Introduction: Unicorn Emoji Rainbow Lamp

About: My name is Randy and I am a Community Manager in these here parts. In a previous life I had founded and run the Instructables Design Studio (RIP) @ Autodesk's Pier 9 Technology Center. I'm also the author of t…

The Unicorn Emoji Rainbow Lamp is a backlit unicorn wall-hanging that glows bright with rainbow magic. Of course by "rainbow magic" I am actually reffering to a controllable double-wide, super-bright, rainbow LED strip.

This lamp was made in commemoration of the creation of the unicorn emoji, the Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage, and -- of course -- unicorns (never forget). Bring a little piece of love, understanding, and interwebz into your home and hang it on the wall like a seapunk homage to vaporwave.

By creating this lamp I have also illuminated the growing confusion between real life and animated gifs -- dissolving reality into a repetitive flashing amalgam of baseless signifiers and over-bearing aesthetics. In this regard it was also partially inspired by the 'poo paintings' of the indomitable artist Katsu.

Step 1: Materials

You will need:

(x1) Double-row RGB LED strip w/controller and power supply
(x1) 30" x 30" x 1/8" aluminum sheet ***
(x1) 30" x 30" x 3/4" plywood
(x9) 6-32 tee nuts
(x9) 6-32 x 3/4" flat head bolts
(x1) Galvinized steel hanger wire
(x1) Large adhesive vinyl unicorn sticker
(x1) 12' silver fabric cord
(x1) In-line DC power plug
(x1) In-line DC power jack
(x1) 3M Fastbond 30-NF contact cement
(x1) Hot glue gun
(x1) Spray bottle with soapy water

*** You can feasibly substitue 1/8" black acrylic or 1/4" plywood if it is easier for you to work with.

Please note that some of the links on this page contain Amazon affiliate links. This does not change the price of any of the items for sale. However, I earn a small commission if you click on any of those links and buy anything. I reinvest this money into materials and tools for future projects. If you would like an alternate suggestion for a supplier of any of the parts, please let me know.

Step 2: Cut the Aluminum

Cut out the aluminum panel using the attached template.

To accomplish this I used a water jet. If like most people you don't have access to a water jet, you can use a host of traditional fabrication techniques to get the job done. With a little patience, you could even feasibly cut out this template with a power drill, and hand saw.

This is not insurmountable. For more info check out the digital fabrication by hand Instructable.

Even though I used aluminum, you could also feasibly use black acrylic or plywood.

Step 3: Cut the Plywood Bracket

Use the attached file to cut a wooden mounting bracket out of 3/4" plywood.

I accomplished this using a laser cutter. However, this can easily be done by other methods with a host of more traditional woodworking tools.

Step 4: Clean the Edges

Sand the outer edge of the plywood bracket to make it smooth. This will help later for applying the contact cement.

Step 5: Insert Tee Nuts

Flip the plywood frame over, and then hammer a tee nut into each of the holes in the frame.

Step 6: Drill

Drill a 1/4" hole in the center of the bottom flat edge of the wooden frame.

Step 7: Drill Wire Mounting Holes

About an inch or two under the horn lay a ruler parallel with the bottom of unicorn's head.

Make a marking above and below the ruler on each edge of the frame.

Flip the frame on edge, and in line with the markings, drill an 1/8" centered hole on the side of the frame.

This should result in two opposite sets of holes for stringing a hanging wire.

Step 8: Route Channels

Use a rotary tool to route a thin shallow channel connecting each pair of wire mounting holes.

The channels should be slightly deeper than the diameter of the hanging wire.

Step 9: Wire It Up

Pass the hanging wire through one of the top holes, across the inside of the frame and out the adjacent top hole.

Next, pass the same end of the wire back into the frame through the bottom hole.

Pass the opposite end of the wire through the other bottom hole until both ends meet inside the frame.

Pull the wire tight and twist the ends together to keep them from coming undone.

Step 10: Countersink

On the top face of the unicorn, use an 82 degree countersink bit to taper each of the bolt holes.

