Introduction: DIY Lamp From a Table Leg
After finishing that small end table for the corner of our living room, the idea was to put a lamp on it so we have light behind us. This will make it easier for reading or crocheting, but it also adds a nice ambiance to the room. There is a whole bunch of different styles of lamps out there with a bunch of different price points as well. I knew what I wanted style wise and sometimes you can't find it quite right in store, and price wise I knew I could build it for about the same or even a little less than buying one. I only saved $20, but that's $20 still in my pocket, but the biggest difference is this lamp is solid wood, not plastic with a vinyl coating or something and that means more to me. Honestly I love the outcome, and it's fun to try new things and build your confidence in other areas.
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- Lamp kit
- Long and short drill bits
- 15 1/4" coffee table leg (most home improvement stores carry these)
- Scrap wood for the base
- Wood glue
- Super glue (optional)
- Lamp shade of your choice
- Light bulb
- 120 grit sandpaper
- Saw (either miter or hand)
- Router (optional)
- Various router bits (optional)
- Finishes (paint or stain or wipe on oil of your choice)
- Clear coat
Step 1: Prep the Leg to Be a Lamp
So the main body of the lamp is made out of a 15 1/4" coffee table leg. There are different styles and designs out there depending on local, and you can get some short and long pieces and glue them together to make a long one if you want to go that route as well. This one is what I was looking for design wise.
The bottom square section was tool tall to me to make the base of a lamp, so I measured down 2.5" from the top of the square section and cut it to size. You can cut this however you feel comfortable, but I used a miter saw, just be careful as it doesn't sit perfectly even as the rest of the leg is smaller than the base so make sure the base is against the fence, not the stem. This left me with a much more uniform sized base for a lamp. Now one side of this is chamfered at a 45 degree angle so we need to make the other 3 sides match. A router with a chamfer bit is best, but you can make this happen with a small hand plane, just by sanding, or even a chisel, or any combination of the above. If you have a router and bit, use the existing angled side to set the depth of the bit, this way the other 3 sides match perfectly. After that the edges are a little too sharp so I used some 120 grit sandpaper to soften them just slightly.
Step 2: Cut and Design a 2 Tier Base
Depending on if you have wood sitting around from other projects or not, you can make the base from scraps or buy new wood. The table leg I have is pine, and I had a small scrap piece of craftsman pine 1x10 kicking around that I could make the perfect base from. I cut 2 small squares that I decided I like the size of, using the leg as reference.
The smaller square for the upper base I cut to 3 1/4". The larger bottom base section is 4 3/4". These sizes gave me 3/8" on each side from the upper base to the leg, and 3/4" on each side from the lower base to the upper base, before adding routered details. If you don't have a router, don't worry because you don't need this step. I do so I added details to the base pieces. The small base I used a 3/8" round over bit set pretty deep to give me a stepped look, and the larger base I used a roman ogee bit because I thought that they would look good together. Without a router I would either add a small chamfer with a block plane or even just a rounded edge by hand and sandpaper. After the detail work just go back and soften everything, and remove any bits by sanding with 120 grit. I wasn't worried about burns from the router as I was putting on a dark stain.
Step 3: Drilling the Leg and Base for the Cord
This part can be a little tricky without big tooling like a lathe, or a big drill press. To do it by hand like I did, I have some tips, but nothing replaces good sharp bits, they make a difference. Mark the square side of the leg from both directions to find center. Then with the leg clamped I started by using a 1/2" drill bit that was only 4-5" long. I stayed head height with my drill from behind, this allowed me to see how level and square the drill was to the leg. If you start with a small drill bit it can wander in the leg at a angle if you hit a knot or if it gets hot, a large bit like I used keeps it straight. Also start with a shorter bit and not the long one first, this keeps the drill closer to the leg and much less likely for your arm to start going at a angle. Once you've buried the short bit then you can switch to the longer bit. Also, if you have anything to clamp the leg to that will have it standing like I did, that would be best. I clamped it to a wood shelving rack I have. This actually allowed me to lean my drill against the rack and make sure it was straight up and down to the leg. Again, start short and large diameter, then go long bit. If your leg is too long for the bit like mine was, flip the leg over and drill the top part down again with a short bit using the shelving to make sure the drill is straight and they should line up. For the top hole however use a bit that isn't too big, I used one that gave me a firm fit for the threaded insert in the lamp kit.
