Introduction: Bourbon Oak Jar Lamp

About: I'm a maker and love building things using 3D printer, wood, metal, software, microcontrollers, fabric and other materials. I love to use creativity to build things with attention toward usability and aestheti…

This instructable will describe the steps to build an oak jar lamp from either oak wood that was once a fermentation vessel or from any other oak wood that is soaked in bourbon for a similar effect.

This instructable is inspired by the beautiful jar lamp built and sold by B.Light Designs ( I was determined to create something similar. I wanted a lamp that produced light for reading and warm ambience, but even more important was that it was interesting (aesthetically and smell). And finally, I wanted a low wattage bulb so you can look at the filament wire inside bug bulb without scorching your eyes.

If you can get your hands on free oak wood, as I was able to do, the remaining materials for this lamp cost me about $20 and took about 3 hours to build.

This instructable shows the steps to build an oak jar lamp that releases the aroma of Bourbon when used.

Step 1: Gather Materials and Tools

You will need to gather/purchase your materials and verify you own, can borrow or buy the required tools. Although I will present several tools in this instructable, there are other ways to use different tools to perform some of the steps and I'd encourage you to be creative if you find you don't have access to a particular tool.

Gather Materials:
 - * Block of oak (or other hardwood) that is 4.75" x 4.75" x 2" (I had 2" white oak planks left over from building a boat.) NOTE: I had to glue-up two pieces of oak to get the right size oak block. I'm recommending a block that is about 1" wider than the selected jar's diameter.
 - Wood glue (Only if oak requires glueing to form required oak block)
 - Glass Jar (Paid $2.99 from Michael's craft store for item #31009281633. This glass jar comes with a lid that is discarded. The jar is about 5.5" tall and has a diameter of about 3.75".)
 - Porcelain keyless socket (I paid $2.48 for a Westinghouse 70409 from Menards) 
 - SPT-2 6' lamp cord (I bought for about $5 from Menards)
 - Edison-style bulb (I originally paid $8.97 for an "The Original Vintage Style Bulb" from Menards, but later replace it with a 25 watt Bulbrite for $8.69 from Amazon I prefer the lower watt bulb.
 - Felt for bottom (Paid $.99 from Michael's craft store for a green 8.5" x 11" felt pad with a peel off sticky back)
 - (Optional) Bourbon  to scent lamp. I had this, but you will be looking at something around $30 at least if you have to buy it
 - Linseed oil for finishing the base (only if you do not plan to allow bourbon aroma to be released when heated)

* Ideally this wood is salvaged from a bourbon fermentation tank. The top and bottom would be the easiest wood to reuse for this instruct able. See tanks available from Kentucky Barrels ( If you do not have the ability to use salvaged bourbon fermentation oak wood, as was the case for me, I will include an optional step of soaking your oak wood in bourbon to achieve a similar effect.

 - Table saw to rip and cut oak
 - Wood lathe & lathe tools to turn oak block into a disc
 - Compass to draw circle from center point
 - Clamp (needed if you are gluing your oak to make your initial block and if you chose to use it to hold your block while cutting on a table saw)
 - Pencil
 - Pliers or a vice
 - Scissors
 - Tape measure and ruler
 - Drill (preferably a drill press, but hand-held drill will suffice)
 - 1/4" wood drill bit
 - 1/8" wood drill bit
 - 1-1/2" Forstner wood drill bit (this has to be a flat-bottom bit)
 - 5/8" wood drill bit
 - Dremel tool
 - Dremel 1/8 inch Round Carbide Cutter bit such as Dremel 9905 (cheaper options exist such as
 - Dremel 678-01 Circle Cutter (
 - Dremel cutting disc bit (for cutting metal)
 - Sandpaper to finish lamp base (150 or 220 grit)
 - Hot glue gun and glue sticks
 - (Optional) spray bottle to spray Bourbon on lamp for scent

Step 2: Prepare Oak for Lathe

In this step you will prepare your square block into a octagon ready for further shaping on the lathe.

If required, glue your oak pieces to form a block that is 4.75" x 4.75" x 2". 

Find the center of your wood block by drawing lines from each corner. The place where the two lines intersect is the center of the block.

Using a compass, draw a circle that fits on your block and is approximately 4.5" in diameter and is centered at the center point of your block.

Drill a 1/8" hole in your block from top to bottom as a way to mark the exact center point on both side of the block. This is ideally drilled using a drill press as it ensures you will have a straight hole drilled from top to bottom. (we will use this hole to line up the block on the lathe in a following step)

Being careful to not cut into the circle drawn on the face of your block, cut off each corner of your block to transform your square block into an octagon. This step significantly reduces the amount of material that needs to be removed using your lathe. When shaping hardwood, this step is significant as it reduces tear-out, saves your tools and probably reduces the time to lathe by over half.

