How to make acrylic lamp shades

Written by rosemarie martindale
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How to make acrylic lamp shades
Possible design for acrylic lamp shade (Lampshade image by AndYam from Fotolia.com)

Making acrylic lamp shades by hand is a fun way to add a personal touch and match the decor of any room. Acrylic lamp shades are made from acrylic sheets, which come in a variety of colours, textures and sizes. Acrylic lamp shades may appear fragile, but unlike their glass counterparts, they are nearly unbreakable. Individual acrylic panels become one solid form when fused with acrylic cement (a chemical solvent). Lamp shades made this way last a long time.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Acrylic sheets (no more than 3/16 inch thick)
  • Acrylic cement
  • Tube of clear silicone caulking
  • T-square (metal ruler)
  • Needle-nosed applicator or medical syringe
  • Marker pen
  • Utility knife
  • Fine wet/dry sandpaper
  • Masking tape (1-inch width)
  • Lamp shade ring (washer-top or clip-on)
  • Wood blocks or heavy books

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Instructions

    How to Make Acrylic Lampshades

  1. 1

    Measure four acrylic panels. Measure diameter of lampshade ring to determine width of two narrow panels (top width, if tapered). Multiply thickness of acrylic sheet by two and add to the previous measurement. Two panels will be this wide (at the top, if tapered). Note measurements for panel length and bottom width of panels (if tapered).

    How to make acrylic lamp shades
    T-square (square image by Paul Moore from Fotolia.com)
  2. 2

    Mark and cut out four acrylic panels. Mark measurement lines for panels onto acrylic. Each line must run entire length of acrylic sheet. Lay sheet on a flat surface. Score marked line slowly and firmly by running sharp utility knife repeatedly along metal ruler, until 3/4 of the way through sheet. Place scored line along edge of hard surface, so piece to be snapped off hangs over the edge. Lay metal ruler on top of sheet along scored line. Apply downward pressure to sheet on both sides of scored line. Snap off material in one piece.

    Repeat with each line. Smooth off jagged pieces with utility knife. Slide sandpaper into sanding block. Sand rough edges flat and smooth with an even back and forth motion.

    How to make acrylic lamp shades
    Utility knife (folding utility knife image by Christopher Dodge from Fotolia.com)
  3. 3

    Attach panels to form lamp shade body. Pour cement into syringe or applicator until no more than 3/4 full. Remove protective masking from areas to be joined. Place sanded edge of smaller panel upright against horizontal surface of larger panel, forming a right angle. Tape in place. Check angle with T-square. Support upright panel with wooden blocks or heavy books. Squeeze a small bead of cement into joint. Let dry for at least 10 minutes. Repeat sequence with remaining two panels. Join both sets of panels at right angles. Tape in place. Position joint so a larger panel is horizontal while cementing. Support with blocks. Squeeze small bead of cement into joint. Let dry for at least 10 minutes before cementing last joint. Place lamp shade ring in the centre, checking for a good fit. Let joined panels cure 24 to 48 hours, supported by blocks.

    How to make acrylic lamp shades
    Syringe (hands in gloves filling a syringe image by Antonevich Anastasia from Fotolia.com)
  4. 4

    Attach lamp shade ring to acrylic shade. Remove ring. Remove masking from inside panels. Tape wire ring back in place. Attach ring to shade by spreading a bead of transparent silicone adhesive caulk between ring and lamp shade. Allow to dry according to manufacturer's instructions. Peel off tape and remaining protective masking.

    How to make acrylic lamp shades
    Tube of adhesive (colle image by matteo NATALE from Fotolia.com)

Tips and warnings

  • Practice ensures satisfactory results. Measure, cut and assemble panels from scrap cardboard to check for inconsistencies. Score and snap scrap acrylic to get a feel for how much pressure to apply.
  • Avoid rounding acrylic panel edges. A rounded surface will form a poor bond.
  • Keep away from flame. Acrylic cement is highly flammable.
  • Wear safety glasses and disposable gloves.
  • Ventilate adequately.
  • Keep protective masking on acrylic sheets until finished. Acrylic finish scratches easily.

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