Beautiful Lamp Made From Trash -- LITERALLY!




About: I am a senior this year at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. I expect to graduate with a degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2013. I've always loved science, but i find i stretch myself...

This instructable was another one completely inspired by trash. My physics teacher had been talking about "reusing things before you recycle to conserve energy...", so i did just that. As the title indicates, this lampshade is made entirely from trash but looks very nice.


PAPER (old typed on computer paper)
LAMP (socket and wire...the hanging type)
MICROWAVE (!?!'ll see later)

Step 1: Gather Materials

For the paper, well, look around you. Where there's a printer, there's old paper, so just look for the things you area about to recycle (you were about to recycle them right??) Four sheets are required per lamp shade. For clarity, the paper is normal 8.5 x 11 printer paper, nothing special. I used my old Calculus AP review sheets.haha.

For the coffee grounds, i came across a great technique for getting lots, and i mean LOTS of grounds. They need to be used to give the proper color, so rather than making five gallons of coffee at my house, i called up my local Starbucks and asked them to please hold their used coffee grounds. Surprisingly, they did and gave them to me for free. I got about five pounds (later i learned that i only needed about two handfulls for the entire lamp shade, so maybe five pounds was a little extravagant)

Step 2: Glue the Paper...and Dry Like SUPERGLUE!

Take two of your pages and swirl glue liberally on one of them (make sure the writing is facing the inside. IMPORTANT: the paper can only be printed on one side...otherwise the lamp will not look good. The glue, when dry, will add a cool appearance to the finished be random when applying it.

Once the pages are glued together, there is no need to wait the recommended 1-2 hours for dry/cure time. Pop open the microwave and lay the sheets (now glued) onto a paper towel (used to absorb excess water). Set the timer for anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds depending on how much glue used. By the time the microwave is done, the glue will be completely dry and will have all of its strength.

Step 3: Dyeing the Paper

Now that you have finished glueing both pairs of paper together, it is time to dye them brown. Put on a latex glove (not necessarily important; however, you dont want your hand to smell like coffee for the next three days i wouldnt think). Remove a handful of coffee grounds from your bag and drop on center of sheet. Working in small circles, from the center outward, LIGHTLY rub the coffee dye into the paper. This may take a few minutes to be patient. Be careful around the edges and corners as to not seperate the sheets. Once one side is done, flip and repeat. Let sit for five minutes to allow the dye to fully soak in.

After both sides have been dyed, repeat the accelerated microwave process using multiple paper towels underneath to retain excess water. Set the timer on the microwave for 1:30 seconds, paying close attention that it doesnt overheat (very little chance of this; however, im just trying to let you all be as safe as possible). Once the paper mostly dry, brush off most of the coffee grounds. Set both papers on a cooling rack (i used my stove top) overnight to fully dry.

Step 4: Finish Your Lamp

I have already made a few test lamp shades trying to get the right angles and all, so the first picture is one of the dimentions for the holes. You should pick and designate an "outside" sheet and an "inside" sheet. I used a metal skewer to poke the holes as it is the same diameter as the bamboo skewers. Once the holes are poked, begin assembly of your shade. Use scissors to cut down the bamboo skewers to approximately 3 1/2 inches long. Make two of these.

When assembling the shade, put the outside on the outside, inside on the inside, and line up the holes so that the pages overlap. Remember this thing will be wrapped into a cone, so line up the holes accordingly. It is difficult to explain this process. Over lap the inside hole of the inside with the outside hole of the outisde. You know what....look at the pictures, it will make more sense.haha.
Then work logically wrapping the two together while skewering them together. Once its together, glue the edges down so they dont peel for about a minute to make it tacky, then repeat the microwave process.

Either use track-lights or hang a socket with a bulb in it -- i suggest compact fluorescent bulbs as they dont get as they use less electricity and last many years. Just remove one of the skewers, slight the socket+bulb+wire in, and replace the skewer.

Turn on the light and violia, you now have a very ellegant lamp shade. The only downside is that it doesnt work to well during the day time, so use after it gets dark. Any suggestions are welcome.



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    12 Discussions


    7 years ago on Step 4

    gorgious organic colouring :-) gr8 instructable. i'll use the paper colouring it as a base to make my own lampshade.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    The holes aren't aligning! Did you use A4 paper? its not forming a decent circle at the top. Can you put up some more pictures between the 7th and 8th pictures in step 4

    2 replies

    sorry man...i made this like a year and a half ago, i dont have it anymore to take pictures of.... but yes, it is A4 printer paper. Are you aligning the outer-most hole with the inner-most hole? thats how it goes together. test it out with regular paper, not the stained paper. then you will understand it better. sorry i couldnt be of better help :(


    nah man.. no worries.. i just aligned my 2 papers at an angle the way i wanted it.. pushed a bob pin at the 2 ends and speared those two damn skewers in! :) came out pretty nice.. but i used black coffee instead of coffee beans.. so the design is more mellow..


    Would air drying work or is the heat a necessary factor? These are really cute by the way, I'm defiantly going to make some

    1 reply

    i dont believe the heat is necessary. i just tossed them in the microwave because i didnt want to wait for them to if you are going to use air-drying however, i would suggest sandwiching it between a counter and a book or other flat object so that it doesnt curl unexpectedly. just a thought.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Lovely lampshade!

    I don't want to take away from the beauty of your design, but I do feel an urge to point out that this isn't a great example of reuse. The only thing you are really reusing is 4 single-sided sheets of paper, plus perhaps a set of chopsticks for the dowels. But you are also using up some paper towels to clean the microwave, and a good amount of electricity to dry the glue and dye (air-drying is free). The coffee grounds aren't really reused, since you have to throw them away anyway.

    A better reuse of paper would be to make sure you don't throw out (for recycling, naturally) any paper until you've used *both* sides. Paper printed on one side makes for excellent scratch paper, either for a scratch notebook (just staple together), or as printer paper.

    If anything, I would argue that this project is a better example of "reduce" - which actually ranks higher on the "reduce, reuse, recycle" priorities. By making your own lampshade (hopefully by using a light socket you already had lying around), you avoid buying a new lamp in a store - which would have consumed a lot more energy to produce than the small amount of materials you are reusing here.

    Anyway - great job either way. Just needed to vent a little. ;-)

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Even if you bought the cord and socket, you'd still be using much less material than if you purchased an entire lamp. Coffee grounds are definitely reused- you're using them for a secondary purpose rather than just throwing them out and purchasing brown dye.Keep in mind that nothing can be reused indefinitely. PLUS coffee grounds are great fertilizer, so you could use them as such if you wanted to lessen your impact.

    ich bin ein pyro

    11 years ago

    i like how you used all the parts together the paper and the coffie grounds the microwave it all seems so simple after someone shows you how good job


    11 years ago

    This is a great idea! Must give off a wonderful coffee aroma when it gets hot :D Built in aroma-therapy perhaps?

    1 reply

    Reply 11 years ago

    idk about aroma-therapy, its not quite that strong, but yes, you are correct in stating that it does give off a nice coffee scent.


    11 years ago

    well done!
    that looks like a project i will have to try sometime