Wooden Sabbath Lamp




Introduction: Wooden Sabbath Lamp

As Jews who observe the Sabbath (or people afraid of light switches) know, it can be a problem on the Sabbath when you can't turn on or off light switches. Most people will just leave on a light that's out of the way like a bathroom or closet light, but that doesn't have the same ease and functionality as a normal desk lamp.
One solution is the Sabbath lamp: a lamp with a rotating shade that can expose or cover the light bulb within, all without flicking a switch. (This is not an original concept although my design is.)
This Instructable will show how to make a nice looking Sabbath Lamp that works and looks better than most commercial ones (plus, why buy when you can make?). I will also include some mistakes that I made in my first version that you should keep in mind when making this one or your own.
Even if you don't observe the Sabbath, you can make this without the rotating aspect and just have a nice desk lamp.
*Note: This instructable is being made after the completion of the project. For those things that I can't get a picture of (because they're already built), I will make a picture using SketchUp or similar source. As a great man once said: We are sorry for the inconvenience.

I would be happy to include my SketchUp model if someone could tell me how. (When I add the file it won't open.)

Step 1: Tools and Materials

These are the tools and materials that I used. Look through the instructable to see if you need to make some adjustments.

- Scroll saw
- Miter saw or Table saw
- Drill
- Screw driver
- Rotary tool with metal cutting bit, grinding bit (sanding bit is also useful)
- Soldering equipment (iron, solder, goggles, etc.)
- Wire strippers/cutters
- Scissors
- Glue gun
- Normal glue
- Sandpaper
- Compass (the circle making kind) (not shown)
- Paint, varnish, or stain (optional and not shown)

- Many 1/4 inch dowels
- 3/4 and 1/4 inch wood
- Inner cylinder (I used an old macaroon container) - should be cardboard
- Very thin cardboard or black construction paper
- Lamp (cheap one)
- Diffuser (thin, opaque material that will make the light shining through it look like a solid "wall" of light rather than a pinpoint; see picture)
- Wire
- Switch
- Screws: 1-1.5 inches
- Florescent bulb (they don't get as hot and will not melt the diffuser/catch the whole thing on fire)

Step 2: Cutting the Dowels

Needed: dowels, measuring tape, saw, can, sandpaper

The first step is measuring and cutting the dowels (which will become the walls) but in order to know how long they should be, you have to set up the can.

Place the can on top of a piece of 3/4 inch wood. Measure that height. I say to do this instead of measuring each because it will give you a more accurate measurement (instead of rounding numbers twice, you only do it once).
Don't forget to add a bit to compensate for the kerf (slit made when cutting) and from sanding. It's always better to have a little extra because you can always cut it more.

To get an estimate of how many dowels you need for the walls, measure the circumference of the cylinder (if there is a lip at the top or bottom, measure the larger circumference), the diameter of the dowels (mine were actually a bit more than 1/4 inch), and divide. 25 cm / .25 inch dowels = 100 dowel pieces. Bear in mind that you most likely need to cut more later.
Leave out 12 of these dowels (regardless of how many you need) for the next step.

I recommend cutting with the miter or table saw to ensure that each dowel is perfectly uniform with flat ends. Make sure you tie or tape them together (and clamp if you're using a miter saw) so no pieces fly anywhere.
Sand the pieces when your done.

Happy cutting.

Step 3: Cutting the Window - Dowels

Needed: dowels, measuring tape, saw, sand paper

The 12 dowels saved from the last step are going to form the window. That means that instead of being the height of the rest, they're going to be approximately 1-2 inches, depending on your preference. Shorter = more light. Longer = more structure. (Commercial lamps expose very little light, making yours better. Yay.)

Because it doesn't matter where in the dowels you cut, you'll need less wood to make these shorter dowels. This part you might not want to use a power saw because the pieces are so small.

Sand these also.

Step 4: Making the Top

Needed: 3/4 inch wood, compass, scroll saw, can, extra layer material, sandpaper, compass, patients

This is the step with the scroll saw (unless you also used it to cut the dowels). Basically you'll be cutting as perfect a circle as you can with the 3/4 inch wood. You can also use a table saw like this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wxbzrf4z_cg.
Glued to the inside of the wall will be a layer of either thin cardboard or paper. This will make the top turn smoother as well as block out light coming through slits between the dowels (I learned the hard way how important this is). Your circle should be the bigger diameter of the can (See step 2) plus a little more than the thickness of your extra layer (try wrapping it in a couple of layers of computer paper). Use a compass to make a nice circle.
Cut an extra circle to help you in the next step. This one will be thrown out so it doesn't have to be as good. If you mess up on the first one, you can use that.
Place both on top of the can with the extra layer on (remember: the extra layer covers the can, not the top) and make sure they all line up. Better to fix it now than suffer later.

