Introduction: Wooden Architect Lamp

About: Action pig loves truth, justice, and his new jig saw.

You can never have enough lamps! Sure, they're easy to buy, but they're fun to make. This is a fairly simple way to make a wooden architect lamp, modeled after the metal kind you can buy in a store. Mine turned out rather funky and a little steampunk, but the possibilities are endless.

Step 1: Tools and Materials


Wood for the bars: You need 4 pieces cut the same length. 9" makes a compact desk lamp. Bars should be square (I used 0.5" x 0.5" and 5/8" x 5/8" for two separate lamps). You need a few extra inches for the lamp shade mount and base.

Wood for the supports: I used 1/4" red oak, the kind you can buy at home depot. I used quite a bit, but in retrospect that was probably because I messed up a lot. Plywood would also work (and has the advantage of being stronger).

Wood for the base: Depending on the size and weight of your lamp, you'll need a wide base. I used 8 - 9" diameter circles cut out of 3/4" cherry. You also need a wooden dowel (I used 0.5" oak) to connect the lamp to the base.

Wooden dowels: I used 1/4" and 1/2"

Lamp shade: I found mine from amazon and ebay. I had the most luck searching for pendant lamps to match the look I was going for. Amazon warehouse has some good deals on slightly damaged goods (I got the copper shades for 15-20 dollars). Look for something 5-7" for a classic looking desk lamp.

Springs: (optional) You can find springs at any hardware store. A lot of trial and error is figuring out the right amount of tension for the springs, more on this later.

Bottom turn knob socket: I found mine in a specialty lighting store for 8-9 dollars, you can also buy online.

Lamp wire and socket: you can find this at any hardware store

Machine screws, washers, nuts: I used 6-32 machine screws 1.25" - 1.5" long. I got wing nuts for the lamp shade mount.

Finish of choice: I used 50/50 tung oil and mineral spirits

Minimal Tools:

Drill press
*Jig saw

*a band saw would be better

Step 2: Cut the Bars

For a classic architect desk lamp, cut four bars of equal length (for one lamp I used 9", another 10"). Be sure to hang on to your scraps! Those will come in handy later.

Drill holes in each end (I drilled 9/64" holes 1/2" from each end). The holes just need to be large enough to accommodate your bolts.

Step 3: Prepare the Lamp Shade

You will need a hole for the mount and one for the lamp cord.

Step 4: Make the Lamp Shade Mount

I use a bolt to mount the lampshade. Cut off about 1" of the scrap wooden bar. Drill a hole in the center wide and deep enough to hold the head of the bolt. Now cut a thin section of bar, about 1/4". Drill a hole in the center just large enough for the body of the bolt. Assemble and glue the bar, bolt, and thin section.

This mount allows the lamp shade to move up and down as well as side to side.

Step 5: Design and Cut the Braces

I based the lamp design off of a metal architect lamp similar to the one above. The design of the braces is semi arbitrary - what is important is that there is enough room for the metal bars to rotate without interfering with each other.

The top brace is just an equilateral triangle. The middle brace is an irregular quadrilateral. The bottom brace is just a rectangle with one rounded edge. Note that on the bottom brace one bar is set lower than the other. Whatever space you set between the bars for the top brace will be repeated with the middle and bottom braces - for instance, a distance of 1.5" between the first set of bars will be repeated for the second set.

The middle brace requires the most thought - both sets of bars meet here and need to rotate without hitting each other.

The middle and bottom braces require 1/4" holes that will mount the hinges which will be covered later. For the middle brace one of the bar holes is enlarged, for the bottom brace a new hole is drilled.

In retrospect I would increase the space between the bars - the more space, the more feely the bars can move and the more range of motion the lamp will have. You also have to remember that the lamp cord will go between your bars and further restrict the range of motion.

Step 6: Make Wooden Spacers

The wooden spacers are used to lock in the hinges and springs (we'll talk about those later) and are used for a 'bumper' in the bottom brace. Although you don't have to worry about any of that right now, trust me - you want a lot of these little guys. You can probably buy them pre-made at a woodworking store, but they are not hard to make yourself.

With a forstner bit or hole saw, cut 1/2" circles out of 1/4" and 1/2" wood (I used the craft wood red oak at Lowes or Home Depot). Then drill 1/4" holes in the center (unless you used a hole saw, which would have been perfect for this). Some of them will break up when you drill the center hole, and no matter how hard you try many of your center holes are not all that centered. So make a ton and use the best.

Step 7: Make Base Mount (bottom Brace)

The lamp is attached to the base with a section of 1/2" oak dowel. Glue a scrap section of your wooden bars in between the two bottom braces, making sure the holes you've drilled are aligned and that the glued bar does not interfere with the lamp bars. Also make sure that you don't clamp the glued section in without a spacer, or the braces may be too close together for your wooden bars.

Drill a 1/2" hole after the glue has dried. If your hole is crooked, your lamp will be too!

Step 8: Cut the Base

I cut a 8-9" circle out of 3/4" cherry for the desk lamps. The base has to be large enough to prevent the weight of the extended lamps from pulling the whole lamp down. Drilling the mount close to one edge of the base will help offset the weight of the lamp.

Step 9: Assemble!

Now it starts to look like a lamp! Marvel at your engineering prowess and play endlessly with the range of motion of your proto-lamp.

Step 10: Springs or Hinges or Both?

When I first designed this lamp, I was going to use 4 springs as seen in the metal variety. However, my Lowes springs were too strong and I was unable to lower the lamp without it springing back up. So I started by replacing the springs with wooden hinges.

I experimented with hinges and springs until I reached a compromise. A spring is attached along the back of the lamp, from the middle brace to the top bar. I determined the necessary extension of the spring by trial and error. A good balance between the spring and hinges allows the lamp to be pulled into one position and stay there.

Springs are not necessary for the bottom brace unless you need them to prevent your lamp from moving too far forward and overbalancing. I added hinges on the bottom purely for aesthetics - they do move with the lamp, but they don't restrict movement.

Step 11: Making the Wooden Hinges

The top set of hinges are the most important. The maximum extension of your lamp will depend on the length of the hinges - when fully extended they prevent the lamp from being lowered further.

The length of the hinges and where they are set into the bars is semi-arbitrary.

The bottom hinges are not that useful - they don't set a maximum extension, and they are not really necessary in preventing the lamp from moving forward or back without being pulled. They do add a little extra resistance which is nice. Depending on the weight distribution of your lamp, you may want to add a 'bumper' to prevent the lamp from overbalancing if it is moved too far forward. I used a 1/2" wooden spacer made earlier.

Add spacers where necessary to secure the hinges in place.

Step 12: Adding the Spring

As mentioned earlier, I added a spring along the back of the middle brace. The heavier the lamp shade/the longer the bars, the more extension you will need to offset the weight. Too much extension and the lamp will spring back up instead of staying put when it is lowered. Its OK if you drill a few too many holes, that is what wood plugs are for!

Step 13: Finishing Touches

By now it is actually starting to look like a lamp! It is time to glue, sand, and finish. Cut down the bolt used to mount the lamp shade to an appropriate length, shape the wooden hinges, sand everything, and add a mineral spirits/tung oil finish.

Then wire up your socket and enjoy!

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