Makin' an Icosahedron Floor Lamp




Introduction: Makin' an Icosahedron Floor Lamp

This instructable will describe the design process and manufacturing of the lamp, and hopefully, be written in such a manner that the process could be used to create a lamp of any similar geometry.

Step 1: Inspiration for This Project

Many moons ago, I discovered the music of Odesza. This artist chose the Icosahedron to represent the flow and energy of their music, and after researching the meaning and symbolism of the Icosahedron sacred geometry I fell in love with it. Representing the element water, it symbolizes movement, flow, and change. Being the maker that I am, I wanted to take all of this symbolism and manifest into a tangible object that I could interact with on a daily basis. After a few late night brainstorming sessions, I came up the idea of a creating an icosahedron hanging lamp with a floor stand designed after a microphone stand.

let's dive into it!

Step 2: Equipment and Software Requirements

For this project, I have access to machines that some people might not have access to, and so I'll try to a give a couple alternative methods that might be good substitutes for how to make certain parts of the project.


I used this to cut out all the faces of the lamp, and the vellum diffusing paper that I'll talk about later in this instructable. An alternative to a laser cutter could be to use a table saw or chop saw for outer dimensions, and then a scroll saw for whatever cut out features you want. The holes for the screws could then be drilled out with a regular drill. The vellum could be cut easily with a pair of scissors. If you make 2D CAD files of each you could make stencils to help with repeatability. You could also get around using the laser to frost the clear acrylic by using steel wool or 220 grit sand paper to create the frosted appearance.

- Metal bandsaw and other metalworking tools.

I made the stand for the lamp out of mild steel tubing, but it could be made out of anything you want, and it could also be any design you want. I used a horizontal bandsaw to cut the pieces to length and then used a Disc sander and miter gauge to get the angles for the joints. This was my "improvised" way of getting the angles because they weren't typical angles that could be easily cut.

- Tig Welder

I originally wasn't planning on painting the stand, and so I wanted to create really clean welds that I felt comfortable showing off, however, after messing up one or two of them, and then not being able to get a finish I liked, I decided to paint over the metal. Once again, you can get around having to weld up a stand by making it out of wood or steel threaded piping.

- 3D Printer

I design the joints between the faces to screwed together with a backing block holding the screws in place. Because of the geometry and size, the best option I could think of was to 3D print them. You could get around this step by omitting the screwed in joints completely, and used fingers joints or a similar method to hold everything together.

Overall, just because I did something a certain way doesn't mean you have to do it that way or that it is the best way to do it. It was just how I felt like doing it at the moment. Any creation is art, and art is about coming with cool new ways to do things, so experiment!

Step 3: Step 3: Gathering Your Supplies

I ended up using a lot of different materials for this project. Originally, I wanted to use the scroll saw maple for all of the lamp faces, however, my best friend convinced me that using clear acrylic for the bottom would make it look more like a traditional lamp. That being said, really any material you want to use should work, just as long as the thicknesses are pretty close to 1/8" or thinner.

The Materials I used for this project include the following:

2x 1/8" thick Hard Maple 12" wide 24" long "scroll saw wood"

Sourced from:

*** Note this scroll saw wood is quite expensive compared to regular 1/8" thick plywood, but laser engraves and cuts really well compared to plywood, which can get inconsistent results and charred edges depending on the type of glue used in manufacturing the plywood. ***

1x 1/8" 12" wide 24" long Clear Acrylic Sheet

Sourced from: TAP plastics or any local plastic supplier

1x Pack of 8.5 x 11" Vellum Sheets (used to defuse the light shining through any holes)

Sourced from:

70x Stainless Steel Hex Drive Rounded Head Screw 6-32 5/16" long

Sourced from:

10 ft 3/4" x 16GA square mild steel tubing

1 ft 1/8" x 1" steel flat stock

Sourced from: any local scrap metal seller. If you are local to the South Bay, California, I use Sims Metal Management

1x Grey Tweed fabric cord and socket set

Sourced from:

1x Bluetooth Color Changing LED Light Bulb (LifX or Phillip Hue works or anyone regular old Lightbulb)

Sourced from:

1x Can of Rust-Oleum Universal Flat Metallic Soft Iron Spray Paint

Sourced from: Any local hardware store

1x Can of General purpose spray adhesive (used to attach vellum sheets to the Wood cutouts)

Sourced from: Any local hardware store

Step 4: Designin' the Lamp

I am most comfortable working in Solidworks and AutoCAD, and so all of my design work was done in these two, however, you can design it in Inventor or ProE or any 2D software. I choose to create a 3D model of the lamp, because I planned on using screws to secure everything together, and I figured it would easiest to come up with the backing block geometry (shown in the 3D Printed Parts section) if I could directly reference angles between faces, and design them in the assembly itself.

