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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Let There Be Light

One of our latest projects has been the making of several table lamps. These are wooden lamps, turned on the lathe, and fitted with shades handmade by artist Deb Silva.

The photos show the progression of steps performed on the lathe to turn the lamp base from a chunk of ornamental Bradford Pear tree. It started with a length of the tree's trunk, which was sawn into a rough square on the bandsaw.

The circle on the end of the log in the second photo marks the diameter of the base of the lamp-to-be; the "+" saw marks within the circle provide a way to locate the drive center of the lathe, so the piece can be spun and "turned".

The hunk of wood, called a "blank", is mounted on the lathe, then handheld gouges and other tools are used to shape the spinning wood.

1- Bradford Pear log
2- Blank with drive center marks
3 - roughing gouge removes bark and wood

Photo 3 shows a "roughing gouge" being used to remove the initial layers of bark and wood, which will result in a cylinder of wood (photo 4).

Enough wood must be removed to eliminate all the bark, and any defects under it that aren't wanted in the finished piece (although I often retain such "defects" as features).

4 - Roughed to a cylinder

Then the shaping begins. A couple different gouges are used on the spinning wood, reducing its diameter where and as needed to form the curves and other features.

Pear wood is a joy to work on a lathe. Although it's a fairly plain, whitish wood, typically with little figure, it usually takes on a more mellow, amber tone in no time. This particular piece of wood has a series of darker brown flecks and streaks in it, which lend some visual interest to it.

5 - Shaping begins
In photo 5, the base of the lamp is on the left end, already shaped.  There is a collar bead formed just above the base. The upper portion of the lamp, at the right end of photo 5, is yet to be shaped.

In photo 6, more wood has been removed to shape the upper half of the base.

6 - Upper end taking shape

7 - Drilling for the lamp cord

Once the shaping has been largely completed, a hole must be bored through the length of the lamp base to accomodate the electrical cord. Photo 7 shows the drilling operation. The very top of the lamp has yet to be finalized.

8 - Turning completed
In photo 8, the lathe work has has been completed. A small hole has been drilled through the side of the base near the bottom; the lamp cord will exit the base through this hole.

The excess wood has been trimmed off each end of the piece, and it's been sanded smooth.

What remains to be done now? Several coats of finish must be applied, over a period of days (one coat per day, sanding lightly between coats). Then a threaded lamp pipe is cut to length and installed; the socket, cord, and other hardware go in next.

Meanwhile, Deb Silva has been crafting a shade to top it all off. It will have the look of handmade paper, with natural botanical materials embedded in it (autumn leaves, dried grasses, flowers, etc).  Each lamp and each shade are unique.

For this lamp, red fall leaves and dried grasses were chosen.

9 - The completed lamp

Let there be light ! 

Some of these handmade lamps are available at Timberturner, while others go to local galleries.


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