Arts & Crafts Lamps with copper panels

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Project by splintergroup posted 11-17-2015 06:43 PM 3279 views 16 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch

These were a bit more involved than I planned, but still fun.

The basics:
White Oak, some quarter sawn, some rift sawn. Ammonia fumed finish covered with maybe 4 coats of “Tung Oil” wiping varnish, sanded smooth between coats. I quote the “Tung Oil” since this product has none in it, but I like it anyway. The shades are amber mica. The copper panels are FR4 copper clad printed circuit boards I etched with the Celtic “Tree Of Life”. The patina is sawdust soaked in a standard vinegar/salt mixture, then sprinkled over the boards for 18 hours.

The Shade:
I’ve made these before, just not with the enthusiasm I had after seeing Tom's creations
I never could get the lamp shade “just right” and working out the angles and cuts before making a simple prototype is very time consuming. These shade dimensions have a lot going for them. The overall angles and dimensions do a good job of centering with an off-the-shelf socket cluster. They also efficiently use a standard (30”x18”) sheet of mica, which can be pricey.

The Base:
I made these lamps as prototypes so I could nail down the dimensions and cut procedure. Normally I don’t obsess over dimensions but the angles and alignments here are critical. The panels slide into 0.060” slots which must align exactly on four separate parts. Normally I think of cutting a single slot, then chopping off the individual parts. Can’t go wrong with consistency there right? Well the problem is crosscutting through the slot causes the splintery Oak to flake off inside the slots. I could avoid this by placing a temporary filler strip into the slot, or just cut the slots afterwards (I choose the latter).

QS White Oak is expensive. I make my own by using the edge of an 8/4 Oak slab that is plain sawn on its face (and by definition QS on its side) to complete the column. The shade and base pieces are done the same way with 4/4 stock.

Sub Assemblies:
All in all, 64 individual wood pieces are needed to create one lamp. That is a lot of sawing, sanding, and finish prep work. Things like the shade pieces each require routing a rabbet for the mica. That is a lot of small part routing which I did by hand, but I have a jig in mind for next time.

Cutting the angles:
The shade angles and half lap joints are easily cut (40 degrees) with my miter gauge and stop block. Consistency here is key. The bevel angle between the shade panels ends up being 23.05 degrees to get a tight miter. I set my saw to this angle with one of those digital tilt gauges. This is the first time I used one to set up a bevel on my saw, very handy and consistent, although I don’t know how much error there is between what the gauge claimed and what the angle really is. There is some wiggle room here. You can make a cut, check the fit, adapt and cut a thin sliver off again.

With the saw angle set, a jig makes cutting this awkward angle easy!

Upper End Details:
The upper cross shade supports, what Tom called “Corbels” were mortised into the column. Tom used screws to attach these in his version, which looking back was a smart move. Much simpler and much more likely to sit flush. Cutting the tenon on these parts (with a 2 degree slope) is fraught with traps. Reworking my order of operations between the router template to cut the shape and setup for the tenon is due for a review. Too much time wasted on setup for the tenon with these prototypes.

The lamp cluster uses a threaded shaft extending fully to the top of the shade where it can securely hold the shade in place. The ugliness is covered by a short section of copper tube (patinated of course).

Tom apparently has his shades just resting on the corbels. Overall this is very secure with the corbel notches, but knowing what it is like to live in a house with a cat made me think otherwise….
The threaded rod holds everything in compression. This allows me to avoid gluing the top piece of the base unit in place. I can easily swap out the copper parts if needed.

Copper Base Panels
These are becoming a “trademark” of things I make. Growing up as a kid, I was into electronics and made my own circuit boards. That knowledge came to use when thinking of what I could use to dress out the base. The process is left for another posting, but aside from buying the copper panels and photo resist paint, everything else requires common household products. My materials and process deviate a bit, but here is a good rundown on the process
When I get time to experiment, I’ll try the resist laminate films. Should be cheaper and easier.

