Introduction: Art Deco Wood Sconce

About: Retired engineer and college dean who enjoys building things!

This is a little different as an instructable, rather than a step by step it is a document of the process I took to build something with only hand tools.

A little background, you can skip this if you want to get right to the project. I built these Art Deco light sconces back in 2009. I was building a home theater room in an Art Deco style and could not find light sconces that I liked (or could afford) so I decided to build my own. All the woodwork in the room is cherry and I had a fair amount of raw lumber so I wanted to create the stacked column design (like the Madison Belmont building). My dad was a carpenter through most of his early years and when he passed away a few years earlier he had left me a box with all his original hand carpentry tools. I got the idea to build these sconces the way he would have so this is how the project got started. I apologize because there are pictures absent that I would have taken if I was documenting it today.

The basic idea was to create a slightly angled box that would contain a light fixture and cover it with a piece of translucent green onyx tile to match the fireplace hearth. As the process progressed I added more of the stack detail to other pieces of the sconce as you will see.

Step 1: The Sides

Started with a squared off piece of lumber about a 13” x 4” with a 1 ½” taper over the length (all the dimension were somewhat arbitrary on the initial sconce and just duplicated as I built more). I marked two lines parallel to the length and bottom, each inset ¾”. I used a router plane to create the dropped profile. The lengthwise run worked fairly easy and I placed the left and right sides adjacent when I was working so the plane stayed level. Planing the cross grain was sketchy and I had to take many light passes and a fair amount of sanding. The rounded curves at the end of each profile were done with a crosscut file with all the edge teeth ground off (so it wouldn’t mar the faces). Detail sanding was done using small sanding blocks with various grit sandpaper attached to a single edge with contact cement.

Step 2: Tile Slot

On the inside I made a slot for the onyx tile to slide into, again with the routing plane and hand chisels. The slot is open at the top and stops just short of the bottom. I left the bottom of the fixture open to allow air to flow through and keep the bulb temperature down.

Step 3: Base

The base piece that the sides attach to was done in a similar manner. The profiles were routed and the ends were each cut back about ¾” to give the same column effect. Once the profiles were complete the corners were rounded to match the side details. I cut the base off leaving a 3” piece of the profile to use at the top of the tile (I trimmed the back so it would drop into the slot above the tile).

Step 4: Assembly

The sides were attached to the profiled base piece using wood glue and clamps with a few brads for good measure. At the top is a non showing support piece made just from scrap lumber and a threaded spreader bar that can be adjusted so the tile slides in smoothly.

Step 5: Light Fixture

Next step was to stain the cherry to match the other woodwork and add a fixture to hold the light. I fashioned the lamp holder from a roofing tin shingle and added a square of high temp silicone behind it to protect the back from heat.

Step 6: Completion

Last pictures here are the completed unit with the onyx tile slipped in and the top wood piece dropped in the slot above. Here it is attached at the top of the raised panel column and illuminated. I love how the project came out and gained a keen appreciation for the work my dad did in the early years. Thanks for reading.

Hand Tools Only Contest 2017

Participated in the
Hand Tools Only Contest 2017