Rainbow Moravian Star Lamp




About: In which I turn the thoughts from my head into objects in my hands

Ever since I started college, I've been working part time at a bioprocessing lab. This summer, rather than working full-time there, I decided to branch off and assist a diagnostics lab in SoCal. Because I won't see my coworkers for 2.5 months, I wanted to at least leave a little something behind for them. Specifically the idea that they brought up was a lamp, so that was my starting point. A few days of planning later to find inspiration, I ended up fixated on Moravian stars.

As for the color choice, it was a bit of nostalgic inspiration: When the lights are off, it appears quite plain with the grayscale coloring of gray backbone with black lace and white windows. When the lights are on, however, the true colors are revealed. It's cheese-ily symbolic in that while I began as a clueless intern at the lab, everyone taught and mentored me so I could mature into the colorful individual I am today. :)

Step 1: Materials

Quick introductory note: color combos are totally up to you, but I just listed out what I used. Of course, sub in your own preferences/materials on hand as you see fit.

  • thick gray cardstock (80 lb or higher, but not too high else it'll be hard to cut and fold)
  • black lace
  • rainbow shades of origami paper
  • glue
  • tape
  • fairy string lights + batteries

Step 2: Spikes: Template Design

Decide on the dimensions of the triangular faces of the square pyramidal points. For me, the lengths of the three sides were 2.75", 2.5", 2.75". I chose an isosceles triangle that's relatively close to being equilateral because I didn't want sharp spikes for the star. This was partially an aesthetic choice, but also a practical choice: if the points were too sharp, then the spikes would be more prone to caving in over time (less sturdy especially due to the lace inserts). Decide the triangle window dimensions (for the lace) while you're at it: I used 1.5+1/8", 1.5", 1.5+1/8" to allow for enough area for the light to shine through without detracting from the structural strength of the overall star (since bigger windows substitute out tougher cardstock).

Draw your final template onto a scrap piece of paper by first cutting out four big isosceles triangles aligned edge to edge as shown in the template. Then add thin trapezoidal tabs (thinner than the distance between the window edges and the outer edges or else your tabs will be visible in the windows). Add the smaller isosceles triangular windows centered in the four triangular faces too, and cut out this final template. (note: for the second picture above, you see my template and the smaller window triangle separate because I hadn't figured out this shortcut of adding the window to the template.. you'll see)

Step 3: Spikes: Cutting and Folding

Grab your template and begin tracing 18 of them in your thick cardstock. Cut them all out, and crease at the dashed lines indicated in the third picture above.

Step 4: Windows

I cut out the lace and origami paper for each window separately, and you might wonder why I didn't just cut out a single piece of lace/paper to go across all four windows? Well, it was partially because stupid me didn't think of the idea until I was almost complete, and also because that might interfere with the bending at the edges of the triangles (since the lace and paper would need to flex at the joints.. I suggest sacrificing a cutout to try it out to see if the idea works though: otherwise, you'll need to cut out 18*4 = 72 lace and paper triangles.

Then just glue the lace over the windows before adding the paper (white side facing out so that the colors are hidden) behind it. Let everything dry COMPLETELY (I suggest overnight) before using them later.

Step 5: Polygonal Skeleton: Templates 1, 2, 3

The next three templates are adapted from this website tutorial. See the images above for how the template dimensions work out. Cube dimensions are the same as the bottom side length of your spike triangles. (in my case, it was 2.5" as mentioned earlier so these cubes are 2.5" on all sides)

For all templates, red is fold, blue is a guide, and green means cut. The blue line is just a guide for the triangle: the triangle should be isosceles and have the same length as the side length of the cubes, so the blue marks the middle axis of the triangle. Template 1 and 2 are almost the same thing, except instead of three cubes on the bottom, there are only two cubes. Template 3 has more triangles with fewer cubes. For all templates, I didn't draw in the square windows, but they should also be cut out: my dimensions were 1.8" side length for reference.

Step 6: Polygonal Skeleton: Folding and Gluing

The pictures I took for this section weren't very clear (hard to depict process), but assembly isn't too hard. Common sense should be enough to figure it out, though some pictures are up there for guidance on folding (dashed lines in template) and gluing. Note: the templates do have some extra tabs, which you can either remove by cutting them off or gluing them anyway.

Remember to leave a little gap at any corner (yes, any) when you're gluing them together! This will be where you insert your lights.

Step 7: Lights

Add your choice of lights through the little gap you left before sealing shut. I went with fairy string lights in warm white light for a slightly subdued glow ("fairy" because the bulbs are tiny LEDs rather than full-blown light bulbs). Use tape to secure random sections of the string lights to the skeleton so that the lights don't bounce around.

Step 8: Spikes

For each of your 18 pieces, apply glue on the side trapezoidal tab before pinching the paper as shown in the second picture above. Slip the glued sections for all of them between heavy books (and a TV in my case haha) to let the glue fully dry (I highly recommend overnight).

Once everything is dry, pop them open as shown in the fourth picture above.

Step 9: Gluing Spikes

Apply glue at the bottom trapezoidal tabs for each spike and gently press in place at each of the squares of the polygonal skeleton. As you do this, be careful with your positioning of the colored spikes: turn the light inside on so you can clearly see the colors of each spike so you can properly arrange them as you wish. Hold the spike in place for about 5 minutes (more is better though to fully let the glue set). I used plain white school glue for this, but on second thought hot glue would have been perfect since it dries quickly. In any case, this is a very time consuming process so be sure to have a Netflix marathon while you're at it!

And.... that's it. :)

Step 10: Food for Thought

While I'm quite pleased with my final product, I also recognize that there's always room for expansion and improvement. Some ideas I had:

  • Rather than putting rainbow origami paper behind the spikes, just use white origami paper but use addressable LEDs to control the lighting inside each spike individually.
  • Try pointier spikes (less like equilateral) for a more dramatic, less ball-like shape.
  • Add lace windows in the triangular faces of Templates 1, 2, and 3 (I didn't do it because I thought it might make the star too unstable since there's too many lace faces, but try it out!)

There's plenty of other ways to deviate: play around with your own ideas, and go wild!

Rainbow Contest 2016

Second Prize in the
Rainbow Contest 2016



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    8 Discussions


    Reply 2 years ago

    Thank you, Linda! Congrats to you for the Quilling Contest. :)


    3 years ago

    great job! the final look is really cool. also I see you put your biochemistry books to good use :p

    1 reply

    3 years ago

    Beautiful!!! I just did stained glass for the first time and made an emerald green star.

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    Oh nice! I've never done stained glass effects with actual glass before, but I'm sure it's an interesting process.