The patina makes the copper work. Variations on copper patinas are endless, however I am “comfortable” with this version. It is consistent and responds well to being top coated (spray poly) to prevent flaking, etc.

I like fuming White Oak. I produces a nice color but best of all (for me) is the color penetrates the surface. I hate stains that rub away on sharp corners when I scuff between coats of finish. Fuming goes deep enough to avoid this. Dying penetrates well and has an infinite choice of colors, but tends to fade when exposed to sunlight.

13 comments so far

View WoodNSawdust's profile


1417 posts in 2337 days

#1 posted 11-17-2015 07:18 PM

Very nice looking and as you observed a lot of work. But fun always make the work feel like less time

-- "I love it when a plan comes together" John "Hannibal" Smith

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 4027 days

#2 posted 11-17-2015 08:13 PM

Those are beautiful. The design is wonderful and they are so well done.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View AandCstyle's profile


3306 posts in 3418 days

#3 posted 11-17-2015 11:14 PM

Splinter, you did an excellent job with these lamps. I really need to learn how to do the copper thing. Your shades are fantastic and I like your supports better than the ones I did. Thank you for sharing.

-- Art

View Mean_Dean's profile


7057 posts in 4308 days

#4 posted 11-18-2015 01:03 AM

These lamps turned out beautifully! I love how you’re incorporating the copper panels into the base—really provides a nice complement to the mica panels! Overall excellence!

-- Dean -- "Don't give up the ship -- fight her 'till she sinks!" Capt James Lawrence USN

View drewpy's profile


1056 posts in 2517 days

#5 posted 11-18-2015 03:43 AM

Wonderful lamps. I admire the design, craftsmanship, and the knowledge sharing. Thanks for posting these.

-- Drew -- "The greatest wealth is health".

View tomd's profile


2222 posts in 4931 days

#6 posted 11-18-2015 04:34 AM

Beautiful lamps and excellent workmanship. I also like the design and the panels. Great photography.

-- Tom D

View Ken90712's profile


18051 posts in 4349 days

#7 posted 11-18-2015 09:37 AM

Very nice, love Arts and Craft

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View splintergroup's profile


5458 posts in 2383 days

#8 posted 11-18-2015 02:42 PM

Thanks Guys!
As promised, I’ll do a low-down on making the copper panels before too long. It’s easy!

View splintergroup's profile


5458 posts in 2383 days

#9 posted 11-18-2015 02:49 PM

When you did your final spray coat on your floor lamps, did you do a post-sand or just go with the spray finish?

Usually I do the wipe on/wipe off type finishes with 0000 wool after every coat, but given the amount of surface area these lamps have I just might go back to spraying.

View BigMig's profile


639 posts in 3774 days

#10 posted 11-18-2015 03:18 PM

Wow, that’s a very impressive project…so well executed.

-- Mike from Lansdowne, PA

View splintergroup's profile


5458 posts in 2383 days

#11 posted 11-18-2015 03:35 PM

Thanks Mike!

View JKMDETAIL's profile


223 posts in 2816 days

#12 posted 11-18-2015 06:06 PM

Been thinking about making a set of these myself. I have the magazine article open in the shop looking it over . Great job.

View AandCstyle's profile


3306 posts in 3418 days

#13 posted 11-20-2015 11:46 PM

When you did your final spray coat on your floor lamps, did you do a post-sand or just go with the spray finish?

Usually I do the wipe on/wipe off type finishes with 0000 wool after every coat, but given the amount of surface area these lamps have I just might go back to spraying.

- splintergroup

It really depends on the mood of the spray gods. :D I mostly use EM6000 and sometimes I need a light hand sanding with 400-600G after one coat or another. I think it is really a product of how much air the fan is pulling through the filter. If the filter is clogged, I need to sand because of the over spray floating around, especially after spraying a big project. I doubt that I did any hand sanding on the lamps since they were small and the spraying would have been of short duration. Spraying WB in NM is wonderful because it dries so quickly that you can apply a fresh coat every half hour if you want. HTH

-- Art

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