Introduction: Simple Bamboo Lamp Shades (wall & Hang)

About: Always been an oddball.. Normal is boring! Love to learn things but not so much into reading, unless it's a manual book.. Like to teach too, but not sure if it's for the sake of teaching or to look like I know…

Being in the tropics has blessed me with easy and cheap access to various kinds and sizes of bamboo's which we can makes great stuff from.

Bamboos are a family of grass that have been loved for their fast-growing and many believed to be a sustainable solution for construction structure or support material, architectural element, support columns, flooring materials, fence, various utensils (salad/frying tongs, for example - another I'ble I just published) and they're even making T-shirts out of bamboo fiber.
They come in many different species and sub-species which gives us plenty of options in size, pattern and color. (See pic in next step)

The only downside to bamboo is that they are also loved by a certain termites that lives in these area too..
I'm pretty sure that those termites also think of bamboo as a sustainable food source! :)
And boy, those termites are very hungry around here..
Anyways, there are several alternatives to prevent them from being eaten, I found a local place where they treat the bamboos with FreeMite, which is claimed to be organic, non-toxic and long lasting (


Enough intro on Bamboo, now here is what I made with some big bamboos (14cm diameter): Lamp shades for our new home.

We have wall-lights and also hanging lights in every room. I needed shades for all of the wall-lights (4 of 'em) and two of the hanging lights in the kitchen and above the dining table. 

All 6 shades were made in less than 5 lazy hours and for less than US$ 6. 

- Even it's a simple project, if you want to try this at home, it's at your own risk. Use safety equipment and think safe.
- Take extra caution to the fresh cut bamboo edges, they can be literally razor-sharp!! 
- This project and the house in the pictures is in a place where there's no real code for building nor construction (Yes!!!). You are responsible for your own projects and the regulations (if any) that must be followed. 
- For imperial measurement users, sorry guys, I'm metric... But accuracy is not a necessity in this project, you're allowed to be artistic here...
- English is not my first language. Any suggesting, correction, and critics for the language and the project will be very welcome.
- Making stuff might be addictive, you've been warned!

Check what the Green School in Bali did with Bamboo:
For more, go to:   (scroll down to "Architectural Gallery")

Step 1: Tools and Materials.. and Some Pics From the Bamboo Shop..

I'll bet that you can make these in a way that's more precise and for not so much additional cost and tools. But these were made with simple hand tools, and lack of experience, and with cheapest things I can gather (like the leftover varnish, got it for free from a friend).

- Bamboo of choice.. Better be big to fit the light, fittings, and excess cables inside. I got a yellow bamboo with 14cm diameter.
   I needed 6 lampshades, each about 22cm long. I found one that's about 135cm which is perfect for this project, cost: ~US$ 5.
   These are organically treated to prevent termites parties, non toxic and long lasting.
  (see pictures for the types and sizes of bamboo they have in the store, as well as some products made from bamboos! Totally awesome!!)
- Wire to hang them. 10 - 15 cm per lamp. I used stainless wire that I have laying around. Bamboos are not heavy, so I'm not worried for wire strength.
- Small nails or hook-screws. 2 per lamp.
- Concrete nails to hang them. 1 or 2 per lamp. I used two for easy straightening. 
- Optional: Varnish or any finishing you'd want. I used a local brand varnish that brings out the yellow of the bamboo, but I found it to be too shiny and unnatural. I'm thinking to sand them back to their natural color, contra-finishing is hip... 

- Handsaw - to cut them to size
- Knive or chisel.  (sorry, no picture)
- Hammer - uhm.. to hammer.. 
- Pliers - for wire cutting and twisting
- Sandpaper
- Optional : brush to paint the varnish, and drill (or more sophisticated tool) to make a "modified" shade
- You might need some ladder for higher mountings. I didn't.

Step 2: Cut Them

BEWARE: Bamboo splits and edges can be razor sharp!

This step wont need much explanation..
Just remember to plan your cuts. You'll need to check first where you want to cut to make sure you get nice pieces out of it and less waste as possible. It's better to cut them in slightly different lengths but ending up with nice pieces than precise lengths but not so nice pieces. They'll hang separately so no one will ever see the different lengths anyway.. 

I forgot to take picture of this step, I hope the illustrations and explanations will be clear enough

The first picture illustrate my "planning" for the pieces. Mark 'em and cut 'em up!
It's not easy to cut big bamboo straight, especially with a handsaw..
In the pictures of the final product you can see that I'm not very good with my handsaw.. but hey, that'll do.. 

Joint walls can be easily broken by hammering or using the chisel, then you can smoothen it using a sharp knive. for the wall ones, I'd do smoothen them after cutting the sides. (Pic#2: joint wall still in place. Pic.#3 shows my result, smooth enough for me..)

For the simple hanging one, It' a full tube closure, the cutting ends here. That piece can go to next step.

For the wall-mount shades, you'll need to cut the bamboo along one side (off-centred) that will be touching the house wall. Choose the part you want to show and cut in the other side of that. (see Pic.#4)
The easiest way to cut bamboo along the length is to make a crack and split it down. In this case you'd want to make both cracks simultaneously to prevent uncontrolled crack. 
I used a big knife and a hammer to help me sink the knife down, when it's a third way down I was able to twist the knife and the cracks followed a straight line down.
AGAIN: careful with the edges! they can be very sharp. Use the knife to round the edges and joint walls..

Modificationto one shade
As the shades are completely opaque, they were great for my decorative wall lamps and on top of the dining table where I only need the down light on the table. There's also some light coming out from the hole on top which reflects on the ceiling and gives a dimmed glow in the room which are perfect for the bed room and dining table.
The problem comes with the kitchen light, it's too dark to work with the same style of shades. I need to modified that one.
Pic.#5 (last pic) is the solution to my problem. Again - sorry for not taking pictures of the process.

Here's how I did the cuts:
I made cracks with my knife and hammer, two cracks at a time (like the wall shades) but this the knife is positioned in the centre of the circle, and only to a certain length, NOT all the way down. 
The Joint helps prevent the crack going all the way down, I dont think you can do this trick on a joint-less piece.
For my 'design', I needed 8 "teeth" so I made 16 cracks, or 8 times knife-and-hammer trick.
The latitude cut (is that a correct term?) was the trickiest one for me since I don't have any power-toys, oh, i mean power-tools, except for my dear drill.. So I made several holes slightly lower than my cut line. Perpendicular and sideways holes, criss-crossing to weaken the tooth, carefully not to touch the other "teeth". Then snap it off, followed by some knife work to make a straight cut.

Step 3: Finishing - Optional

This step is optional.

I did get a can of leftover varnish and though it will bring out the colour of the bamboo.
Turned out to be very shiny finish that I dont like. Looks too artificial.
I found that the shine in the inner part is reflecting light pretty well - not loosing too much light in there.
But I'm considering to sand the outer shell to get back their natural look. 
I'll update this I'ble with more pictures for comparison if I decide to do that.

The Modified one:
This one takes a bit more to it. I used a thin fabric that has the perfect translucent property: let trough enough light to work and not too bright even to see directly at. Cut to size and glue them to the inner side of the shade. Also a bit tricky with my big hands.

Step 4: Hanging

Wire and a couple of small nails or hook-screws and (concrete) nails to the wall, and you're done!
This step depends a lot on what kind of wall and/or ceiling you have, mine is all concrete.

Anyway, the pictures says it all.

Step 5: Done!