When completed, the head of the bolts should be able to lie flush with the aluminum plate.

Step 11: Drill Again

On the edge of the wooden frame, in the dip of what would be the unicorn's chin, drill two side-by-side 1/4" holes.

Keep drilling until they are connect to form a long oblong hole that is wide enough for the LED strip plug.

Step 12: Prepare the LED Strip

Carefully cut away the rubber weatherproofing from the LED strip with a pair of scissors.

Measure 8.5' of LED strip and make a mark. It may be a good idea to measure out a little extra to be on the safe side.

Once the amount needed is decided upon, trim it along the marked cut line.

Step 13: Attach the LED Strip

Coat the back of the LED strip and the edge of the wooden frame with rubber cement. Wait for both to dry just long enough that they are a little tacky.

Pass the LED strip plug through the oblong hole in the side. Begin firmly pressing the LED strip down along the edge of the wooden frame until it wraps all the way around.

Unlike me, you may notice that by doing you cover the hole that was drilled for the power cable. Don't worry about this, I will show you how to repair this shortly. If you want to be proactive and solve this problem ahead of time, skip ahead to Step 21 to see the solution.

Step 14: Bolt

Align the aluminum unicorn plate with the wooden bracket.

Attach them firmly together with 6-32 flat head bolts.

Step 15: Print a Unicorn

Print the attached unicorn graphic on adhesive vinyl.

Make note of the pink cut line when preparing your file (or having your local print shop prepare it for you). Everything outside that line is bleed.

Step 16: Prepare the Surface

Spray soapy water onto the surface of the aluminum unicorn cutout. This will prevent the vinyl from immediately sticking and make it much easier to position graphic.

Step 17: Peel and Stick

Peel the vinyl from its backing and align it with the aluminum unicorn cutout.

Once perfectly aligned, use a squeegee to press the sticker down to the surface. It is best to start from one dedge and work your way out while being careful not to leave behind any bubbles.

Have a rag handy to wipe to help wipe up the excess soapy water and keep everything dry.

Step 18: Drill

Drill a 1/8" hole in the tip of the nose that will later be used for the remote control's IR sensor.

Step 19: Open the Case

Carefully crack open the LED strip dimmer care and remove the circuit board.

Doing this is necessary to lower the profile of the dimmer and have it fit inside the wooden frame.

Step 20: Attach the Circuit Board

Carefully hot glue the dimmer circuit board inside the frame such that none of the metal pads on the circuit board make contact with with aluminum panel.

Place the domed part of the IR sensor up against the opening of the hole in the unicorn's nose. Carefully glue the sensor in place.

Finally, plug the end of the LED strip into the dimmer board.

Step 21: Splice the LED Strip

Locate the hole for the power cord.

Find the segment cut line on the LED strip that is nearest to this hole.

Carefully splice the LED strip using a craft knife, and then peel the strip up just far enough to pass through the power cord.

Pass about 16" of cord through (long enough to reach the dimmer board) and then tie a knot to keep it from pulling out.

Finally, carefully reconnect the the terminals on the LED strip by soldering small wires between each side of the splice. Basically, the top connections on each side get soldered together, then the connections directly below those get soldered together, and so on.

Step 22: Wire the Plug

Connect one of the wires from the silver fabric cord to the center of the M-type plug and the other wire to the outer terminal.

Twist the casing on to cover these wires once completed.

Step 23: Wire the Jack

Connect the cable wire connect to the center of the plug to the center terminal for the M-type jack. If you are unsure which is which, use a multimeter to test the continuity.

Connect the other remaining wire to the outer terminal.

Again, twist the cover on to protect the wires.

Step 24: Plug in the Jack

Plug the M-type jack into the circuit board behind the unicorn head.

Step 25: Finishing Touches

Hang it on the wall, plug it in, and use the remote to turn it on.

Step 26: Rainbow-tastic!

Your new lamp can fade, jump, strobe, flash, and simply hold a solid color of your choice.

Enjoy the magic!

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