Introduction: Upcycled Dinosaur Lamp

About: Engineer, researcher, youth worker and pastor by education and/or trade | proud dad of Joris and Arne | #cycling and #camping enthousiast | always craving for creative ideas and good tasty food

We have this small lamp we use each night to give a little bit of light in the room of the youngest member of the family when giving him a bottle of milk. Not too bright, easy to find switch and looking good when it's dark. If you would summon up the two most important properties of this lamp: functional, but ugly.

Another byproduct of this repeating routine of giving a bottle of milk each night is the vast amount of empty cans of baby powder that stack up around the house. Nice large cans, pretty sturdy that are nice and shiny once you remove the label that displays the properties of the infant formula.

One day I was wondering what I could do with this amount of cans and in the dark (I should have turned on that ugly lamp) I stumbled over one of the toys of our oldest kid. And that was the Eureka moment: I'm making a dinosaur lamp!

You can make one yourself in just one weekend and if you have a lot of cans you can make even more because the hardest part in this build is waiting for the paint to dry or the ice to melt. [warning, dad joke ahead!] It took ice ages.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

For this project you will need a few things. Most of them you will find in your house when you have a one year old and a three year old running around:

  • a can of powder for baby milk
  • an ugly lamp (our one was even not so apropriate, so I adjusted the pictures to keep Instructables nude free)
  • a plastic dinosaur
  • some strong glue, I used a small dab of construction adhesive
  • paper tape
  • paper that fits around the can
  • a can of gold spray paint or any other metallic paint that reflects light (this can be a tricky one, not each three year old likes gold spray paint.

Tools needed for the project are:

  • a pen to draw dinosaurs or a printer to print them
  • a hammer and a nail
  • a freezer

Step 2: Preparations

This project will take two days to build. Most of the time needed for the project are invested in waiting for the gold paint to dry. And waiting isn't the best talent of a three year old. So one piece of advice and also the first step in this build: preparation is key!

First, use the tape to mask out the parts you don't wat to be golden after you are finished spray painting. The stand of the lamp has a nice metallic surface, however, the socket for the lamp is some white plastic that we want to have the same colour as the dinosaur (gold dinosaurs are awesome!) and the inside of the lamp. The light will turn a bit golden when you turn on the light afterwards.

I waited to paint the inside of the can until the end of the project so that I could move on directly with the second of the big preparation steps: fill the can with water and put it into the freezer. This way you will have a nice solid fill of the can when hammering in the holes for the dinosaurs in the next step. Without this fill you will dent the can to much and the final result will be something bumpy.

And finally, the last preparation. Not a mandatory one if your kid likes to draw dinosaurs. Take a piece of paper that fits around the can and draw a few dinosaurs on it. This drawing will be the guideline when punching holes in the can. Don't bother drawing to much detail, you will not be able to transfer it to the can anyway.

Step 3: Make the Pattern on the Baby Formula Can

Stop.... Hammer time! (put on the song for optimal results in this step of the Instructable)

Now comes the noisy part. So make sure that nobody is still asleep in your house, or the neighbours house and let the fun begin! You only have a limited amount of time for this step because the ice starts to melt as soon as you take the can out of the freezer. Kidding, there is enough ice in the can to last a while.

Stick the drawing of the dinosaurs to the can. A glue stick works fine, but tape also does the job. Take a sharp nail and a hamer and start hammering away. Because of the paper you prevent scratches and you give the nail a bit of a surface to grip into. You can also vary the pattern by how much you pound in the nail. A soft blow of the hamer will make small holes, hammering it all the way in is perfect for making a larger hole for the eye of the dinosaur.

After making the pattern on the sides turn your attention to the bottom. You will need a hole to put the socket through. So put some tape on the bottom and trace the socket on the tape. Take the nail and hammer and punch in a series of holes on the inside of the line as close to each other as possible. Once the ice is away you can push through the remainder and the socket can be mounted.

Once hammering time is over, it is tempting to peal off the paper to see the end result. But please constrain yourself. The paper still needs to stay on for protection during the next painting step. I know, it almost falls off due to the water of the melting ice. But please constrain and put the can away to let the ice melt until you can remove the last chunks out of the can and dry the inside before the final step before assembly: painting the inside.

Step 4: Finish Lamp Shade (before This Step Known As the Baby Formula Can)

Once the ice has melted and the inside of the can has dried you can start the final task before assembly: painting the inside of the can gold. We chose to do so because of the way the gold paint reflects the light and how it gives the lamp a warmer touch. Most of the light will come through the top of the lamp and this way the lamp will have a golden glow around it. The proces is fairly simple: hold the can upside down, and spray in the can with short bursts from the spray can. Spin it around and repeat. I did two coats in total.

After 2 hours of letting the paint dry you can start assembly. Unscrew the socket and put on the lamp shade (formerly known as the formula can) and screw the socket back together. Put in a lamp and let the dinosaur glue itself to the stand for turning the lamp in full dinosaur mode.

Congratulations, you now made a functional lamp that is not ugly anymore and you can stop stumbling over plastic dinosaurs at night.

Step 5: Final Thoughts

Some things I learned in the process of making this lamp:

  1. Repainting metal and toys needs a lot of patience. Patience is something that I and the 3 year old version of myself don't have.
  2. Painting a can full of holes is a messy thing. If you read through the full Instructable before starting the build, you are not to late. Paint first, then fill the can with ice and make the holes. If you let the paint dry before making the ice, you won't have any problems. But again, lesson number one made me decide to do it the other way around.
  3. Dinosaurs are a lot of fun, making things together with your kids is even more fun. Making things with dinosaures and your kids together is awesome!

So, one container done upcycled, many more without any plan to go. Any suggestions for a next use for these big cans?

Homemade Gifts Contest 2016

Second Prize in the
Homemade Gifts Contest 2016

Trash to Treasure Contest 2017

Participated in the
Trash to Treasure Contest 2017

Make it Glow Contest 2016

Participated in the
Make it Glow Contest 2016

Green Electronics Contest 2016

Participated in the
Green Electronics Contest 2016