Introduction: Paper Cylinder Lights

Our railroad-style apartment has a long 45-foot hallway that never had working lights. After spending 4 years trying to convince our landlord to fix them I decided to build my own.

The lights are constructed of a metal frame wrapped in a cylinder of thin lace paper with a strip of LEDs running down the length. Each light requires:

  • 36" aluminum U-channel, 3/8" legs (amazon)
  • 3x 6" diameter steel rings (amazon)
  • 39" x 20" sheet of lace paper (I used a light peach lace paper from a local art supply store)
  • 36" of LED strip (amazon)
  • ~10' 28AWG magnet wire (amazon)
  • 12V power supply, ~0.5A per light (amazon)

Your choice of paper and LEDs will have a big impact on the brightness and color of the light. Choose paper that is very thin and translucent to get the best effect. You'll also need a variety of tools and supplies including parts for soldering both electronics and the steel. I hung a long series of lights using small ceiling hooks, 18AWG wire and Wiremold cord organizer (amazon).

Step 1: Assemble the Frame

Prepare the spine

Drill 3 holes along the aluminum channel to accept the metal rings, one at each end and one in the middle. The holes should run parallel to the base of the U-channel and through both legs. Drill 1/16" holes through a single leg at each end of the channel to accept the power wire.

Attach the rings

Cut each ring along the existing weld line and bend the ring until the ends match up nicely. Feed a ring through each of the 3 holes you drilled in the spine. Solder the rings back together (or weld if you have the tools!).

Wire the LEDs

Attach a strip of LEDs along the length of the channel. At each end, solder a 3-4 foot piece of magnet wire to one terminal, loop it 2 times through the small hole you drilled and then once around the metal ring.

Step 2: Prepare the Shade

Cut your paper down to 39"x20". Mark a line 1" off of one of the long edges. Apply a very thin layer of craft glue and attach the other end of the paper on the line to form a cylinder. Let the glue dry.

Cut small, lengthwise slits 1.5" from each end of the cylinder in the middle of the overlapping section.

Step 3: Assemble and Hang the Lights

Screw two small hooks into the ceiling 36" apart and leave a ladder underneath them. Tape the ring on one end to the spine folded into the LED side. While holding both the shade and the spine with the taped side down, slide the shade over the spine. Feed the magnet wire through the slits in the shade.

Hang one end of the light by wrapping the magnet wire around a ceiling hook then pivot the light up and attach the other end at the same height. Two of the rings should unfold into place as you move the lamp horizontal. Untape the other ring to allow it to fall into place as well.

Run Wiremold conduit parallel to the lights along the length of the ceiling adjacent to the hooks. Ensure that a gap lines up near each ceiling hook. Lay 18AWG wire inside the conduit and strip a short section of insulation off the wire in each gap corresponding to the polarity of the adjacent magnet wire. Sand off the insulation on the magnet wire and wrap it around the exposed section.

Test to ensure the light works and then gently smooth the paper cylinder.