Although these corner cuts to create an octagon could be done by hand or using many different power saws, I used a table saw.

Step 3: Shape Oak on Lathe

In this step you will transform your octagon into a disc and sand it on the lathe. 

Mount the oak block on your lathe being careful to match your 1/8" center hold to each side of your lathe (spindle and tailstock). 

Turn the piece on the lathe and slowly remove material. Use the smaller chisels to remove material until you transform your octagon block to a rough disc. Stop periodically to ensure you are not removing too much material by checking the circle that you drew on the face of the block using a compass. You want the finished disc to be approximately the size of the circle that you drew. 

Always remove material from left to right (or right to left) and in a uniform fashion across the face you are cutting.

When you have chiseled the block to a disc, use 150 or 220 grit sandpaper to smooth the disc, but be careful to leave fairly sharp top and bottom corners.

Step 4: Inspect Your Oak and Select a Top and Bottom

This step is all about selecting the best side of your disc to be top and the less desirable side to be bottom.

Inspect your oak blank that you have transformed into a disc and based on the wood grain, knots and any imperfections from your cutting and sculpting, select which side will be best suited to be highly visible as the top and which side will be best suited to be on the bottom. 

For me, I had some tear-out where small pieces of wood were torn out of one side of my disc during sculpting on the lathe. I decided to put the torn out side as the bottom and the other side as the top. 

Using your pencil, write "bottom" on the bottom side so you do not get confused in future steps!

Step 5: Drill Hole for Cord

This step is all about drilling a hole that allows the electric cord to exit through the side of the lamp base. 

We need to drill a 1/4" hole to allow the electric cord to enter the base on the side 1/8" above the bottom and travel through the side of the base into the center where the cord will connect to the porcelain keyless socket. 

inspect your disc and decide which side of the disc is best suited for the front of the lamp and which side is best for the back.  The back side is where the cord should exit the lamp base.

Using a straightedge and pencil, draw a line on the bottom of the disc that intersects the center of the disc and travels from the front to the back of the lamp. 

Using your pencil, mark 1/4" from the bottom on the side of the disc (this is where the cord will enter the base, so make sure this is on the side you consider the back of the lamp). Using a 1/4" bit, drill a hole from into the base, following the line you drew on the back, to the center of the disc. Ideally this is done using a drill press to ensure it is straight. The resulting hole should leave 1/8" of wood between the bottom of the hole and the bottom of the base.

Step 6: Carve Circular Channel for Jar to Sit on Oak Base

We want the finished lamp to have the jar sit in a recessed channel carved into the top of the oak lamp base (disc). This step is about carving the circular channel in which the jar sits on the lamp base.

There are many ways to carve this channel. I considered using a hole saw, but was not 100% sure I could find the exact hole sizes and abandoned that route. I also considered using my full-size router, but was concerned by the size of my router and the size of my small block. I thought it would be difficult to have the block clamped and router sit flat on the small top surface.  I settled on using a Dremel circle cutter and a 1/8" burr bit to take about 15 passes to carve the required 1/8" deep recess.

I strongly suggest you practice using the Dremel circle cutting device on a scrap piece of hardwood that is the same as your base. You want to get a feel for whether the bit you select will splinter the wood and how fast you can cut your circle. If you see or smell smoke you are burning the wood and either need to slow down or find a better bit. In my experimentation, I found that flat bottomed bits could not cut through the wood properly without burning and requiring pressure on the tool that caused the adjustments on the circle cutter to loosen and bit to change depths while cutting a circle. All bad. The round bottom burr bit is like magic because it cuts so easily.

Do the following on scrap wood PRIOR to starting to cut your good oak disc:
Carving a circle will take many individual cuts. I would guess it will require at least 15 cuts. Start by cutting a very shallow outer ring that will accommodate the outside width of the glass jar, then reduce your radius of your circle cutter gradually to carve enough to allow the inside of the glass jar to sit in the carved groove. I found, with some overlap in my cuts, that it took about 3 different diameter adjustments to accommodate the required width. It is better to go slow and cut as little wood as possible because it is easy to make a mistake if you are taking off a lot of wood.

I created an approximate 1/4" width channel, but could probably have made it a bit slimmer (say maybe 3/16"). You want the channel to be least 1/8" deep and could go as deep as 1/4".

