Wood Rocket Lamp




About: I'm an Italian freelance structural engineer, graphic designer and photographer, and I'm teaching physics in Waldorf high-schools. I always investigate electronics, robotics and science in general, I'm a pas...

A beautiful present for your son birthday will be this exciting lamp to be assembled by themselves. But don't stop there, you can customize the project so that it will be unique in the world!

I had the opportunity to use a laser cutter in the WeMake Makerspace in Milan and so I designed this lamp with simple software in a way that everybody can reproduce so to make different shapes and styles, and if you are able to model in some 3D software your choices are infinite.

Step 1: Software and 3D Model

I prefer using the laser cutter more than a 3D printer, because it's much faster and you can use better materials, like wood or acrylic. Times ago you had to use a jigsaw to make the same work, which was probably more engaging, but now you can easily design more complex shapes, and it's actually still really fascinating.

The software used to automate the process of cut the 3D model in layers, which dovetail one each other, is Slicer for Fusion 360 (123D make up to some time ago). It's very simple to learn, although it leaves not too much choices for customization. Let's see how to use it with the model of the rocket.

Actually the rocket model was in the 123D make previous software version, and it's not present in the new version, anyway I attach the file for software ready with all the settings for the lamp. Maybe you can try this one first, and then go on with your customized 3D model, you can take inspiration from something like a famous comic, like someone did with this model ;-)

Step 2: Make It Hollow

When you have decided the dimensions of your lamp, which of course have to be suitable to contain a light bulb, you have to set the hollow parameters, or there will be no hollow space inside.

Step 3: Set Material Parameters

Before going on with the design, you need to set all parameters of your wood/acrylic board. This will affect the position of pieces but more essential is that every slot dimension will be congruent with the board thickness. It will be very difficult correct it after this step, so make precise measurements. Of course also lamp maximum dimension is determined by dimension of the laser machine cutting plane and/or wood board.

Step 4: Slice It

Now select "radial slices" in "Construction technique" menu and try some different values for any parameter. You can also move layers to improve the appearance of the lamp. Layers have to be a good number to give a believable representation of the rocket shape, but they can't be too much or you barely see the light inside!

Step 5: Save Plans

When you're satisfied you can click on "Get plans" and have a .pdf copy of all shapes to cut. You could also have a ready .dxf file but Slice doesn't make a good work in that, because it exports only a 3D model which is useless for laser cutting, and is difficult to convert back to 2D.

Now you have to work a little on the vector graphic to adapt it to receive a light bulb with his socket.

Step 6: Refine Shapes

I decided to use for my lamp design a small and simple standard socket for E14 light bulbs, which I can buy for cheap of many colours. We have to modify some shapes to create space for this socket and the light bulb, to make it I used Autocad but you can use Adobe Illustrator or any other software which allow to read and save .dxf vector files.

Measure the diameter of the socket thread and use it to modify the inner hole diameter of one horizontal lamp disc. I decided to choose the one at fifth level, so to position the light bulb in the larger part of the lamp.

Then you also have to make some more space for the socket and the bulb itself, or at least verify space is enough. I have different light bulbs, but dimension of glass drop shaped ones is quite standard. So I use that dimension to verify measures.

I suggest to modify only one of the similar shapes and the copy it the number of times you need.

Step 7: Some Details

Now, I saw the thread of the socket is not long enough to keep a wood layer between. So I add some engraved circles which will reduce a little the thickness around the socket.

Then insert little gaps (about 0.5-1.0 mm) for any part, so it will stay connected to the full board which can be easily handle until you're ready to assemble the lamp.

Step 8: Arrange Shapes

At last you can arrange parts on the lower number of sheets of the dimensions you decide. If there is still some space you can decide to add some funny gadget like a pin or a medal with a logo.

Step 9: Ready to Cut

As you can see I used a different colour for inner holes and for text. Indeed you will need that to cut holes first and to engrave text and circles around socket thread.

I managed to put part on tho sheets, one a bit smaller than an A3 standard, and the other on an A4 standard. This pair is quite good since I have 60x120cm plywood boards, and they fit there very good four times.

They're now ready to be cut.

PS: I attach here also two dxf files with two final versions of the lamp, they both us

Step 10: Laser Cutting

To laser-cut the pieces I used the FabLab's bigger laser machine which has a cut-plane of 120x90 cm and a power of 80W. To cut the 4mm plywood I made some tests and I decided that best parameters to cut are speed 45-50, acceleration also 45-50, and 100% power. They can vary a little... so it's better you make so test with tho little dovetails. And I used speed if 200 and power 8% to engrave the text.