Then I found center in the 2 base pieces. I used a 3/4" bit for the small upper base, and 1" for the larger lower base. This is huge for the cord, but it lets me get my finger in there for when I need to run the cord later, and it gives room to have the cord turn easily. When drilling the base pieces, make sure to have a scrap piece of wood as a backer so you don't get a bunch of blowout when the bit comes through the other side.
Step 4: The Whole Body Comes Together
Quickly sand everything with 120 grit. I buzzed the base pieces with a orbital sander but can be done by hand. After that remove sanding dust from everything using a rag or shop towel so the glue will stick. Add a small amount of wood glue to the lower base piece around the drilled hole and spread it out, making sure to not go too far out beyond the upper base piece. Now you can use brad or pin nails to attach the base pieces while the glue dries, but I used super glue to avoid fasteners. I added a small drop of Starbond super glue in each corner, then place the pieces together and quickly center them, making sure it's where you want it and press them together for about 30 seconds. The super glue will dry quickly and act as a clamp, while the wood glue will dry slowly making the permanent bond.
To run the cord, you can add feet to the base later and have cord just run out underneath for the simplest method, but it's not the nicest solution. You can also use a router with a straight bit and make small channel underneath for it to run, and glue it into place. Then when it placed on a table flat, it will be where you want. I chose to have the cord come through the body for the neatest look, and this way the cord is managed, but if needed I can always take this whole thing apart. I started with a small drill bit on what I decided was the back side and made a pilot hole. Then I stepped it up to a larger bit just big enough to fit the cord through and drilled to the center hole I made earlier.
To attach the leg to the base I did the same wood glue, super glue trick. Again, making sure you don't go too far out and smear all the glue around. With the leg in place, press it down for 30 seconds or so, making sure it doesn't walk around on you, and it's where you want it.
Step 5: Add a Finish You Like
This can be done to your style and taste. You can just paint it, you can just stain it, or you can apply something like a danish oil. I did a combination. I mixed a little bit of carbon grey and briarsmoke stain together and applied that, wiping it off after a minute. I left it to dry for about 3 hours. Then I mixed up some white chalk paint and water and did a white wash over it, let it sit for about 30 seconds and wiped it off with a wet shop towel. The white tinted the whole thing slightly, and sat in the low areas highlighting them. After that was left to dry for over an hour I came back with a matte finish clear coat from a spray can and gave it 2 coats.
Step 6: Making It a Lamp Finally!
You can find all different colours and styles of lamp kits online and in home improvement stores. Some come fully complete and some don't, you can also just buy all the parts individually if needed. Start by running the cord in reverse. Bring the ends in the hole in the base, pulling a bunch through. Then feed it up to the top with about 3" or so coming out. Not we can add the threaded collar into the lamp, making sure to pull the cord through it, and if you didn't make the whole too big it should be a tight fit which is what you want. If it's loose you may need to add a toothpick beside it as you press it in to help tighten it up, then snap the tooth pick off flush. Then add the harp base to it, it just sit there. Then slide the bottom piece of the switch over the cord and twist it onto the threaded collar, and tighten the set screw. Then for the switch itself, it has a outer and inner section separated by cardboard. Don't remove the cardboard, just slide the inner piece out a bit and connect your wires to the terminal screws as per your code in your area. Slide the pieces together again and press it into the base piece, pulling the cord slack out from the bottom, they should lock together. Add a bulb of your choice and then slide the harp into place. Then add a shade of your choice and screw the topper piece on top of that into the harp and give it a test!
Step 7: Done!
I hope your project turned out awesome! Let me know what you think, or if you have any questions and I'll get back to ya! You can tag me or email me directly!
Thanks for stopping by and have fun!