Introduction: Sycamore Branch Floor Lamp
I came across this fallen branch from a sycamore tree, and without any idea of what I wanted to do with it, I carried it back to my car and drove it home. Not long after, my lady friend mentioned that she needed a floor lamp for her apartment, and I knew this branch could be perfect.
What I thought was going to be an simple project, turned out to be a little tricky, but once I solved a few problems, it was not terribly difficult to put together. In this instructable, I will describe how I solved the following:
1. How to attach a long, heavy branch to a base in a way that would be stable, but without adding too much weight to the lamp.
2. How to make everything straight/perpendicular to the ground.
3. How to keep the cord wrapped tight for the long term, without negatively impacting the appearance.
Side note: I didn't decide to create this instructable until after the project was completed, so I apologize for the lack of pictures. I tried to make up for that by creating an assembly in CAD.
Step 1: Parts
Here are the things you will need to build a similar lamp:
1. Tree branch
Preferably about 2.5 to 3.5 inches in diameter, and about 6 feet long. (The final lamp will be about 6 feet tall, including the base and the bulb, but you are going to need to cut down the ends, so you want to make sure you have some extra length to cut off.)
2. 15" diameter wood round
About 1" thick worked for me.
3. 12" diameter wood round
Again, about 1" thick. You should be able to get both the 12" and 15" pieces anywhere that sells lumber, but my local stores were all sold out of 12" pieces, so I bought that one on Amazon here: https://amzn.com/B00LW1LY1K
4. 3/4" pipe
12" long. Like this: http://goo.gl/5SlgNa
5. 3/4" pipe flange
Like this: http://goo.gl/OfxnX1
6. Light bulb
If you are going to put a lamp shade on when you're done, then it doesn't make much sense to buy a cool looking bulb. However, if you want to keep the bulb exposed like I did, an antique style bulb is the way to go. These two sites have the best selection of antique light bulbs and the best prices that I have seen: https://goo.gl/bu1VgD and http://goo.gl/vZ80wW
7. Light socket
There are a lot of different sites that sell these, so you can google "antique light socket" and shop around. Just make sure you don't pay more than $15. Some sites will sell them for over $30, while other sites will sell an identical part for around $10. I recommend getting one with a dimmer switch, especially if you are going with an antique style light bulb. Here are a couple sites to check out: http://goo.gl/uON46x and http://goo.gl/OioF72
8. 1/4ips threaded hollow brass or steel nipple
1+1/2" is probably an ideal length. This is the thing that your light socket will screw into. If you need your socket to sit any higher than a 1/2" above the wood, you should probably get a longer nipple. You can google "lamp parts" and you'll find a lot of sites that sell this kind of thing, but here are two that I use: http://goo.gl/6nD5gi and http://goo.gl/1pym1m
You are going to need a couple 1/4ips hex nuts towards the end of the project. Also, if your branch is like mine, and does not allow for your socket to sit right up against the wood, you can either leave the threaded nipple exposed between the wood and the socket, or you can fill the nipple with nuts. (I know. I know.) I used knurled nuts on mine, but this site has some other options that would also look great: http://goo.gl/Isg9D9
10. 10 feet of cord
If you want a good looking cord, which is pretty important for this project, just google "cloth covered wire." I prefer twisted cord, but it makes no difference for this project. Just don't pay more than $2.00 per foot. A good price is closer to $1.50. Here's a site to check out, in case you hate googling: http://goo.gl/GoX4x7
12. Wood rod/peg
5/8" diameter by about 5" long (although you are better off starting out with at least a foot, and then cutting it down). If you can find one with a diameter of 9/16", you will save yourself some time later on, but I don't think they sell them at that size. Here's an example of one: http://goo.gl/NuUlOl
Exact lengths will depend on how thick your base is, but I used 8 1+3/4" wood screws, and 4 1+3/4" sheet metal screws.
I like Gorilla Glue, but most glues will work.
15. Stain or paint.
For the base. I used a white stain.
16. Polyurethane or other wood sealer
17. Lamp harp
This is the thing that goes around the bulb that can hold a shade. I added one even though I do not intend to put on a lamp shade. I just think it looks good. Here are a bunch: http://goo.gl/jPOQhY
18. Lamp finial
This is the part that goes on top of the harp. Mine is an elephant. Google "lamp finials" and you'll find a million, or go here to find that elephant: http://goo.gl/BacIUQ
19. Lamp shade.
If that's your thing.
Step 2: Tools
Here is what I used to build the lamp:
1. Power drill
2. Drill bits: 1/8", 1/4", 5/16", 3/8", 9/16", 7/8", 1+1/2", and screw driver bits
3. Drill bit extension
You're going to be making a 12" deep hole, so either buy yourself a 12" long 7/8" drill bit, or just pick up a bit extension.
