How to Make a Telescopic Light Using NASA Like Ingenuity

Give your free time creative purpose

Inject some sparkle into your home… and life… by repurposing your old Christmas Tree lights.

Yes, with a little ingenuity (and patience) you can transform a string of old tree lights into an elegant freestanding telescopic paper floor light.

Not only does it look great, but it also comes with a unique feature… a counterbalance mechanism that allows the height of the light to be adjusted with the push of a finger.

Take a look at the video below to see it in action…

Telescopic paper floor light: down
Compact and bijou…
Telescopic paper floor light: up
…tall and proud.

See it in action

Check out the funky lighting effects…

What will I learn?

1) Complex technical gadgets don’t need complex components… you really can do wonders with everyday household objects.

2) LED string lights are extremely versatile and perfect for repurposing into new exciting forms of lighting.

3) Foamcore board is an awesome material, it’s almost as strong as timber but can be cut with a craft knife, keep some in your craft box!

Step by step guide

If you are up for a challenge, make your own telescopic floor light by following the instructions below.

I’ve also added suggestions on how to simplify this project underneath.

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Printable artwork

Okay, time to focus…

Base & post
How to make a telescopic paper floor light: illustration 1

Find two old ‘wrapping paper’ tubes with different diameters - one needs to fit inside the other. Cut them to the lengths shown (1).

Now cut two discs of foamcore board 180mm in diameter. Cut a hole in the centre of one disc 5mm wider than the inner tube (2). Glue the two discs together (3).

Place the inner tube in the centre of the hole in the top disc. Fill the gap with hot glue, ensuring the tube is vertical, use a spirit level if you have one (4).

How to make a telescopic paper floor light: illustration 2

If the big gap between the inner tube and the outer tube is too big, glue strips of card around the top of the inner tube until it fits snugly (5).

How to make a telescopic paper floor light: illustration 3

Glue (or tape) a stack of coins together to create a counterweight (6). Create a hook from a paperclip and hot glue it onto one end (7). Tie 70cms of sewing cotton (use 4 strands to make it thicker) onto the hook (8).

How to make a telescopic paper floor light: illustration 4

Lower the weight into the inner tube (9). Make a ‘handle’ and ‘guide wire’ from 1.5mm wire and attach them to the outer and inner tubes using hot glue (10). Use the illustration above for detailed visual reference.

Then, with the weight pulled to the top, and the thread running over the guide wire and down the outside of the inner tube, lower the outer tube until it rests on top of the base (11). Use hot glue to attach the thread to the outside bottom edge of the outer tube (12).

N.B. Be careful not to rotate the tubes otherwise the cotton will snap.

LED lights
How to make a telescopic paper floor light: illustration 5

Wrap the LED lights around the outer tube, starting at the top and working your way down. Use hot glue to hold them in place (13).

Loosely wrap the remaining lights and wire around the base of the outer tube, but don’t glue, otherwise the outer tube will not be able to move upwards (14).

Next, glue the sequence control box (if there is one) and the end of the wire onto the base using more hot glue (15). Cut a notch into the base so the mains wire has space to exit (16).

Finally, go back and adjust each LED light so it points outwards (17).

Inner shade
How to make a telescopic paper floor light: illustration 6

Cut a sheet of A2 (150gsm) card into a piece 590mm x 575mm. Crumple it, and then smooth it out. Wrap it around the base and glue into position (18). For additional support, bend some wire into a ring and glue it onto the inside edge of the card (19).

Outer shade
How to make a telescopic paper floor light: illustration 7

Start by cutting a foamcore disc 250mm in diameter. Cut a hole in the centre slightly wider than the outer tube. Crumple and smooth more card, this time 590mm x 654mm, and wrap and glue it around the disc (20).

Glue a small circular foamcore disc, with a slit for the handle, over the central hole (21). Illustration (22) shows you how the outer shade rests (not glued!) on top of the outer tube, with the handle protruding through the slit.

To finish off, hot glue a wire ring onto the inside edge of the card (23) and four feet made from more bent wire onto the base (24).


  • A2 sheet of card
  • Foamcore board for the base
  • 2 cardboard tubes
  • Coins
  • 1.5mm wire
  • String of LED lights
  • Paper glue
  • Scissors and a craft knife.

Give it your own unique twist

If creating a telescopic counterbalance is too much hassle, make a fixed height floor light, it will still look great. Simply attach a cardboard tube to a circular base, as shown in step (4), and wrap the LED lights around it. Then make a paper shade to go over the top, as in step (18), but add a lid.

Written by
Photo of Scott Bedford
Scott Bedford

Maker, Illustrator and Author