A Steel Approach to Paper Lamps

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A Steel Approach to Paper Lamps

I’m a designer at an architecture firm in Ann Arbor Michigan called O|X studio and I made some lamps for a local restaurant (Tomukun Korean BBQ). There are about 50 lamps, laser-cut steel and acrylic. I worked on the architecture as well, including the layout of the lamps, and then I made the lamps myself.

Bar View 1

The owner wanted a Korean street vibe, so I designed the lamps to be steel versions of traditional paper lanterns. I belong to a local co-op called Maker-works so I made a prototype on the plasma cutter there. It was very rough, but the owner liked it, so I got hired to make the rest. The lamps are quite prominent, especially at night, and it is on a main street in Ann Arbor so lots of people see them. Also the restaurant is really popular so that is a plus.

Bar View 3


The design is an interior layer of acrylic, and three outer panels of mild steel, bent into a hexagon. It is essentially a fancy shade around a light bulb. The steel is attached to the acrylic with standoffs, and then the whole thing is attached to the top (which holds the socket) with little steel catches, so you can just twist it off (kind of like twisting on a camera lens) when you need to replace the bulb but it will stay put otherwise. The cord holds the whole thing up, with a safety wire as backup. The laser-cut letters are about 1/2 the names of the people associated with the restaurant, like the owner and his family, and 1/2 the name of the restaurant, all in Korean. From the sides you see the laser-cut letters in the steel and from the bottom you see a single letter cut into the acrylic bottom.

Lamps2 (1)

For the actual fabrication, I did everything myself, except for the actual laser-cutting of the steel, including bending and finishing the steel, laser-cutting the acrylic interior, wiring the socket (UL-listed!) and then actual assembly. I did some of the harder work at Maker-works (like laser-cutting and bending) and the assembly in my basement, and the curing of the steel in my garage. I had to clean and rust-proof all the 150 pieces of raw steel in my garage in the middle of Michigan winter and that was not fun.