal portion will be facing the base when assembled. In the assembled photos, you might notice that there's an extra piece below the anchor. That was a later addition where I tried to make the anchor swivel-able with an aluminum pipe, but I ended up just gluing everything down since it was too unstable. So TLDR if you're following along, this is the only piece you'll need for the anchor.

Step 6: Paint Job!

After a preliminary test fit to make sure everything works, I spray painted everything white first and then bust out the acrylics to do some color blocking. Wooooo almost done!

Step 7: Assembly

Assembly is fairly straightforward. First, take the red piece and glue it on to the base with some wood glue. Make sure to put the cord through before gluing because you won't be able to get the cord through afterwards. Clamp the parts together or put a weight on top to ensure it gets glued down well. Again, placement was sort of arbitrary, I put it near the front to give the whole thing a more balanced look.

While waiting for the glue to dry, I put together the linkage bars by sandwiching the blue piece with wood bars and securing with a wing nut and bolt. To ensure smooth rotation, it's also a good idea to put a washer between each wood bar and the blue piece. So the complete sandwich would go: bolt—wood bar 1—washer—blue piece—washer—wood bar 2—wing nut.

Then, take the socket and push it through the socket holes on the blue piece and jar cap. This should be a friction fit, so adjust accordingly with masking tape until the socket sits snugly. You can also apply some glue to keep everything in place, but I wanted to be able to disassemble the lamp if necessary to transport so I opted or the friction fit.

Finally, attached the linkage to the anchor using the same sandwich as before. (bolt—wood bar 1—washer—red piece—washer—wood bar 2—wing nut)

There you have it! A fully functioning lamp made from upcycled materials that is uniquely yours.

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