Introduction: Building "A Christmas Story" Leg Lamp (the MANLY Version)
First Prize in the
Homemade Gifts Contest 2017
This leg is an exact full scale model of my own leg. I built this to show some love to Carolina Shoe for their awesome work boots, still not sure what they're going to do with it! :)
The leg and base are made from maple butcher block scraps from previous projects. The lamp shade is welded from scrap lengths of rebar and wrapped in pleather attached using paracord that looks like Carolina's boot laces. The boot is attached using a threaded brass lamp rod through the entire leg with a nut on both ends. There are also a couple of screws into the toe of the boot/foot.
Step 1: Materials & Tools
- Leg model
- Maple butcherblock off cuts
- Wood glue http://amzn.to/2kID2jI
- Carolina Boot (only the right boot!) http://bit.ly/jackmancarolina
- Carolina sock, half a pair :) http://bit.ly/jackmancarolina
- Lamp kit http://amzn.to/2Btm7GV
- Lamp threaded rod http://amzn.to/2k756ym
- Lamp cord http://amzn.to/2hXMJHE
- Waterlox tung oil finish http://bit.ly/waterloxjackman
- Rubber feet http://amzn.to/2nUqfbV
- Paste wax http://amzn.to/2j647fJ
- Pleather http://amzn.to/2k55IUX
- Eyelets http://amzn.to/2AeQO4r
- Paracord http://amzn.to/2j1cNmb
- Pallet wood for the Fra-gee-lay crate
Tools (Not all of these are required, but this is what I used for the build)
- Turbo Plane grinding disk http://bit.ly/2BLgQJX
- Miter saw http://amzn.to/2j614UM
- Table saw http://amzn.to/2j4bvVU
- Thickness planer http://amzn.to/2j4ISuI
- Bandsaw http://amzn.to/2j4auNu
- Glue spreader bottle http://amzn.to/2rwnnYk
- Bar clamps http://amzn.to/2k4EvjT
- Angle grinder http://amzn.to/2BxiIai
- Circular saw http://amzn.to/2qr6ZnM
- Random orbital sander http://amzn.to/2jrwsJC
- Strap clamps http://amzn.to/2obipxa
- Oscillating saw http://amzn.to/2k4ujrn
- Disk sander https://www.jackmanworks.com/giant-16-disk-sander-...
- Brad gun http://amzn.to/2pJiKFh
- Palm router http://amzn.to/2obmZeX
- Drill and driver http://amzn.to/2wy5wSZ
- Hacksaw http://amzn.to/2k8azoq
- Welder http://amzn.to/2k7yJ2q
- Eyelet crimper http://amzn.to/2juyAlB
Step 2: Leg Pattern
It all starts by taking photos of my leg... because. I get a photo from all sides and then bring them into GIMP to edit it down to just the silhouette of my leg. Then I use this to make a template and print it out full scale (using one of the photos where I included a tape measure) on multiple sheets of letter size paper that make up the entire leg.
Conveniently there is a pile of materials on my bench to complete this project with. Maple butcher block for the leg, lamp parts, rebar for the shade, and a log for the fire.
I tape my template together and then cut out the side profile and front profile of the leg so I can trace it out later. Checking that it is to scale with my leg and looking pretty good!
The maple butcher block is cut down roughly to size to make a sort of topographical layering with less material needed towards the bottom of the leg and a few more layers needed for the extra thickness of my thigh at the top.
Step 3: Clamping Up the Leg
I trace the leg out onto one of the tall pieces and then cut it down to size on the bandsaw. I can then use the first piece as a template to trace out the rest of the pieces.
I also cut out the inside of the center pieces where I know I won't carve down too from the outside. This starts the process of taking off some weight of the leg and I will finish hollowing it out later when I've established the profile of the outside of the leg. I spread glue on each layer and make a leg sandwich! During the glue-up I quickly slip in the side leg template in the center joint so that I will be able to pop this joint later to access the inside to complete the hollowing process.
You never have enough clamps. Never. But maybe this will cure my restless leg syndrome... ha!
Step 4: Carving the Leg to Shape
After letting the glue dry over night I take the leg blank out of the clamps. With the bandsaw I was able to make this piece the right shape in 2 dimensions so now I need to establish the 3rd dimension. I take the template of the front of the leg and trace it onto a piece of cardboard to get a ridged template. This was I can transfer the line by carefully holding my pencil perfectly vertical while marking it out.
