Luminaries Made With Glue

by Thea
4 Materials
1 Week

Lamp shades made with a non-flammable glue using a wet pour method.

These little shades were made by pouring non-flammable wood glue into a tray, adding food colouring and allowing it to dry. They are still heat and moisture sensitive so you need to watch the size of candle flame you use with them or alternatively use fake candles or LED lights.

I started by spraying a melamine tray with Spray and Cook non-stick cooking spray. This acts as a release once the glue sheet has dried. The only other items needed to create the shade was school glue, I used Alcolin Cold Glue and gel food colouring. I also used gold poster paint (tempera). Note: do not use flammable glue or nail varnish, or any pertroleum derived products for this!

I poured a layer of glue on the prepared tray. There should be enough to cover the tray with a medium layer i.e. 2-3mm thick, enough to create a structure that stands by itsself when dry. If you use enough glue the holes pictured above will even out as it sets.

Then I experimented with different consistencies of food dye. You can immediately drop small, undiluted dashes directly into the glue and agitate it with something like a chopstick. However, this gives you very little control over how the colour spreads. Instead, I diluted the food colouring with a teaspoon or so of water and opted to paint it on with a brush.

I waited 10 minutes or so before using a paintbrush to drip and paint directly into the glue. You could wait even longer. This ensures that it is less runny and you have more control over the design. But be prepared, the glue and colour does continue to spread for quite some time. Also note that the brush gets full of glue so you need to rinse and dry it with clean water every time you change colours.

Once the design is completed it can be left to dry for a couple of days. During this time it continues to spread, how long varies wildly depending on the ambient temperature and humidity. Even in the driest, hottest conditions though, you will have to wait at least 24 hours. The top dries quicker than the bottom so don’t be tempted to lift it out of the mould too quickly.

Whilst waiting for the glue to dry I made some bases. I used pvc females or caps typically found on toilet drainpipes outside the house. I think they are used where there is a rodding eye. I bought them at a hardware store and they cost next to nothing. The edges were a bit rough so they required some sanding. Next I spray painted them with primer and then gold paint. However, you could also just use a porcelain dish with a flat bottom.

Bases drying

When the glue sheet was dry enough to manipulate I took it out of the tray and flipped it over to allow the bottom to dry out further. When it was dry but still malleable I tidied the edges with scissors and then placed it in the base. The base helps it retain its shape until it is completely dry. I decided not to join the edges of mine because I like the scroll-concept. You could, however, easily cut the sheet to fit the base more precisely and then glue the two edges together, or perhaps use washi or electrician’s tape to join them.

Note that the glue does take some time before it becomes brittle dry and may still change shape a bit. Also, an open flame may melt it again, so watch out!

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Frequently asked questions
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  2 questions
  • Granjan Granjan on Oct 17, 2019

    How do you avoid blocked calls from ringing at your residence?

  • Em Em on May 13, 2020

    Why not use the battery operated candles and you don't have to worry about heat?

    You can buy a 12 pack for pretty cheap on Amazon.

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2 of 18 comments
  • Libby Atkinson Libby Atkinson on Nov 10, 2019

    How long does it take for the glue to dry? I attempted this yesterday morning and am still waiting for it to set.

  • Thea Thea on Nov 11, 2019

    It can take a couple of days depending on the humidity. Even in a bone-dry area it will take at least 24 hours, if not longer, before it can be lifted and turned. And then still a couple of days before it is completely dry. It always remains heat sensitive, so rather use fairy lights or battery candles.