Making a rustic lamp for a weekend cabin or den for very little is easy with the right tools, work space and some time.
Step 1: What You Will Need
Saw (crosscut or table)
Saw (crosscut or band)
Adjustable wrench or pliers
3 pieces 5-1/2" x 5-1/2" x 3/4"
2 pieces 1/4" x 5-1/2" x 12" plywood or paneling
2 pieces 1/4" x 6" x 12" plywood or paneling
1" brads or wire nails
A cheap but functional lamp from a thrift store (get one with a harp for the shade)
1 piece 5" x 5" felt or heavy cloth
Ebony stain or black paint
Varnish (if desired)
Brushes, rags, etc
1" to 1-1/2" diameter dead and dry* branches (walnut, oak, or other hardwood)
* off the tree and ground for a year
Step 2: Cutting the Rounds
Using a band saw with a "fence" attached , cut 1/2" thick rounds from the branches. Try the make the cuts perpendicular to the branch. My branches were dry walnut but I let them dry for a couple weeks more after cutting into rounds so that the bark would pop off easier.
Step 3: Preparing the Lamp Parts
Unplug and disassemble the thrift store lamp. (You can skip this section if you go out and buy the parts you will need.) Remove the harp and save it for later. To remove the decorative, protective outer shell from the socket you may need to insert the tip of a small blade screwdriver or knife around the base, between the shell and the socket. This is to disengage the little idents that hold the two parts together. Pull up on the collar and work your way from ident to ident until the shell comes free. Set it and the insulating sleeve aside for later.
Loosen but do do not remove the two screws that secure the wires to the socket. With the wires loose, remove the socket and set aside for later. Make a sketch of how the wires are looped together for later reference. This called an Underwriter's knot.
Unloop the two sections of the wire and measure how much extends past the top of the lamp rod (the threaded tube). Make a note of the length on the sketch. Pull the cord out through the hole in the base of the lamp. You may need to remove the felt on the bottom of the lamp to get the cord out. Set aside the cord for later.
With the cord free, loosen the nut at the bottom of the lamp rod. Save the nut, washer and lamp rod for later. You can leave the harp bottom and socket cap on the top of the lamp rod.
Step 4: Building the Lamp Base.
Locate the center of the top and interior 5-1/2" x 5-1/2" x 3/4" pieces. Drill a hole in the center of each piece just large enough to fit the lamp rod through it.
Place one of the 1/4" x 5-1/2" x 12" sides face down on your work surface and stand the three 5-1/2" x 5-1/2" x 3/4" pieces on it. The top and bottom pieces should be flush with the top and bottom edges of the 1/4" x 5-1/2" x 12" piece. The location of the interior piece depends on the length of the lamp rod. Push the lamp rod all the way into the base and, using it as a guide, align the interior piece so there are enough threads extending out past it to get the washer and nut on. Mark the location of the interior piece as well as the top and bottom pieces. Extend the lines to the opposite edge of the side piece. Using the side with the top, interior and bottom lines as a pattern, draw similar lines on the inside of the other t1/4" x 5-1/2" x 12" side.
Using the lines from above as guides, start three nails for each of the three 5-1/2" x 5-1/2" pieces. This will make final nailing later easier.
Stand the top and bottom pieces up and apply a thin line of glue to the top edges. Position the side with the started nails on top of the glued pieces and secure each piece with the nails. Glue, position and nail the interior piece.
Rotate the assembly 180o and repeat the glue/nail process for the opposite side to the three 5-1/2" x 5-1/2" pieces.
Rotate the lamp 90o and enclose one of the open sides with one of the 1/4" x 6" x 12" sides using glue and nails.
Step 5: Rewireing the Lamp
Insert the lamp rod, with harp bottom and socket cap attached, through the hole in the top of the lamp and through the interior piece. Assemble the washer and tighten the nut to secure the lamp rod in position. Drill a 1/4" hole near the bottom of the lamp through one of the sides. Insert the cord through the hole so that the plug is on the outside. Insert the cord through the lamp rod so you have 3" above it. Refer to the note you made earlier as to how much cord is above the rod and adjust accordingly. Retie the Underwriter's knot according to you earlier sketch.
Reconnect the wires to the socket and fit it into the cap. Install a bulb, plug in the lamp and test the lamp. Unplug the cord. If the bulb lit, continue assembling the lamp. If the bulb did not light find and correct the wiring problem.
Remove the bulb and reassemble the collar and insulating sleeve. Do not omit the insulating sleeve.
Step 6: Finishing the Basic Lamp Base
Position the lamp on the work surface with the open side up. Repeat the glue and nail steps to attach the last side to the lamp base. You now have a functional but ugly lamp. The next step is to make it unugly.
Once any exposed glue has dried you can either apply the ebony stain or black paint to the base. Follow the manufacturer's instructions. Let dry before applying the wood rounds to the base.
While the finish dries draw four rectangles on sheet of corrugated. Make two 5-1/2" x 12" and two 6-1/2" x 12". Lay out the wood rounds on the rectangles just as they would be on the sides of the lamp. This is the jigsaw step and serves two purposes. You make sure you have enough rounds cut and you know how the rounds will go on the lamp. This is a good time to remove any loose bark by pressing it down on the edge of a hard surface.
When the lamp finish is dry, lay the lamp in its side. Work row by row. Apply a dot of glue where each round will be located. Transfer the rounds from the corrugated to the lamp and press them into the glue. Finish one side of the lamp and let the glue dry per manufacturer's instructions. Apply the rounds to the other three side, letting the glue dry before starting the next side.
Apply glue around the perimeter of the felt and a few evenly distributed dots across it. Press it to the bottom of the lamp. This is to prevent scratching furniture later.
When all the glue is dry, install the bulb, add the harp and a shade, and plug in the lamp. Use and enjoy your lamp. Try a normal shade on it or go with a custom, homemade silhouette style.