Modern LED Desk Lamp...Powered by 5V USB




About: Teacher by trade. Student at heart

This was an entirely new project for me. I've always been fascinated with edge-lit acrylic and I figured it would make for a nice desk lamp. The sanded edges of the acrylic pieces send off a diffused glow that works great for a desk or reading lamp. The LED strip inside is cheap and safe since there is no wiring involved.

As with all power tool Instructables, please use proper PPE and follow all safety protocols for each machine.

This Instructable is aimed to provide everything you need to make one for yourself. But if you have any questions, send them my way.

Step 1: Gather Materials and Tools

Tools needed:

  • Mitre Saw
  • 3/4" and 1 3/4" hole saw and forstner drill bit (Drill press or hand drill powered)
  • Belt sander or palm sander

Materials needed:

Most of these materials can be sourced from scrap with the exception of the LED strip

  1. Wood: Any wood from aspen to zebra can be used for this lamp. You need about a board foot for a decent sized lamp, so even if you have to buy something, it isn't that expensive. I chose some shorts of walnut that were planned to 1/2".
  2. Acrylic: I got my acrylic from a local plastics manufacturer. They end up with plenty of offcuts and would likely be willing to part with it. If not, you can pick up acrylic sheet at most hardware stores. I used 1/4" thick acrylic for this lamp. But anywhere from 1/8" to 1" would work.
  3. LED Strip: I used a 5v LED strip with a pre-wired USB end. 50cm will give you plenty of light to work with. I ordered several dozen since I am making these with my students and it really drove the price down. You can expect to pay less than $5 for this. Mine were sourced from Aliexpress. LED Strips On
  4. Dowel: 3/4" dowel works best for wrapping the LED strip around. You will be able to find this at any hardware store.
  5. Glue: Gorilla glue is great for glueing dissimilar materials like wood and plastic.
  6. Finish: Wipe-on Polyurethane from Minwax is always my choice of finish.

Step 2: Cut to Size

The wood and the acrylic have to be the exact same size. This is especially true if you don't have a belt sander to true them up later on.

I like the look of a square lamp. So all these pieces, both acrylic and walnut, were cut to 5" x 5".

Step 3: Drill Center Cavity

This is where the LED strip will sit and the light will come from. It isn't super important to be dead accurate with your cuts since it will be hidden on the inside, but it is a good idea to make some centre holes to line everything up.

I used a 1 3/4" hole saw to cut through the wood and acrylic. Acrylic is a tough material to work with and I made sure to take every safety precaution when drilling these pieces. They can catch and spin if not clamped down tight.

The centre dowel sits in a 3/4" hole on the bottom piece.

Step 4: Attach LED Strip

The LED strip is attached to the 3/4" dowel with the adhesive backing. Wrap it around and secure it. It doesn't matter what the orientation of the bulbs are because the glow of the acrylic will diffuse the glow.

There is a little slit cut into the bottom piece of acrylic to allow the cord to exit the lamp. I used a bandsaw to make this cut, but a jigsaw, handsaw, or hacksaw will work.

Step 5: Glue and Clamp

Once all your pieces are cut and the LED strip is in place, it is time to glue.

Gorilla Glue will work best for this because you are joining plastic to wood. Be aware that Gorilla Glue expands greatly and will leak out the sides if you use too much.

I orientated the boards so that the end grain was alternating. Clamp in place and allow to set.

Step 6: Sand the Sides

After the glue has set, scrape off excess glue and sand to finish.

Using the belt sander speeds up the process of finishing the sides, but a palm sander will suffice.

Be cautious of burning and melting the acrylic on the belt sander. Take small passes and allow the plastic to cool.

I used grits from 80-220 on the palm sander to get a great finish on the wood and acrylic.

Step 7: Finish

Minwax wipe-on poly gives a great finish to the wood and acrylic. Super easy to apply. Just wipe on, wipe off, Daniel san.

Let dry and then it's time to enjoy your lamp!

Step 8: Make Different Sizes

This project can be customized to so many different dimensions and styles. It's up to you and your creativity to stack different sizes of wood and plastic and create something unique.

The next stage of this project is to cut the pieces out a laser cutter.

Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed. Please vote for me in the lighting contest!

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Second Prize in the
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19 People Made This Project!


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57 Discussions


3 months ago

And just Super Cool!
Thanks for the verbose instructable.
Much appreciated.

Any chance of getting the dimensions of the rectangle shape?

In AUS, 5" x 5" (~ 125mm x 125mm) acrylic was priced at $5 each + GST.
In my area, not a single plastics manufacturer wanted to sell me an off cut.
I could have driven another 10 klm but would not have been feasible.


2 years ago

Why on one picture of the acrylic its perfectly clear and next to it you can barely see though it?

2 replies

Reply 2 years ago

The acrylic is originally clear. But once you sand the face and sides, it becomes matte and diffuses the light/


Reply 3 months ago

There is a technique to heat the acrylic back to clear using a blow torch. Search YouTube. hth


Answer 9 months ago

according to the instructable, the recommended sizes are: 1/2 inch thick and 5 x 5 inch long and wide. But depending on your budget you can just experiment to your every needs.


1 year ago

How would I go about adding a place on top where you touch to turn on? Anyone has any idea?

3 replies

Also what you can do is get a cheap touch switch and a cheap arduino and c&p some code into it plug the TS into it add some foil to it and attach it to the top. Look for the recently featured touch lamp for more detal


1 year ago

Can anyome tell me where they are getting the acrylic? Im in Minnesota and it is crazy expensive. Thanks!!

4 replies

Reply 1 year ago

Hi, I recently learned that all old flat screen monitors have a large bit of acrylic inside of them! I found a 19" flat screen monitor in the garbage, took it apart, and sure enough there was a 19" x 19" x 3/8" thick piece of acrylic inside! They're not all that thick but this was a good one. It sure beats paying an arm and a leg for it!


Reply 1 year ago

Old thread I know sorry- but any chance you could clarify what Kind of old monitors you're referring to? LCD? CRT?


Reply 1 year ago

He's talking about LCD screens. Old CRT's only have glass in front of 'em. I've found that the plexi that's inside of monitors sometimes have some interesting patterns for diffusal or the like. Might make for a cool project.


Reply 1 year ago

Are you talking about the old CRT style flat screens?


1 year ago

I make something a bit more complex.

These are two cubes connected to an electret microphone, acting as VU-meter. I positioned them on top of my home theater front speakers.


1 year ago

This is beautiful! I want to make one for my wife. Your Instructable is easy to follow, and well thought-out! Thanks for posting!