Final Report Part 2 2020: Desk Lamp

Why and What Next

My laser cut enclosure panels finally arrived, so I was able to construct my desk lamp!

Functional Motivation

My main functional goal for this project was to alleviate the poor lighting in my room in graduate housing. I only have a single overhead light, that is far from centrally positioned.

Accordingly, I wanted a sufficiently bright desk lamp to fit within a 10″ by 10″ envelope of space at the back right corner of my desk. With only one other retail lamp positioned near my bedside, current non-computer work is functionally impossible while sitting at my desk after sunset within my room.

Aesthetic Motivation

I have an aesthetic preference for clean. sleek, and modern designs over alternatives. For this project, I had an aesthetic goal to make an overall aesthetically complex and interesting desk lamp from an arrangement of many simple geometric shapes. My initial goal of a futuristic aesthetic was partially motivated by weekly releases of Westworld episodes, each with displays of interior design choices consistent with a fictional setting of 2052. Finally, without access to the silver metallic paint I wanted and the delay of my enclosure panels arrival due to improper UPS sorting, I pivoted my design to rustic modern, which is consistent with the unaltered Amber Bamboo Plywood and my light bulb choice.

Current Developments and Future Work

Due to the UPS shipping delay, my enclosure panels originally ordered on Monday, March 30th didn’t arrive until Friday, April 24th. I’m glad I ordered my panels to be laser cut by Ponoko as early as I possibly could, once I had a sconce selected for critical DXF geometry alterations. The following images show my process from unpacking the panels from Ponoko to the first assembly:

After unpacking all the panels, I brought my light bulb and sconce together for a first construction. This was the first time I had my desk lamp together and functional:

Loose Fit

When creating my DXF files, I sized the slots on the base, frame, and decorative panels to be 0.13″ wide. I did this to make sure there was enough clearance for the 0.11″ thickness panels to press fit together. I chose 0.13″ width slots consistent with Ponoko’s website upper end the guaranteed thickness range for the nominal 0.11″ Amber Bamboo Plywood. In hindsight, I should have sized the slots smaller because the desk lamp panels fit with the base and frame, but there’s a lot of room for the panels to wobble. This coupled with the slightly bending panels means that there is not a uniform width between the panels. The desk lamp actually looks more interesting aesthetically speaking with the panels at an angle from upright, as shown above, but currently there’s no way to secure the panels in any position because of the loose fit.

I was able to move the desk lamp from my common area into my room without it falling apart, so the fit isn’t too off. Here are some images of the desk lamp within my room:

Asymmetrical Panels

As can be seen from the first couple unpacking images and the image above and to the right, only one side of the Amber Bamboo Plywood has the nice wood finish, while the other has uneven, dark burn marks from the laser cutting process. I should have expected this, as it’s “plywood” but unfortunately, the frame and base slots were angled such that the worse, burned sides of my decorative panels are angled toward viewers. From a distance, the desk lamp looks pretty uniform, but up close the burn marks and pale outer sides of the decorative panels looks pretty unclean. Additionally, the wood seems not nearly as “amber” as the sample images on Ponoko. Perhaps I could improve the rustic modern look with a slightly darker, amber stain or other finish.

Future Work

In an effort to address the above problems, I have identified the following options moving forward:

  • Add wood glue/filler to the panels, frame, and/or base to close the loose fit between panels and potentially fasten the desk lamp panels in a desired configuration.
  • Add varnish, stain, or finish to both sides of the enclosure panels for uniform look and improvement of aesthetics. Maybe a darker, more amber stain?

Despite the above problems with the desk lamp, I’m still very happy I was able to send DXF files in to a service like Ponoko and have a functional multi-component desk lamp a half-an-hour or so after the panels arrived. Please let me know your thoughts on my proposed future work, and any other potential improvements you think I could add to my desk lamp design! I took some final images in my room after sundown to show the light diffusing effect of the angled panels!

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1 Comment. Leave new

  • Kaiya Wahl
    May 1, 2020 2:11 pm

    I really like how this looks and turned out. The color of the wood and the yellow light work together well. I like lamps that have a yellow tone to it instead of something more white or blue. I think you captured a modern aesthetic perfectly. I saw for future work you’d like to add a finish my opinion if you want to keep reading is that I think to add contrast a dark finish would look really interesting.


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