Step 7: Drill Center Hole for Porcelain Socket

In this step we want to drill a hole with 2 different diameters to allow the porcelain socket to be installed into the wooden base. If you use a 2" tall base and the same socket I bought, the socket, when fully installed, will stick up from the top of the wood base approximately 1/8".

I highly recommend you test drill scrap wood and make sure the dimensions fit your socket properly prior to drilling your wooden base that you have chiseled into a disc. Also, I recommend drilling these holes in a drillpress so they are perfectly square, however it can be done using a hand drill if you are very careful.

Drill the 1.5" hole first:
The porcelain socket is just a bit smaller in diameter than 1.5". However, the socket that I bought was not perfectly round either, but a 1.5" hole allowed the socket to fit snugly. As you can see in an accompanying picture, you will want to drill a hole that is 1.5" (or a suitable size to snugly fit your socket if different) in the center of the base. However, you do not want the hole to go all the way through the base. The 1.5" hole should be drilled from the top of the base and should have a depth of approximately 1.75" so the hole leaves 1/4" of material on the bottom of the base. Although any 1.5" bit should work, I prefer a forstner bit because when drilled slowly, it creates a very clean hole and does not tear out any wood on the outside diameter of the hole.

If you find your porcelain socket is also malformed and not perfectly circular, do not worry, simply review how off your socket is from a circle and drill a second hole that takes off the extra wood to allow the socket to fit properly into the base. In my case, I only had to remove approximately 1/32" of additional wood. This is a very simple operation in a drill press. 

Finish drilling hole with 5/8" diameter:
Next you want to drill a 5/8" hole through the center of the 1.5" hole through the bottom 1/4" of wood in the center of the lamp base. This 5/8" hole will go through the remaining 1/4" of wood on the bottom of the base.

Take out the set screw on the bottom metal part of the porcelain socket and then fit it into the wood base and make sure it fits properly.

Step 8: Modify Porcelain Socket

In this step we modify the metal (female threaded) bottom piece of the porcelain socket. As you can see in the pictures, we want to remove half of the metal shaft that attaches to the bottom of the porcelain socket. This will allow our cord to exit sideways through the 1/4" hole we drilled toward the bottom of the lamp base.

NOTE: This step is optional. If you do not feel comfortable performing this step or do not have the tools to cut the metal shaft, you can leave the socket as designed and the result will be that your porcelain socket will stick up an additional 1/4' from the top of the lamp base. The original design has the socket approximately 1/8" above the top of the lamp base. Without this modification your socket will stick up to about 3/8" above the lamp base. 

NOTE: You MUST use the ceramic washer and metal bottom of the porcelain socket and cannot simply leave it off as it insulates the bare electric wires.

Begin by removing the metal from the porcelain by removing the 2 screws deep inside the socket where the bulb is screwed in.

Next hold the metal piece with a pair of pliers or vice and, using a Dremel with a cutting disc, cut away half of the shaft. Take care to do it neatly so you do not leave any sharp jagged pieces of metal as you do not want to cut your electrical cord on anything sharp.

File the remaining socket if it is not smooth. Then reassemble the socket and set aside.

Step 9: (optional) Spray Base in Bourbon

In this step, which is optional, we spray Bourbon on the lamp base to give it a great aroma.

The original idea behind this lamp from B.Light Design was to create a lamp that when it heats up will generate a nice aroma of Bourbon. Note that Oak easily changes color when it gets wet, so this step will forever change the color of your oak. In my case, after the oak dried, it made the wood lighter in color.

Originally, I thought about soaking my oak in Bourbon, but realized it might cause the wood become irregularly shaped. So, although it may not allow the Bourbon to penetrate as deeply, I decided to spray the wood multiple times with Bourbon.

Start by pouring Bourbon into a spray bottle. Don't put in too much b/c you probably do not want to drink the leftover Bourbon that has been in a plastic spray bottle.

Next, put oak base in the bottom of a sink and spray the oak until it is wet, but not drenched. I concentrated on just the top and sides of the wood. There is no reason to put Bourbon down into the socket hole or get the bottom wet.

The point of spraying is to put Bourbon on the top where heat from the bulb will release the aroma. So avoid spraying areas where it will not get warm as it will not provide any aroma. But, spray some Bourbon on all visible areas so the color transformation is uniform. To ensure my spray fully and uniformly penetrated the wood, I worked it in using my fingers. Wow, that smells good.

Pour yourself a drink, relax, allow Oak to dry completely. This may take up to 12 hours depending on how wet and how far the Bourbon penetrated the wood.

