Sheet Metal Flower Lamp

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

I've always enjoyed making lamps, and this one in particular was for a mentor who had enLIGHTened me during an internship (and happened to be complaining about needing a new lamp).

The design was inspired from this and this: both are lamps made from modular strips, but I was away from my precious paper hoard so I wanted an alternative. I happened to have some spare Arizona aluminum cans, and the aluminum seemed perfect for what I needed. It turned out to be more difficult to work with (and harder on the hands..) but the effort paid off! The light shining through the metal strips looks especially interesting because the light peaks out in clear beams from the metal cutouts, but it also reflects off the shiny aluminum for some interesting effects...

Warning: the pictures aren't the best.. I took a lot of them indoors due to a time crunch to finish so excuse the poor white balance. :( A lot of this involves two hands so excuse the spotty and poor picture positions too: feel free to leave questions if you need help!

Side note: if you liked this tutorial, votes in the Metal and Homemade Gifts contests would be appreciated!

Step 1: Materials

  • lamp (I got an IKEA Jansjo lamp for $4 at a flea market)
  • 1.5 Arizona tea cans (or ~2 regular sized soda cans)
  • scissors (that you don't care about dulling out by cutting soda cans)
  • super glue (Loctite does a great job, but epoxies provide a stronger bond)
  • printer + paper (to print out petals template, attached below:)

Step 2: Planning a Design

I didn't just freehand the flower design (actually, looking back, I kinda did; what I mean to say is that I didn't start without a general idea). I cut out random strip designs out of paper and used a glue stick to temporarily bond them together on a lamp to test out how it would look. Out of those iterations, I chose my favorite and went ahead to a metal design.

Step 3: Cutting Off the Top and Bottom of the Can

Grab your scissors: make sure it's a pair you don't care too much about! Use a sharp edge to start slicing at a small section of the can near the top.

Be gentle! Otherwise your cuts might veer off course like this...

Once you've thinned out the small section, poke the sharp tip of your scissors into the cuts to make a hole.

Once you have the tip of the scissors in the can, it's fairly straightforward to continue cutting off the top of the can.

Cut from the top of the can down to the bottom rim. Preferably cut along the edge of the nutrition facts like this so you have a straight line going downward.

Cut along the bottom rim to remove the bottom of the can like so.

Step 4: Cutting Strips

I had three different sizes of petals, which you can see as 1, 2, and 3 in the petals.pdf attached to the bottom of this step. Print that and cut out the templates to trace them onto your aluminum can.

I used 5x of each size, but this number might change for you depending on the size of your lamp. Because my lamp was a Jansjo one from IKEA, the base is pretty small and narrow in diameter, meaning that I could only fit 5 petals around it. If your lamp's head is big, it may be possible to fit more.

Begin by folding your rectangle of aluminum in half like so.

Take one of the paper templates and trace it onto the aluminum before cutting the shape out.

If you trace the template with a sharpie, be sure to rub it off immediately (the longer you leave it on, the harder it becomes to take off -- alternatively, rub off with alcohol).

After you cut out all the strips, you may need to trim down the top edge if it's ragged.

Step 5: First Layer of Petals

Grab your first set of petals (petal size #1). Take five of your strips (Or however many you need; I did 6 but found out 5 was enough) and glue the open ends like so (overlap the edges, connecting the angle at the top corner). The strip in the top right in the picture below show unconnected edges, but it demonstrates what you should do: cross one edge over the other, add a dab of glue, and press the edges together.

Curve the glued edge of the petal to match the top of your lamp's bulb (this is the curve of a Jansjo lamp from IKEA, for me).

That curvature you make at the top should match the curvature of the bulb of your lamp.

Glue the petals around the edge of the lamp. If the glue doesn't have a good grip on the lamp's exterior, use sandpaper to rough up the surface of the aluminum and the lamp exterior.

Side view:

Step 6: Second Layer of Petals

Grab your second set of petals (petal size #2) and attach the ends on the inside of your first set of petals like this so that they end up looking like they stick out.

Position the edges of the second petals about 2.5cm from the base of the first round of petals.

Note that they should be angled slightly outward so that ~1cm is glued to the second layer and the rest sticks out.

The second set of petals face outward like this:

Cut a small section of leftover aluminum to cover/connect the edges of the second round of petals, like shown in the left side of the picture below. The right side shows uncovered edges. I liked this to make everything look a little more finished.

Step 7: Third Set of Petals

For the last layer of petals, attach the ends of the strips to the second layer like so: note that the patterned side is facing outward and that the strip is angled slightly inward.

The third layer is attached on the interior no-pattern faces of the second layer of petals (in the picture below, one of the third layer petals is right in center, swooping to the right). They go in between the second layer's petals, not directly overlapping them!

When the third petals are all attached, cut them down the top middle like so: (the petal I pointed out as swooping to the right was cut at the folded seam)

Overlap the cut edges and glue them down so that they look like this:

Here's a side shot of what that looks like: (it's the petal that's third from left to right on the top half of the picture)

Do this for all of the third layer's petals. I did this because they the layer would look a little more different, rather than being another, smaller version of the first two layers.

Step 8: Finished and Future Steps

Now you have a finished flower! When you turn on the light, you'll notice that the light reflects off the shiny aluminum parts for an interesting effect. The platform for the lamp looked unexciting in comparison to the bedazzled top, so I added a small flower design with extra scraps to the base as shown below:

What variations can you add to this?

  • This modification would look nice on a hydra-style (many heads) lamp: you could use different soda can patterns so that each flower looks different but compliment each other.
  • If you make this out of paper, an ombre effect on the petals would look nice. You have a lot more options with the color scheme of the petals too. I would recommend a thicker paper (like cardstock as opposed to printer paper) because that would keep its shape better.
  • I would be curious to see what this idea would look like if instead of metal or paper, you used plastic sheets (like a vellum, shiny plastic) because the light would be able to shine through more clearly almost like an acrylic: the light would go through the bulk material and look bright at the edges.

Feel free to ask questions, leave comments, etc. below (especially as I understand that these pictures really aren't the best: my apologies). Enjoy!

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    4 Discussions

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    mrparkinson

    11 months ago

    Beautiful project, well crafted. Please tell me how you dealt with the edges of the petals. In my house, my grandson would grab the petals and likely cut his hands to ribbons. What did I miss in your description?

    1 reply
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    watchmeflyymrparkinson

    Reply 10 months ago

    Good point; you didn't miss anything, as I just didn't include child-friendly features. I don't know of a foolproof way to child-proof the lamp, but I would think that you can coat the edges with something thick like hot glue; that would be messy and time consuming though. Perhaps you could also try adding a clay to the edges; essentially, you'd just want to thicken the edge so that it won't cut. Also, soda cans are made of aluminum, so the petals are actually quite delicate so if anyone presses on the petals, they'd deform, unfortunately: the best way to protect this lamp would be to attach it to a ceiling lamp.