Modular Hanging Lamp Shade




This is a hanging lamp made from identical modules. The finished size is just over a foot tall.
It is based on a regular icosahedron, that is made from 20 equilateral triangles.
I made these modules from white card stock. This could also be made from a thin translucent plastic .
The light I used was one I had, a 13 watt CFL equivalent to a 60 watt incandescent bulb.
You will need to use a compact florescent light because the incandescent lights put off to much heat
for this shade.
After I left the light on for a couple of hours the temperature measured inside the top
was about 110 degrees Fahrenheit. The room temp was about 70 degrees, so a 40 degree rise.
This shade weighs less than 3 oz. so I just hung it by the cord, no other support is needed.
The length of the cord is governed by your particular application.
An inline switch is a nice addition to the cord so you do not have to unplug it to turn it off.

Materials Needed

The Lamp Module PDF file
20- sheets 8 1/2 by 11 white card stock
1- lamp socket and cord, an inline switch is optional
1- curly fry light (CFL or compact florescent lamp)
1- 3 inch plastic disc. Cut from a plastic bottle such as milk jug, or a plastic lid from a chip can.

Tools Needed

A printer to print the modules
A craft knife and cutting mat, or if you are really good with them a pair of scissors.
1/4 inch single hole punch or other punch that will reach far enough.

Step 1: The Modules

Print and cut out 20 of the modules.
The cutting can take some time. It will probably take 2 to 3 hours.
The most important part of the cutting is the intersection of the arcs.
If you use scissors this is the easiest place to make a mistake and cut to far.
This is why I recommend the craft knife and cutting mat.
Start your cut at the intersection and cut away from it in both directions.

Step 2: Starting the Interlocking Procces

This is the way two modules are interlocked.

In the second picture I have interlocked two modules using one white and one colored for clarity.
The round tab goes through the opening to the back on both pieces.
The tab is larger than the opening so you will have to bend the card stock to get it through.
Make bends not creases. The bend will straiten out a crease will not.
I have found the easiest way is to put the V where the two large tabs meet into the opening first,
and then the rest of the tab. This is where you may tear one of the pieces so go slow.
After you do a couple it seems to get easier.

The third picture shows what the back side looks like.

Step 3: More Interlocking

This shows 3 modules interlocked. Again with one colored module to show clarity.
Remember the large tab always goes through to the back.

The other picture is what the back will look like.

Step 4: Five Modules Interlocked

This shows five modules interlocked.
There will always be five modules around each point on the shade.
The top tab on the right has to be lifted up over the top tab on the left to interlock these last two modules.
The whole thing makes a cone shape when completely interlocked.

The next picture shows the last two modules interlocked together.

The last picture shows the back side of the five module unit.

Step 5: Vent Holes

In ten of the modules I have punched a single 1/4 inch hole for ventilation.
You can see the position of the punch in the second picture I used for the holes
You can use a different punch as long as the reach is far enough to the position
of the hole shown. This is where there is no over lap of modules.

I put five of these modules together for the top as in the third picture.
The other five are put aside for the bottom.

Step 6: Almost Finnished

This is what you will have after attaching 10 more modules to the top five.
At this point it is kind of floppy but will stiffen up when the last five modules
with the vent holes are interlocked for the bottom.

Step 7: The Finnish

Tucking in the last tab. Take your time so you do not tear any thing.

Step 8: The Lamp Assembly

The plastic disc is actually translucent and does not show at all when this is lit.
I made a cut to the center and then cut a small hole for the lamp cord to go through.
The disc can then be slipped over the lamp cord as in the second picture.
This disc helps distribute the weight of the shade to keep from pulling the lamp socket out.
A word of advise, plug the lamp cord in to make sure the lamp socket switch is in the on position
before installing it in the shade.
You can either put the cord through the top from the inside after you get the top five modules interlocked or
put the lamp assembly through before you interlock the last piece on the bottom.
In this case the bottom is now the top.

As an alternative to the plastic disc a lid from a chip can would work.
Another idea would be to use a small fast food drink lid.
I do not know if this would work as I have not tried one.

Step 9: Final Step

Hang it up, plug it in, enjoy

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    11 Discussions


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the pictures. I think this looks better in the plastic than the card stock I used. I can see where you made the slits. In the full picture it looks like you have at least some of the interlocking tabs on the outside instead of all on the inside like mine. This may make the stiffer plastic stay together better because these tabs would not have to bend as much. I am going to put one together with all of the tabs on the outside and see how it looks.

    Thanks again for sticking with this until you made it work.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I wondered if a material stiffer than card stock would be a problem. Could you add a picture showing where you made the slits? Any idea how thick the plastic you used is?
    I am glad that you did not give up and found a way to make it work for you.
    Thank you for your post.


    6 years ago on Step 9

    Stunning. Also pretty damn cool. And I love the assembly... magic :D


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I wonder how well plastic milk cartons would work for the material. I would be concerned about the heat given by the light bulb since this design is quite tight and I'm not sure about the melting point of the plastic used for milk cartons. (CFLs are a great option.)

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    For this lamp you have to use a "Compact Florescent Light ". They do not put off much heat. I think the milk jug plastic would withstand this small amount of heat. The vent holes could also be made larger for better ventilation of the shade.
    The problem is getting a large enough flat material from the milk jugs. Those in my area have large circular indentations in the two large sides opposite the handle. Let me know if you figure a way to use them.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Yes it can be made bigger by adding more pieces, but the card stock is not stiff enough to hold the extra weight of the additional pieces. The ideal material would be a translucent plastic that is semi rigid and about 12 mil thick. I believe this would support the extra weight. If you can find the material I can show you how to make it bigger.

    Thanks for the question.


    7 years ago on Step 9

    Very cool...I saw it, printed out the PDF and started cutting out the panels right away, so by tomorrow I should have one too!

    Hey, I like your design, I'll have to try this one out. Maybe I could add some cool fractal designs to it and add it to my line of The Playful Geometer's Cosmic SpaceCrafts .  I'll give you a vote for sure.  Along similar lines, you can see my entry here: Quasicrystal Star Lantern .      

    n terms of lantern-making, I find cardstock is not the greatest because it blocks too much of the light and it looks all splotchy.  I hear polyester film (i.e. Mylar) is good for this type of thing, but I use laminated photo paper and it works pretty well too.

    1 reply

    Thanks for the vote. I have reciprocated.

    I agree that card stock is not the ideal material to use but it is readily available and inexpensive so anyone can afford to make this. The ideal material would be a translucent plastic about 10 mil thick.


    I like the art on paper, very nice instructable and thanks for the post. congratulations