Introduction: Japanese Style Desk Lamp

About: Graduate student at ASU Polytechnic working on my masters degree in Manufacturing (MSE). Additive manufacturing materials researcher. Nuclear Survivability Electrical Engineer by day and student/nerd by night.

I had some walnut scraps laying around that I wanted to use for something instead of throwing away, but couldn't think of a use for them. I remembered seeing a similar lamp to what I have made when I visited Little Tokyo in LA and liked the symmetrical, minimalist look of it. This seemed like a perfect weekend project to use my remaining scraps, as it is mostly open space filled in with a paper wall. This also makes a nice gift, I ended up giving it to my Mom for Mother's Day and she loved getting something that I made instead of bought. While this lamp is relatively simple and not all too hard to make, it still looks nice on a side table or in the corner of a room. This is a nice weekend project, where the most complicated part of it is keeping the clamping and glue-up square.

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Step 1: Materials and Tools



  • Miter Saw
  • Band Saw
  • Sander w/ assorted grits
  • Wood Glue
  • Utility Knife
  • Danish Oil
  • Combination Square w/ 12" ruler
  • Pencil or Pen
  • Wood Filler
  • Screwdriver
  • Danish Oil

Step 2: Cut List

This is the list of parts that you will need to cut out in order to assemble the lamp. This all should be possible with just a band saw and miter saw. For the band-saw having the push-sled tool and a fence makes making straight accurate cuts much easier. Cutting pieces to length and adding the chamfer was easiest to do on the miter saw and cutting things to width was easiest on the band saw.

Cut List:

  • 1 - 5" x 5" x 3/4" A
  • 4 - 13" x 3/4" x 3/4" B
  • 8 - 3 1/4" x 3/4" x 1/4" C
  • 8 - 7" x 3/4" x 1/4" * D
  • 8 - 5" x 3/4" x 3/4" E
  • 8 - 8" x 1 1/4" x 3/4" * F

The pieces that have a * after them need to have a 45 degree chamfer on both ends so as to form a square when gluing the pieces together. For the pieces with a chamfer wait until starting to assemble everything else. I found that it was easiest to cut those pieces exactly to length when you have everything else to measure and reference to so as to get a tight fit.

Step 3: Assembly

Start by gluing the inner pieces together. I glued them in one at a time, clamped them tight and then proceeded to the next one after the glue dried. The base should be 1" from the bottom. The base is 4 of the 5"x3/4"x3/4" pieces and the 5"x5"x3/4". I have included diagrams of what the lamp should be like when assembled so that you have a better visual reference of where the pieces go. After the inner sections of the base and top are glued add the trim pieces to the bottom and top. These are the 8 larger chamfered pieces (1 1/4"x3/4"x8). Before putting on the more delicate pieces rough sand the assembled frame. If there are any gaps between the pieces use a little bit of wood filler (I found that the cherry colored wood filler works great for walnut) and then sand it flush. Glue the inner chamfered pieces into place about 2 1/4" inches from both the bottom and top. The spacing doesn't need to be exact, it matters more that they are symmetrical and the two cross braces for each side fit into place.

Step 4: Finishing the Lamp Frame

Now that assembly of the basic frame is all complete it is time to finish the frame. This means drilling holes in the base, sanding, oiling, and finally adding the paper walls.

In the bottom of the base a hole needs to be drilled for the power cord and two more for the bolts that hold the lamp base. For the cord I drilled the hole right in the very middle using a 7/32" drill bit. For the bolts I placed the lamp base on the bottom and used a pencil to mark where the holes should be. I used a 11/64" drill bit for both of those holes.

Start by rough sanding the frame with an electric sander and a grit of around 200. Work your way up to about 400-600 grit making sure to get rid of glue lines and marks from cutting the wood. Some of the smaller hard to reach locations will need to be done by hand.

After finishing sanding the frame you will need to apply some sort of finish to the wood. My finish of choice is Danish oil. Apply the oil making sure to get all of the nooks and crannies. The inside of the lamp doesn't matter as much to be oiled as the paper walls and lamp base will cover most of it. The outside is much more important to be finished. Make sure to wipe off any excess oil when finished applying it.

For the walls of the lantern I chose to use linen paper. I liked the way it looked when it was lit up. Cut the paper to about 6" x 10 1/2". The exact size will be determined by how big the space in the sides of your lantern turned out to be. Put a thin coating of glue on the insides and glue the papers in one at a time, making sure that it is flush with the edges.

Step 5: Wiring the Lamp

Before Inserting the cord into the bottom of the lamp you will need to prep the cable. This means stripping off about an inch of the outer jacket and then strip off a small section of the two inner wires. Make sure to twist the ends of the wire so that the strands don't fray and get everywhere. Thread the cable through the bottom of the base and then attach the wires to the screw terminals on the bottom of the lamp base. With the wires connected to the base you will now need to insert the bolts through the bottom of the base, put the base over them, and then tighten the nuts to hold the lamp base in place. Screw in a light bulb, plug it in, and you are done with your lamp.

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