Introduction: Silver Sphere (from Milk Cartons)

About: Always up for something new!

Since I drink a colossal amount of milk, I figured it'd be nice to upcycle some of the packaging. Making this type of sphere is incredibly easy, but equally time-consuming, so be warned. It's composed exclusively of old tetrabriks and some transparent hobby tape, so the whole project is practically free.

The design is largely based on the beautiful TetraBox designs by Ed Chew, with some modifications to make the project more achievable. It's an origami shape that works by cutting the tetrabriks in strips, folding them into small triangles and then knitting these together in hexagon/pentagon shapes until they naturally form a sphere.

The original design can be admired on his website:

Step 1: Collecting Material

It’s important to rinse them before you store them away as milk starts to smell terrible really fast. I'd advise you to cut them open immediately, if you don't they will smell bad soon anyway. On a side note, the same happens when you throw a tetrabrik out, so everyone working in recycling will thank you if you run some water through a bottle before discarding it.

The original design as pictured in color above uses ~400 boxes and is quite big. After one month it became clear that despite living in a house with 6 people, I was going to need more than a year to collect enough material. Unwilling to go dumpsterdiving and realizing that making this would be a full-time job for a month, I downscaled the design by using the blueprint of a football as a base (step 3). This lowered the amount needed to approximately 50 tetrabriks.

Step 2: Cutting the Briks Into Strips

Draw the lines on the briks and cut them with a pair of scissors. The size of these is not too important, it depends largely on how big you want the hexagons to be. I used 2,1 cm width because that's what the original recommended. Lenght-wise they should be at least a little more than 3 times your width, so you can make triangles out of them and glue them easily. The original double-wrapped every single triangle, as they use the whole length of the tetrabrik for the strips. That seemed a waste of time and material to me so I cut every strip in half and it worked just as well, although I had to use some tape, whereas the original also works without tape.

Now cut strips. Keep cutting. Then cut some more. Seriously, this takes ages.

If you know a primary school teacher, get a class of 4 year olds to do this step for you. It's not child labor if they like doing it, right?

Step 3: Assemble Hexagons and Pentagons

Once you have a ton of strips, start assembling hexagons and pentagons. For hexagons this is really simple:

- Fold the strips into triangles, then use some tape or fast glue to keep them this way. Make sure the metallic side is on the outside. Use a different strip as a measure while folding to get equal sides of 2,1cm each.

- "Knit" them together using the same strips. Fold a strip in half, use it to connect two triangles, then fold it over the sides again. You can use some paperclips to hold them in place for a moment, but no glue is needed here because once it's a hexagon, they'll stop budging. These strips will hide the ugly ass milk carton colors on the inside as well as the tape you used on the outside.

If you only made hexagons, you'd get a flat type of layer like a beehive. That's why the pattern for a ball also includes pentagons. The reason we chose 2,1 as a base width is that it's easy to make pentagons as well: The width of the "inside" strips needs to be the same as the "outside" ones for hexagons, but the ratio is 6/7 for pentagons. So cut some strips to a 1,8cm width and repeat the above steps, this time making sure every triangle has two 1,8cm sides and one 2,1cm side.

Once you have 20 hexagons and 12 pentagons, you can start knitting them together to make the football! It will automatically try to form into a sphere while you're assembling them, so use some books to keep it down.

Step 4: All Done!

We already have plenty of nice lamps in our house, so right now it's being used as a filler display on a drawer.

You can, however, place any kind of lamp inside to turn it into a lampshade. I should note that it's too small to hang from the ceiling (looks-wise), but still looks great on a nightstand. Might also be nice if you suspend it from the ceiling with the ball right above a table. Make sure you're using a single point lightsource to make the pattern come out on the walls. I tested with some different lightsources and they were ok because there's enough distance between the lamp and the sphere. Do check that it can't tilt to one side; if they touch (or otherwise heat up) they can become a fire hazard.

In a pinch, you can probably even use it as a volleybal. The possibilities are endless!

Before and After Contest 2017

Participated in the
Before and After Contest 2017