How to make an Arts and Crafts style lamp shade #3: Assemble the Frame

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Blog entry by splintergroup posted 11-30-2018 10:36 PM 2873 reads 2 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: And so it Begins Part 3 of How to make an Arts and Crafts style lamp shade series Part 4: Rabbet for the mica »

If everything went well prior to this point (snug lap joints, equal part lengths), there should be a stack of frames that are for all purposes identical. Now is a good time to consider the final shade assembly and arranging the parts in a way that works well with grain/color matching. This is probably the most critical for the stiles. Since they are glued side to side, they should appear as a single unit when assembled. For the best seamless look, the color and grain should match.
If you have one part that for some reason just doesn’t match anything or has some serious defect, pull out the matching spare you created before (you did make extras right? 8^)

Profiling the edges

Now is the time to break those sharp corners if you want to. I like the 45 deg chamfer for these type lamps since every other part on the lamp typically has an angled profile. You could also do a round over for a nice soft look/feel.

(The chamfers where the top rail (up/down) meets the left side stile (horizontal))

Once the shade frame is glued, there are areas that cannot be accessed by a bearing guided chamfer bit on a router table. I don’t worry about the inside of the shade but I do want chamfers on the lower rail, stepped areas of the side stiles, and outer top rail.

For the rails, I chamfer the entire length from the top to the bottom, exterior side only, edge adjacent to the mica panel only (only one of the four edges on the stile part).
The top rail gets chamfered fully along the top and bottom edges (exterior side only). The chamfer only needs to run from dado to dado, but if you are running the part along a fence, no harm from chamfering past the cuts.

The lower rail gets chamfered on three edges. As with the top rail, both exterior edges get the treatment from dado to dado.
The interior edge of the lower rail is flush with the side stiles so the part needs to be chamfered after assembly or have the router cut stopped short and blended after assembly with a chisel. It’s a lot easier to just route it at the table after assembly.

This is the left stile (running left/right) meeting the lower rail (stubby extension is on the left)

Since the stile sits 1/8” proud of the rail, I did a 1/16” chamfer.

Now the glue

I used Titebond “dark” since its dried color blends really well with oiled walnut. It doesn’t take much and it’s best to avoid squeeze-out and the necessary clean up. A simple trick is to give the areas a good paste waxing while the assembly is dry fit. If any glue oozes out, it pops right off the waxed surface after it has set and is no longer gooey. A good rub down with a mineral spirit soaked rag removes any wax prior to applying a finish.

This is where leaving the excess material past the dados really helps. This allows the joints to lock together so you only need to apply a single clamp to force the joint together.

Trim the frames to final height
After the glue is dry, it’s time to remove the excess “stubs” and size all the frames to the same height.

I do this on the table saw by placing a straight spacer between the lower rail and the fence to give a good, consistent square reference. Make sure the spacer you choose is wide enough to keep your panel with the longest stubs from contacting the fence!

To set up this cut I bandsaw off the top side stubs to within 1/8” of the top rail. If this is not done, the saw blade will cut off the first stub, then shoot it back into the second stub (kickback!). The never ends well so do yourself a favor and trim.
I set the fence so the saw blade just kisses the top rail as seen in the above picture.
I get the best control by placing my hands at the frame corners near the fence and put pressure to keep the frame and spacer tight against the fence (I’m standing well to the right of the blade).

You can see the results of fitting the dado to produce a great lap joint now that the excess stubs are cut away on top.

Do this for every frame and after completion, all frames should be the exact same height from lower rail to top rail.

A bit more work is needed to trim the lower rail. The freshly cut top rail can run along the fence to provide a nice square cut, except it is rather short and this leaves open the chance for a kickback if something is not done.

I planed on having my short spikes extending past the shade corner by 3/16” so I place the panel on the saw and adjust the fence to produce this cut.

With the fence locked down, I now trim a scrap of masonite to this width. Don’t move the fence after doing this! (otherwise you will need to reset it).

I also trim the spikes on the bandsaw to just past their final dimension (as was done for the top rail)
Note the pencil marks indicating the length of the spikes.

Next task is to place double sided tape on key points of the frame. I really like using this tape It sticks well to the masonite, it’s thin, it doesn’t allow the parts to wiggle, and it is easy enough to separate the parts when done.

Remove the protective film over the tape and place the masonite smooth side gently against the tape, aligning the pencil marks on the spikes with the edge of the masonite. Before pressing down to secure the tape, check that the top rail is flush with the masonite along its entire length. If so, press down on the corners to set the tape. Give it a good inspection to be sure you don’t have the frame crooked. If the frame does end up being crooked, your spikes will be slightly different in length and will require some sanding to even them up. Frame to frame assembly forming a complete shade relies on aligning the top rail edges, leaving any minor corrections to be done on the spikes.

The cut can now be completed leaving all the frames the same height and having the same amount of corner spike protrusion.

I’m going to end this chapter here, more next week as the sides are cut to form a perfect pyramid!

7 comments so far

View JimYoung's profile


424 posts in 2799 days

#1 posted 11-30-2018 11:52 PM

I finally had time to go through your blog. Excellent explanation and photos of this process. Definitely going to bookmark this for a future project.

-- -Jim, "Nothing says poor craftsmanship more than wrinkles in your duck tape"

View EarlS's profile


4724 posts in 3560 days

#2 posted 12-01-2018 03:51 AM

I’ll second what Jim said. Oh, and I’m also reading through your blog on copper etching. I think I might give it a try for the Spring Swap.

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

View spud72's profile


334 posts in 4706 days

#3 posted 12-01-2018 11:01 AM

Thanks for posting

-- Guy,PEI

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4546 days

#4 posted 12-01-2018 01:45 PM

Nice work and a great process.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View splintergroup's profile (online now)


5732 posts in 2435 days

#5 posted 12-01-2018 02:40 PM

Thanks guys! I’ve already thought of a few changes that might make things even easier. I’ll address them at the end.

View Mike_D_S's profile


778 posts in 3427 days

#6 posted 12-01-2018 05:57 PM


Nice blog laying out the steps. You’re tastes and mine always align and I made the mistake of showing the lamp shade to the wife and you can guess what I’ll be doing.

One idea on the sled to trim the bottom side, if you know you want to make more of these where the shades are approximately the same size within say 1/4” then you could rig a more permanent sled out of 3/4 MDF and a couple of the HF clamps screwed to it. Cut 2” rabbit on the blade side for the hardboard to sit on and you could basically skip the double sided tape and just swap hardboard waste piece when it gets cut down too much.

For repeatability, you could use a small 3/4 Spacer piece on the fence side and then drill a hole and put a piece of dowel for the side of the shade to go up against. So just set the shade side on it, push it up against the spacer at the top and move it forward until it hits the dowel and then clamp it down.

For one or two its too much work, but if you’re going to make another dozen, then it might be worth doing.

Great blog so far, looking forward to the rest.


-- No honey, that's not new, I've had that forever......

View splintergroup's profile (online now)


5732 posts in 2435 days

#7 posted 12-02-2018 04:09 PM

Thanks Mike, great ideas!

One change I am considering is as you described. A simple mod would be a wood strip on the hardboard to sit behind the lower rail so the rail aligns (butts against) it. Toggle clamps would hold things down. DS taping all the parts to the various fixtures gets time consuming (but is very secure), though having some more conforming jigs to position things quickly would be a food time saver.

You’ll see a run at this approach when I trim the frame sides.

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