Bent Veneer Wood Lamp





Introduction: Bent Veneer Wood Lamp

About: I make stuff

I had some bent veneer wood left from a failed experiment, so I decided to make a lamp(shade) out of it.

Most of it is done using simple tools:

  • A dril
  • Hole saws (different sizes)
  • A saw
  • A miter box
  • Regular ol' wood glue

The materials I used:

  • Veneer wood
  • Wood board to reinforce the veneer wood
  • Other wood scraps for the base
  • Some wire
  • a light switch
  • lamp fitting
  • and such

Step 1: Bending the Wood

First cut the wood to the desired size with a sharp knife.

I put a pan with water on a fire and just let the wood lay in there, carefully trying to bend it every once in a while.

When the wood has become flexible enough, wrap it around something round like a bottle. Hold it firmly in place with some band aids. Leave it like that for a while until dry (I waited about a day).

As you can see, the wood broke in some places, but that was OK for me, because I did not need the full width of it.

NOTE: when bending wood always try to bend some more than you need the final curve to be. The wood will spring back a little when the pressure is released from it. This will make the glueing step easier.

Step 2: Preparing the Skeleton

Using the dril with a hole saws I made some wooden rings to serve as a skeleton. I forgot to make a picture of the rings themselves, but you'll see in the next step :)

Step 3: Glueing It All Together

After applying some glue to the outside of the wooden rings I used a lot of small clamps to hold everything in place.

As you can see I added some "beams" to the straight part on the bottom to reinforce the wood.

When everything dried out I cut off the excess of the wooden rings and put it in upside down. There was some fiddling involved to get everything to fit. (The way I did this was a total disgrace, so no pictures there.)

Step 4: Applying the Sides

Add some glue to the sides and make sure it is spread out evenly. Put the sides to it and apply some pressure using weights.

You can cut of the excess with a sharp knife when all is dry.

This is the point where you can put it over a light source and preview the pretties.

Step 5: Making the Frame for the Base

Use a miter box to create the frame for the base. I used some old scraps from something unidentified. The wood I used wasn't quite straight, so I really had to pay attention in which direction I put my wood in the mitter box. When working with straight pieces of wood this is not as hard.

If you want some more information on using or making miter boxes, there are some nice instructables on that:

Step 6: Putting the Base Together

Apply glue to the bevels and put a piece of rope around. Tighten the rope by turning a pencil until everything is pulled together tightly.

Saw out a little board to put in there. Dril a hole in the middle and add the attachment bit for the lamp fitting to it.

The board I cut out fit really tightly, but I did put some glue to the sides to make sure everything holds together.

Step 7: Assembling the Final Bits

I cut of small pieces of the round leftovers which I glued to the base to keep the shade in place.

The fitting can easily be attached to the bit we screwed on earlier. I used a G9 lamp fitting because the sizes of the lights of this type best fit my needs.

I suppose I don't need to elaborate on how to mount a light switch and a plug. Just open it up using a screwdriver and plug the cables in any hole you see fit.

Step 8: Finishing Everything Up

When everything is sanded (which I usually do along the way) you can add some finish. There are several finishes you can use. I prefer using linseed oil. It slightly darkens the wood, but it still looks quite natural.

Then you are done and you have a pretty little light!

PS: feel free to vote for this instructable in the woodworking contest. It would be much appreciated.

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    26 Discussions


    1 year ago

    Really big thank you all!


    1 year ago

    Oh, by the way: I haven't thanked the people here for voting on this entry for the woodworking contest. I've been selected as a "third prize" winner, which includes a woodthreading kit. Awesome! Thank you all!

    Nice looking lamp, could be even more awesome if the veneer were a complete circle, like a drum and the drum would rotate at, say, 1 rpm or less.

    1 reply

    Oh my, motion and things :) I'm more into static things myself, but thanks for the tips.


    1 year ago

    I really love what you have done here. As I am in New Zealand, I have a couple or clarifying questions. How thick is the wood you stick the veneer to, or how thick is the veneer? Finally, the household ammonia, is it just 100% ammonia or is it diluted at all?

    2 replies

    The thickness of the "skeleton" does not really matter. Mine was about 1cm.

    I think the veneer I used was 0.6mm (maple), I don't have it with me right now, I'll confirm this later. Depending on the hardness of the wood you might need a different thickness, not all wood bends as good as the other.

    I haven't used ammonia, this was something sandalwood1 mentioned. My experience with ammonia is non-existent.

    I can confirm that the veneer is indeed 0.6mm (according to my very accurate calliper, ahem).

    With "the size of the skeleton doesn't really matter" I meant just make it so you can put some glue on it and provide a minimum of stability. I could have made it thinner, I think, but I was happy with that thickness.

    Sorry for the late reply, have been quite busy.


    1 year ago

    Beautiful lamp! What size hole saws did you use for the rings?

    2 replies

    The outer one was 115mm and the inner one was 90mm.
    But you can actually use whatever you find aesthetically pleasing :)


    Reply 1 year ago

    Do try, I didn't know how it would turn out as I started as well. Thanks for the comment.

    Sorry, but when I've used the ammonia, I never measured it; trial and error only. If I had to pick a starting point, maybe a 15 or 20% solution. There is a fair amount of info concerning this technique in googledom. Surprisingly hefty lengths of solid wood can literally be tied in knots! I've mainly used it in building scale model boats, preparatory for building full-size.

    2 replies

    I've used household ammonia as used for cleaning, bought at Walmart.

    Adding household ammonia to the soak water makes wood SUPER flexible. My understanding (in my poor little pea-brain) is that it somehow temporarily alters the molecular structure of the wood, but after drying, the wood resumes its original physical characteristics.

    As a wooden boat builder, I've bent wood many times using steam, but, at least on small pieces, the ammonia delivers much more profound results.

    3 replies

    I have never used ammonia, so I didn't know that. As pointed out by bdempsey, I guess it's safer to do so outside.

    Thanks for sharing.

    What an awesome tip! I'm guessing that's an outdoor project?

    Cool project, but very limited and jumbled instructions. Oh, and BTW, it's a "bevel" not bezel. Nice looking light though!

    1 reply

    Thanks, I will fix this.

    I try to keep my instructions limited so people don't need to read a book to understand what I'm making. When something is unclear you are always welcome to point out what needs clarification.

    Nicely done! Two quick questions: 1, Would a longer soak time have prevented the cracking? And 2, would a thinned polyurethane help to preserve the veneer's shape and color? I ask because I thinking this is exactly what I want to do with a lamp that deosn't have a shade.