Introduction: Speech Bubble Lamp & Scribbleboard With Full Plans

About: Architect, Urban Designer, all-round tinkerer of odds and ends. Small solutions for big city living. Dreaming of lands faraway where garages are big enough to build a workshop in, or lakes are there for taking…

Hi guys,

I made this light-up speech bubble lamp as a gift. The design is a speech bubble vortex or tunnel, which is a perspective illusion as it is really just 2D. It works as a lamp as well as a scribble board for messages.

It's made out of laser cut 3mm acrylic (perspex), with a walnut plywood base. The LEDs are USB powered so this could work with a power bank or plugged in.

Step 1: Design Files

The components are quite simple:

1 wooden base with an LED strip in a groove

1 acrylic sheet engraved with the speech bubble pattern that fits into the groove in the base

The principle is that the acrylic is edge-lit from below, and the edges of the acrylic cut-out will glow. Any engraved lines will also catch the light and glow.

I designed these in AutoCAD. Design files are attached. The base is made out of stacked layers of 3mm plywood, and the acrylic sheet needs to be 3mm clear material

Step 2: Laser Cut Your Parts

When laser cutting the speech bubble, only the outline of the acrylic is set to cut through. All the other lines are set to engrave. It's better to keep the protective paper on for this step, although it is a pain to peel off the many many tiny pieces of paper after engraving. The alternative is to just peel off the paper first, but then clean off any discolouration on the acrylic surface with acetone.

The plywood base can be laser cut or just made using regular wood and hand tools. I chose to laser cut as it saves on sanding and finishing. Also, the laser cut edges of 3mm plywood perfectly match my chosen walnut veneer on the top surface.

Step 3: Glue the Plywood Base Together

I bought an LED strip that is powered by a USB cable. I cut the LED strip to length to fit the wooden base.

I glued up the wooden base two layers at a time with wood glue, clamping the base with spring clamps to apply even pressure all around.

The LED strip is hot-glued into the resultant groove in the wooden base, with the USB cable coming out the end of the wood block.

Step 4: Stain the Wood, and Assemble

I finished the wood base with just a simple coat of mineral oil, wiped on.

That's all! Just slot the acrylic piece into the base, and it's ready to go.

The flat side of the acrylic panel (the side without engravings) works well as a writing surface for whiteboard markers. However paint markers work even better, especially white or neon coloured paint markers which will glow with the LEDs.

Step 5: Enjoy Your Lamp!

There you go!

This speech bubble was designed as a bedside lamp, but I can also see this as a message board on an entryway table. It glows beautifully in the dark or in slightly dimmer lighting, and it creates a 3D tunnel illusion from most viewing angles.

The acrylic panel is simply slotted into the wooden base, so it could easily be swapped out for different graphic cut-outs to suit the season. It could also be used with individual cut-out acrylic letters to form words or names. Lots of possibilities!

This is my entry for the 'Make It Glow' contest, so please vote for me if you like this!


Make it Glow Contest 2018

Participated in the
Make it Glow Contest 2018