Home > Woodworking > Elegant Floor Lamp – Woodworkers Journal (Oct 2013)

Elegant Floor Lamp – Woodworkers Journal (Oct 2013)

All I can say is that it was good to get back to my shop. It’s not that I’ve taken time off voluntarily rather I’ve been doing double duty. It was the desire to build musical instruments that got me into this journey in the first place and after a year or more of basic shop setup, I’ve gotten the bug to “get at it”. Do I feel that I’m “ready”. Ah that would be a hell no; it is more that I want to get started. I’ve been patient and I feel it’s time to get going. More on that later however….

Elegant Floor Lamp

One of my projects was placed on hold over the holidays so with a couple of shop days available to me, it was time to get pull out the road map again. I ran across the plans in Woodworkers Journal – Oct 2013, “Elegant Floor Lamp” pg 42-47. It looked like something that I could build so I dog-eared the pages.

Woodworkers Journal - Oct 13 Cover


It appeared deceptively simple as woodworking projects go. That said, I found it much more challenging than it looked and most of the things I feared could go wrong in fact did go wrong.

Floor Lamp

The pattern for the feet are downloadable and conveniently will print out on a single sheet of paper. The lamp stem is made from two lengths with a 3/8″ groove down the center for running the cord. The plan calls for 8/4 stock that you split and would make for a perfect seam once you route the center groove and glue it back together. Of course I didn’t have any 8/4 mahogany lying around the shop so I chose 1x 4′ cypress that I ripped into strips. Because the 1 by cypress is only 3/4″ thick, my lamp stem turned out a bit thinner than this one.

The plan also called for 5/8″ foot blanks and again I started with 3/4″ stock. Without a planner or thickness sander, I would need to thin the feet with a hand plane.

Build Challenges

Back before Christmas I began by cutting out the lamp feet. I printed out a template for each foot and glued them on each of the three blanks. I used the band saw to cut them out close to my template line.  I then took them to my sanders and individually began removing all the band saw marks and truing up the outline. I was very slow going but I ended up with 3 reasonable facsimiles of feet although try as I might, they were all different. I had also managed to rip the stem blank pieces before putting the project on hold.

This weekend I reasoned that the only way I was going to have presentable feet that match would be to clean up one for the template and use a pattern bit on the router. I found the “best” example and cleaned up the edges and used tiny amount of double-stick tape to double them up. Next problem, I really don’t have the router bits that I need for this sort of work. I ended up using a 3/4″ flush trim bit which wasn’t as long as it needed to be for this work. I got it done anyway and with some clean-up they looked pretty good and much more similar.

Lamp Feet



On to the stem. After locating the centers it was back to the router to form the 3/8″ center groove. The router still scares me but we are getting to know each other a little better. Feed direction, grain direction, light passes, it’s all so confusing. The pieces are four feet in length so I attached two feather boards to help keep the feed straight and took really light passes to avoid trouble. It looked like it was going to work so I cut off a 6″ piece of lamp threaded rod and epoxied it to the groove and Titebond original for the rest of the stem. Lots of clamp and let it set overnight.

Lamp Threaded Rod First Lamp Stem


The next day I was ready to shape the stem. All I had to do was make a serious of cuts resulting in a hexagon, simple right? Er… WTF this isn’t… OMG… a that’s ruined. Disappointing yes, but if you want to get moving Arturo, you had better rough out and glue up another lamp stem. Repeat steps above to make a second stem.

Lamp Stem - Do-over

The next day, caution prevailed. I can’t just take this thing Willy-Nilly to the table saw. I need a plan. OK, I have a plan but I had better go back and actually read the plan. Here’s what the author suggests.

Hexagon Cut Template


OK, I’m pretty good with geometry. I can just take my compass and draw and make a couple more arcs and WTF? I can’t make heads or tails of it. The sides are obviously not the same length never-mind what angle and cut plan am I to use? After no less than three attempts to draw this on the end of the 4′ piece of wood, sanity prevailed and I decided to use a paper template. Figure it out on paper, cut it out and glue it to the end of the stem. It still took me a couple tries even on paper but by George, I got it. And if I learned nothing else on this build, this was the best thing I could have possible done. I worked flawlessly allowing me to line up the cuts exactly AND kept me from making bad mistakes in the cut sequence. A primary mistake I made the day before was to not realize that two sides would be ripped flat first. I already HAD two flat sides but they needed to cut down because the hexagon would make the entire piece smaller. Now it makes sense but it was only by taking my time and thinking it through before I cut that I made it through. The template also had other benefits. I could now write other annotations on it to match up feet, etc.

And yet another challenge. The author points out that gluing up the stem will leave glue loose in the groove and you really need this clear if you are to run your wire through it. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any string around so I used the lamp cord that I had purchased but glue will plug your tube if you don’t take some precautions. After the glue-up though I reluctantly pulled out my cord because I didn’t want it hanging out both ends while I’m trying to cut a hexagon out on the table saw. Looking around the basement I found a coil of stiff wire that I would have to later use as a wire pull. This worked but not without some effort, the aid of my daughter and two attempts to re-run the lamp cord.

Miraculously the hexagonal stem came out perfectly. It was the template that made this possible, I almost made a wrong cut but looking carefully at my template and thinking it though saved me. But now the next challenge. My feet are too thick for the now much smaller hexagonal sides, I would need to thin them all by hand. A thickness sander would have been really handy about now. Out came my marking gauge, block plane and calipers. Not perfect but serviceable I think, on to the next step.

So on to the next challenge. Now that I have re-threaded the lamp cord I have to drill 6 holes on 3 sides for dowels to hold the feet. I guess you can see what’s coming. I could, I knew before I did it what was going to happen. I going to drill into the cord and damage it. Of course this is exactly what happened. But I was actually more concerned about using the dowels. I learned a trick about making your own template and I actually gave it try but unfortunately, I messed up the template while making it. I considered making another jig but then realised that I had no good way of registering the foot to the stem so the jig would have only been partially helpful. It would have lined up the dowel mortises but wouldn’t have put the feet on straight and centered. So I used my doweling jig on the feet and dowel points to locate the mortises on the stem. It worked and so far so good. Two problems though, the feet were still a bit too wide and the glue from the 6 dowels oozed into the cord groove. Next time I will consider using a conduit but clearly I need a better way protect the lamp cord from the build process.

Status please. The lamp is together and the cord has been repaired and tested for continuity. I pre-sanded the feet and stem before glue-up of the feet but I will need to do a final sanding and finishing. I was considering using shellac. I don’t know if I’m going to add any color or not but at this point, I likely use whatever I have on hand.

I found myself with a fair number of challenges and made some mistakes but objectively I can see myself growing with each project. Let’s face it, you’re only going to learn a few lessons with each build and if you do that, stay safe and have fun then the World is a better place for our troubles.

Oops, I almost forgot. Here is a mock-up of the lamp thus far.

Floor Lamp Dry Fit

You have been reading an excerpt from the shop journal of the Turtlecovebrewer.

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