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Make a Recycled Paper Cup Globe Lamp

Make a Recycled Paper Cup Globe Lamp Activity

based on 9 ratings

Teenagers will love the look of this retro lamp and it's fascinating to make. Start with paper cups from the recycling bin and staple them together one at a time. A perfect sphere is the inevitable result. One of nature's most stable shapes, the sphere lamp shade is surprisingly sturdy!

What You Need:

  • 200 - 250 disposable cups (plain or waxed paper)
  • Stapler
  • Fluorescent lamp with in-line switch

What You Do:

  1. Find the cups. Children can collect them all at once during a party or save them from the recycling bin a few at a time. The colors and patterns can vary (they won't show) but the cups must all be the same size. The larger the mouth of the cup, the larger the globe.
  2. Rinse and dry. Discard any cups with stains on the inside. When you have at least 200, it's time to build!
  3. Start with 7 cups. Choose one as the center. Align the mouth and bottom of the second cup and staple the two cups together, as close to the bottom as possible. Staple the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th cups the same way. You should have what looks like a flower with six petals.
  4. Build out, one cup at a time. Choose one of the "petals" to become the center of the next "flower." Notice how it already had three "petals"? Add three more, the same way: align tops and bottoms, then staple near the bottom. Believe it or not, that's it! Keep adding three cups to a center to fill in the globe. Leave one round hole to fit the lamp fixture through.
  5. Add a star-shaped web of cord to hang the globe. Staple the end of a length of cord into the bottom of a cup at the edge of the hole. Bring it straight across the hole, move over one cup and staple cord near the bottom. bring the cord up, straight across, over one cup, and staple again. Repeat until the cord is stapled inside each of the edge cups. Tie a knot next to the last staple.
  6. Add the lamp or hang it as is. Fit the lamp fixture through the center of the web and let the cords hold the shade in place. Safety note: only compact fluorescent bulbs should be used for this project. Incandescent and especially halogen bulbs will overheat and could cause a fire.

*What is a sphere? A sphere shape has perfectly round surface with no faces (flat areas.) The globe lamp is not a true sphere, because the mouths of the cups form faces. Even so, it shares many of the same properties.

It's strong. In nature, the sphere shape may help deep sea creatures cope with the intense pressure on the ocean floor. In 1930, sea explorers used a sphere shape for the first submersible craft, the Bathysphere.

It's big inside! A sphere has the most interior volume with the least surface area. This property helps the lamp fixture stay cool inside the paper cup globe.  

Updated on Apr 20, 2011
See more activities in: Middle School, Recycled Crafts
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