Introduction: Upcycled Desk Lamp

About: Student Maker - Design Technology @ UWCSEA East Singapore - Brown Design Workshop

In this Instructable, I will be detailing the process of creating an upcycled desk lamp using plastic bags, an aluminum pipe, and scrap pinewood. This is a perfect quick beginner project that can be done by anyone (not all the steps I took in the Instructable have to be completed). If you like this instructable, please be sure to vote for it in the Recycled Speed Challenge!

Safety Considerations: when soldering, make sure to work in a well-ventilated area with a proper mat and safety glasses. Also, ensure the use of proper PPE when working with different tools throughout this tutorial.


  • 25 mm Pinewood (Circle Dia: 110 mm)
  • 12 mm Pinewood (Circle Dia: 70 mm)
  • ~ 320 mm Aluminium Tube (Pipe Dia: 9.2 mm)
  • 3x M3 Hex Bolts
  • 3x M3 Hex Nuts
  • 3x M3 Washers
  • 5V Light/LED
  • USB Cable
  • 4x Plastic Bags
  • 2x M5 Hex Bolts
  • 2x M5 Hex Nuts
  • 2x M5 Washers

Helpful Equipment

  • Scroll Saw
  • Band Saw
  • Disc Sander
  • Sandpaper (240 Grain)
  • Lacquer Spray
  • Sandblasting Machine
  • Soldering Iron
  • Solder
  • Wire Cutters/Strippers
  • Heat Press
  • Scissors
  • Hacksaw
  • Vice

Step 1: Cutting the Wood

The first step of the process is to collect the wood. I used two different sizes of Pinewood: 25 mm thick Pinewood for the base, and 12 mm thick Pinewood for the top plate.

The dimensions are as follows:

Base Plate: 110 mm Diameter (25 mm Thick)

Top plate: 70 mm Diameter (12 mm Thick)


1. Using a ruler and compass, mark out the respective circles on each piece of Pinewood using a pencil.

2. Using a band saw, proceed to make a rough cut of the outline of each circle. It is very important that you do not cut inside the drawn lines.

*Safety Consideration: Make sure to work in a well-ventilated area while wearing safety glasses when using the band saw. Ensure proper supervision if required.

Step 2: Sanding the Wood

Now that you have both pieces of pinewood cutout, use a disc sander to get rid of the rough edges and ensure a flush surface with the drawn lines. Any smaller imperfections can be removed using sandpaper.

Step 3: The Plastic

For this step, you will want to gather 4 used identical plastic bags. Proceed to line them up as shown in the image above and cut off the ends of each bag using scissors.

At the same time, the heat press should be preheated to a temperature of about 95 degrees celsius for about 3 minutes.

Step 4: Heating the Plastic

Sandwich the plastic bags in between two sheets of Teflon. This will ensure that the plastic will not stick to any other surfaces and will be able to be removed with ease.

Proceed to insert the bags into the heat press as shown above and hold it down for 90-120 seconds. Be careful when removing the plastic as it will be very hot. As it cools, it will slowly harden as well as depicted in the images above.

Step 5: Cutting the Plastic

Using scissors or a paper trimmer, cut the plastic out to your desired specifications. The dimensions of the piece I cut are: 230 mm (length) x 80 mm (width).

Step 6: Plastic Bracket + Drilling Holes

There are many ways to secure the aluminum pipe to the topplate. I used a plastic bracket that I found lying around.

1. Trace out the necessary holes and mark them using a pencil. The main hole that must be marked is the 9.5 mm hole required to allow the aluminum pipe to pass through. This should be located at the center of the plate.

2. Using a center punch and a hammer, indent each marking in order to guide the drill bit to the right location when drilling.

3. Finally, using a drill press and a 9.5 mm drill bit, drill out the center hole. Then using a 4 mm drill bit, the other 3 holes can be completed as well (depends on your arrangement on securing the pipe to the plate).

Step 7: Aluminium Pipe Bending

Now, moving onto the aluminum pipe, I used a pipe bender to bend the tube into the desired shape (this shape is up to you and doesn't need to follow any specific dimensions).

Step 8: Making + Fitting Plastic Shade

It is now time to fit the plastic sheet to the top plate. I did this by wrapping the sheet around the plate and then punched 2x 6 mm holes where 10 mm of the sheet overlapped.

I then shortened two M5 hex bolts with a hacksaw and using a nut and a washer, I secured the two ends of the sheet together as seen in the images above. This should form a snug friction fit with the top plate thereby also allowing for the lampshade to be removable.

Step 9: Drilling Base Plate

Using the drill press, proceed to drill a 9.5 mm hold 90 degrees to the tangent of the circle at that point. This should allow the aluminum pipe to form a tight fit with the base plate.

Step 10: USB Hole

In order to fit the USB cable later, we need to drill a small 4 mm hole at the bottom of the aluminum pipe just before it connects with the base plate as seen above. This can be done using a hand drill.

Step 11: Finishing the Wood

It is now time to smooth out and apply a finishing coat to the wooden pieces.


1. Take each piece of wood and sand out all impurities using sandpaper (240 grain). Remember to sand along the grain!

2. Using a lacquer spray, spray both pieces of wood on all sides 3 times in 10-minute intervals in between (allowing them to dry).

Step 12: Sandblasting Aluminium Pipe

This step is OPTIONAL

I sandblasted the aluminum pipe in order to remove any impurities and give it a nice finish. I then proceeded to lacquer spray it 2 times with 15 minutes in between. It is very important that during this process you do not touch the aluminum as your fingerprints will later be visible...ruining the aesthetic of the lamp.

Step 13: Putting It Together

At this stage, all the main pieces as shown above should be able to be fitted together. If not, please go back and re-do the necessary steps as you will not be able to proceed without this done.

Step 14: USB Cable

For this step, take any expendable USB cable and cut it in half. Then using wire cutters/strippers, strip the wire until you find a red wire and a black wire (GND can be white in some cases). These will be your positive and negative leads.

Next, run this through the aluminum pipe by pushing the wire up as seen above.

Step 15: Light

Using a soldering iron and some solder, attach the positive and negative leads of the wire to the LED's pins respectively. Ensure that the two wires aren't in direct electrical contact with one another and position the LED so that is faces outwards.

Step 16: Finished!

Finally, place the plastic lampshade back on, plug in the USB into a port, and you are done!

Enjoy your new lamp :)

*Special thanks to the DT Department @UWCSEA for their guidance and allowing me to use their materials and equipment.

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