Step 10: (optional) Finish Wood

This step is about (optionally) finishing the wood base.

If you chose to use wood that was used for Bourbon fermentation or sprayed your wood with Bourbon, you do NOT want to do any additional finishing because you want the heat from the lamp to allow the wonderful Bourbon aroma to be released from the wood. 

If however, you chose not to use wood that was used for Bourbon fermentation or sprayed your wood with Bourbon, you probably want to finish your wood. For those folks that do not intend to get a aroma from their lamp, I'd recommend you use boiled linseed oil to finish the base. 

Apply the oil with a rag to the top and sides. Do not oil the bottom as a later step installs felt which will not stick to any wood that was treated with oil. Also avoid getting oil on the bottom of the 1.5" hole as a later step will use hot glue to secure the socket and oil will not allow the hot glue to stick properly.

After allowing the oil to soak in, repeat treating the wood with more oil. Finally, wipe and allow to dry for 24 hours.

Step 11: Wire Cord to Porcelain Socket

In this step we will wire the cord through the lamp base and ultimately to the porcelain socket. And we will use a hot glue gun to keep the socket from wiggling in the 1.5" hole.


Start by pushing the lamp cord through the 1/4" hole toward the bottom of the base. Obviously, you want the plug on the far side of the cord and the bare wires to be pushed into the 1/4" hole and into the center of the lamp base.

Once the cord is visible in the center of the base, push to create more slack and pull the lamp cord up through the top of the lamp.

Disassemble the porcelain socket by removing the bottom metal piece and ceramic washer. You remove the bottom metal piece by unscrewing the two phillips screws in the bottom of the socket where the bulb is screwed in.

Push wires through metal socket piece and ceramic washer once they are removed.

Attach hot side of wire (typically has lettering on that wire and also may have wider prong for wall socket) to gold screw on the bottom of the porcelain socket. Attach neutral wire (the other wire) to sliver screw on bottom of porcelain socket.

Reassemble the porcelain socket carefully and make absolutely sure that the wires only touch their intended screw and do not touch any other metal. And make sure there are no bare wires that extend outside the metal base on the porcelain socket. Finally, double check that you have the ceramic washer that is installed in-between the wiring on the bottom of the socket and the metal bottom piece. Reinstall and snug the two phillips screws from the bottom of the socket where the bulb is installed. 

Install the socket into the wood base by pulling gently on the cord to pull the excess wire out of the base toward the plug and simultaneously guide the porcelain socket into the 1.5" hole. Also, orient the socket while you are pushing it into the hole so that the cut out side of your metal socket shaft is open toward the 1/4" hole where the lamp cord exits the lamp base.

Once you know that the socket and cord fit properly, remove the socket by providing slack from the cord. Pull the socket out so it can be set to the side. Using your hot glue gun, put a glob of hot glue toward the bottom of the 1.5" hole. 

Then, quickly, push the socket back into the 1.5" hole, careful to orient the socket metal shaft properly. Then allow hot glue to cool for a few minutes. I do not recommend allowing glue to get into the 1/4" hole for the cord because it may make removal of the socket at a later date impossible. It is better to put glue just holding the socket bottom to the bottom of the 1.5" hole.

Step 12: Install Felt on Bottom of Lamp Base

In this step, you will use the self stick to create a surface on the bottom of your lamp that is professional and that will not scratch any surface.

Start by measuring the diameter of your lamp base. Subtract 1/4" and set your compass to half the final calculated diameter. On the back of the felt, using your compass, draw a circle. (note, we want the felt to be 1/8" inset on the bottom so it cannot be seen from the sides).

Using scissors, cut out the circle drawn with your compass. 

Wife off the base bottom with a dry rag to make sure it does not have any dust or grime.

Peel of the backing and affix the sticky side (opposite the felt side) to the bottom of the lamp base being careful to center it properly.

Push on the felt all around the base bottom to make sure it sticks properly.

Step 13: Install Bulb and Jar

In this step you will finish assembling your lamp and pour yourself a drink!

First, wipe off the bulb with a damp rag in case it is dusty.

If you have a sticker on your jar, like I did on the bottom, use a product geared toward removal of stickers to make sure it is completely removed as the bottom of the jar will be the top of your jar lamp. Then wash the glass jar to remove any dust as well. 

Screw your Edison bulb into the porcelain socket. 

Set the jar on top of the lamp base with the jar fitting into the groove in the base.

Plug in the lamp, allow it to heat up for 15-30 minutes.

Pour yourself a drink, you deserve it!

Wait 15-20 minutes and remove the jar to take in the awesome Bourbon aroma.

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