Part-time and freelance writer with plenty of tips for DIY projects.
Corrugated cardboard is a solid material largely composed of negative space—the long, narrow flutes that create structure also hold a lot of air. Cutting across the grain opens these voids, allowing light to pass through.
The Cube Lamp exploits these properties, laminating squares of corrugated board to create half of a cube, excavated in the center, to cradle a modified light fixture. Coat-hanger legs elevate the pile and provide space for the switch and cord. If you have access to a laser cutter, this design is easily adapted to mass production. The laser will also create perfectly clean-cut edges, making for sharp fluted shadows.
So without further ado, let's get going with our DIY cube lamp.
- Double-wall (preferred) or single-wall corrugated cardboard
- PVA glue, wheat paste (see my other article on making your own wheat paste), or rubber cement
- One 6" aluminum studio lamp (see Step 4)
- One CFL or LED light bulb, 60W equivalent
- One wire coat hanger
- Box cutter
- Heavy-duty scissors
- Wire Snips
How to Make the Cube Lamp:
- Cut 16 pieces of cardboard 8" square with a box cutter and straightedge. Use a fresh blade to prevent fuzzy edges. (Note: If using single-wall cardboard, cut 32 pieces and double the quantities specified in the cutout template above.)
- Separate the squares into two stacks of eight pieces each. The bottom half of the lamp will have two pieces with a 2" hole (A), two with a 3" hole (B), and four with a 4" hole (C). The top half will have seven pieces with a 4" hole (C) and one solid piece (D). Mark the center of each square that gets a hole (see Marking Centerpoints, below), then draw the appropriately sized circle using a compass. Make the cutouts with the box cutter.
- Laminate the pieces to create each stack, using wheat paste or rubber cement and alternating the direction of the flutes in each layer. Weight down the stacks with books while the glue dries, making sure the layers are aligned. The completed bottom half should have a conical void in the center, while the top half should have a cylindrical void with a solid top.
- A standard studio lamp from the hardware store consists of a conical aluminum shade and plastic socket attached to a spring clamp. Remove the clamp and cut down the shade with heavy-duty scissors until the lamp nestles down into the bottom half of the bottom cardboard stack. Install the light bulb in the lamp. (Note: Use compact fluorescent (CFL) or LED light bulbs only! Standard incandescent bulbs can get hot enough to ignite cardboard.)
- Cut and straighten two pieces of coat hanger wire, each 21" long. Bend each piece into a U-shape with three equal 7" arms. Position the top cardboard stack on the bottom unit, then pin the two stacks together by pushing the coat hanger pieces into the cardboard at right angles to each other. To change the bulb in the future, gently pull the top half of the lamp off of the coat hanger pins.
How to Mark Centerpoints
Mark the precise center of a square or rectangle by setting a straightedge diagonally from corner to corner and drawing a short line along the center of the workpiece. Repeat with the other opposing corners. The intersection of lines is the center point.
How to Convert the Lamp into a Pendant
This lamp can be converted to a pendant by trimming the leg “pins” to 3", pushing them in all the way, and hanging it upside down by the cord.