Moving Picture Generator Desk Lamp




Introduction: Moving Picture Generator Desk Lamp

About: I am a mathematician and a material engineer and in my free time i make all kinds of stuff.


I was thinking about a cool way to light my room and because the 70's have long gone the next most awesome lamp after lava lamp is the Moving Picture Generator Desk Lamp.

Βasically it is a desk lamp which illuminates still images that produce moving pictures. You can project any short of moving picture you like with just a revolving mechanism and a light source. After that disney is out of job. Almost certainly not.

This is an instructable for the Full spectrum laser contest so if you like it please vote for it.

Step 1: Step 1: List of Materials and Tools

Electric parts

  • screw-thread socket with nuts for mounting a cone
  • suitable lamp for the socket
  • 220v or 110v power cord
  • power plug suitable for your power wall outlet

Parts for the base of the lamp

For the base i used some parts for old unused tools for a more industrial look. It's just a composition of parts but look cool

  • some pulleys from an old hammer drill
  • two perforated thick aluminum sheets
  • some nuts and bolts
  • an aluminum tube which will connect the top and bottom(base) parts of the desk lamp

Mechanical parts and parts of the revolving mechanism

  • a rear bicycle hub
  • a hollow axle for the hub including cone and balls for bearings
  • small brushed dc motor with a pulley and a maching timing belt(removed from a printer)
  • 12Xspokes 26 cm long(from a most common mountain bike wheel)
  • 6Xspokes 20 cm long(from a children's bike
  • 18Xspoke nipples
  • a washer with inner diameter the diameter of the lamp socket
  • a piece of plywood 45cmx45cm
  • rice paper for printing or painting(the semi-transparent frosty looking paper)


  • a piece of cotton cloth with dimentions 100cmx70cm
  • two thin(0.5mm) pieces of acrylic sheet 100cmx70cm
  • ink for cloth painting
  • a cartidge for the motor and two mounts for the cartidge(parts from old tools)
  • a small spring(from a pen)
  • two AAA batteries
  • two plastic pulleys(salvaged from a printer)
  • a scotch removable magic tape
  • glue(prefferably wood glue)
  • thin metal plate
  • wire
  • bearing lubricant


  • pliers
  • spoke key(optional)
  • scissors
  • a needle and a thread
  • painting brushes
  • permanent markers
  • protractor and ruler
  • jeweller's saw
  • electric planer or sandpaper
  • electric drill or dremel tool
  • inkjet or laser printer
  • degreaser spray
  • old toothbrush
  • light duty staple gun

Step 2: Step 2: Making the Base

So lets start from the base.

You can design your own base as you imagine it. I had some unused parts and desided to put them together and what came up was cool and industrial looking.

After a good degreasing of the pulleys screw them together with the washers to one of the aluminum plates and then secure it to the second alluminum plate with a nut and bolt on each corner. Now is the time to put the power cord through one of the aluminum plate holes.

You will need a tube that fits tight to the top part of the base. If its not tight everything at the top is gonna swing like crazy, so make sure you fit it pretty tight.

Before attaching the tube to the base, drill a hole big enough and pass the power cord through that hole until it comes out of the top of the tube.

Step 3: Step 3: the Revolving Hub

Let's go at the top of the aluminum tube pull the power cord and pass it through the hollow axle.

At this point i placed the mounts for the motor housing but the instructions for mounting the motor housing are on a later step.

The hollow axle must be mounted firmly inside the aluminum tube. I used some plastic pulleys that sanded down to a diameter to match the inner diameter of the tube. ok it's the most bad looking mount but it will be hidden inside the tube, so it passes my standards as long as it fits tight.

The axle that i used was old used and broken in two pieces but this didn't stop it from working as it was supposed to work. Although a new one piece axle is the best choice and the hub and the lamp socket will fit perfectly.

Anyway push the axle inside the top of the tube and remember to fit the bottom cone on the axle. Next it's time for the hub to take it's place.

In order to keep the hub functional you need 9 bearing balls for each side of the hub. Briefly you have to turn the hub upside down leave a small gap and fill it with 9 bearing balls. Then make sure there is no gap between the bottom cone and the hub so they won't drop when you turn it upside down again to fill the bearing balls on the top of the hub. After placing the balls on the top of the hub it's time from the top cone. Make sure the grooved side of the cones facing the bearing ball on both sides of the hub. If you need more details about hub overhaul and adjustment take a look at the following links.

The cones must me secured on the axle to prevent over tightening or become loose. Secure them with a pair of locknuts or by appliying locktight or nail polish on the threads.

For the cones you will need cone spanners or just needle-nose pliers.

