Introduction: USB Powered LED Articulating Lamp

I designed this lamp as part of my senior thesis exhibition in college. It is a small-scale version of a classic articulating desk lamp that is powered by a standard USB port. 
The lamp can be plugged directly into a laptop to act as a keyboard light or it can be placed in a base and powered via a USB extension cable. 
I cut the parts out of 1/8 inch masonite with an Epilog laser engraver that was available at my university. I designed the parts to be layered and glued together to form three-dimensional components that could then be screwed and pinned together to create a fully functioning articulating lamp. 

I hope you enjoy my work!

Step 1: What You'll Need

-14 gauge steel wire
-small machine screws and nuts (I used the smallest size I could find in my hardware store, you may have to adjust the hole sizes for the screws you can find). You'll need 1/2 inch, 3/4 inch, and 1 inch long screws.
-small screw eyes
-rubber bands (4 regular sized)
-tar paper (or any black paper or thin plastic sheet)
-white fabric (synthetic is best because the edges get cauterized by the laser when cutting)
-1/8 inch masonite
-small gauge magnet wire
-good super glue
-Inexpensive USB LED computer light - for parts

-soldering iron/ solder
-wire cutters
-snap-off razor
-fine grain sand paper
-drill with a bit small enough to drill pilot holes for the screw eyes
-access to a laser engraver/cutter (I was able to use an Epilog 40 watt machine)

Step 2: Cut the Parts

After much trial and error, I have developed a vector-based pattern containing 36 parts that interlock with each other with the laser's kerf compensated for. You may need to adjust the pattern for the materials that are available to you, especially the holes for the pins and screws - which should be a nice snug fit.

The Illustrator file is available for download from my website

when viewing the individual layers:
-"small" holes are a tight fit for the 14g wire
-"holes" and "medium" holes are a looser fit for 14g wire
-"large" holes are for the machine screws
-"odd" holes are to be discarded (except for the "F" shaped piece)
-"cuts" are everything else

Step 3: Re-wire the LED

I used an inexpensive pre-made USB light for parts.

It takes some work with the razor and wire cutters, but once you get the little light apart you have a USB plug, an LED, and a little resistor, you can discard everything else.

I replaced the original wires with two strands (about 20 inches long) of more elegant enamel coated magnet wire and moved the resistor from the LED to the USB plug so it wouldn't be visible later on.

Check with a multimeter to make sure you don't mix up the pos and neg leads, and remember to burn off the enamel coating from the ends of the magnet wire and sand it clean before soldering.

Step 4: The USB and Lamp Base Assembly

Insert and glue the usb plug into the first two of the U shaped pieces (tagged 'U shaped pieces,' below the 5 long arm pieces in the pattern screenshot). Next add the U piece with the smaller rounded bottom, then the one with the larger rounded bottom (shown in the first image).
The larger cavity allows space for the resistor to lay down within the base.
Add the back face piece with the T cutout, feeding the wire through the T (3rd image).

Finally stack the three smaller rectangles with off-center holes (located in the left side of the circle in the pattern) in the space above the USB (shown in the 4th image). Arrange them with the holes closest to the rear (T cutout piece). And add the "keyhole" piece as shown and insert a long pin all the way down with some glue (the long pin is a section of 14g wire, leave it long so it can be trimmed later).

Be sure to glue between all layers and put the USB plug in the right way up!

Step 5: The Lamp Hub Assembly

Examine these photos carefully so you can get a good idea of how these 9 pieces should be put together.

You will need (check the tags in the screenshot of the pattern)
1. The first of the long arm pieces shown in the pattern (identical to the fourth arm piece)
2. The 4 round cornered rectangles with the square cutouts
3. The 1 small rounded square with a little hook hanging off the bottom and the same square cutout as above
4. The 3 rectangles with centered holes (located inside the circle in the pattern)

Look at the second picture (NOTE: do not add the center-holed rectangles (tag '4' until the end!)

The 4 rounded rectangles (tag '2') should be paired together and laid out as shown:
-the two with 2 holes should be on top, mirroring eachother, the two with one hole each should be on the bottom. I suggest glueing these pairs together first, making sure they are lined up perfectly.
-The 3rd picture shows how the RIGHT pair should look, notice the upper hole is one layer deep while the lower hole goes all the way through.
-at this point you can carefully and slowly drill the shallow pilot holes for the screw eyes in each of the pairs. Again, look at the 3rd and 4th images to see how the RIGHT piece should look. The LEFT piece should mirror the RIGHT piece.

-now look at the 1st and 2nd picture again. Glue the smaller hooked piece (tag '3') to one of the two pairs, making sure its hole and edges are lined up.

