Introduction: Veneer Lamp Shade

About: I experience life through my finger tips and taste buds. Can't stop making new things. In my day job I manage a student workshop, and in my free time I volunteer as an EMT and for a local food rescue organizat…

My brother is a very talented potter and has recently made some amazing lamps. He gave me one recently, but I've struggled to find a shade that fits it well, so I decided to make one.

Wood veneer is one of my favorite materials to work with, so I started the design with that in mind. In order to simplify the process of making the shade, I decided to use bamboo embroidery hoops at the top and bottom of the shade. They act both as clamps while making the lamp shade, and also as structure and support once it is finished.


The materials I used were:

Paper-backed veneer

2 8 inch bamboo embroidery hoops

4 thin wooden dowels (You could also use bamboo skewers)

A round piece of scrap wood (Square could work here too if you are using 4 support dowels)

Some thin wooden strips

Wood Glue

Wood Finish

The tools I used for this project were clamps, a ruler, a drill, a sharp knife, a pencil, some sand paper and a small Japanese saw.

Step 1: Veneer Prep

I recommend paper backed veneer because it is much easier to work with without tearing. I tried some pure veneer, but wasn't able to bend it consistently without tearing the veneer along the grain. It would certainly allow more light to pass through, but it didn't seem worth the durability compromise.

Start by cutting the veneer to width. The width (across the grain) should match the height of your lamp shade.

Next, cut it to length (with the grain). I used 8 inch diamiter hoops, so that means 26.25 inches. Pi X 8 + 1 = 25.13 and then I rounded up to the nearest quarter. The added inch is for glue surface and clamping area.

This isn't always the case, but the veneer I used wanted to curl so that the paper was outside, not idea. Carefully curl the veneer so that the wood is on the outside and the curvature is tighter than the embroidery hoops. Clamp it in place here with spring clamps.

Step 2: Add the Hoops

Now that your veneer is curled around, you can separate the two parts of the embroidery hoops and loosen the screw of the outside hoops all the way. Now place the outer hoop near the top and bottom fo the lamp shade. Once they are in place, you can add the internal hoop sections and tighten the screws down to clamp the veneer in place.

Step 3: Glue Time

Using your saw, cut the thin strip of wood to length so that it fits between the two embroidery hoops. Carefully apply glue on the veneer where it overlaps. Don't use too much here, since glue acts as a finish resist, and it is hard to sand or cut it off once dried on this project. Also apply some glue one one side of each of your two wooden strips. Now you can clamp the strips to the lamp shade. One should go inside the shade, and one outside.

Clamp them tightly with 'F' clamps or 'C' clamps. With a wet rag or paper towel, wash off as much glue as you can from where it squeezed out.

Once the glue is dry i'd recommend moving the outer rings so that the hardware is roughly aligned with the strips. I realized after making my shade, that if I had left the outer strip a little long, it could have fit in the space between the ends of the outer hoop. This would have been a nice detail, but I suppose it'll have to wait until next time (or one of you could try this and let me know how it goes).

Step 4: Trim and Sand

If your lamp is coming out anything like mine, there will be some veneer sticking out passed the embroidery hoops. With the same sharp knife you used to cut the veneer in the first place, you can trim off this excess. This is also a pretty good time to do some light sanding on the solid wood strips.

Step 5: Measuring

There are probably better ways to measure sections of a circle, but this is what I used, and it worked out pretty well I think.

We know that the circumference of the hoop is about 25.13 inches based on the math we already did. If we are trying to evenly space the support dowels, then they should be placed either 8.37 inches appart if you are using 3 or 6.28 inches apart if you are using 4.

The way I measured around the circle was to cut a piece of wire to 6.28 inches (roughly) and use that as a measuring stick. If you have a flexible tape measure, this will probably be much easier.

Step 6: Drill

Before its too late, go ahead and drill a hole in the center of your center block. If you already have the rest of your lamp hardware, then i'd recommend measuring the bolt that is used to attach the shade, and drill a hole to match that.

The remaining holes are the trickiest part of the whole build. I wanted to make sure that the support structure for the lamp shade was hidden, so it was necessary to drill angled holes in the hoops for each support dowel. You could get fancy with measuring angles and maybe build a jig for this, but honestly, I just guessed and drilled. When drilling angled holes, I have found it is easiest to start drilling perpendicular to the surface and then angle the drill once you have the start of a hole. If this is your first time drilling angled holes, maybe practice on some scrap first. Its a little tough to get it not to skid and move all over the place at first. Luckily, I used thin enough dowels that they can bend to match each other when my holes were slightly off.

Once those holes are drilled, drill matching holes in the center block and glue in the dowels. Make sure there is glue in the holes in both the hoops and the center block.

Once the glue is dry you can use your saw to trim the dowels to length on the outside.

Step 7: Sanding and Finish

It is best to avoid sanding the veneer since it is so thin already. It will probably be necessary though, to do a little sanding on the rings, especially where the dowels come through.

As for finish, I recommend something oil-based. The oil in the finish will make the veneer much more translucent, enhancing the look of the lamp shade when the light is on inside it. One finish I use a lot in my shop that worked well for this is General Finishes Gell Topcoat.

Step 8: Enjoy!

There you have it, a finished lamp shade. Now its time to sit and read a book.