Tres Lamp




For my third project as an Instructables Artist in Residence, I set out to design a simple yet sturdy desk lamp that almost anyone could make.  Drawing inspiration from scrap project materials and Hoang M Nguyen's "Lampfire", Tres Lamp is a customizable lamp that can be constructed with the most basic of tools.

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Step 1: Tools & Materials


• Ruler
• Pencil
• Scissors
• Protractor
• Hand saw
• Utility knife
• Wire cutters
• Sand paper
• Electrical tape


• (3) 1/2" Diameter wooden dowel rods cut to 20" length
• Natural fiber cording (at least 54")
• Large scrap piece of cardboard (at least 14" square)
• Light bulb (E26)
• Lamp socket (E26)
• Electrical cord
• Electrical plug

Helpful Links

With all the different choices in bulbs, sockets, and cords, you can really have a lot of fun outfitting this project. I found most of my components in a great little shop on Etsy called SnakeHeadVintage. The rest of the materials you should be able to find at your local hardware store.

Step 2: Create the Template

Making a simple cardboard template will help keep the dowels in place while you're hands are busy tying the knot in step 8. Use a ruler and protractor to measure out a 12" equilateral triangle. Poke holes at each of the three points for the dowels to stand in later.

Step 3: Make the Feet

This little detail will allow the tripod structure to sit flush on any flat surface. This will help create a more finished look in the end product. Use a pencil to mark a point about 1/4" away from one end of each dowel. Use the hand saw to make angled cuts tangent to those marks. Use a low or medium grit sandpaper to clean up the ends of each dowel afterwards.

Step 4: Make the Notch

This step will help to create the tripod structure with the use of just a single knot. Mark a line about 5" from the top of one of the dowels and cut about 1/3 of the way deep. Leave the remaining two dowels uncut.

Step 5: Wet the Cord

This step will help create a sturdy tripod structure (thanks to fellow artist in residence M.C. Langer for this great tip!). Keep in mind this will only work on natural fiber cords and not synthetics; cotton, hemp, jute, or twine will work great. All you need to do is soak your cord under some running water; this will let the fibers expand and assist you in keeping the cord taught during wrapping. 

Step 6: Start the Wrap

Now that your cord is saturated, pull it down into the notch you made earlier, leaving about 8" of slack on the left side and the rest on the right. Next, roll the dowel over and position the remaining two dowels next to it. Grab your electrical cord and position it somewhere on top/ in between the dowels. Now wrap the long end of the cord around the dowel/cord bunch 4-5 times. Align the cord as you are wrapping but keep it at about a medium tightness for now...

Step 7: Stand It Up

Ok, looking good. Fetch the template you made earlier in step 2 and stand your dowel/cord bunch upright using the slots in the template. The "feet" you made earlier should be pointing away from the center and sitting flush to the cardboard and table surface. Take a moment to shuffle the electrical cord into the center of the bunch from the top. Now you can tighten your cord to super tightness status. The wet cord and soft wood will give you clear feedback as to when it's taught or not; when you can here it creak or you can't pull any tighter, that's when you're taught...

Step 8: Make the Knot

Ok, let's do this thing. Follow the step by step photos to secure your tripod structure. I have broken this section up into two images to help illustrate that there are two parts to the knot. In part 2, you will rotate the tripod. As step L transitions into N, O, and P, you will rotate your tripod structure to complete the second part of the knot. 

Step 9: Wire the Socket/plug

Alright, you're all set to wire it up. Use your wire cutters and electrical tape to prep the cord. It's pretty simple here, just connect wire to terminal.

Step 10: Light It Up

Almost done! Depending on the length of the bulb, you will need to adjust the height of the electrical cord accordingly; since it is held in place by the pressure of the knot, all you need to do is give it a firm tug in either direction. Once you've got it in a good spot, screw in the bulb, plug it in, sit back and enjoy!

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25 Discussions


2 years ago

So simple and beautyful! Well done!


5 years ago on Introduction

for some reason the second half of the lamp knot I can't seem to get...any help??


6 years ago on Introduction

Love it! I just made this today for a birthday gift :-) I bought my cord light from World Market (they come in different bright colors which gives it a nice pop) and used jute twine to tie it all together. I then sprayed the wood with clear gloss paint to finish it off. Thanks so much for the share!

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1 reply

is the knot you tied to really finish binding the tripod based on a sailmaker's whipping to finish off hawser laid rope? I've modified that knot to hold a tripod joint (or more than three legs for that matter) before and it works pretty well. nice work!


6 years ago on Introduction

This is kickin'. Only thing I'd add, is running it off a dimmer in a box under the desk. Nice job.

1 reply

6 years ago on Introduction

Such a fine, simple design - congratulations and thanks so much for sharing!


Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

Hey, no problem. Actually I found that bulb at a hardware store a couple streets down from Instructables. It is a Satco Vintage Style 40W Cage Style bulb. The model number is S2417. I just checked and found them on is another cool place to find bulbs if you want to shop around a bit. :)


6 years ago on Step 6

Google "tripod lashing" for another tying method. It's what scouts use to create a tripod. No need for the cardboard to hold the sticks while you tie them.

Nice job with the 'ible. I need a new desk lamp and this may just be it.

1 reply

Thanks! The tripod lashing methods I found online didn't do a great job of holding the cord in place, but maybe I was missing something. Let me know how it works if you try it out!