At this point you can attach the lamp socket and connect it to the power cord. I used an extra piece of hollow axle just because my axle was too short to and couldn't reach the socket. Anyway connect the wires and you're ready for lights on. Remember to check the wires for any faded insulation and take all the precautions when working with high voltage. If you're not feeling comfortable working with 110v or 220v then as an alternative you can use a couple of batteries and some leds.

Step 4: Step 4: Making the Disks for the Conical Frustum

This step is about making the disks needed for the inner (revolving) structrure and the outer (stable) conical frustum.

You'll need a rectangular piece of plywood with each side 45cm. If you got the exact dimentions then skip to the next paragraph.My problem was where to place the center in order to fit the larger disk because i had cut some pieces of the plywood. The gif shows exactly how to find the center in a piece of plywood. You need a pensil and a spare spoke(marked at 21cm).

I needed to cut in total 4 round disk from a piece of plywood. You can design it with different dimmentions but for reference the dimentions of each disk are the following:

  • A: 40 cm - 42cm (Inner diameter-outer diameter)
  • B: 33 cm - 35.5cm (Inner diameter-outer diameter)
  • C: 12.5cm - 14.5cm (Inner diameter-outer diameter)
  • D: 5.5 cm - 11.5cm (Inner diameter-outer diameter)

So once you place the center make a small hole that fits a spoke and lets start marking down the disks. Devide by two each one of the above diameters. Then starting from large first, bend the spoke amd mark down a circle with radius of 21cm. Then bent the spoke at 20cm and mark the second circle and so one until you have 8 circles.

Use a jeweller's saw to rough cut the 4 disks from the plywood. I used an electric planer to make each disk completely round on the outside and a sanding drum attached on a dremel or a power drill to fine tune it on the outside.Be careful while using an electric planer because fingertip replacement is not a standar procedure yet. Using sandpaper is gonna take longer but it's more safe.

If you wan't my method this is how i cut the disks. After marking down the circles on the plywood you'll need two pieces of wood that will help you plase the plywood and the electric planer. The procedure goes like this. Place the center of the allmost round cuted plywood at the pointing screw then with the planer make completely round the outer perimemeter of the disk by rotating the plywood. Next use the jeweller's saw to cut the inner perimeter of the first disk. Then move the remaining piece of plywood closer to the planer to continue smoothing the outside perimeter of the second disk and so on. The procedure also can be seen on the photos.

In the end you must have 4 round disks A, B, C and D.

Step 5: Step 5: the Inner Revolving Conical Frustum

For this step we need the disks B and C. They will be connected with the hub using spokes and spoke nipples. The disk B goes at the bottom and the disk C goes at the top. Devide the disks at six equals parts and mark them. For the disk B use some wire to make six sockets(one for every mark) that is gonna keep the spoke in place and pierce it through as seen in the photos. For the disk C just cut six small grooves so the spokes sit there.

Look on the photos or on the drawing to understand for to place the spokes on the hub.

The disk C stays there because of the pressure from the spokes (the colored ones from the drawing). After securing both of the disks you can test for unbalanced rotation and if needed fine tune the spokes. Tune the disk C by moving the spokes a little up or down and the and the disk B is like a bicycle wheel truing.

For the spokes on the disk B use two spoke nipples to secure the spoke on the wire socket.

Next you need to cut a piece o acrylic sheet to cover the revolving conical frustum. Here (example 1b) you can find good help for exactly how to calculate the dimentions of the sheet that you will need. The other way is to trace the conical frustum on the acrylic sheet with a marker and then cut it. Just a warning, cut more that what you calculated or traced because you need a couple of centimeters more.

Once you cut the traced piece of the acrylic sheet place it on top of the disks to see if it fits and connect the sides with invisible tape(i also sew it with a needle and a thread). Make sure it fits ok on the disks and its time to secure the sheet on the disk B(you don't need to secure it at the top). Cut the excess from the top and bottom but on the bottom cut a shape like the one on the photos that will hook the spoke and stay there. Also this way you can remove it very easy if you like, just unhook it from the spokes.


Step 6: Step 6: the Outer Stable Conical Frustum

For this step you need the disk A and D. A goes on the bottom and D on the top. Devide the disk D on tree equal parts and make small holes to fit the spokes. On the top disk you need six holes,three to connect it with disk D and the other three to connect it with a washer. Later the washer will be placed on the lamp socket. You also have to cut onother sheet of acrylic with the right dimention for this conical frustum just like on previous step. Once you have everything ready start by taking three spokes pass them through the acrulic sheet then through the each hole of the disk A and then on the holes of the top disk D as seen on the photos. That the way to connect the two disks.

