How to make an Arts and Crafts style lamp shade #2: And so it Begins

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Blog entry by splintergroup posted 11-29-2018 09:17 PM 2980 reads 3 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Some initial thoughts Part 2 of How to make an Arts and Crafts style lamp shade series Part 3: Assemble the Frame »

I decided to use walnut for this set of shades. I recently scored some narrow, but otherwise nice rift sawn boards with consistent color.

When making items like this I like to get all the pieces from the same board so the grain/color will match up. Anyway, this wood made that easy to do. Other wood types can be far less friendly…

Prepare the stock

Based on the drawing, I needed 16 sides (stiles), 8 bottoms, and 8 tops (rails). I milled up enough walnut stock for two shades plus an extra piece of each part in case of defects or errors in cutting on my part. This is important as I don’t want to halt progress to create a replacement part as this would require changing various tool setups, etc.
I cut the stock in longer lengths to optimize the board usage and make it easier to size everything later. I left the outer dimensions a bit large and allowed everything to climatize for a week to the shop/ Fortunately the wood was very stable and nothing warped or bent. If the parts are not perfectly straight, care must be taken to clamp the parts flush to the miter gauge as cuts are made.

These pieces were sized on my drum sander and further gang-sanded to 220 grit with my ROS. Doing this now avoids having to sand near the joints later and deal with cross grain scratches.

I liked Tom’s idea of of the lamp shade “spokes” being raised slightly (1/8”) and extending about 1/4” beyond the shades lower rim. This also means if a the joints are not perfectly flush, it will never show from the outside (win-win).
The added shadow lines also add visual interest.

All parts are 3/4” wide with the spokes being 3/4” thick and the top/bottom rails cut to 5/8” thick. The parts are also cut about 1” or so over final length.
At this point I have 32 pieces for the lamp shade frames and one spare (4 pieces) for each component.

The miter gauge fences

These are actually the first jigs I made for this project. Everyone knows that when you want parts like these to be cut to the same length, you set up a stop block on the miter gauge. It is also a good idea to clamp each part to the gauge if the angle is not 90 degrees since the action of cutting can cause the part to slide away from the stop.

I combined the two actions here with my miter gauge “sacrificial” fences.

There are two fences since I need to make cuts with the miter gauge on both sides of the blade depending on if the part is a right or left.

To make these fences I used some 1/2” thick scrap oak and drilled a number of holes for securing to the miter gauge. My Incra gauge has slots so the fence can be slid around before locking down. One could also clamp the fence to the miter gauge in a pinch if needed.

Since the desired angle of the shades lower corners is 50 degrees, I set my miter to 40 degrees (90 deg. – 50 deg.)
As show in the magazine plans, the lamp shade frames are assembled with half-lap joints.

The secret to holding the parts in position is to add a key that will fit into the previously cut dados. This works just like a box joint jig except it is all at an angle.

I set up a dado stack to cut a notch sized exactly to the width (3/4”) of my parts. For the keys, I actually use a portion of the spares I made when preparing all the parts and I make plenty of test cuts to make sure my dado setup cuts the proper width. Not too tight and not too loose!
When I’m sure the cut is properly dimensioned, I cut the key slot toward the end of each fence and glue the key in place. Note that the fences are mirror images of each other.

These fence jigs are now ready for use on these shades and any others I want to make in the future (with the same corner angle).

Cut the lap joints
Time to make sawdust!

Keep things organized at this point. The half laps are in different directions depending on if the part is a “left” or “right” and on opposite sides if the part is a rail or stile. If you have spent time organizing your parts so they blend together at the final glue-up, you really should draw lines on each part showing where and which direction the dados are cut!

Note that the “left” stiles have both their dados cut with the miter jig set on the same side of the saw blade and the “right” stiles cut on the other side. The rails have one dado cut on the left side of the blade and the other dado cut on the right.

Set the cut depth of the dado stack (using test pieces) such that when assembled they fit flush. A great flush fit now means less sanding later.

Step 1 is to cut an initial dado close to one end of each part. This is done with and ordinary fence as the key is not yet needed. Use a stop block and use a clamp. Leave about 1/4” of excess past the dado (so it’s a full dado instead of a rabbet) and don’t forget to allow for the extra overhang at the bottom of the stiles.

With each part having an initial dado cut, the dado should fit snugly over the key on the fence jig. Carefully measure the distance between the dado on the key and the blade tooth and adjust the fence position until the measurement agrees with the plan.

Lock down the fence.

This picture shows a right side stile being cut. Both dado cuts are parallel. According to the plan, the distance between the inside edges of the two cuts is 8-15/32”. You could just make the cut at 8-1/2” and compensate for the difference later.

This next picture shows the bottom rail being cut. Note that each dado is angled opposite. This is where marking each piece will help prevent confusion and messed up cuts 8^).
The dimension from the outer edges of the dado cuts is 17”.

Do not cut the top rail at this time!

I hope you understand the process here. If you plan out correctly and cut the initial dados at the correct angles and on the correct ends, you can get half the cuts done before swapping the gauge to the other side of the blade. If not, no big deal, you just end up moving the miter gauge side to side a bit more.

Think before you cut to make sure you have the proper dado arrangement!

By leaving a full dado at the end of each piece, all the joints lock together and make gluing a breeze! This also makes each frame identical for a perfect final product.

With the two stiles and bottom rail dadoed, do a dry fit. I just laid the un-dadoed top rail into position.

You can see the angle is perfect!

Even so, placing a rule into the top dados shows that the dado spacing is a tad wider than the plans called for.
You can’t really tell in this picture but it is almost 1/16” wider.

No problem! just cut the top rail with the required dado spacing

This is where any errors in setup prior to this point are compensated for.

Dado cutting is complete! Dry fit but do not glue yet!

See all the excess material sticking past the edges of these panels? That will be dealt with later.

When I made my first shade, I spent a great deal of time setting up for the miter cuts and clamping. With these two fence jigs I was done with the cuts in about an hour 8^)
Thanks for following and ‘til next time…..

2 comments so far

View EarlS's profile


4724 posts in 3560 days

#1 posted 11-29-2018 11:53 PM

This is a great explanation of your approach. I aspire to have the patience and skills to type up a blog that is this accurate, detailed, and thorough. I spent half an hour reading and re-reading these 2 blogs just because they do such a good job of explaining what you are doing. I might even be able to make a decent lamp shade one of these days.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View splintergroup's profile


5732 posts in 2435 days

#2 posted 11-30-2018 02:44 PM

Thanks Earl, that’s quite the complement!

I always worry that I am actually making things seem even more complex than they really are.

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