So, I began with deciding what the side length of the triangles should be. Using 6 inches created an overall lamp that was roughly the size of a basketball. From the main extruded triangle, I began a sketch and imported an image of an icosahedron. I used this image to trace the left half and then mirrored the lines across a center axis in order to assure it would be symmetrical. You could use any image or pattern for the cutouts on the side panels, and I choose the icosahedron only because I was hoping that it would cast shadows on walls in that shape. (They, unfortunately, were too small and so this didn't work : / )

Being a hanging lamp I needed a place that the socket for the bulb could connect. I needed to truncate the upper triangles to have a face that could be parallel to the ground plane. I created the top cover which ended up being a pentagon. From here, I created a clearance cut for the socket. All the side and top parts were then put together in an assembly by constraining the corner points and edges.

Once I have the icosahedron roughly assembled, I turned to designing the attaching blocks using the geometry in the assembly itself.

Step 5: 3D Printed Parts

The 3D printed parts were the most time-consuming parts to design. I went back and forth on the best way to design them. at first, I tried to model them based on geometry equations alone but found the easiest way was to use the old trial and error method.

I created the pentagon blocks by first created a sketch with the polygon geometry. I arbitrarily choose the dimensions of the sides for what seemed right for this size lamp. From there, I created a plane and placed a sketch with a point on it. I used the extruded loft feature to create the 5 sided pyramid shape. I used trial and error to come up with the distance of the new plane from the original polygon sketch. Knowing the angles between faces for the icosahedron helped get a rough estimate. A extruded base and screws holes were added to finish the part.

For the block connecting the truncated triangles to the socket plate, I used a slightly different method. I removed the top from the assembly in order to be able to view the angle between the two triangles and extrude a part with that cross section out. From there I look at the side few of the extruded triangle and found the angle that would create a flat plane parallel to the ground plane. An extruded base and screws holes were added to finish the part.

Lastly, I used my Makerbot to print out the parts. I had to adjust them a bit to get the distances between the triangles just right and minimize the gaps. I did this just by scaling the part in the slicer software.

Step 6: Lasercuttin'!

When it came time to laser cut the sides, I transferred the files into a DXF in order to put them in the format I needed. I used AutoCAD to nest together the cut shapes in order to utilize as much of the wood pieces as possible. At the same time, I was nesting them I created the shape for the vellum covers. I offset the triangle edges and holes inward and created flaps that would overlap and cover any gaps between triangles.

A useful trick I have learned for laser cutting was covering any wood you are cutting or rastering with tape in order to prevent ash from the edges from coating the surface of the wood. If you negate this step you will have a headache trying to clean up the ash from the surface.

I didn't want to cut through the clear acrylic pieces but instead wanted to use the laser to frost the negative space around the icosahedron shape. I achieved this by inverting the colors in illustrator so that the space around the shape is completely black.

Step 7: Designin' and Buildin' the Stand

Being that this project is centered around music I wanted the stand to also have that theme. I drew inspiration from a classic microphone stand. I also knew that I wanted to practice my skills at welded tubing.

I used Solidworks weldment to sketch up the design and made a drawing of the different section with the angles labeled. I used a horizontal bandsaw to cut all the pieces to length and then used a disc sander and miter gauge to get as close to the angles as possible.

I made endcaps for the feet and endpoints using some 1/8" flat stock. I cut them down using the horizontal bandsaw, and use the disc sander again for getting them to the right size.

After I had my parts cut out I tig welded everything together. At first, I wanted to heat color the steel and clearcoat it, however, I wasn't able to get the uniform color I was looking for, and so I decided to trust the old dependable Rustoleum in a can.

Step 8: Assemblin' Everything

Assembling everything together began with threading all of the screws into the holes of the blocks. The holes were slightly smaller than the screws and so the screws tapped their own holes. Using spray adhesive, the vellum cut-outs were attached to the wooden triangles. From here, all of the triangles were assembled, the socket was attached, and the bulb put into place.

Step 9: Conclusions and Future Work

In the end, I was really happy with how the lamp turned out with only a few minor tweaks I would want to make if I were to make a second one.

I would want the lamp to be more around the size of a beach ball. I think making the triangle sides 10 inches instead of 6 inches would achieve this.

I would want to make the cut outs a really cool mandala design instead of the repetitive icosahedron. I think I would keep the frosted acrylic part the same though.

Lastly, I would make the stand out 1-inch square tubing instead of 3/4-inch. The long section was just long and thin enough that they would bend and not be straight.

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    5 years ago

    That's a really fun design! I've got an old floor lamp that this shade could be a neat replacement for. :)