Next we will connect the washer with the top disk D. Take the washer and drill three holes. Then pass three spokes from the remaining three holes of the top disk D and secure them with two spoke nipples on the washer as seen on the photo. Maybe the distance from the washer to the top disk need adjusting, this depends how far you like the inner from the outer cone. Adjust it by shorten the spokes. Mark the hight you like and bend them. I also secured them on the top disk with a staple

The holes must be symmetric everywhere(top disk 6 holes, bottom disk three holes, washer 3 holes).

Now is the time to fit everything in place for a test spin. Make sure there is no contact between the moving parts and the outer cone.

Step 7: Step 7: Wrapping the Outer Cone With Fabric

Trace or calculate a piece of fabric for wrapping the outer cone. Cut it and fit it to the outer cone using some brooches. Make sure everything the fabric sits fine and then it would be necessary to sew a straight line on a sewing machine or in hand. After it has been sewn turn the fabric inside out and fit it on the outer cone. Now we need to be fixed and stapled at the disk A with a staple gun and then the top of the fabric must be glued inside the disk D. Follow the pictures but make sure you stretch it a little bit in order to get rid of any wrinkles. If you wish you can iron the fabric before fixing it on the cone. Also it would be wise to add some glue between the fabric and the bottom disk A with the staples. The glue becomes transparent when dryies.

Step 8: Step 8: Motor and Motor Housing

For this part i used some old parts. The housing for the motor is a part from an old hammer drill.

Drill a hole on each of the plastic mounts that are at the aluminum tube. Then use a pair of pliers and a bent wire to pull a piece of cord through the holes. With the cord fastened around the motor housing the only thing left is powering the motor and position the timing belt. Determine the distance between the motor pulley and the hub and cut a piece of a timing belt(mine comes from an old printer).The sew the belt's sides together with a needle and a thread but beware that you need to keep the belt in the tube or else you have to disassemble the base or the hub in order to connect it to the motor.

For powering the motor i used two AAA batteries beacause i tested it and rotates the hub at a pretty acceptable rpm. An alternative could be a stepper motor programmed to different rpm depenting the projection needed by each moving picture. But I kept it as simple as possible. The batteries are connected in series with a piece of metal and tape. Then they secured on another metal plate bended to fit tighty inside the bottom of the housing. Also a spring is used that acts as a press switch. When the motor pressed from the top the spring compresses and the motor electrodes touch the poles of the batteries. By releasing the preasure on the motor the spring pushes the motor upwards and it stops. If you want the motor to run without pressure you can keep it pressed with a rubber band. Also you can revert the direction that the motor spins by turning the motor 180degrees in the housing.

Step 9: Step 9: Painting the Cup

For the cup i used some abstract geometrical shapes.

One of the shapes is gonna get cuted in order to see the illuminated motion picture from the revolving inner conical frustum.

Trace the shapes first with a pencil and then with any colored pen you like. Then to add the ink stamps you need to wet the fabric only where you want the ink to go. So wet it with water and a brush and then apply the ink. Now if you blow hard enough you will see the ink to spread only where the fabric is wet.

Then cut a window to the outer cup with a cutter. Cut through the fabric and the acrylic sheet.

Step 10: Step 10: Cup Result

Ok this is the final result of the cup. The "window" looks like a transformer by accident. Pretty cool.

Step 11: Step 11: Printing the Moving Picture

Print the frames of a gif on the ricepaper with an inkjet or a laser printer. You obviously can use colored prints. Gimp is a popular open-source software for image manipulation and it's gonna be easy to fit all the frames in a A4 template and print them. I used a ballet dancer. I want to try more gifs but i am in a hurry to enter the full spectrum laser contest. You can also print just photos that you would like to see illuminated.

Add a conical cover of rise papper on the inner conical frustum to remove any unwanted shadows. Later after you crop the printed still images you will place them on that ricepaper cone. When it starts spinning you will see an illuminated moving picture.

After you have placed any images you want on the spinning conical frustum it's time to place the outer cup on it's place at the light socket.

Step 12: Step 12: Final Result

After everything is in place turn on the light and spin it. The result is deeply satisfying althought it can't capture from my smartphone camera. If i get my hands on a slr or a high quality camera i will post a video of the moving picture.

I am looking forward for any questions and new ideas.

Thank you.

Make it Move Contest 2016

Runner Up in the
Make it Move Contest 2016

Full Spectrum Laser Contest 2016

Participated in the
Full Spectrum Laser Contest 2016

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    5 Discussions


    4 years ago

    I had been thinking of making a moving globe, I think I will wait no more, you're a great inspiration!


    4 years ago

    I would love to see a video of it spinning!


    Reply 4 years ago

    I will post a video as soon as i can

    DIY Hacks and How Tos

    Awesome lamp design. I have never seen anything like this.


    Reply 4 years ago

    Thank you very much