Introduction: Handmade Designer Paper Lampshade

About: I like to fix, tinker, and make things from scratch. I also like to cook. mmmmmm... foooood.

We recently moved into an older house that doesn't have overhead lighting built into most of the rooms. We bought floor lamps for some of the rooms, but wanted hanging lights in most common areas. 1 trip to Ikea later and we had purchased a number of their hanging lights (If you don't know what I'm referring to, it's just a light bulb socket attached to a long extension cord).

Unfortunately, thanks to the fact that Ikea sells the light cords and the light shades separately, we somehow managed to buy too few lampshades.

So for a month we had a raw lightbulb hanging from our bedroom ceiling. I tried to convince my wife it was 'Industrial Chic' but she saw through my charade.

So, for Valentines day, I built her a custom, designer lampshade.

Step 1: Supplies and Tools

Here's what you need:
  • Thick paper
  • Sharp craft knife ($1)
  • Glue Stick ($1)
  • A little bit of scotch tape
  • Pliers to work with, and cut the wire
  • 20 guage wire (about $3 for 6 m. at Home Depot)
  • A craft board to cut the paper on
  • A cork-backed ruler is essential if you can't cut a straight line
  • A plumbing fixture (see pictures) - You may be able to find something different for this piece.

Notes about supplies:
  • I bought a medium-thickness Japanese paper from an art store. I cost about $3 for an 11" by 14" sheet. Thin paper won't work, think 'construction paper' type thickness to be safe. 
  • I used a plumbing fixture to hang the lampshade off of. I had a few different ideas, but this was the easiest. They cost less than $1 at home depot and are designed to attach to the wall or floor around pipes in your bathroom (toilet water pipes). It conveniently opens and closes via a pivoting rivet at one end and the opening happens to be perfect for sitting on top of the Ikea light fixture.
  • Re: Lightbulbs. You do NOT want to use a traditional incandescent with this light shade; at least, no over about 40 watts. I started with a 100 watt incandescent, just because that was what was here already, and the paper was getting hot to the touch within a minute or two. I quickly switched to a 60 watt fluorescent and everything is nice and cool even when the light has been on for a long time. I plan to put a hight wattage LED in here shortly since this is also my Tinker/Maker workspace and I want a little more light.

Step 2: Cutting Your Paper

This part will take by far the longest time, but it's fun once you get into the rythm. My suggestion is to put on some tunes and just find a groove. On my large sheet of paper, it probably took me 3 or 4 hours over 2 nights to cut all of the triangles. You can likely do it faster, I wasn't hurrying.

Lie your paper down on your cutting surface and start cutting. You can cut any shapes or designs you want. I like geometrical, art deco-esque styles so went with triangles. I only used a ruler to cut the outside edges. Everything else I cut freehand, which may sound risky, but I found it easier and much quicker than using the ruler for each side of each triangle.

Try to keep the space between triangles consistant. I decided to keep about .5" borders around the triangles, but really it turned out to be more like .25" borders after a few.

Have Fun! There is no right or wrong here. I like to cut crazy, large or obtuse triangles at strange angles and then try to fill in the spaces with smaller ones. This prevents your design from becoming to repetitive.

The only real rule, is to leave 6 - 8" around the top edge of your lampshade. This will be to support the shade and block the most direct light.

Step 3: Rolling Your Shade

Once all your triangles are cut, you will need to roll your lampshade. Again, there is no right or wrong here. I played around with different shapes and sizes for awhile before deciding on a long narrow style. You could easily create a wide short shade, or a funnel shape as well. Just make sure there is at least 6" between the bulb and the paper on all sides.

Once you know your shape, use your glue stick across one edge of your paper. The goal is just to tack it at first. Roll your lampshade and adjust until you are happy with it. when you have the paper set correctly, start glueing every spot where the paper overlaps. Just reach in, lift the top paper and apply a little glue, then press the top paper back down.

Step 4: Wiring and Hanging Your Shade

Cut a length of wire a few inches longer than the circumference of your shade.

The next part is a little tricky, but not too bad once you get the hang of it.
  1. Lie your shade on the table, with the top facing you, this is the section with no triangles on it.
  2. Set your wire along the inside of the opening, about .5" in from the edge.
  3. Fold the paper over the wire and tape a small section of it down.
  4. Rotate your shade a little and keep going until you have the wire enclosed completely within a fold at the top of your shade. This is going to provide a little strength for hanging.
  • Start small, after you have taped down a few inches you can fold larger and larger lengths.
  • Don't start with the end of the wire. Start your first fold around the middle of the wire, then work your way around to the edges.
  • Don't twist the ends of the wire together, simply let them overlap a little.

If you look at the picture below, you can see the dark line along the top of the shade, this is the folded seam.

Hanging Your Designer Lampshade

First, slide your plumbing fixture around the top of the hanging light and close it. It should sit flat on it's own.

Next, you will need two more lengths of wire to hang the shade. I cut these long so I could adjust the shade up and down to find the right height. the 20 guage wire is soft and pliable, so you can bend, unbend and adjust a few times to get it right. 

Once you have the two extra wires cut, simply push them through the strengthened top edge of the shade (on opposite sides of the shade of course!), making sure the supporting wire folded in the shade is going to be on the inside of the hanging loop (otherwise the paper will eventually tear out.) Then bend them up and feed them through the holes in the plumbing fixture.

Tip: I didn't want to see the hanging wire on mine, so when I pushed it through the shade I tried to keep the holes on the inside as much as possible.

Step 5: Enjoy Your Genius

Turn on the light and let people ooo and aaahhh over the awesome job you did!

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