Low-tech Articulated Desk Lamp




If you have three small-ish chunks of wood, some rubber bands, paper, and a light bulb, then you can make your own articulated desk lamp!

Articulated desk lamps are somewhat complex mechanical objects that require an industrial context to produce, given the usual components of factory made metal parts, springs, screws, and cast plastic elements. I wanted to design a version of a desk lamp that could be produced in completely non-industrial contexts, with only naturally available materials and resources--excluding the light bulb and wiring itself, sadly.

Step 1: Making the Parts

 You'll need:

a small amount of wood: a 2 x 4 will be more than enough. I used less than half a square foot of 3/4 inch thick plywood. Cut and notch it as pictured, and you've got your basics done!

a couple rubber bands. The nice part about all this is that you can adjust the tension of your lamp by just adding another rubber band. You can also easily replace them--unlike the springs and pieces in your usual desk lamp

a light bulb and electrical socket

a sheet of printer paper

Cut the wood pieces--on a bandsaw if you're lazy, and by hand if you're really hardcore about it. Wood piece 4 is a small piece that slots into wood piece 3 after everything's done to constrain the range of motion of the lamp

Step 2: Assemble It!

 wood piece 3 is the base

piece 1 slots into piece 3
piece 2 slots into piece 1
the light bulb fits into piece 2.

Strap the rubber bands into the notches like in the picture

glue the lampshade to the end of piece 2

Step 3: Enjoy!

 have fun with your new desk lamp!



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    8 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Very easy to build, great looking lamp! It'd be awesome if you could share the design files.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    neat project. wish you provided a few more pictures & different angles of the wood pieces; but other than that excellent!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I like the Renaissance-esque look of the design. On the other hand, this seems like an ideal project for a 3D printer.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    It slots in as a final step to lock the pieces together, kind of like a keystone piece. Otherwise, the larger members are too loosely held together. It also helps to contrain the range of motion of the desk lamp so that it won't overextend itself or fall over.

    I'm glad you like it! If you're trying to build it, good luck :)


    9 years ago on Introduction

     The design is very nice.  How accurate do the cuts need to be?  Unless I am missing something basic, some of these cuts seem difficult for an unskilled person to make.

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

     thanks! I'm glad someone out there is thinking about making this. the notches for the rubber bands have very little need for precision--as long as they can hold the rubber bands in, you're pretty much set. However, the cutouts in the actual pieces of wood and the large notches that hold them together are a bit more important, as they determine the range of motion of the lamp. I've calibrated the current one so that its range of motion is constrained such that it won't unbalance itself. I'm sorry, but I haven't had time to post the measurements, but I'll try to get them up over the weekend. 

    The cuts are pretty easy to make on the bandsaw--and not too tough if you have a nice, small hacksaw and draw out your notches before you start cutting.

    let me know how it goes!