Light Art

The concept behind this project is to create images with light. One way of doing this is to etch images into wood so that depth corresponds to brightness and to illuminate the images from behind. Combine this idea with a bit of press fit and electrical wiring led to the wooden lamp shown below.

Production in Pictures

Milling the side panels of the light is a nerve wracking process. The wood needs to be very thin (about 0.1mm) in places to let through enough light. Because the whole thing is put together using press fit (to satisfy my no glue or fasteners mania) each panel is a double sided mill. The photos above show the trick I use to get double sided mills just right.

  1. Leave a very thin layer of material until the very end to keep the object stable (first photo). This avoids the need for clay, glue or other materials to stabilise the object. I find that these things are hard to remove, making your project look messy.
  2. Carefully mill away the final layer (3rd and 4th photos). Be sure to keep an eye on the mill while it's etching away. You want to stop it just as it breaches the last fraction of a millimeter of material.
  3. Do a little bit of clean-up to remove any jagged edges that might remain (like in the 4th and 5th photos).

The last photo above shows what this project is all about. By milling away wood to different depths, we see an image when the panel is illuminated from behind. The lamp will have four of these panels with a bright bulb inside.


The seat for the light bulb. The bulb fits very tightly into it. The two holes at the bottom are for the electric cable. I figured that this is a nice way to make sure that the two bits of cable never touch—particularly because this is an AC lamp.


With all the milling completed, assembly is done by press-fit. The base of the lamp has four little feet so that the electric cable can run under the lamp and the whole thing can stand on a flat surface. The trickiest part was to solder the cable onto the bulb (I didn't have time to find or make a socket unfortunately). The cable had to be passed through the base and the bulb seat before doing the soldering. I felt like I needed 4 hands to keep everything from falling about while soldering.


The assembled light: unilluminated...


...and illuminated. As an added bonus, the wood gives off a really nice aroma when heated by the bulb inside.


The panels show Calvin and Hobbes, my favourite cartoon characters, performing a little dance.


Here are all the Blender files for the project.