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Yogurt usually comes in a sturdy tub, often reused as a poor man’s Tupperware. The glossy sides and heavy-gauge plastic make yogurt containers ideal vessels for casting small pieces of concrete.
The yogurt lamp uses two matching containers: one as a mold for a concrete base and one as the support for the lampshade. All of the electrical parts are buried in the concrete, betrayed only by an old-fashioned metal push switch sticking out from the side. The shade is a simple sheath of welded grocery bags, sewn around a second yogurt container.
This article will show you how to make your own yogurt lamp.
1. Drill a 3/8" hole in the side of one yogurt container where you want the switch to be. Drill a second 3/8" hole on the opposite side of the container, near the rim, for the cord to pass through. Use the craft knife to cut another hole, centered in the bottom of the container, making it exactly the same diameter as the narrower part of the light socket. You want to be able to push the socket partway in so the top sticks out and the bottom (wire end) will be buried in the base.
2. Separate and strip the ends of the lamp cord. Push the ends of the wire through the 3/8" hole near the rim, leaving long leads to manipulate the wiring in the container. Push the socket through the hole in the base of the yogurt container. It should fit very tightly. Slide a piece of heat-shrink tubing down over each lead, past the exposed wire. Twist one wire onto the white lead attached to the socket and the other wire to the black lead, using the needle-nose pliers to secure the connection. Slide the heat-shrink tubing back over the exposed wire and pass a lighter over it until it conforms tightly to the wire (run the lighter near—but not touching—the tubing, and it will shrink down around the wire). Snip one of the lamp cord wires and strip it. Slide a small piece of heat-shrink tubing over the wire on each side of the cut. Twist the leads onto the leads on the underside of the toggle switch, slide the heat shrink tubing over the exposed wire, and shrink it tightly with the lighter. Pull out the excess length of wiring.
3. Seal around the socket on the outside of the container with a thin bead of caulk. (If you seal on the inside of the container, an unattractive line of caulk will end up embedded in the final product.) Take the jam nut off the base of the toggle switch, push it through the 3/8" hole on the side of the yogurt container, then screw the jam nut back on, securing the switch in place. Make sure the caulk has dried before proceeding to step 4.
4. Mix the anchoring cement by pouring some dry mix into a doubled zip-top bag, adding a little water, sealing and agitating with your hands. Make the mix as dry as possible while remaining workable, aiming for an oatmeal-like consistency. Pour the mix into the yogurt container, filling it up about 1/4" to 1/2" shy of the rim. The container will now be balanced on the light socket, making it prone to tipping, so be careful to keep it balanced and upright. Once full, squeeze the sides of the container and poke the cement with a pencil or chopstick to work out any air bubbles. Let the cement cure for several days; don’t remove the form, even if the top looks dry.
5. Cut four panels out of the other yogurt container as shown, creating four thin ribs connecting the rim and the base. Cut a smaller concentric circle out of the bottom, ending up with a skeleton container. Cut a circle out of the center of the lid, slightly smaller than the diameter of the light bulb (again, CFL only) you are planning to use.
6. Create a sheet of plastic-bag “fabric” by cutting the bags open, laying them flat on top of one another between parchment paper, and ironing on low (see "Fusing Plastic Bags" below). Move the iron slowly out from the center, trying to eliminate wrinkles. The bags should eventually fuse together into a single cohesive sheet.
7. Sew the bag fabric around the yogurt container skeleton with white thread or dental floss, creating one vertical seam where the fabric overlaps. Trim off excess at the top and the bottom, leaving about 1/2" of material on both ends. Secure the 1/2" excess flap by whip-stitching around the rim of the container, cinching the fabric down.
8. Use a box cutter to carefully slit and peel off the yogurt container from around the cement. Tape off the switch, and seal the cement with water based polyurethane. Cut off three thin discs of wine cork and glue to the base of the lamp so the cement won’t scratch table tops.