Introduction: Bent Lamination Plywood Lamp

I am currently studying design. I have been woodworking and crafting for a couple of years. It started off as a hobby, though it always does I think? Soon, I discovered that making things was something I was extremely passionate about. I aim to invoke thought and emotion in my designs. Whether that be the fact that the piece connects with you, or you absolutely hate for a specific reason. Either way, it has served its purpose. It has made you think.

When I was informed about the Plywood Contest, I thought it was a really cool idea. In the 21st century we are becoming increasingly concerned and observant of the ever-changing climate and resources upon this earth, as we should be. I am a big believer in sustainable furniture. I like to use recycled timber in my work whenever possible.

Plywood is a wonderful material to work with. Strong, sustainable, easy to work and control. Due to its construction, it also has very little wood movement. Interesting designs can also be made with exposed plywood edges. Especially with marine plywood, the contrast of the edges is beautiful. This lamp I think, captures that beauty and flaunts it in a stylish way.

This Bent Lamination Plywood Lamp uses 2 small sheets of plywood and common woodworking tools and machinery. I used the tools I have because I have them. That does not mean that they are the only way to accomplish certain tasks. There is no point going out and buying a new tool if you can do it someway else.

In this Instructable I am going to share some knowledge on bent laminations and mold making.

I have entered this project in the Plywood Contest, so please vote for me.

Disclaimer: I nor Instructables can be held responsible for any damages or injury with tools or machinery. I also recommend hiring an electrician to do the wiring for this lamp.


Table saw


Belt Sander

Cordless drill

Hand tools (planes, spokeshaves, files, chisels etc.)

Jig saw (or Bandsaw)

Marking out equipment


Plywood (6mm and 3mm)

MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard)

Electrical fittings (or an old lamp)



Spray Paint and Varnish

Step 1: Making the Molds

The first step to making the lamp is constructing the molds, which the plywood is clamped around.

My favourite material for making molds is MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard). It is soft enough that the router can cut it easily. I find lots of free MDF outside my hardware store. They are sheets that have been on either side of stacks of Plywood or MDF. They can be somewhat damaged during shipping, but for mold making, it is fine. Plywood can also be used for the molds. I would recommend not using solid wood, because it will expand and shrink therefore rendering the mold inaccurate.

The lamp is 1200mm high. I marked out the curve using a thin strip of wood. Clamped at either end, I was able to reach a curve that I liked. I encourage you to just experiment and find a curve that looks good to you. Just don't make it too tight, the plywood wont be able to bend around it.

Once the curved is marked, cut it out with a jigsaw (or bandsaw or handsaw) keeping as close to the line as possible.

With the piece clamped in a vice or to a workbench, clean up the curve with a hand plane, and a sanding strip or sandpaper. This is the first template. Mark out a second piece and cut that out roughly. Glue those two pieces together. I clamped the MDF with small brad nails. Screws or clamps would work.

A flush cutting bit in a router works a treat to trim the second layer flush. I repeated this process 2 more times. The lamp is 60mm wide so this gave me a finished mold that was over 60mm high (I used 4 layers of 17mm MDF).

I cut the back of the curved mold to give solid spots for the clamps to grab hold. A base board made from MDF was then screwed on.

To complete the mold, packing tape was stuck on any surface that might come in contact with glue. This is vital for easy removal of laminated pieces.

The exact process was used for the mold for the legs, though it didn't need to be as high, as the legs are only 40mm wide.

I like to write my name, date, materials needed, construction details and what is is used for, on the molds I make. I keep every mold I make just in case I use it again.

Step 2: Laminating the Plywood

Molds done? The next step is to lampinate the plywood. Get it? Lampinate? Lampinate. Sorry, I had to make that pun.

We now need to laminate the plywood.

I cut 4 strips of the 6mm plywood at 62mm x 1300mm. Then 4 strips at 25mm x 1300mm. I used the table saw. A circular saw could also be used, or even a handsaw The main body is constructed using 2 full layers on the bottom, the 4 half layers next (2 on either side) then the remaining 2 full layers on top. This leaves a grove for the cord to travel up the lamp later.

To keep that groove aligned, I used small blocks of plywood coated in Vaseline so they wouldn't stick to the glue. The glue I used isTitebond III. I like this glue as it has a longer open time which makes it easier and less stressful to clamp the laminations. There are other glues that will work. Do some research and find one that works for you.

A dry assembly of the parts is always a good idea. This notifies you of any problems in the glue up.

