Upcycle Design Report: Cube Lamp


My initial concept for the upcycle project was to create a modern desk lamp with a sleek curved design. This concept came from a previous project that I had created in high school in which I designed and fabricated a lamp using wood and brass. The smooth, visually pleasing curvature was then accomplished by cutting the shape from a flat piece of wood, however, I wanted to achieve a higher level of complexity with the new piece. In order to do so, and to first with the upcycled theme, I wanted to use metal street signs as my base material. This was initially a great idea as street signs are typically made of 5052 aluminum which is easy to machine and bends well.

Desk Lamp – Sam Gluskoter


After finding some retired signs for a really good deal, I was excited to test my concept with some initial shapes and see how the metal responded to manipulation. Unfortunately, the plasma cutter that I was using to cut the sheet metal was behaving very poorly with this found material, and I was not able to get clean cuts at all regardless of how much material prep I was doing. Every time I tried to cut the signs, the metal would fuse back together and leave a very splattered, rough edge.

I knew now that I would not be able to use these materials for this project, so I had to shift directions. After looking around for scrap material at my home shop, I found some very rusted signs that had been retired from our neighborhood. These signs were made of mild steel and originally had a reflective backing, but the lettering was cut through the sheets. This meant that I would be significantly more limited in how I could cut and manipulate the material. I decided that I would have to save the curved lamp idea for another time, and let the materials I now had to my advantage.

After staring at these new signs for a while, I remembered some of the sculptures that I had made with my dad that used negative space in cubes to create interesting designs. Using some of these sculptures as inspiration, I decided to still make a decorative lamp, but with an entirely new design and aesthetic. The rusted signs made me think of an industrial plant so I decided to run with a modern industrial aesthetic.

^ Sculptures by Steve Gluskoter

Some of the modern aspects of this design came from the clean lines and simple formalism that are used in the inspiration sculptures, but the lettering would altogether change the feel and reduce the simplicity of the final product ā€“ more like the Voronoi cube on the right.

The process to create this lamp was actually quite simple. I cut the signs into six equally sized squares using the angle of the cuts to encourage the viewer to take the lettering as abstract shapes and not try to read what the signs said. These squares were then aligned to make them fit best and welded into a cube. This looked great and would stand on end in some stands, but I wanted it to be a functional lamp and I didn’t have a hole for the bulb. I decided to cut one of the corners off of the cube so that it would sit flat and I could fit a bulb through.

I knew that I wanted the cube to speak for itself, so I didn’t want an out of place switch to interfere with the aesthetic. I was able to find a replacement module for a touch lamp and fit it in the base of the wood to hide the controls. This would allow me to control the lamp by tapping the metal lampshade without any protruding electronics.

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2 Comments. Leave new

  • Nice work, Sam. It’s fascinating to hear about your journey from your initial concept of a modern desk lamp to the final creation with an entirely new design and aesthetic. It’s impressive how you adapted to the challenges you faced with the plasma cutter and shifted directions to utilize the materials you had available. The industrial plant-inspired design is a creative twist, and the use of negative space in cubes adds an interesting dimension to the lamp.

  • Matthew Osborn
    May 8, 2024 5:01 am

    Your concept for the upcycle project to create a modern desk lamp with a sleek curved design is both creative and practical. Overall, your design demonstrates a thoughtful blend of material selection and practicality. I think that this turned out awesome great work!


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