Hack Challenge: Week 1! DIY Solar Paper Lamps

Here we go! Thanks to all of you who voted for what would be the next challenge – and this week it begins: The “Hack” Challenge, where each week we come up with a new DIY project, upcycling an item from it’s original purpose into something new, usually some kind of home decor or furniture type project. And so onto week 1… Solar Powered DIY Paper Lamps!

Generally when I come up with an idea for something I would like to turn into a lamp or use in lighting, I run into the same problem: it is not an object that would be safe to light with an interior candle, and it can not be easily wired. But for this week’s project, you don’t have to worry about either one. Since these are solar powered, they don’t need any wiring, and there is no flame to worry about. We’re “hacking” into yard solar lamps to create our own glowing paper lamps. I think these would be lovely in a collection as part of a centerpiece for a dinner table, or lining a deck railing for an evening gathering, or anywhere ambient lighting would be a nice touch!
All you need are…
- some solar powered lawn lights, one for each lamp. You can pick these up for just a couple dollars.
- an old illustrated book (encyclopedias are perfect because of the variety of types of images!)
- and a pair of scissors

Make sure you get the type of solar lawn light that has a square head, and then stand them outside in direct sunlight to get their charge.

Choose an page from the encyclopedia, or whatever paper you choose to use, that has a design you want to be the “shade” of the lamp, bearing in mind that whatever is on the back of the page will also shine through. Cut a square out of that page. The size ratio that I used was this: for a 2.2 inch square solar lamp head, I used a 5.5 inch square paper. Here is how you turn that piece of paper into an origami box to use as the “shade” for your mini-lamp:

I made three separate paper “shades” for the lamps, all from the same encyclopedic volume from 1965: one was an outer space photograph, one was a map, and one was simply text.

Once the solar lights have charged, bring them inside, and disconnect the top, which contains the light bulb, from the rest of the body. You’ll probably be able to do this by simply partially twisting the top and then lifting.

Fit the paper box shade onto the solar light unit. If there is still a fair amount of light where you will be displaying these, you’ll probably need to sit them face up, so that the solar panel is downward, and not absorbing any light, so that the light will turn on, as shown in the first photo below. But if it will be dark, I think they also look very nice displayed on their side, as shown in the second photo below. Either way, you now have a unique piece of ambient lighting, which can be changed to a completely different design by simply making a new origami box to go on top!

Remember to recharge the lights before their next use – just remove and set aside the paper, and reattach the light to the top of the yard light, and put it back outside!

So, what do you think of week one of the hack challenge?
What type of paper would you use on top of your lamps?
Leave your thoughts and comments below, I love to hear from you! :)

This entry was posted in Challenge, hack a week, home decor, upcycling, vintage. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
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  1. Posted May 11, 2012 at 4:45 am | Permalink

    this is sooo cool! if only i can get my hands on some solar powered lawn lights in manila…

    • Posted May 11, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

      Ah, sorry! I’m sure you could buy them online, but I doubt it would be worth it, with the shipping and everything. But I’m glad you liked the idea! :)

    • Justine
      Posted May 11, 2012 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

      A neighbor of mine has several of those solar-powered lamps. He told me they bought theirs from Ace Hardware. I’m quite sure those are available in any major hardware store. :)

      • Posted May 11, 2012 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

        In the US, yes, they are very common – I’m just not familiar with what is available in Manilla, where Ea lives.

  2. Bertina Smelser
    Posted May 11, 2012 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    Love it!

  3. Posted May 11, 2012 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    I saw your description on the Etsy board and I was like, “How the heck is she going to make a solar lamp?!” But this makes more sense. And I appreciate that there’s no electrical work involved, ha ha.

    • Posted May 11, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

      Haha, yeah, definitely more of a hack project than creating from scratch :)

  4. Posted May 11, 2012 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    You clever thing — I am so impressed!

  5. Posted May 11, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    What an awesome tutorial! So simple and the effect is beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Posted May 11, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    This is WICKED cool! Totally going to give it a try. You can never have too many things that glow around, in my opinion.

  7. Posted May 11, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    This is very cool! I’ve also heard people using battery-powered tealight “candles” in paper-diy lights. But solar powered is even better! :)

    • Posted May 11, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, battery powered tea lights can definitely work for a lot of projects, too, that is a good point!

  8. Posted May 12, 2012 at 1:44 am | Permalink

    Wow! These are so fabulous! In fact, they were such a cool and creative idea, I featured your post over on craftgossip.com (http://indiecrafts.craftgossip.com/2012/05/11/solar-paper-lamps/) . I hope you don’t mind. (But if you do, just let me know and I’ll take it down.)
    Thanks for sharing this idea!

  9. Amy
    Posted May 12, 2012 at 4:47 am | Permalink

    GREAT WAY TO SAY THANK TO A TEACHER!!! This is what we will be doing!!:) AWESOME THINKING!! Love it’

    • Posted May 13, 2012 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

      Glad you love it! Yeah, with the education pages, I see the connection to teachers. Fun!

  10. Posted May 12, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    honestly, your blog is FANTASTIC. I love, love, love the bible printables.

    • Posted May 13, 2012 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

      Thanks, Marissa! I’m glad you like them, and I hope you’ll find them encouraging :)

  11. Jessica
    Posted May 13, 2012 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    I love it, I want to make some for my children’s room :) A nice “nightlight” idea I think, could even have them design the papers we use :)

    • Posted May 13, 2012 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

      Yes, when I made them, it occurred to me that they would be nice nightlights, but forgot to mention it in the post, so thanks! And great idea to have the kids draw on the paper! :)

  12. Posted May 14, 2012 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    i just want to try it!!! only… i’m not sure i’m stronger enough for “destroy” a book, and change it so definitively!
    (i’m one of that person who really love fisical book, never write on them or fold the pages… but maybe i have some books that i don’t like… only have to search for them!!)

    • Posted May 14, 2012 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      Oh, I love to go to old book stores and buy books that are maybe messed up on the outside or have out of date information, like old encyclopedias, that I buy just to be able to use the pictures and pages inside them. I definitely don’t use nice books I want to be able to read or really antique books or anything like that, just books that no one wants any way. :) Thanks Fede! Nice to “see” you again :)

      • Debby
        Posted August 11, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

        You can also find books at flea markets and garage sales. Five for a buck would be a steal!

      • Debby
        Posted August 11, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

        I also thought of doing seasoned themed lights. Heavy wrapping paper maybe? Halloween, Christmas, Valentines Day…..?

  13. Posted May 14, 2012 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    I couldnt understand 8 through 10, could you please explain :) Sorry, i just really want to make these because they look amazing but i cant finish them.

    • Posted May 14, 2012 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      Sure, Caitlin! Those steps are kind of hard to explain, especially in pictures or with words … luckily this type of origami box is a very common one to make, so here is a video I found on YouTube of someone making the same type of box- hopefully watching them do those steps will give you a clearer idea of those last steps :)

  14. Christina
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

    These are so cool and simple. I have a screened patio and these would be perfect just outside of it. I see these lights at the dollar stores, Family Dollar, Walmart, everywhere.

  15. Jody
    Posted May 18, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    This would be a FANTASTIC beginning to a table centerpiece! I also like the nightlight idea someone mentioned! :)

  16. Rebecca
    Posted May 22, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    Great idea! Love to recycle, reuse, reduce:-)

  17. Mary A
    Posted May 24, 2012 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    I saw solar powered lawn lamps at Target last week for $5 each….

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