Psychedelic 70s Motion Lamp



Introduction: Psychedelic 70s Motion Lamp

Growing up as a teenager in the 70s was pretty cool. Everything was peace, love and psychedelica! One thing that sticks out in my mind was this super cool lamp my friend had in her room. I was mesmerized by it. It was a psychedelic motion lamp. I always wanted one. So when I saw this contest, I thought I would try to recreate it. So here goes...


You will need:

Small acorn nut
Push pin/later replaced by a furniture tack

Black Card stock

Super glue

E-6000 glue

Clear cellophane tape

Light bulb 40-60 watt (standard light bulb not LED) Heat from the bulb is required

Light bulb harp

lamp base

transparency film 4 pieces (Laser printed)

Psychedelic design

Step 1: The Artwork

For the psychedelic art work, I found an image on google that I
thought would work well because it had that optical illusion look to it. I used photoshop to properly size it and to add color. I know not everyone has PS, but there are other photo editing programs out there that you can use for free, or if you're able you can draw something out and then copy it on to the transparencies. They have to be printed on a laser printer, because inkjet is not opaque enough and the effect is not as vibrant.

Photoshop users: if you find a design that you think will work, the best way to preview the effect is to set the top layer's blend mode to multiply, (the black and white one) and shift it back and forth over the color layer.

Step 2: Getting Started

I wasn't really sure how to go about getting the inner spinner to move. I thought it was a motor that made it move. So I looked up motion lamps and found that it's actually the heat of the light bulb and a turbine balanced on a pin that makes it all happen. So, that's what I did. It took a little trial and error, but it really works. To make the turbine, you first need to know what size to make it. I figured that a 4 inch embroidery hoop would do the trick and give me a nice light weight and stable area to attach the inner spinning tube to. Keeping in mind that the tube will need to clear the bulb all the way around so the sides don't touch the bulb.The 4 inch hoop was wide enough to clear the bulb all the way down. This is the bases for the measurements I used for the turbine. Yours could vary depending on your particular preferences and equipment. After tracing a 4 inch circle using the hoop, I added an extra 1/4 inch around the edge then divided it into 8 equal parts. Picture a pie with 8 slices. Just inside the pie slices draw a line a 1/4 of an inch from the edge of the line and 1/4 inch in from the edge of the circle and 1/4 inch from the very center. Keep your lines on the same side of each pie slice. You are in a sense making a slanted "L" just inside each slice of pie. Do this all the way around. With this as your template, using an exact o knife or plotter cutter, carefully cut the card stock to look like the picture above.

Step 3: Time to Turbine

When you have the turbine cut, you will grab the embroidery hoop, run a bead of glue along the top edge then place the hoop as centered as possible on the turbine. When the glue has set, lift all the edges of the cuts you made and give them a little fold so that each flap is bent up at approximately the same angle.

This is where the little acorn nut comes in. Where the hole is in the center, rim that with some superglue and set the nut directly in the middle over the hole. Look to the under side and make sure it's perfectly centered over that hole and that the hole opening is wide enough to accommodate the circumference of the nut. It's important that the acorn nut when balancing on the top of the tack does not come in contact with the paper. Any kind of resistance will keep it from spinning. The acorn nut being centered is also important. There a balancing act going on here. I put the turbine on the pin to make sure that it was as balanced as it could be.

Step 4: Assembling the Light Fixture

So I originally started with a clear 40 watt bulb as you see from the picture, but soon learned that the harp was too big for the small bulb and switched to a standard 60 bulb so the the harp wouldn't be sliding around.

Remove the finial on the top of the harp and grab the super glue again. Add a dot of superglue on the top of the screw and hold the pin in place until set. *Another learn side note: With the increased wattage of the light bulb, which created more heat, the plastic push pin didn't make it. Kind of melted. Like seriously melted. The harp gets super hot so beware. I ended up replaced it with a brass furniture tack that worked out great.

Step 5: Putting Together the Inner Spinner Tube

After switching the bulb I measured the height from the base to the top of the tack to see just how long to make the inner spinner tube so that it would clear the base. 7.5 inches did the trick. Then I need the circumference
of the inner 4 inch hoop. That ended up being 12.75 inches.

Because I could only get the transparencies in 8.5 x 11 I had to break the artwork up into two pages and tape them together. So each piece of art work for the inner tube was 6.32 inches.

After having them printed, I cut the top and bottom flush but, I left a 1/4 inch on each edge of one piece so There would be a clear over lap to catch the tape. I taped the 2 pieces together, matching the pattern then rolled it into a cylinder and taped the other side using the clear cellophane tape. Invisible tape won't work for this. The cello tape literally disappears into the transparency.

After taping it up on both sides, I checked for size it slipped perfectly over the hoop. Grabbed a tube of E-6000, lightly coated the outside of the hoop and slipped the cylinder over the hoop and let it set.

Step 6: Building the Outside Structure

The outer layer of art work is static and the inner tube moves to create the effect. I needed to have a structure to apply the outer art work to, that would also slightly elevate it above the cord. Having the outer artwork higher would also help line up the inner tube to the outer tube. Another key point is to make sure that the outer tube has enough clearance so the inner tube can spin freely.

To build the outer structure I used 2 - 5 inch embroidery hoop (the inner part of the hoop) and 2 sets of chopsticks. I kept one set of chopsticks full size and chopped the thicker end of one set to make the additional
2 feet. I used a glue gun to attach the full size sticks to opposing sides of the hoops, on the inside of the hoop. (I wanted it to be flush at the top and bottom of each hoop to attach the artwork.) Then measured the height of the ends of the second set of chop sticks to make the feet all level, gluing those to the inside as well. Now just glue the top ring in place, same as the bottom.

Step 7: Applying the Artwork to the Outer Structure

It's time to create the outer cylinder. First I cut away the excess transparency from just the top and the bottom of the print. I left the excess on the sides to give something for the tape to hang on to. I did a quick measure on the structure to make sure that each piece would reach half way around before taping. All seem to be good to go.

Then I place both pieces side to side and tapped along the seam. After taping up you should have one long piece now that you can fully wrap around the structure. I ran a bit of e-6000 on the outside of the hoop and rolled the entire piece until both ends met. I secured it with a bit of tape to keep everything in place while it set up.

Step 8: Let's Give It a Test Drive!

Now it's just a matter of slipping the outer shell over the spinner. Turn on the light and watch it spin!

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    6 Discussions


    1 year ago on Step 3

    I had one very similar, the contrasting color was brighter but a very good job that! All the old blacklight posters and such are long gone from the world, this was a nice memory.


    1 year ago

    For an even more psychedelic effect, you might look into moirés ;)


    1 year ago

    That is far out man! I love the use of the radiometer principle to make it spin. I had one of those back in the 60's. Never forgot how it worked either.


    Reply 1 year ago

    Yeah man, That's a groovy thing, I'm getting all mellow, now where's me doobie.


    1 year ago

    Groovy! ;)
    Very nice and creative.

    Penolopy Bulnick
    Penolopy Bulnick

    1 year ago

    I really like the way you incorporated the illusion patterns into your light :)