Introduction: Upcycled Pangolin Lantern

Learn how to make this modern, artistic, yet simple lantern from recyclables. The design can be resized to fit different materials and accommodate different light fixtures and looks wonderful in multiples as indoor/outdoor lanterns for special events such as weddings.

This lamp is inspired by the highly endangered and yet little known amazing animal known as the pangolin. In Chinese, the animal is known as 穿山甲 ("scales that pierce through mountains") and is mythologized as a being embodying great power to overcome any obstacle. Unfortunately, for this very reason, they are also poached and used in medicine. With this lantern, I also hope to raise awareness about the plight of these wondrous creatures and halt their path to extinction. Go to Save Pangolins for more information.

List of Materials

1. 2 Sheets of 12 x 18" 1mm Cardstock (approx. 300 mm x 450 mm)

2. About 200 Recycled plastic spoons

List of Tools

3. Hot Glue Gun + Glue Sticks

4. Scissors

5. Exacto Knife

Optional Materials

6. Gold Spray Paint

Optional Tools

7. Laser Cutter (if you have access to a local makerspace!)

Step 1: Download the Template for Spiral Core

Download the provided template for a spiral sphere. The vector drawing file is named "" and can be opened using Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape (which is a free vector drawing program). It is laid out for a 12 x 20" document because that's the cutting bed size of the laser cutter at my local makerspace.

You will need two cut sheets, or a total of 10 pieces (5 from each cut sheet).

I roughly modeled the slices in Google Sketchup using the "Unfold" plugin and then experimented with different curvatures and widths until I got a nice shape with 10 pieces.

Step 2: Cut the Spiral Core Pieces

Once you have downloaded the template for the spiral core, you can do one of two things. You can print out the files in PDF and use scissors to cut or an Exacto knife to carve out the outlines. Alternatively, if you have access to a makerspace, you can use a laser cutter to do the work for you. A plotter cutter will also work fine.

Step 3: Learn to Assemble the Spiral Core

The first step is to interlock the 10 spiral pieces as seen in (A).

Next, flip the entire thing over while holding the interlocked center.

Now, starting from a piece of your choice, interlock the top as shown in (B).

The top of the interlocking dome should look like (C).

Finally, the assembled spiral core as seen in (D) and (E).

Once you have mastered this step (it might take several tries) you can disassemble the pieces. We'll be reassembling them again later following the same steps after gluing on the spoon tips.

Step 4: Separate the Plastic Spoon Tips From the Stems

You will need to remove the tip from the stem of the spoon. This step can be done with a box cutter or with scissors. I recommend not getting the Heavy Duty spoons because they are tougher to cut if you are not using a laser cutter. You will be needing approximately 18-20 spoon tips for each strip of the spiral core. There's some artistic liberty here but roughly 18-20 x 10 pieces of the spiral core is about 180 to 200 spoon tips.

Step 5: Spray Paint the Spoon Tips (Optional)

I wanted some of pieces of the Pangolin Lantern to be gold tipped to add more contrast. Here's where you can really customize the lamp to suit your aesthetics. I spray painted about 60 of the spoon tips. It was an artistic decision to spray paint only the top of the spoon tips to create a gradient effect.

Step 6: Hot Glue the Spoon Tips to Spiral Core Pieces

Now that you have the spoon tips ready, you can glue them to the spiral pieces of the sphere. I glued about four pieces on the layer closer to the curved edge and then 5 pieces for the layer that goes on top, closer to the straight edge.

Note: It doesn't really matter if the hot glue gun gets messy around the base of the spoon tips. They will be covered up by the overlapping spiral folds.

Step 7: Assemble the Modern Lantern

This is a repeat of Step 3, except this time, you are working with heavier (and sometimes more delicate) pieces of the spiral core due to the addition of spoon tips.

First, arrange all ten pieces so that they interlock on one side (A).

Next, turn it over so that the inside (the face without spoon tips) is facing up (B).

Now, choose a piece to start with and begin interlocking the piece next to it (C) and (D). It helps to hold the interlocked part with your thumb and forefinger to prevent slippage until they are locked tightly enough to retain the shape (E).

Finally, interlock all 10 pieces to get your assembled Modern Lantern.

Step 8: Inspect and Install Your Modern Lantern

Once you have it assembled, you can now glue on pieces that may have fallen off during the assembly process.

To install, gently pull apart the interlocked spiral core pieces and put the shade over a pendant lightbulb fixture. Adjust as necessary.

Step 9: Enjoy Your Upcycled Modern Lantern!

Enjoy this beautiful upcycled Pangolin Lantern that's affordable and fun to make. What's better is that it is 100% recyclable and will add an unique touch to any office, domicile, or special event venue.

Please go to Save Pangolins for more information on the beautiful and enchanting creatures that inspired this lantern.

Note: Many thanks to Fab Lab El Paso, a non-profit local makerspace in El Paso, Texas for being a creative hub that allows for awesome projects like this one to become reality.

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