Sand the circle you will be using as a top.

Step 5: The Walls

Needed: dowels, circles, hot glue, rubber bands, more patients

This step will be split into two parts: prepping and the actual wall-ing. Luckily for you, you get to avoid all the mistakes I made. Hooray!
The main things to remember when making the walls is to make sure they have enough room room to rotate around the cylinder (even with the extra layer) and are long enough. I originally wanted to put a little base to cover the gap in between the bottom of the dowels and the main base but ran out of room. You can still do that and I recommend you do (less light will escape and it looks nicer. It will be explained later.).
Now the fun part. Wrap a rubber band around each circle. Now place all the dowels around the circles under the rubber bands so they are being held in place. If you have a gap, add more dowels. Chances are that you still have a gap a little smaller than your thickness of dowel so fill that will a smaller dowel (this happened to me). Because the short pieces are only held with one rubber band, they'll be somewhat hard to arrange. Make these look all nice and shiny (not literally) and how you want it to look. This is what people will be seeing for the most part.
[Stupid me time: I only used one circle and put the dowels in one at a time. This meant that my walls caved in slightly and there were many gaps.]
Using the glue gun (or normal glue if you have a lot of patients and are careful), you're going to glue the dowels together on the inside and to the circle. Try to make the glue stick out into the inside of the circle as little as possible (See picture). Also glue the dowels to the circle that you will be keeping using the same philosophy. If the glue does go over a bit, you can sand it down with a rotary tool (sandpaper doesn't really work).
Once the glue is dry, sand down any exposed glue and any dowels that stick over the lid.
Take off the rubber bands and get rid of the extra circle.

Step 6: Yay!

You just finished the hardest part so this step is to congratulate yourself. Good job. I'm proud of you.

Step 7: Pre-base Canabalizing

Needed: lamp, things for taking apart lamp (probably just screw driver and wire cutters)

In order to make the base, you'll need to take apart the lamp. Do that.

Many lamps, like the one I used, have the switch attached to the back of the socket. This is bad because it means the base has to be really thick so the bulb will be in the center of the window. If you're switch is like that, cut it off and glue any loose wires in place. I glued a small piece of wood the same diameter of the socket onto the bottom and glued the wires into that. You may need to cut a bit.

Be careful not to cut yourself.

Step 8: Cutting the Base

Needed: 3/4 inch wood, miter/table saw (scroll saw will work also but will be harder), walls for reference

The base is made of two 3/4 inch octagons (really any shape; I just thought octagons looked cool). Take the diameter of your walls and add 1/4 inch. That is the height of your octagons. Print out an octagon (Tip: get the width of the sheet on the screen to match one in real life and then measure the octagon on the screen) or draw it free hand if you wish. Tape or glue the octagon onto the wood and tape the two boards together very tightly. Cut this.

Remember not to sand the edges and sides that connect the two pieces. Only sand them when they're connected to give them a seamless connection.

Step 9: Making the Base: Top Half

Needed: octagons, ruler/pencil, drill or scroll saw (saw's better), sandpaper

(Really part of the bottom also.)
Place the two octagons on top of one another and tape them together again. Place the socket in about the center and trace it. Now cut or drill (cuttings better because it's cleaner and you can do exactly the right size) the circle making it a tiny bit bigger so you won't have to whack in the socket.
Sand the top half (just pick one to be your top half. If you include the step you won't see it anyway) and you're done.

Step 10: Making the Base: Bottom Half

Needed: bottom octagon, scroll saw, drill, switch and plug for reference, sand paper

Note: Use the first picture as a reference for the sections you will cut.