I mark the lines on both sides so I just need to connect each side in order to establish the shape of the left and ride side of the leg. Time for some power carving!! This is actually my first time doing any power carving so I was super excited to try it out. I used the Arbortech Turbo Plane and it hogged right through the material, I couldn't be happier. It was equally as fun as I had pictured and even more messy. There was definitely a total shop clean up after this project.
The bottom of the foot is flattened out once the leg shape is established and I make an additional template, this time of my foot, to trace on the bottom to establish that shape.
Then it's time to start rounding things over and gives this thing a real leg shape so I go to town! I draw the rough shape that I'm going for at the top of the thigh and use that as a guide while I taper down the rest of the leg.
A little off here and there and it starts to actually look like a leg. It doesn't want to stand up on it's own, so I clamp it to the bench with a board across the top while I shape the top of the foot.
Step 5: Hollowing the Leg
Now words can't describe how hard it is to get a tight fitting Carolina work boot on an inoperable ankle, but "putting shoes on a 3 year old while the jump on a trampoline and scuba dive at the same time" is probably the closest you could get. I had to cut the tongue of the boot a little bit, but got it on there! Twin check... not bad.
I find the joint that holds the piece of paper and pop that apart with a chisel and hammer in the top of the leg. This allows me to gain access to the inside of the leg for hollowing since I've now established the final outside profile and know how thick the wall of the piece is so I don't bust through.
Each side of the joint is sanded down to remove the paper and then I power carve out the inside of each piece. This allows me to reduce the weight since this is such a big chunk of maple, but also give me a chance to establish a route from top to bottom where the wire will run up to the light.
Once I'm satisfied with the inside, I glue and clamp the 2 halves back together. this is done with a combination of screw clamps around the smaller parts of the leg and some strap clamps around the thigh where it is too large to grab with my clamps.
Step 6: Sanding and Capping Off the Leg
With the glue dry, the final shaping is done by just sanding through the grits with my random orbital sander. I start at 80 grit and sand down to 220. Between each grit I mark the leg out with a pencil (you can see the lines on my thigh here) so that I know I've hit every part of the surface with that grit. This is especially handy with a funny shape like this one.
Now I install the leg back into the boot because I hate myself. Also, because I want to establish a horizontal plane at the top of the leg with the boot flat on the bench. I measure up on each side of the leg and use the smallest measurement to then pull around with blue tape around the curved shape and mark out with my pencil.
I cut along the line with a combination of a pull saw and a powered oscillating saw then move it over to the disk sander and carefully sand down the top surface smooth.
The leg is placed upside down to trace out onto a piece of 1/4" plywood which is cut to size (slightly over sized) on the bandsaw, glued and brad nailed to the tops of the leg, and then trimmed flush with a flush trim bit (who would have guessed).
Step 7: Drill Hole in the Boot and Base
I can then complete the passageway from the top to bottom of the foot by drilling a hole in the center of the new top leg plate and in the bottom of the foot where I power carved a channel early almost to the surface.
To allow the wire to pass through, and also to help secure the boot/leg in place, I use the conduit that will hold the wire to mark the inside of the boot where it runs through the bottom of the foot. I then use this mark to drill through the bottom of the boot... yeah it felt as wrong to do it as you can imagine. The special bonus is when I found a hardened steel plate in the sole of the boot that chewed through a half dozen drill bits before I finally got through it. Carolina Shoe isn't joking I guess when they say their boots are tough! haha
For the bottom plate, I cut down another piece of the maple butcher block scraps to a circle slightly larger than the boot and center the boot in place. I push the conduit through the leg again to mark the plate so I can drill a hole through to run the wire.
I drill a hole through the bottom along with a countersink for the nut that will thread onto the wire conduit. Then I drill a hole through the back of the bottom plate so the wire can run through that and poke through the side of the lamp.
Step 8: Finishing
With all the dimensions, holes, etc, established I can finally get some finish on the wood (it's important to keep eye contact to ensure a perfect finish). I went with Waterlox Original because I knew it would pull my naturally beautiful tanned color out of this wood ;)
It was a long debate in my head whether or not to go photo-realistic with this piece and include my cyclist tan...