4. Countersink bit
6. Rotary tool with router bit or cutting bit
7. Hand saw
A fine tooth saw is preferable, but not necessary.
8. Wire strippers
9. Needle nose pliers
10. Slip joint pliers (fancy term for "normal pliers")
13. Rubber mallet or soft faced hammer
14. Sand paper
I used 60, 220, and 1000 grit, but you do you.
15. Paint brush
16. Tape measure
Not pictured, but you know what they look like.
Step 3: Overview of the Assembly
In the following steps, I will get deep into the specifics of what I did, and how I did it, but first, here is a brief rundown of the steps I took:
- Cut off the ends of the branch
- Chisel out cavity in the 15" round
- Drill holes in the 12" round, the 15" round, and the bottom of the branch
- Assemble the base without screws
- Drill holes in top of branch where the cord will run into the socket
- Run cord up through the holes on top
- Run cord through nipple and screw nipple into the top of the branch
- Add nuts, harp, and bottom of socket to the nipple
- Wire and complete the assembly of the socket
- Mark hole for the cord on the 12" round
- Disassemble base
- Drill hole for cord in the 12" round
- Cut groove in bottom of 12" round to run the cord through
- Stain and finish the wood rounds
- Insert the pipe/flange through the 12" round and into the bottom of the branch and add screws
- Wrap cord around the branch
- Run cord through hole in the 12" round
- Attach 15" round to the assembly by running the rod/peg through it and into the pipe, and add screws
- Attach plug.
- Light it up
Step 4: Choose Your Fronts and Your Tops
Before you get into any of the drilling and the cutting, you should make some decisions about which side of the branch you want to face forward when the lamp is complete, as well as which side of the 12" and 15" rounds will be the tops, and what will face the front. I would recommend marking the bottoms of each with a pencil to make sure you keep it straight throughout the process. This matters more for the 12" round, since you will be cutting into it to run the cord out the back side of the lamp, but you will likely also want the wood grain of each piece to be parallel so marking the 15" piece will also be helpful.
Step 5: Cut Your Branch
Both ends of your branch are going to need to be cut to get your branch to the desired length. Plan on your branch being about 5 to 5+1/2 feet when you are done, in order to end up with a floor lamp that is about 6 feet tall.
Start with the bottom cut, since this is going to be the most critical for your finished lamp to stand up straight.
- Do a quick cut a couple inches below where you want your final cut.
- Hold the branch with the bottom resting on a flat, level floor, and position it so that it is standing up exactly how you want it when the lamp is finished. Most branches are not perfectly straight, so it's up to you to determine what you think will look best. Just be careful not to let your lamp lean too much from it's center of gravity. The more it's leaning, the less stable it will be when it's done.
- This part is easiest with a second person. Have the other person hold the branch in the position that you decided upon. Then, using your square, mark the branch 2 inches up from the ground all the way around. Unless your last cut was perfectly perpendicular to how you want the branch positioned, you will be removing more wood on one side of the cut than the other.
- Cut off the end of the branch making sure that your saw is aligned with all of the marks you just made.
If that all goes well, then when you stand the branch back up on the floor and position it how you had it before the cut, the bottom should now sit flat against the ground. If the angle still isn't right, repeat the last few steps until you get it right.
For my lamp, there was a great looking knot in the wood that I wanted to keep, so rather than cutting the top off parallel with the ground, I did an angled cut and had the socket come up between the cut and the knot. In all likelihood, this won't work for you, so you are going to want to do a cut parallel to the ground.
- Just like before, start by doing a quick cut a couple inches above where you want the final cut to be.
- NOTE: You may want to save the next few steps until later in the process when you have the base partially assembled. It will make things a little easier, but if you want to keep charging ahead, it's your lamp.
- Instead of the square, this time you will use a tape measure to mark the same height all the way around your branch. Depending on the branch, this can be tough. If all else fails, eyeball the hell out of it.
- Cut off the end of the branch while making sure to keep your saw aligned with your marks.
Your top cut is not as critical because the angle of your socket is determined by the hole you will drill in the top of the branch. Although it's easiest to drill into a surface that is perpendicular to your drill, it is not necessary. In fact, if you want to do something more interesting, screw making your top cut parallel with the ground. Get weird.
Step 6: Chisel Out a Cavity
On the 15" round you will need to chisel out a cavity that the flange will sit inside of when the two rounds are sandwiched together. (As you can see in my picture, I decided to stain and seal the pieces of the base before doing any work on them, but in retrospect, it is easier to hold off on that step until a little later.)
- Start by finding the center of the 15" round. If you are not sure how to find the center, this instructable is great: https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Find-the-C...