Next, add a small bit of the 14g wire (just about 3/8 inch long) in the upper hole to form a pin, slide one end of the long arm piece (tag '1') onto the pin and flip the opposing "pair" over and onto the pin so that the pin slides into the opposing upper hole and the lower holes line up (so you can insert the longest machine screw through all 5 layers later). You might have to adjust the length of the pin so it sits loosely in the holes. Glue these parts together, making sure that the arm can pivot freely on the pin, between the layers.

Now, you can finally snap in the 3 center-holed rectangles (as shown in the 1st, 2nd, 5th and 6th photos).
Be sure to line them up perfectly and glue each one in one at a time to form a solid block with a hole running through it inside the lamp hub. (photo 6)

Step 6: Add the Arms

By now you should have something that looks a lot like the first image here. The hardest part is over.

You'll need the second two long arm pieces in the pattern (tagged 5)
-simply slide the longest machine screw through the two arm pieces and the lamp hub as shown and put a nut on to keep it all together.

NOTE: the two arm pieces should be attached with the 6 holes furthest away from the lamp hub

Step 7: Assemble the Rest of the Arm

You'll need the final two arm pieces, the medium sized screw and nut, a short pin (3/8), a long pin (about an inch), and two of the triangles.

note that the triangles have two smaller holes and one larger hole. The smaller holes are for the 14g wire pins and the larger hole is for the machine screw. 

Line up the parts as shown, the long arm piece with the 6 holes goes on the bottom (closer to you), the arm piece with no extra holes goes on the top (further from you). It might be easier to look at the second picture to see the location of each hole, pin, and screw.

In the second picture you can see the screw goes through the:
six-hole piece coming from the lamp hub
large hole in triangle
new six-hole piece leading away from the hub
large hole in triangle
six-hole piece coming from hub

The short pin goes through the arm piece with no extra holes coming from the lamp hub and interlocks with the corresponding holes in the triangles
The longer pin does the same on the new "no extra hole piece" but should be centered so it protrudes out from either side of the joint.

Step 8: Assemble the Diffuser

Assemble and glue the lamp head and diffuser as shown. 

I used a piece of white synthetic fabric and a piece of tar paper to make the diffuser, simply line up the two pieces and glue them together, then glue them to the masonite ring, and glue that to the F shaped piece as shown.

NOTE: The white circle is made by printing ONLY the outer line of the ring in the pattern. The black circle is made by printing only the ring in the pattern.
You can download these patterns from my website:

Glue the LED into the cutout as shown in the photos. You can also glue the wires to the bottom side of the F piece so they don't get ripped off of the LED.

Step 9: Finish the Lamp

You will need:
the last two triangles, two small pins, the shortest machine screw and nut.

Examine all the pictures to get a good idea of the layout

Remember the larger hole in each triangle is for the machine screw, which holds the lamp head onto the arm and provides the resistance that allows the lamp head to be repositioned without drooping.

Assemble the pieces as shown, feed the light wire as shown so it ends up neatly along the top side of the arm, and add a couple drops of glue to hold the wire down along the top side

You can now insert the pin that is protruding from the USB base into the hole in the bottom of the hub. SEE PHOTO 4.  Trim this pin down a little bit if necessary so that the hub pivots SLIGHTLY ABOVE the USB base. You dont want the little tab on the bottom of the hub to be rubbing on the surface of the USB base, it should float above.

Finally, add the last two pins and the 4 rubber bands (see the last photo and tags)

Step 10: Make the Lamp Stand

Last is the lamp stand, this will cradle the lamp for you when it's not plugged into a computer.

Gather the 8 parts (tagged 'lamp stand parts'). 7 large U shaped pieces and 1 long small rectangle.

Stack the pieces together with the two "different-looking" U pieces on either end of the stack (see the first photo). Glue the pieces together, making certain they are PERFECTLY lined up. The best way to do this is by sliding them onto two straightened lengths of 14g wire, and by using the small rectangular piece as a guide for lining up the notches in the bottoms of the U pieces (shown in photo 2).
Make sure all the pieces are glued together, as well as the rectangular piece along the bottom. (photo 3)

This brings you to the final step, the feet.

You have two options.
You can use two long lengths of the 14g wire to align the pieces for gluing (as described above) then you can leave these wires in and shape them into feet.


As illustrated, please study all of the photos first, the tags will give you a step-by-step.
Remove the wires that you used to align the U pieces and insert 4 lengths of UNstraightened wire (about 5 inches each) partway into each hole on the stand with a drop of glue to keep each leg in place.
Curl the ends of the legs to form little feet and gently bend each leg outward to give the stand a square footprint.

Step 11: Enjoy

Thats it!

If you have any questions feel free to comment here or contact me through my website

Again, I have provided links to download all necessary files for this project on my website. There is also an option on the Download page for you to make a donation to help support my work.

Thanks for reading!

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