Designing and Making a CNC Plasma Cut Lantern

I love lanterns. There is something about them that draws me in and if an idea pops into my head for a new project design, there’s pretty good chance it is probably a lantern or light fixture of some sort. I also love designing for CNC machines. I’ve been on a metal working and welding kick so a natural next project felt like *drum roll please* a CNC Plasma Cut Lantern.

We don’t have a CNC plasma cutter at Makers Workshop so I called up our friend Richard from 42 Fab who agreed to cut my design for me in steel after I prototyped it in cardboard. I am pretty psyched with how this design turned out and learned a lot along the way.

Play Video


Interested in a Glowforge? Use this link to get $500 off of a Pro, $250 off of a Plus, or $100 off of a Basic. We get a credit in return to help out with materials; a little something for you and a little something for us:


Have a welder and want to give it a try? Check out the Lantern Weld-It-Yourself Kit from 42FAB.

I put together the first iteration of this design in Adobe Illustrator. I like to jump into a first draft pretty quickly because it gets me out of my head and starts the creative process. I threw together 4 rectangles that were about the size I thought I wanted, and then 4 triangles.

I cut out a small version of the design on our glowforge laser cutter in cardboard, and then I started taping it together to get a sense of how it would look as a 3D piece.

This ended up taking about three prototypes before I was happy with it. 

We don’t have a CNC plasma cutter at Maker’s Workshop, so I sent the design over to our friend Richard at 42 Fab who agreed he would cut this for me. A CNC plasma cutter is a pretty similar machine to a laser cutter, the difference being that it move around a plasma cutter, not a laser,  which can easily cut through steel. It’s cool to watch work because it makes steel sheets look like butter, all with a high level of precision. 

Richard lives in Oklahoma and we are in Massachusetts, so I needed to wait for it to come in the mail. He got it back to me so much quicker than I expected, and I barely had to wait. I also asked him to cut 2 smaller lanterns, which he agreed to, which was awesome.

I cleaned off the steel with acetone to prep it to be welded. I started with a tack weld in the middle, and then one at each end to distribute the heat. I then split the difference with 2 more tacks. This was a great part of the process because tacking goes quickly, and I could see the lantern take shape in minutes.

I perched the roof pieces on top of 2 magnetic squares, making sure I had a right angle on the top rim. This method, while not technically perfect, did produce a pretty square roof. The floor was the last thing to install with tacks before I started running full beads along each seam.

I spent the next day running full beads on all of my seams, and assembling 2 smaller versions of my design. Because it takes a good amount of focus, welding feels meditative to me; Time flies by. 

The next step was hitting each seam with the angle grinder. Grinding easily took up the bulk of the time in this build. 

I also took a minute to patch up a few holes some of my first welds. One of them was a hole in one of the smaller lantern’s roof’s, which I repaired by placing a few tacks on the perimeter and waiting for them to cool completely before adding more tacks. This took some patience, but worked like a charm to completely fill the hole. 

The next thing I needed to do was cutting angle iron into 1-inch pieces using a chop saw. These would be used to elevate the roof and allow the lantern to vent smoke. I carefully positioned each piece of angle iron the corners of the lantern, and welded them into place. A simple design change would eliminate the need for the angle iron here, but this method did work very well. I also attached the bottom roof section with angle iron on top to support the top roof section.

I used painter’s tape to hold things together while welding the roof on. I tacked from the outside so I could visually get things exactly how I wanted, and then ran my beads from the inside where it was easier to access.

I wasn’t 100% satisfied with my corners, so I mixed up some bondo and placed it on my corners as needed. Once it had set for about 15 minutes, I was able to easily sand it down by hand into some more precise corners.

Then, I covered all sides with a sandable primer to lay the groundwork for a finished paint job.

I then needed to install the door and hinges on the lanterns. I traced where the holes needed to be before drilling on all 3 lanterns. I then installed the hardware with a few small bolts.

I then did my final paint job. I used an indoor/outdoor matte black paint meant for grilles. For this project it worked perfectly.

For the door latch, I wanted a sleek look, so I decided to use 2 rare earth magnets. It worked like a charm.

All that was left was popping some candles in and enjoying the finished piece.

Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on reddit
Share on pinterest
Share on whatsapp

More Great Projects!


Powered By MemberPress WooCommerce Plus Integration