- Remove a 4" x 4" square hole in the center. Make the hole deep enough so that the bottom of the flange, plus the sheet metal screw heads can sit inside, probably about 3/8" deep. If you've never chisled wood before, this instructable is a nice intro: https://www.instructables.com/id/Wood-Chiseling
Step 7: Drill Some Holes
The Base Holes
- Find and mark the center of the 12" and 15" rounds. (In case you missed it, there is a link to a great instructable for finding the center of a circle in the last step.)
- For the 15" round, you will drill a 9/16" hole all the way through the center. I recommend starting on the opposite side as the square that you chiseled out.
- For the 12" round, you will start by drilling a 1+1/2" diameter hole through the center of the bottom, a little more than 1/2" deep. Check that the depth is sufficient by making sure the top of the flange goes all the way into this hole.
- Now complete that hole in the 12" round by drilling a 7/8" hole the rest of the way through the wood.
The Deep Hole
- You will need to lay the branch across a table or saw horses, and if you don't still have a helper around, you will need a clamp to hold the branch in place while you drill.
- I didn't figure out a sure fire way to drill the hole perfectly straight, and perfectly perpendicular to the bottom cut, so good luck and be careful! I just recommend using your square to help line up the bit before you start drilling, and then once you start, concentrate on maintaining that exact angle until you've made it a little more than 11" inches deep. You'll check this depth a little later when you do the pre-assembly assembly.
Step 8: Fit the Peg in the Hole
This peg will attach the 15" round to the pipe flange, but since the opening of the pipe is 9/16" and no one sells 9/16" dowel rods, you're going to need to get out the sand paper (I used 60 grit), and sand your 5/8" rod down until it fits. Don't go too far with the sanding though. You don't want it to be too loose. Once you have sanded it down so that the 4 or 5" at the end will fit in the pipe, cut off those 4 or 5" and proceed.
Step 9: Pre-assembly Assembly
The next few steps will require you to assemble the base, but don't add any screws yet. Also, as you assemble the parts, be aware of which side you designated as the front for each piece so that you can align them as you go.
- Screw the pipe tightly into the flange. You can also add a little drop of glue on the threads, if you like.
- Insert the pipe through the bottom of the 12" round.
- Insert pipe into the hole in the bottom of the branch. You may need to give it a few taps with a rubber mallet to get it in. The wood had swelled a bit in the day between drilling the hole, and doing this step, so it was much more snug than the day before. Also, if it doesn't want to go in all the way, you may not have drilled a deep enough hole.
- Insert the peg through the 15" round and into the bottom of the flange.
- Carefully stand the lamp up.
- Everything should fit together well enough that it will be able to stand on it's own without screws, but if not, go ahead and add a single screw through the flange and 12" round, into the branch. Make sure to angle the screw slighting towards the center of the branch to ensure that it doesn't end up poking out the side of the branch. You may also find that you need to chisel out more wood from the 15" round if the two rounds don't sit flush together.
Step 10: The Light Socket
Now that the branch is upright, you can assemble the components of the light socket.
- Drill a 3/8" hole straight down the center of the top of the branch. The depth of the hole should be at least 1+1/2", but you may want to go deeper depending on the piece of wood that you're using. Just keep in mind, the deeper you go, the harder it will be to pull the cord through. It is also critical that this hole be straight relative to the ground, since this is where your light socket will attach to the rest of the lamp, so be careful. I was able to do this by eyeballing it, but if you think of a better idea (other than using a drill press) I'd love to hear it.
- On the side of the branch that you have designated to be the rear, you will drill 1/4" hole at an upwards angle so that the end of the hole connects with the first hole. This is another eyeballing situation, so focus on keeping everything centered.
- Clean out the holes you drilled and make sure they are connecting.
- Now you should be able to feed the cord through the bottom hole and out through the top. If you find that the 1/4" hole is too tight, try stepping it up to a 5/16" hole. In order to get the cord all the way through, I recommend sticking needle nose pliers down the top hole to grab the end of the wire and pull it through. Leave a few inches of excess wire hanging out of the top of the hole.
- Put some glue on the inner walls of the top hole. This glue is intended to lock the nipple in place, so make sure you get it on the sides instead of down the center. Also, don't use too much glue. You don't want it coming out the bottom hole.
- Insert the cord coming out of the top hole into the 1/4ips nipple, and screw the nipple into hole leaving only enough exposed nipple for the socket to screw on to, or if you have some features in the wood that you need to work around, like I did, you can leave a little extra sticking out. If it is difficult to screw the nipple in, put a couple nuts on it and use pliers to help turn the nipple. Don't just grab the nipple with the pliers though, because you might ruin the threads.
