Mid Century Modern Concrete Lamp

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About: I'm an Artist, Designer, and Maker of Things.

I'm publishing this original Mid Century Modern lamp design as an Instructable not so much as a DIY project, but as an inspirational starting point for others to get those creative juices flowing. I enjoy the design process as much or maybe even slightly more than the fabrication of the objects. I've always been fascinated with lights and have many sketches of lamps still waiting to be built.


I consider this to be within the "Modern" style because that is where I took my design cues from. I especially like the work of American furniture designers and furniture manufacturers that influenced the design world in the 1950's and early 1960's. A few of my favorites are Charles and Rae Eames, and George Nelson. Companies like Herman Miller and Heywood Wakefield have produced some amazing pieces. I will admit that I have a real passion for lamp design!

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Step 2: The Constraints

I chose the design genre, and I chose the materials. My challenge was to combine concrete with wood and keep both looking as natural as possible. I don't have much experience working with concrete, but I am fascinated with projects that I see other Makers creating with this versatile material.

Step 3: The Sketches

I explored many shapes. After a lot of scribbles, I felt that this lamp wanted to stay with an overall organic feel versus something more geometric. I settled on one rough design, then began to refine it through several iterations. I use thin layout paper so that I can see through it as I trace the previous sketch on to a top sheet. The last drawing on paper has the beginning of some dimensions and proportions.

Step 4: From Paper to CAD

The drawings were scanned and imported into my CAD application. I used RhinoCAD for this project because of the capability of T-Splines to model organic free-form surfaces. Check out the video to see me working in that environment. T-Splines functions are now available in Autodesk Fusion360. It's a lot of fun to play with, pushing and pulling as if the forms are made of soft clay!

Step 5: CAM to Concrete Molds

After the CAD model was complete, I made a second set of models for the concrete parts. I subtracted the forms from blocks of the virtual stock material to create mold cavities. The CAM programming was done from these negative shapes. I chose rigid insulation foam to use as the mold material. It's kind of delicate, but seemed to carve quite well. I used a 4 inch long end mill because these cavities were about 3 inches deep.

Step 6: Time for Concrete

This is a pretty large and heavy lamp base. I mixed up a whole bag of concrete. It cured quickly! I was able to de-mold the next morning. The parts came out of the foam cleanly!

Step 7: Roughing Up the Surface

Because the concrete was not fully cured, I was able to wet it down and use a scrub brush to remove a small amount of material in order to reveal the small stones that were hiding just under the surface. This brought out a more natural looking texture.

Step 8: Making the Legs

I had originally envisioned hardwood, but I found a really clear Cedar 2x6 that was left over from a previous project. I decided to use Cedar for all of the wood components. The CAM machine operations for the legs were broken into two setups, one for each side. I used wood dowels as registration pins to line up the stock on to the spoil board. When the first side was done, I simply flipped the stock over and screwed it back down.

Step 9: Forming the Mid-Section

The stock for the divider section started out as a reinforced triangle glue-up. This was yet another two-sided part, using the dowel pin method.

Step 10: Cutting the Shade Parts

The frame parts for the shade were also cut from Cedar on the CNC router. The shade support rods were made from Bamboo skewers.

Step 11: Assembling the Shade Frame

The shade frame is put together with only glue. No other fasteners were needed. All notches and grooves were designed in CAD and cut with the CNC router.

Step 12: Oiled the Wood and Test Fit the Parts

I applied two coats of Tung Oil as the finish on the wood parts. I had thought about using some sort of sealer on the concrete, but realized that I needed to wait a little longer for those parts to fully cure. I can possibly go back later with something like a counter top sealer.

This is one of my favorite times in a project build, when I get to put pieces together that previously only existed in a CAD model. Pretty exciting... especially when they actually fit!

The legs have a small "hook" on them that engages into the recess in the concrete. You'll see how this works in the video.

TIP: When CAD modeling assemblies, take time to build-in necessary clearances between components and also be aware of the tolerances of your fabrication methods.

Step 13: Electrical Components

Installing the electrical parts was very simple. I used a smooth porcelain socket along with an LED bulb.

NOTE: Be sure to always use care and follow instructions when dealing with electrical parts. If you don't feel comfortable doing it yourself, ask for help.

Step 14: Final Assembly

After the glue joints had time to dry, I put the oil finish on the shade frame and set it in place for the first time. Another thrilling moment!

I used heavy weight water color paper for the shade panels. It has a nice bumpy texture and is slightly cream colored. It fit into the grooves snug enough that I needed no adhesive or any other fasteners. (kinda' like I planned it) :)

Step 15: Time for the Real Test!

The real test was lighting it up to see how it looked in a darkened room! The bulb is at a height so that the light falls out on the wood and concrete features, revealing the curvature of the forms. I am very pleased with the way this project turned out!

I hope you enjoyed following along with me through this process. Please let me know if this inspires you to get your imagination cooking up something fun and exciting. I'd love to hear what you're working on too.

Be sure to check out the video to see more of the details from this design/build project.

Step 16: All Done!

Do you like my work?

You can also find me on other social platforms!

• My Website: https://www.worksbysolo.com

• YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/worksbysolo

• Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/worksbysolo/

• Twitter: https://twitter.com/WorksBySolo

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting what I do!

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    36 Discussions

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    sheripres

    16 days ago on Step 14

    Just absolutely beautiful! You gave me some ideas on "making it my own"! Can't wait to do that!

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    AlienC3

    16 days ago

    Beautiful job! Sometimes it is hateful not to have certain abilities for trying a project like the yours. No matter that, I'm very glad that you can make such a gorgeous thing. But, let me tell you that I'm sure, totally sure, that I can beat you in a competition about who pisses further away.

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    vbanaszak

    17 days ago

    I love your lamp! I don't have the ability to make anything like that, sadly. This is so well thought out. I love the way everything fits together. I had no idea that the bottom was 2 pieces until I saw the video. So cool.

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    Works by Solovbanaszak

    Reply 17 days ago

    Thank you so very much for the gracious compliments!

    Now... what's this I'm hearing about your limited abilities? I posted this project to inspire you to come up with a fun idea, then make it come into being. It doesn't have to be something as complex as my lamp. Make something unique to you!

    What types of crafts and skills do you like to do, or want to get better at? I hope to see you show off something you're good at sometime soon.

    Take care, Bernie Solo

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    Works by SoloJackmanWorks

    Reply 17 days ago

    Thanks, Paul! I really enjoy the design process as much or more that the building part.

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    LeslieGeee

    17 days ago

    ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS!!! I gasped when I saw the picture on the email.
    Well done!!!

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    LeslieGeee

    17 days ago

    I just looked to see if you entered this in any of the contests and didn't find it. Please enter this so that we can vote for you :)

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    Works by SoloLeslieGeee

    Reply 17 days ago

    Thanks, I'll take that as a nice compliment. Well... It was going to be in the current Furniture Contest, but the Instructables Contest staff decided that lamps are not considered to be furniture. So, maybe they will let me put it in a future Lighting Contest. :-) (Fingers crossed)

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    BodhiWalter

    17 days ago

    Your links for utility knife through trowel all point to the same page on Amazon. Could you correct that? Thanks.

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    travis.l.cleary

    17 days ago

    The extra time and care you spent in the design phase is clearly reflected in the outcome of this project, each line and curve flows so naturally into the form. Truly beautiful work.

    1 reply