How to Make a Spinning Lamp

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Motion lamps, which were popular in the 1950s, consist of cylindrical lamps with colorful acetate insets. The heat from the bulbs inside the cylinders make the pictures rotate. Though you can still find these lamps in vintage shops, you can make a simple version at home for a few dollars, using your choice of colors and images.

Things You'll Need

  • Clear acetate film
  • Scissors
  • Permanent markers
  • Glue dots
  • Aluminum pie plate
  • Mathematical compass
  • Scissors
  • Flat-base lamp with lampshade harp

Cut a piece of acetate film about 12 inches long. Spread it out on a flat surface and color it any way you like with permanent markers. Try to keep the pictures colorful and simple with line art dominating your work. Don’t touch the ink; you’ll smear the picture. Let it dry for at least an hour.

Roll the acetate into a cylinder, securing it with clear glue dots.

Measure across the top of your cylinder and add 1/2 inch to that measurement. Divide the resulting measurement in half and adjust your mathematical compass to that final measurement. For instance, a tube measuring 5 inches across requires a compass adjusted to 2 3/4 inches.

Draw a circle in the center of the aluminum pie plate. Cut out the circle and poke a hole in the center with your scissors. Snip into the circle six times, stopping about 1/2 inch before the hole in the center. Space your cuts evenly around the circle, creating six even “wings.”

Twist each wing at a 45-degree angle to the right. Bend the last 1/4 inch of each wing down at a 90-degree angle. Glue the bent parts of the wing around the outside of your acetate cylinder.

Slide the center hole of the lampshade down over the tip of the lampshade harp on your lamp. Lamps with flat, wooden bases work best. The harp is a wire loop that surrounds the bulb and has a pointed tip to support a lampshade. When the shade warms, it should spin.

Tips & Warnings

  • Try tracing pictures, maps or photos onto your acetate. You may also paint the outside of the shade with acrylic paint and draw dark swirls on the inside. When lit, you’ll be able to see the swirls as shadows.

References

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