- Screw on the socket, or if you are using a harp and/or extra washers, add those to the nipple first.
- Next you are going to need to wire the socket, which is pretty easy, but if you have never done it before, this instructable will guide you through it: https://www.instructables.com/id/how-to-wire-up-a-l...
- Complete the assembly of the socket.
Step 11: Prepare the Base for the Cord
It is time to add the hole and groove in the 12" round that will allow the cord to run out in between the two rounds.
- Find the spot where you want your cord to enter the base and mark it with a pencil. This should be on the backside of the lamp so that it is as inconspicuous as possible, and will likely be directly below the hole at the top of the branch where the cord is currently sticking out.
- Maybe take a picture, because it's time to disassemble your pre-assembly, and it will probably be a little while before it's all put back together.
- On the top of the 12" round, drill a 1/4" hole on the spot that you marked, or if you figured out earlier that your cord is thicker than 1/4", drill the whole size you need, but I recommend keeping it as tight as possible.
- On the bottom of the 12" round, draw a line from the hole you just drilled, straight out towards what will be the rear of the lamp.
- Using your Dremel (or whatever rotary tool you prefer), cut a groove along the line. The groove should be as wide as the hole and just deep enough that the cord will just barely fit when the 12" and 15" rounds are flush. Pinching the cord along this groove is what will keep it tight over the time, but you don't want it creating a gap between the two pieces of the base. Be extra careful with the end of the groove where the cord will exit the base, since that will be visible when the lamp is finished.
Step 12: Finish Your Base
As I said, I jumped the gun on this step, which made some things harder than they needed to be, but luckily for you, I'm here to make your mistakes for you. Now sand, stain (or paint), and seal your 12" and 15" rounds. I won't bother giving detailed instructions on how to finish the wood for your base, but if you want to learn more about finishing wood, this is a great resource: https://www.reddit.com/r/finishing
Step 13: Final Assembly
- Insert pipe/flange through the bottom of the 12" round, and into the bottom of the branch. Make sure that the front of the branch and the front of the 12" round are aligned.
- Screw the four sheet metal screws through the four holes in the bottom of the flange, through the 12" round, and into the branch. I would recommend drilling 1/8" pilot holes before adding the screws. You may also want to angle the screws slightly towards the center of the branch in order to avoid having them inadvertently poking through the sides of the branch.
- Next you are going to need the lamp standing up, so place it on top of the 15" round. If the square hole you chiseled out is deep enough, the two rounds should sit flush against each other, and the lamp should be pretty stable.
- Wrap your cord around the branch. Try to wrap it so that the spacing is even. (Easier said than done.)
- Now hold the end of the cord in place and set the lamp back on it's side.
- Run the cord through the hole in the 12" round, and pull it tight.
- Insert your peg into the hole on the 15" round and then insert the other end into the pipe/flange. When pushing the two rounds together, make sure that the front of each piece is aligned, and that the cord stays tight and is sitting in the groove. It's a lot to remember, but you're almost done.
- Drill 8 pilot holes in a circle on the bottom of your 15" round, and countersink the ends of each hole. Countersinking is extremely important if your lamp is ever going to touch a hard floor. You do not want the screws sticking out on the bottom and scratching everything to hell.
- Screw 8 wood screws through the bottom of the 15" round and into the 12" round. Be sure not to send a screw through the cord. I recommend starting with the screws on either side of the cord because once those are done, you don't have to worry about keeping the cord tight anymore.
Side note on the peg: Once you have screwed the 15" round into the 12" round, the peg doesn't serve much purpose anymore. I envisioned a mouse crawling up that hole and dying inside the lamp, so I decided to leave my peg in. It's your call. Just make sure that if you do and it fits snug in the hole, that it does not stick out at all; and that if it fits loose in the hole, that you add some glue to keep it in place.
Step 14: The Plug
Finally, before plugging your lamp in and lighting the world with your magic, you need to attach a plug to the end of the cord. There are a lot of different types of plugs you can buy, but they almost all involve wrapping each wire around a screw, which is tightened on the wire to hold the wire in place. No matter which plug option you choose, it should be very easy to assemble. Just remember, you're going to plug this into the wall, which can be dangerous if you are not careful, so don't take it lightly. (Not a pun.) In other words, don't make light of this task. (Pun)
Step 15: Wrap Up
In summation, the most important rules for completing this project are:
1. Google things
2. Eyeball stuff
3. Be careful
4. Use the word "nipple" a lot
This was my first time writing an instructable, so I'd appreciate any feedback you have. I hope this helped you to create a thing that you love and cherish. If you do complete this project, or some variation of it, I would also love to hear/see how it went.
Participated in the
Lamps and Lighting Contest 2016