While this has little to do with actually learning Chinese, it does involve Chinese characters, which is hopefully enough to justify a post here on ChineseHacks – plus the outcome of this was so cool I had to share it.
What we’re going to be making today is an ambient lamp out of a box of “Gold Medal Taiwan Beer”. Here’s the finished result to save you scrolling to the end:
What you’ll need
- A cardboard box (free) – My choice was a Taiwan Beer box, though you could use any brand, and if you can’t source a box with Chinese characters, then there’s nothing stopping you stencilling some on
- A craft/utility knife (about $2US) – You’ll need a decent knife to make a clean cut around the characters
- A lamp (about $8US) – All I could find was a work lamp and just removed the weather shield
- Corrugated plastic sheets ($2US each) – I bought an orange and yellow sheet, both are about 4mm thick, though 2mm would also be fine
- Adhesive – I used a glue gun, but super glue or any plastic adhesive would be fine, too
- Time – About 3 to 5 hours, it really depends on how long you spent cutting out the characters
- Taiwan Beer – for drinking when you complete the lamp
Cut out the characters
Using your craft knife carefully start to cut out the Chinese characters from the cardboard box.
I found the best way to do this was to first score the first layer of the cardboard, the steadily go over the lines applying further pressure to cut through the corrugated layer. This is why you need a sharp knife with a blade locking function – otherwise you’ll end up with a rough cut or damaged cardboard from applying too much pressure.
One of the problems I had to overcome, was that as some parts of the characters were complete blocks, and if they were cut out completely would just leave a big hole, like a silhouette of the character. To get around this I opted to leave a small strip to the right of each such section. So long as you chose a system and stick to it, the characters should look uniform and the legibility shouldn’t be affected.
Cutting out the characters takes a long time, so you’d better get comfy – just don’t drink the beers at this stage, though, as you’ll need all of your fingers for the rest of the project.
Fit the Lamp
Depending on the space within your box, you might want to do step 3 first (affixing the plastic sheets) and then return here, though as my box was quite roomy I opted to fit the lamp first.
I removed the weather shield/shade from the lamp and was left with a fitting that resembled a standard room light. I then unscrewed the light fitting from the cable to measure a hole to insert the light fitting through.
I made a small hole, and then gradually enlarged the hole until the fitting could just about fit through with a push. The last thing you want to do is create a hole that is too big, so cut-and-check until you get the right size.
The lamp was then fitted and the the cable end was screwed back on to hold it in place. For a safety measure, I also put the bulb cage back on that came with the lamp – hopefully this will stop the bulb from touching the cardboard and possibly causing a fire.
Affix the Corrugated Plastic Sheets
To test the lamp before properly affixing the plastic, I just placed a large piece of the plastic into the box behind the lettering, then I turned off the lights and tested the lamp.
Looking good so far!
It became clear at this stage that if this was to be a lamp, rather than simply a glowing sign, a panel would need to be cut out from the back of the box to allow more light through – but let’s first affix the orange plastic to the front with the glue gun.
Here’s the finished front after affixing the orange plastic:
As I mentioned earlier, for this to be a any sort of decent lamp, there needs to be a bigger area for light to escape than the Chinese characters at the front. For the back of the box I decided to cut out two panels and cover them with yellow plastic to vary the colour emitted from the lamp.
The Finished Lamp
That is pretty much it. What I did next was to seal any small holes from the inside, particularly in the corners, with duct tape, to stop white light from escaping. I also cut a few pieces of coloured plastic and used then on any large gaps – the box I chose has two large slits on either side.
Here’s the finished product:
If you made it this far, you may now open your beers and sit back while admiring your hard work!