How to Make a Paper Motion Lamp

Written by megan shoop
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How to Make a Paper Motion Lamp
Motion lamps move because their light bulbs generate heat. (Light bulb image by Mart61 from

Motion lamps feature a printed microfilm or paper cylinder set over a small light bulb. The cylinder is attached to a round metal plate at the top with fanlike sails cut into it. The heat from the light bulb turns the metal plate and the paper cylinder. The printing on the paper may be a nature scene or a design that mimics movement like flames or waves, or the lamp may project light through silhouettes cut into black paper. You can make one of these lamps easily at home as an addition to your decor or as a rainy-day project for your children.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Aluminium pie pan
  • Flat, wood disc lamp base
  • Ruler
  • Permanent marker
  • Utility knife
  • Scissors
  • Wire hanger
  • Wire nips
  • Pliers
  • Screw
  • Hand drill
  • Paper
  • Drawing supplies
  • Heat-proof transparencies
  • Spray adhesive
  • White school glue
  • Paper clips
  • Light bulb

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  1. 1

    Place the flat, wood disc lamp base in the centre of your aluminium pie tin. Trace around the base with a permanent marker. Remove the base and cut out the aluminium circle.

  2. 2

    Make a dot in the centre of your aluminium circle. Use a ruler to draw lines that section the circle into eighths. Poke through the hole in the centre and cut along the lines with your utility knife, starting about ¼ inch from the centre hole and stopping ¼ inch from the edge.

  3. 3

    Push down on each of your slits, creating fan sails. Snip ¼ inch wide fringes into the edges of your aluminium circle and bend them downward. Set the aluminium circle aside.

  4. 4

    Drive a screw into your wooden lamp base about ½ inch from the centre. The screw head should have about enough space underneath to admit the edge of a nickel.

  5. 5

    Snip away the bottom portion of a wire hanger. Wrap one end of the resulting wire under the screw head from step 4. Bend the wire up with pliers so it stands vertically. About 7 inches up the wire, bend the wire at a 90 degree angle. Bend it at a second 90 degree angle about one inch from the first bend. The result should be an L-shape. Nip the wire about 1 inch from the second 90 degree angle.

  6. 6

    Draw or paint your desired design onto a piece of paper. Allow it to dry. Spray a heat-proof transparency with spray adhesive and press your paper onto it. Allow the glue to dry for about an hour.

  7. 7

    Bend your paper into a cylinder with the transparency inside. Secure the edges with paper clips and fit your aluminium circle into the top of the cylinder, adjusting the cylinder to fit snugly around the circle. Glue the circle into place and glue the edges of the cylinder together. Allow it to dry overnight.

  8. 8

    Screw a light bulb into your disc base. Set your shade over the light bulb, feeding the top of the wire through the hole in the centre of the aluminium circle. Turn on your lamp and watch the shade spin.

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