Step 11: Set Ready for a Present

I added in my final design some tabs along the cutting edge, so that pieces will stay in place, and you can give the full set as a present to be assembled. Check that all cutting edge are visible from behind, otherwise you must cut it again and lower the speed.

I added a PDF with five sheets, two for the version 1 and three for version 2 of the Lamp. Pay attention that some sheets are A3 format, and some are A4, so print them one by one. If you glue them on the plywood board you will be able to cut the shapes by hand with the jigsaw. Although it's a long process your can try it in case you cannot go at a Makerspace with a lasercut.

Step 12: Electrical Equipment

Chose at any electric shop a socket for E14 bubs. It should have an external diameter not bigger than 27mm, I think it's quite standard and easily acquirable. I have different colour of sockets and wires, I'm sure they exist white, black, and copper/gold. You are free to choose the one you like.

As light bulb it's important it doesn't warm up too much, so no halogen and no old filament bulbs. But there are beautiful new flame-shape LED bulbs which are also very cost-efficient, they only absorb 2-3W. I also have an old-style fake-flame low power bulb, they're are very nice used in this lamp as decorative piece of furniture.

Step 13: Cables, Plug and Switch

You need of curse a wire with switch and plug. It doesn't need to be absolutely of the same colour of the socket. To connect wire to socket you must use some tools

Step 14: Begin Assembling

Assembling this Rocket lamp is not difficult, but if you start it with no premeditation you will find yourself in trouble not one but more times. I know because I tried it! Since wire is one-piece with the plug, you have to make wire going through some plywood parts before connecting it to the socket. These parts are the big cross (#2) and discs number 3 and 4.

Step 15: Connect Wires

Now you can screw the wire ends to the socket's base. Then place the disc #5 (the one with a groove around the hole) over the socket thread and screw it pushing hard on the cylindrical socket part.

Step 16: Going on Assembling

Pay a lot of attention not breaking the plywood parts. It's not easy, since there will be no glue to keep them in place so they have to be a bit hard to join. Removing them could be also harder so try not to make mistakes.

Now take the big piece with numbers on it. It's only one of all the similar four. Use it to see the right position of corresponding discs. First discs to be inserted, but not totally, are disc #5 (the one with the bulb socket) and #6 (which will have socket cylinder inside). Then insert first two discs (#3 and #4) and at last #2. Now you can push them totally in place.

Step 17: Test Bulb and Connections

Before going on with assembling I suggest you to screw in the bulb and try the lamp. If it works you can proceed. Take off the bulb, insert discs #7 #8 #9 and screw in again the bulb. Proceed inserting other discs up to the little last one.

Step 18: And Go on Again

After that insert the opposite vertical rib, then the other two to complete the four rocket's legs. Push everything hard so every rib goes deep, but always pay attention to now exceed and brake something.

Step 19: Complete the Assembling

Now insert the smaller ribs between the first four and complete the assembling with the very small discs on the rocket feet.

Your lamp is now complete, put it in place, turn it on, and enjoy!

Step 20: Flame Bulb

Here you can see pictures of the flame bulb, which is a good alternative to transform your rocket in an interesting decor for your room or office. Or, of course, an inflaming present for your geek partner!



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12 Discussions


1 year ago

It'd be cool to have the "flame bulb" be upside down and look like the rocket is blasting off! Nice job!

2 replies

1 year ago

In the middle of getting three of these made, one for each of my kids. Thank you so much for your efforts, this is an awesome lamp :)

1 reply

Reply 1 year ago

Do you have a link for the E14 holders? The type we get in the UK have an external screw and are the wrong shape for the lamp


1 year ago

could you use the patterns to make it out of wood?,not a fancy guy with all this HIGH TECH stuff,still use wood an scroll saw

2 replies
Eh Lie Us!ron.england.9

Reply 1 year ago

I'm there with you ron.england.9. I was looking for the pdf so I could print it out on plastic overheads and project on a sheet of plywood.


andrea biffiEh Lie Us!

Reply 1 year ago

In step 11 I added a pdf file with 5 sheets and both lamp versions to cut with a jigsaw. I wish you good luck, and please post pictures if you will success in make that! :-)


1 year ago

Do you have the missile stl file? could you share with us?

1 reply
andrea biffiWalissonA

Reply 1 year ago

you can download missile.3dmk in step1, then convert to stl with 123DMake


1 year ago

This is so cool, and excellently documented as usual. Nicely done my friend :)

1 reply