Magic Flip Lantern




Introduction: Magic Flip Lantern

About: I'm an enginerd, author, and teacher.

This project was created as an introduction to vector drawing, laser cutting, soldering, and circuits.

Credit: The idea came from Jaymes Dec's Magic Lantern project, but instead of a custom circuit board, we soldered components together, much like in this Flip Lantern Instructable.

Parts needed:

tilt switch (example)

battery holder (example)

LEDs (example)

battery (example)


laser cuttable material (wood, acrylic, cardboard, etc.)


Hot glue

Step 1: Download Inkscape

You'll need a program capable of manipulating vector drawings. Adobe Illustrator will do this, but it costs money. If you don't already have it or feel like buying it, download Inkscape instead. It's basically the free, open source version of Illustrator, and it works on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.

Step 2: Choose a Material and Make a Box

The easiest way I've found to make a box to laser cut is by using either MakerCase or make-a-box. A 2" x 2" x 2" box is plenty big enough for this project, but you can use whatever size you want. I'm using 1/8" wood laminate for this project, so that's the thickness I'll choose. Customize this based on your material thickness. Download the template that's generated by one of these programs, then open it in Inkscape. PDF and Corel Draw versions of the template we made are attached here.

Step 3: Design Your Box Panels

This is the part you'll do in Inkscape (or Illustrator). There will eventually be a light inside this thing, so you want some cutouts on the sides and/or top of the box for the light to shine through, kind of like a Jack-O-Lantern. Big cutouts will show the circuit inside, which you may or may not want. Shape and size can be whatever you can dream up.

Step 4: Laser Cut Your Box

This step requires that you have access to a laser cutter. Check your local university, hacker space, or library for one. If that doesn't work, you can order your cut pieces through Ponoko. If you happen to have a Universal VLS4.60 laser, here are the settings we used:

Material: Natural > Wood > Hard Wood > Maple
Material Thickness: .125"

Now lower the RED speed to 8%

**The pictures here are all from a first pass of the box in pine, not the dark laminate

Step 5: Solder Your Circuit

Grab an LED, button cell battery, battery holder, and tilt switch. Get some helping hands or some other way of holding the stuff together. Solder the long leg of the LED to the + leg of the battery holder. Then solder the tilt switch to the other leg of the LED and the - side of the battery terminal. The breadboarded circuit shows how when it's hooked up correctly, the tilt switch closes the circuit, and the LED lights up. Reinforce the soldered joints with hot glue if you want.

Step 6: Assemble Then Marvel at Your Creation

Assemble 5 of the 6 sides of your box. Use glue or tape if necessary. Tape the circuit into your box in the orientation you want. Put the 6th side/top onto your box (again with glue or tape if necessary). The magic flip lantern should be on in one orientation, then off when you flip it upside down. Enjoy!

Sensors Contest 2016

Runner Up in the
Sensors Contest 2016

Rainbow Contest 2016

Participated in the
Rainbow Contest 2016

1 Person Made This Project!


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6 years ago



6 years ago

Nice little project, and easily adaptable to complete without a laser cutter too. I like this a lot, thanks for sharing!