Next I spread glue on all the layers and then clamp it in the mold. Ever heard the saying, "You can never have enough clamps"? This definitely applys to bent laminations. Clamp the body to the mold and allow it to dry. Follow the instructions on the bottle of glue for drying times. On a bent lamination, you want a lot of glue squeeze out. This says that there was a good amount of glue between each layer.

I did the same for the legs, though I used 8 layers of 3mm plywood cut to 40mm wide.

Step 3: Shaping the Pieces

Once the glue has dried, the pieces can be unclamped. They will look pretty rough but we shall soon fix that.

I used a sharp hand plane to shave all the layers to the same height. The plane made quick work of this job. You could also use a sander.

The ends of the pieces were cut with a handsaw and then sanded smooth. The legs so they sit flat on the floor, and the body so it looks finished. The bottom of the body is later rounded over.

I cut an angled half lap joint to fit the curved legs. I first marked out the straight lines, and then laid the leg on top to transfer the curve. The legs splay out, so the half lap needs to be angled. It angles backward so one edge is 5mm deep and the other is 9mm deep. I chopped the joint with a hand saw and cleaned it up with a chisel. I stuffed up one and cut it too deep. I fixed this by patching it with builders putty and re chopped it.

The legs have a 12mm round over on the edges. I did this with a router in a router table I made very quickly. Using the router wasn't the best idea, because the cheap plywood chipped quite badly. I could have been more careful but I knew I would be puttying and painting the legs so I didn't mind. With the legs clamped to the body, I could fair the curves to the body with a file.

To put the round over on the body I was a lot more careful because the body is just clear varnished, so I couldn't get away with fixing any chipout with putty. I used a small block plane, a spokeshave and sandpaper. The bottom of the body was rounded using the belt sander.

Any voids were filled in the legs, and the excess putty was sanded away.

Step 4: Assembly

The legs are glued, screwed and doweled into the half laps. I used epoxy on one side because of the builders putty (PVA wood glue won't stick to it). Titebond III was used on the other side. I drove the screws to clamp it all together. I also reinforced the joint with a 6mm dowel on either side.

Any holes or voids in the bottom of the lamp were filled with more putty and sanded. I also took this opportunity to sand the entire lamp to 240 grit sandpaper.

It is now ready for painting and finishing.

Step 5: Painting and Finishing

The painting in this lamp is an example of a design change that cannot be expected or prepared for.

With the lamp assembled, I could see how it would look. I decided that it would look better to paint the entire lower bit of the lamp, rather than just the legs and leaving the whole body varnished. I like how this design change worked.

Tape off the pieces that you don't want to paint with painters tape and paper.

I sprayed 3 coats of gloss black from a can, sanding in between each coat. This lamp would also look great with other bright colours (red, green, blue etc.)

After waiting a couple of days to allow the paint to completely dry, I taped off the painted area so I could spray the varnish.

I sprayed 3 coats of oil based varnish from a can, sanding in between each coat. I used a satin finish. I don't think a gloss finish would look as good, because it would most likely catch the light and reflect it.

Step 6: Adding the Electrical Components

When designing this lamp, I knew I wanted to use a vintage style Edison bulb. These are becoming increasingly popular. I love they way that it blends with the modern style of the lamp.

I was walking through my local supermarket and came across a lamp that was being sold for a large discount because the actual stem of the lamp was damaged. It was marked down from $50 to $10. This was perfect as all I wanted was the cord and light socket. I was also lucky that the lamp came with a foot switch.

I "appropriated" the lamp, and extracted the bits that I needed. The black light socket covering looked a little rough. I had to bend it to removed it and the top was no longer flat. I sanded it on the belt sander. This made it flat and also provided a mechanical tooth for the epoxy to bite into when I glued the blackwood cap on. This dresses it up nicely. I taped off the timber disk and varnished it at the same time as the lamp.

To feed the cord up through the lamp, I had to unwire it from the socket. The cord was fed through and then reconnected to the socket.

With the bulb screwed in, I could turn it on, and see it completed.

Step 7: Finished!

With that, the lamp is finished, ready to light up your room.

It works wonderfully in a corner, providing ambient light.

All together, I spent around $50 on this project. I already had sandpaper, paint, varnish and consumables such as those.

I have entered this project in the Plywood Contest, so please vote for me.

I am also happy to answer any questions you might have about this lamp. I hope you enjoyed my first Instructable of what I hope hope will be many.


Plywood Contest

Participated in the
Plywood Contest