• Elvin Ou

Fabrication1 - light

Updated: Nov 4, 2018

Final product:


For a very long time, I have been collecting and making dried floral objects. The first fabrication project of creating a light piece is inspired by one of the leaf sculpture I created. The freeform of how the leaf became naturally really fascinates me and I start to wonder how it can be associated with light and shadow.


From there I started thinking about how to work the light around the leaf itself and did a very first sketch of what I think would work. I kind of break down each piece that is needed to create this light piece until I realize two questions that I need to figure out:

1. Since I am using layered wood pieces to form the container for the wiring and the base of the piece, I was not sure how to put the button one the side of it. ( The base is cylindrical, but bottoms are supposed to be placed on a flat surface)

2. In the early sketch, the LEDs are placed onto the leaf through the stem but I think I want to find another way to conceal the light instead of exposing it.

Image of raw material:

- Basswood base

- Dried leaf

- Battery

- led

- resistor

- button

- wires

- screws

Mid-process Images:

After purchasing the basswood base pieces, I moved away from my initial idea of laser cutting wood panels because the base pieces are thicker than the maximum thickness of what can be laser-cut. I started thinking about what other tools I can use to cut voids inside those wood pieces, drill? drill press? a chisel? I wasn't sure, but I was definitely not ready to use the drill press for no reason so I started trying out drills, and it was not a as pleasant as expected...

It was a hot mess because the drill can only drill out circles and the shape I needed for the battery to sit in is a rectangle. I guess the mess is what I am paying for avoid using drill press. From there, I need to figure out how to make the circle cut outs into rectangle so I again tried so many other tools trying to do so..

Again, After a combination of wood saw and this sanding thing, I eventually was able to make a "rectangular" shape for the battery to sit in and I was praying that I will be able to conceal all the mess after I put all three pieces together. Then, I started drilling the second piece of wood and failed dramatically.

Yes, the second piece of wood snapped while I was drilling it. I literally freaked out and panicked a little bit because I did not want to go all the way to buy another piece of wood.

So....What can I do...


and BANG!

I can glue the broken part together and continue working on the "unbroken" side of that piece of wood and offset the wood base as instructed in my following sketches.

From there, I drilled the whole on the former wood piece for the button to sit in and thought that I finally finished the drilling/cutting/engraving/sanding of the wood base...

But NO, the button is in a rectangular shape, but the hole I drilled is still in a circle(Getting a round button would be the easy solution but I was too lazy to get a new button). I started trying out really thin chisels and pointy stuff to fake the rectangle and it eventually worked.

After the hardware is pretty much done, I started working on the wiring part. Taping, connecting and Soldering the wires to battery, button and led. The LED lights up when the button is touched, beautiful. Just when I thinking everything worked fine and used the clamps to clamp wood base together to screw them...

And BANG, I messed up again without even trying.

I clamped the button onto the table without knowing and it destroyed the button. I had to re-solder the button with the wire and putting them all back all over again.

Finally when I think all the parts are fine and started to put them together.

It looks all beautiful as a product, great.

My initial idea was placing EarPods onto the button and the weight of the EarPods will press the button for the light to lit up.

BUT NO, I cannot believe the EarPods is not heavy enough to have the button pressed.........


What's done is done, people don't have to know that was the initial idea since it works fine if you press it by your finger : )


- Do not try to compromise on tools because you're scared of using them, those tools exist for a reason, they WORK. (I compromised but I think it still worked fine, but it definitely took way longer time in the process.)

- Be familiar with your material, knowing if it is soft or firm, easy to cut or not etc.

- Always be flexible with your initial design, if the physical tools and materials are contained, work with what you have and brainstorm for more. There is always beauty in contingency.

- Be happy with your work. Even though it did not work as expected in so many different ways but you learned from all the failure and you know exactly what is the right thing to do for the next iteration.