Introduction: Upcycled Game Tile Lampshade

I love to upcycle old games and toys! I find most of my raw materials at charity shops and boot sales, and there are always plenty of sets of dominoes and mah-jong tiles with pieces missing. This lampshade was made with a wooden mah-jong set, but dominoes also look awesome, and I have made similar shades from other toys, scrabble tiles, lego bricks, even playing cards and random washers using exactly the same technique. This is an ultra-thrifty project that reuses an old lampshade as well. If you already have a lamp, all you will need to go out and buy is the bails and jump rings, which can be purchased inexpensively from craft and jewellery supply stores (I got mine on Ebay).
You will need:

  • Old lampshade frame (you can remove fabric or plastic shades very easily from most types of shade to reclaim them)
  • Old game tiles
  • Jump rings (any size you happen to have is fine)
  • Screw-in eyelet bails (I used 8x4mm bought from Ebay, but any size is fine)
  • Lamp base or light fitting to use with your shade!

You won't need many tools... a drill with a small bit and a pair of pliers are all you need!

Step 1: Drill the Tiles

Depending on the diameter of your lamp and the drop that you'd like, and plan how many tiles you will need to complete your shade. Lay them out and get the look that you want before drilling. I went for a random pattern on this lamp, but have in the past used dominoes lined up in number order. The tiles will hang in strings that are attached to each other from the side of the tiles, sort of like chainmail. For this lamp I decided to offset every other string with beads to get the look I wanted, so I took this into account when placing my tiles.

Drill holes into the centre of the top of each tile, and the centre of the bottom of each tile except the bottom tile in each string. The size of drill bit you need will depend on the size of your bails - I used a 1mm drill bit. You will also need to drill the sides in the appropriate place, depending on where you want to link the strings. The holes do not need to go all the way through, as the bails only screw into the tiles a short distance. While you should at least try to get the holes straight and in the right place, it is not the end of the world if they end up a little bit off, so this is a great project for an absolute beginner!

Step 2: Add the Bails

Screw the bails into the holes you have just drilled. This can be a little fiddly if you have small bails, but gripping the head of the bail with a pair of pliers helps. Screw them in slowly and don't force them or over-tighten them, as if you do the eye of the bail may snap or shear off, leaving the shank lodged in the tile.

Step 3: Start Building Strings

Attach jump rings to the top and bottom bails to create strings of tiles. If you wish to use beads as well (as I did) you can add these to the strings too.

In case you have not used jump rings before, to open them you should twist the open ends rather than pulling them away from one another. That way, they close neatly and tightly without misshaping. To do this comfortably, hold one side of the ring with a pair of pliers or tweezers and use a pair of pliers to gently twist the other side away. You can also buy inexpensive jump ring openers that you wear on a finger or thumb that can make using jump rings far less fiddly!

Step 4: Build Your Lampshade

Depending on the frame, you might wish to paint or decorate yours before adding the tiles, but it is not necessary if the frame looks okay. For this one, I used pva glue to attach some ribbon that had been leftover from another project. Many shades have a lamp holder that flips depending on whether you want to use it on a lamp or a ceiling fixture, it is worth making sure that you have this holder in the correct position prior to decorating as it can be a little stiff to move later on.

Use jump rings to attach each string to the top ring of your lamp shade frame, then secure the strings to one another by adding more jump rings to the bails on each side. I find it easiest to secure entire strings together one by one, rather than securing entire rows, but this is probably just a matter of personal preference!

Step 5: Just Add Light!

Voila! Your lamp is complete! All that is left is to add it to the light fitting of your choice. I only ever use low-energy light bulbs, and would recommend that you do the same for safety reasons. Halogen and tungsten bulbs can generate a lot of heat, so err on the side of caution!

I have entered this Instructable for the reuse competiton, if you like the project please consider voting for it ;-) Thanks for reading!

If you are in or near Coventry, UK then check out ;-)

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