How to Make an Ambient Lamp From a Cardboard Box




Introduction: How to Make an Ambient Lamp From a Cardboard Box

The following tutorial, originally written for my language hacking blog,, shows you how to create an ambient lamp out of a box of Taiwan beer by cutting out the Chinese characters. You could use any type of box, though, and cut out a logo or a stencilled design, creating a lamp that suits your own taste.

What you'll need for this project:

A cardboard box (free) - My choice was a Taiwan Beer box, though you could use any brand, and if you can’t source a box with Chinese characters, then there’s nothing stopping you stencilling some on

A craft/utility knife
(about $2US) - You’ll need a decent knife to make a clean cut around the characters

A lamp (about $8US) - All I could find was a work lamp and just removed the weather shield

Corrugated plastic sheets ($2US each) - I bought an orange and yellow sheet, both are about 4mm thick, though 2mm would also be fine

Adhesive - I used a glue gun, but super glue or any plastic adhesive would be fine, too

Time - About 3 to 5 hours, it really depends on how long you spent cutting out the characters

Taiwan Beer -  or the beer of your choice, for drinking when you complete the lamp

Step 1: Cut Out the Characters

As I mentioned in the into, for this project I used a box with Chinese characters, though you could use any style of box and cut out a logo or make a shape of your own.

Using your craft knife carefully start to cut out the Chinese characters from the cardboard box.

I found the best way to do this was to first score the first layer of the cardboard, the steadily go over the lines applying further pressure to cut through the corrugated layer. This is why you need a sharp knife with a blade locking function – otherwise you’ll end up with a rough cut or damaged cardboard from applying too much pressure.

One of the problems I had to overcome, was that as some parts of the characters were complete blocks, and if they were cut out completely would just leave a big hole, like a silhouette of the character. To get around this I opted to leave a small strip to the right of each such section. So long as you chose a system and stick to it, the characters should look uniform and the legibility shouldn’t be affected.

Cutting out the characters takes a long time, so you’d better get comfy – just don’t drink the beers at this stage, though, as you’ll need all of your fingers for the rest of the project.

Step 2: Fit the Lamp

I removed the weather shield/shade from the lamp and was left with a fitting that resembled a standard room light. I then unscrewed the light fitting from the cable to measure a hole to insert the light fitting through.

I made a small hole, and then gradually enlarged the hole until the fitting could just about fit through with a push. The last thing you want to do is create a hole that is too big, so cut-and-check until you get the right size.

The lamp was then fitted and the the cable end was screwed back on to hold it in place. For a safety measure, I also put the bulb cage back on that came with the lamp – hopefully this will stop the bulb from touching the cardboard and possibly causing a fire.

Step 3: Affix the Corrugated Plastic Sheets

To test the lamp before properly affixing the plastic, I just placed a large piece of the plastic into the box behind the lettering, then I turned off the lights and tested the lamp.

It became clear at this stage that if this was to be a lamp, rather than simply a glowing sign, a panel would need to be cut out from the back of the box to allow more light through – but I first affixed the orange plastic to the front with the glue gun.

To allow more light to escape, and to create a nice glowing ambient light behind the lamp, I decided to cut out two panels and cover them with yellow plastic to vary the colour emitted from the lamp.

Step 4: The Finished Lamp

That is pretty much it. What I did next was to seal any small holes from the inside, particularly in the corners, with duct tape, to stop white light from escaping. I also cut a few pieces of coloured plastic and used then on any large gaps – the box I chose has two large slits on either side.

If you made it this far, you may now open your beers and sit back while admiring your hard work!

1 Person Made This Project!


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4 Discussions


3 years ago

This is an old instructable but if you see this...

I think you can glue to little middle square piece of the character to the plastic, so the character will still look the same.


Reply 2 years ago

That's not a bad idea, I might try that for v2


6 years ago on Introduction

See, I knew someone would have done this so I could have an awesome example for my Jack Daniel box. Thank you for sharing.


8 years ago on Step 2

It should be mentioned that this should only be done with flourescent and LED bulb types. An incandescent ("traditional") light bulb will simply get too hot and burn the cardboard box.