You know what I love? Wooden-framed lamps with paper shades. I saw a lamp like this while visiting friends in the states and decided to build my own. It's a nice simple design that's quite easy to build with basic tools, and works out a lot cheaper than buying one!
- four longish (about 8 feet or 2.4m) pieces of square lumber
- wood screws
- a light socket, switch, cable and plug
- a hand saw
- a drill
- a screwdriver
- a tape measure
- tissue paper or cloth
Step 1: The Design
The design is pleasingly simple- cut 12 short pieces from your wood, make a box frame at one end for the lamp shade, with a bar across the bottom to attach the light socket to, and an H-shaped rung at the other end.
You'll need to choose a width for the lamp, which determines the length of the short pieces you cut. Somewhere between 8" and 12" (20cm to 30cm) works well. Bear in mind that a wider lamp will end up less tall, as you're cutting more wood off the legs, so consider what proportions you'd like when making this choice. For instance, with 8' lumber, if you make the short pieces 8" then the lamp will end up 6' tall as you're cutting off 3 * 8" from each leg. If you made it 12" wide, the lamp would end up 5' tall.
Alternatively, you can plan your measurements based on the materials you want to make the shade from- I was using big sheets of tissue paper so this wasn't a factor. The diagram shows roughly the measurements I built to.
Step 2: Measure Twice, Cut Once
(For the rest of this Instructable I'm going to assume that your lumber is 8 feet long and you are making the short pieces 9" to stop the instructions getting too complicated. If you are using different measurements, I'll try to explain the measurements so you can adjust accordingly.)
Once you've decided on your lamp width, measure three of these lengths and mark them on one end of each piece of wood. If you mark them all at once, remember to leave a gap the width of the cut your saw blade makes between the pieces you measure. Rest the wood somewhere horizontal you can cut it and cut the short pieces off, trying to keep the cuts neat and level. If the wood splinters at the cuts, now is a good time to sand it smooth. I didn't have any sandpaper so just trimmed off the worst splinters with a craft knife.
Step 3: Pilot Holes
Screwing screws straight into wood makes
a) the wood splinter
b) your arm ache (or your drill battery flat)
... so we drill holes for the screws. You need to drill through the legs where the screws to hold the horizontal parts of the frame will go, and into the ends of the short pieces where those screws will screw in. Remember that you can't put both screws at right angles across a corner at the same height because they'll meet in the middle, so at each corner you need to drill one hole across the wood higher than the other.
Drill one set of holes at the ends of the legs as shown. Measure in 17" from the ends of the legs (or whatever you want the height of the lamp shade to be) and repeat the process. Now drill pilot holes into the ends of eight of the short pieces at the appropriate point on their ends so they can be screwed to the legs forming the shade frame.
Pick two of the pieces that will be on opposite sides of the lamp, and drill pilot holes through the middle of them so that the holes will be horizontal when the lamp is assembled. These holes are to hold the bar which the light fitting will be mounted to.
It's important to be accurate with the placement of the screw holes, because a mismatch of just a millimetre will make the lamp difficult to assemble and the finished article look scrappy. I recommend drilling the holes from the side that will be on the inside of the lamp, where they will meet the ends of the horizontal parts, because it's easier to be precise on the side you start the hole from and it's most important that they be precise on the sides where pieces of wood meet.
Step 4: The Bottom Rung
Work out where you'd like the bottom part of the frame to go. My shade was about a quarter of the height of the lamp, so I made it a quarter of the height (17") up from the bottom and put a shelf in the middle to divide the height into four equal sections. This part will use three short pieces to make an H shape. As each leg only has one screw going through it, you don't have to stagger the heights so you can drill all the pilot holes at the same height. Drill pilot holes in the centre of both ends of three short pieces, and drill horizontally through the middle of two of these pieces- these two will be the sides of the H, the third will be the middle bar.
There's a well-known saying in carpentry, "measure twice, cut once", meaning you want to be sure of your measurements before you start cutting. I'd propose a similar maxim: "think twice, do once". When building this lamp I charged in like a bull in a workshop and started screwing the top of the frame together before I'd drilled all the pilot holes. This was stupid for two reasons: firstly, because a single screw joint wasn't strong enough to hold the whole frame together while I assembled the rest of it, and secondly because I didn't have room to get the drill into the frame to drill the remaining holes. I had to take the frame apart to finish the job, which a little thought would have avoided.
Step 5: Assemblage
You're ready to start assembling. Two sides of the lamp will have three horizontal bars- these are the best to assemble first. Once you've put these sides together, you can stand them side by side and screw the rest of the bars in: two on each side for the sides of the shade frame, and the middle bar of the H-shaped rung at the bottom. At this point the frame will be strong enough to pick up and move around. Make sure everything is straightened up and all the joints are tight.
Now you'll need to wire up the light socket, cord, switch and plug. Exactly how to do this varies with different types of fittings, so I'm not going to give instructions; if you haven't done this before, consult someone who knows their way around mains electrics. Attach the light holder (and switch, if you choose to use a pull-cord switch) to the remaining short piece of wood, and screw it into the bottom of the shade frame.
Step 6: Shape a Paper Shade
Your lamp frame is now complete- you can turn it on and appreciate the slightly intense and stark light it casts with no shade. If you're looking for something a bit gentler, cut four rectangles of tissue paper or thin cloth, the same width as the short frame pieces and slightly longer than the height of the box frame, and glue them inside the four faces surrounding the light socket.
Normally less is more with PVA glue, and you aim to use a very thin smear, but in this case I used a nice thick blob because
a) it gives you more time to move the paper around before it dries completely if it doesn't go on perfectly straight
b) it soaked through the two layers of very thin tissue I used and stuck them both to the frame
You might need to make two small cuts where the bottom edge of the shade material meets the horizontal bar with the light socket on it.
You could paint an nature-inspired watercolour picture or a geometric motif on the paper for some extra pizazz, or leave it plain for a minimal theme.
Step 7: Shelve the Project
As an added bonus, you can make some shelves for the middle of the frame. Cut rectangles of plywood or board, as long as the total width of your frame between the outside edges, as wide as the gap in the inside of the frame.
To attach it between the legs, drill pilot holes through the legs and into the long edges of the board, and screw it in place. If you only want one shelf, it might be easier to screw or glue the board down onto the bottom rung of the frame.