Laser Cut Wood Veneer Lamp




Introduction: Laser Cut Wood Veneer Lamp

About: I am a designer/maker based in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

This laser cut dodecahedron wood veneer lamp is part of a “Temporaries” series that I designed together with Toon Welling and Jonathan Kraayeveld. In case you want to buy one or see the other shapes here’s a link to our webshop. In case you want to make one yourself please follow through with the instructable!

Step 1: Materials

  1. Wood veneer
    One of the things that makes this lamp work is the translucency of some wood veneers. The best species of wood that I found are either Beech or Ash. I advise to use a paper backed veneer, which is much more durable and easier to handle than the regular one. If you still decide to go with normal plain veneer,be extra cautious handling it.

    You’ll need enough of it to fit 11 pentagons in rough radius of 15 cm. The veneer needs to be anywhere between 0.4-0.6 mm in thickness if you want to use the vector drawings provided.

  2. MDF
    One sheet of 20 cm * 20 cm standard 4 mm thick MDF.

  3. LED bulb
    I've used a 4 watt 240V LED bulb with the standard E27 fitting.

  4. Wire+switch+electric plug
    Any 1.5 m wire will do. In this particular case I’ve used braided cord with a plug already attached to it.

  5. Mount for bulb fitting
    I’ve used this particular fitting that I riveted to the base. It’s hollow, so the wire goes through it and I can screw the bulb fitting on it. In case you can’t find a piece like that in your area, it doesn’t really matter how the bulb is attached as long as it’s firm and safe!

    In the first prototypes I’ve laser cut a few cylinders from MDF that I glued to the bottom and just stuck the bulb fitting in

  6. Glue
    To glue everything together. Friction fitting works almost well enough, but having a drop of glue on certain points won’t do harm (I put it at every connection point). Regular PVA does the job well enough.

  7. Tie wrap
    To secure the wire to the lamp.

Step 2: Tools

  1. Lasercutter
    Anything that can slice through 4 mm MDF and has a bed at least 21 cm * 30 cm will do perfectly! I have used a small LS3020 35 watt laser cutter.

  2. Basic tools to work on the wiring and a drill

Step 3: Vector Files

The pipeline I used to make the .svg files is as follows. Google sketchup 2013 Make > SVG Export Plugin. The laser cutter I'm using works through Visicut, which does the job fine right from the .svg

Step 4: Laser Cutting

One tip on handling the wood veneer. Often it isn’t flat, and it can give a hard time for the laser beam to focus, you can either bend it in the opposite direction (which can result in breaking it) right before you put it down on the laser bed, or you can use some metal weights to press it down. heavier metal washers tend to work well. Also helps to use as small sheets as possible.

Step 5: Cleaning MDF Clamps

Ideally you should end up with all the parts clean no additional work required. But as the tiny clamp parts have an opening of 0.5 mm there’s usually some ashes or a tiny sliver of MDF left stuck in there. I found it easiest to clean it with the back side of a utility knife.

Step 6: Prepearing the Base Fitting

As I mentioned in the beginning I used this particular fitting, I assumed this won’t be a universal solution, so I haven't included the holes to mount it in the vector drawing.

I drilled the holes in particular position and riveted the fitting on there. As well as drilled two holes about 2 cm from the center one (where the wire comes through) for a tie wrap that will press the wire down to the base. I found that a thicker fabric wire lifts up the lamp and prevents it from standing on it’s feet, so adding the tie wrap really helps.

Step 7: Gluing the Feet

Put a drop of glue at each cutout and set all the feet in place. If you’re using PVA (like me) let it sit for 10 minutes for it to get a grip and harden.

Step 8: Wiring the Cord

While the base was gluing up I used the time to work on the wire and attached a switch to it.

Step 9: Assembly - First Part

Step 10: Assembly - Second Part

Step 11: Wiring the Fitting and Attaching the Bulb

Step 12: Tie Wrapping the Wire

Step 13: Last Piece of the Puzzle

Don’t glue the top piece with the rest (in case you you used any glue at all), its handy to have easy access to the inside.

Step 14: Finish

I hope you will enjoy this lamp as much as I do and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate, I’ll be right here to help. Share your versions and insights if you make one. Cheers!



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    24 Discussions


    1 year ago

    How do you fit in the last piece? Is there lot of veneer bending involved?

    1 reply

    It takes a bit of fiddling around and bending, but paper backed veneer holds up very well without breaking.

    So, I'm a visual guy and not very math-based. I love this design. If I wanted to make it bigger, though, how do you know what angle to design the little connectors to be so that they'll hold the other faces perfectly?

    Oh wow this looks so flipping cool to try out haha!! Might try a miniature version of this. :)

    240V LED? I think you meant to say much less voltage than that . . . can you verify this?

    1 reply

    I did mean 240V LED :) for this particular one I used this one:

    I third the comments on the connectors, quite visible. Which look pretty technical and somewhat cool but there could be some other neat way to do it too.

    I'm actually building a lamp right now. Yours turned out amazingly!

    2 replies

    I wondered if I'm gonna see it here after seeing it on instagram. Always loved the looks of translucent veneer in lamps.

    Does the paper backing protect veneer from warping or is it because the pieces are interconnected like that? I've tried working with non-backed veneer in several projects including a lamp and so far the biggest issue is warping over time even if I glue two layers cross grain.

    2 replies

    The backing mostly helps with how brittle the veneer is. Much less likely that the corners will brake of and so on. In terms of warping it might even be worse in some cases with the paper backed veneers. And that's exactly the reason why gluing 2 layers cross grain doesn't give good results. It builds up tension on one side and so the sheet warps. You should either stray with one layer or balance it and make it 3.

    That explains why plywood is almost always in odd number of layers - 3,5,7,9...

    Another downfall with wood veneer is that it really doesn't like temperature/humidity changes. So if you're making a lamp I'd advise to use only LED, so the heat of it can be pretty much neglected. I've tried other light bulbs and, well... the heat just destroys the top of the lamp...

    My gluing logic was seriously flawed it seems. Will try 3 layers, but I suppose a bulb with a brightness of supernova will be needed to shine through that many layers.

    Looks great! and you have made a very nice instructable, very clear and easy to follow, well done!

    If there is one thing I would change it is the clips that link the pieces together, because when I look at the lamp my eye is drawn to the little black lines. So my suggestion is to cut them from clear acrylic. It does not blacken when it is laser cut, so they should be less visible Cheers!

    2 replies

    Thanks for the input! I'd love to see someone make a version with acrylic clamps and possibly the base too.

    Second all said above. Great piece and very clear instructions. As for the connectors... when I first saw the image I thought you had used black tie wraps. Even if you don't use acrylic.... a moments hand sanding with 240g paper should "lighten" the colour slightly.