After a lot of back and forth though, I decided to go ahead and cover the whole leg. 3 coats with a high grit sanding between coats and then some really high 600 grit to knock off any little fuzzies after the final coat.
Step 9: Assembling the Lamp
Now the real assembly can take place! I found a pair of Carolina socks so I figured why not give one of those up so I have half a pair of socks left to match my half pair of boots... Then the boot is pulled on one last time and the threaded brass rod conduit is installed through the leg/sock/boot/base.
I add a few rubber feet to the base to help hold the lamp in place and also keep it from wobbling at all. The whole thing is pulled together by threading a nut on either side of the threaded brass rod before adding some screws into the toe of the boot and foot for a little bit of insurance. Then I tie the laces on my wooden foot which will go down as one of the weirder experiences in my life.
The threaded rod is cut down to the right height with a hacksaw and then the top of the lamp is threaded on. To pull the wire through, I tie the end to a piece of string and then suck that string through using my shop vac. Once the end of the string pop through I can pull it and the wire through the top of the lamp.
Then I attach the wires to the screws and install the top of the lamp in place. It lights up! That's convenient :)
Step 10: Welding the Lamp Shade Frame
Lamp is done! We definitely need a lamp shade for this though to complete the look. Now what's more manly then some tough and rugged rebar! I've always like the visual of the retention ribbing on this anyway so I cut all of the pieces down to size/angle on my horizontal band saw.
To remove the rust and grime from the surface of the rebar, I install a wire disk in my angle grinder. This makes quick work to clean up the surface and make it shine like it's never shined before.
A wood shop isn't exactly the most conducive place for a welding operation so I move out onto my back patio to weld the frame into shape. The bottom and top are easy, just being different sized squares, so I use a right angle magnet to weld them together. I grind the welds down smooth before moving back outside to weld in the diagonal pieces. My wife is actually a much better welder than I am (giggitty) so she actually move in to put me to shame.
Plus, with her welding I'm able to get shot like this, win/win.
Step 11: Preparing the Pleather Shade
With all the corners ground down smooth, it's time to get the actually sides of the shade in place. I trace out each side of the lamp on my sheet of pleather to get the right shape. It took me a while of searching through the fabric store to find what felt best to me. I originally wanted a plaid material like a kilt or lumber jack shirt, but don't have a sewing machine so I didn't trust the eyelets to hold through just one layer of the stuff. I was able to find this slightly translucent vinyl leather though which I think will be perfect!
The pieces are cut down to size with my utility knife and then I mark out every inch along the perimeter using my folding wood rule (love that thing).
I first punch the holes around the perimeter of each piece and then crimp the eyelets in place at each of these holes. These eyelets are going to act like the ones in shoes so I can lace the pieces onto the shade.
Quality control making sure things are going smoothly. "TIME IS MONEY" she says...
Step 12: Installing the Pleather
To lace these in place around the metal frame I use some paracord I had kicking around that matches the color of the boot laces best on the pair of Carolina's that the leg is wearing. I just loop it over and over along the top and bottom of each side panel and then do the same thing running up each of the 4 corners pulling everything nice and tight.
To end the string I just simply tie a knot in the end of it where it terminates and cut just past the knot where I melt it with my propane torch to keep it from ever unraveling.
I wan't sure that the vision that was in my head would translate to real life, but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised.
Now it's not "A Christmas Story" leg lamp without some fringe around the bottom of the shade, so I get some black pleather fringe and install it around the perimeter by super gluing it and clamping it in place while it dries.
Step 13: Building the Crate
This lamp obviously needs a home / something to ship it in. I tear apart a handful of pallets (of coarse) and reassemble it into a shipping crate by building up 4 sides and then attaching them together. Then I install some 3/4" plywood in the top and bottom with brackets inside to hold everything in place.
Then it's just a matter of tagging the box and it's a wrap! Fra-gee-lay. Must be Italian! :)
Step 14: Glamour Shots!
Me for scale! Thanks for checking out the build, definitely be sure to watch the build video for the full experience.
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Step 15: Update
I shipped it and it officially showed up in one piece in Utah! They loved it (at least that's what they told me haha)
We have a be nice policy.
Please be positive and constructive.