Cut the design as shown with the following in mind:
- You can drill the circles. I just found cutting the whole thing easier.
- Section A is where the plug wire comes in and splits into section B and D
- Section C is where the lamp goes
- Section D is where the switch goes so make sure is fits with the wire (if it's a very tall switch, you may have to also cut into the top octagon)
- Section B is just a spot I included to put the connection between the lamp and the plug. you might not need it
- Make sure all the pathways are wide enough to hold the wire. Measure, measure, measure.
- The black rectangle is where you will drill (keep reading).
Mark the middle of the side as shown and drill through with a bit just large enough to fit the wire for the plug into section A.

Sand anything that needs sanding.

Step 11: Wiring

Needed: all electronic parts from lamp, soldering equipment, wire strippers/cutters, glue gun

Place all components in their spots as specified in the previous step. Make sure the plug is through the hole BEFORE you solder it or else you'll have to desolder it and try again (I did this the first time). Solder all connections again making sure wires are only connected where they are supposed to be. Now test the connection by seeing if a bulb lights up.
Glue all components* in place taking special care that the socket is straight.

*The next step your going to be drilling in the top half of the base so you may find it easier to not glue the pieces in just yet. You also may find it easier. Read the next step before you glue to find out for yourself.

Step 12: Inner Wall

Needed: can, base, walls/top, extra layer, marker, rotary tool, drill, screws, screwdriver, scissor, glue

Take the can and flip it upside down so the bottom is up. You're going to cut out a square that the socket will go through. [The first time I made this and in the SketchUp model it is a circle. I realized a square is better because it's a lot easier to cut and there's no advantage to having a circle.]
The square should be about half an inch bigger than the socket's diameter. Make sure there is enough room on  left to put in screws. Speaking of which, place the can cut side down on the top part of the base in the center. Mark the front of the can (you get to pick where it is) and three places for screws, making sure they don't go through the places for the electronics.
Drill through the can and a tiny bit into the top layer of the base for all three holes. Now tape the two pieces of the base together and drill all the way through.
place the already made walls on the can with the hole facing forward and mark where the hold is on the can. Using the rotary tool, cut the marks but cut a little more than you marked so when the lamp is open, you don't see ugly can. If the can is metal (it shouldn't be. I did the first time and it didn't offer any advantage), grind the cut so it isn't as sharp. To cut the cylinder nicely without it fraying, I used this kind of bit (http://www.dremel.com/en-us/AttachmentsAndAccessories/Pages/AttachmentsDetail.aspx?pid=543) but you can use a box cutter or sharp knife.
Now take your extra layer and cut it to the same size and shape as the inside of the dowels wall. Glue that to the inside of the dowels walls as tightly as you can to it so it can still turn smoothly around the can. Also cut out a circle for the inside of the top in the same way for the same reasons.
Now screw in the can, going through both halves of the base.

Step 13: Diffuser

Needed: can, diffuser, glue gun

Glue diffuser in place on inside of can. See pictures for help
If you're using a white balloon*, cut a piece of plastic (like from a soda bottle) the same shape as the diffuser and cut a balloon and stretch it over the plastic. Glue that in place and then glue it into the can. Then glue another piece of plastic over the balloon. This second piece will prevent the dowels from catching on the rubber balloon. Remember: the layers should be plastic, balloon, plastic.
Try to avoid using a balloon as it will be harder and not look as nice. Look around for materials that might work and test to see if they work and won't melt. My first lamp used the side to a plastic binder.

*NOTE: I have not tested the balloon method for safety. MAKE SURE you test it first.

Step 14: Steps

Needed: 1/4 inch wood, scroll saw, rotary tool (for sanding), glue

This step is optional (I didn't do it) but will make it look nicer and work better (I wish I had). This will prevent some light from getting out as well as keeping the bottoms of the dowels from showing.
Your going to make a shape like in the first picture with an outside rim of an octagon and an inner rim as a circle. The circle should be the diameter of the dowel wall plus a tiny bit so the wall can turn and the octagon should be the same size as the base.
Sand the inside rim down so the walls slide in easier and the outside rim down so it looks nicer.
Using the in place wall as a guide, glue this in place. It's more important that the wall be able to spin freely than the octagons line up.

Step 15: Hooray (but First Test the Light-tightness)

Turn off the lights (in the room, not the lamp) and turn on the lamp.
See how it looks with the light on. Does it give a nice light?
What about with the light blocked? Is all the light blocked?

Step 16: Hooray (for Real)!

Enjoy! (Remember: only florescent bulbs.)

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    7 Discussions


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I don't mean to offend your religious beliefs, but turning the lamp to shade it is less work on the sabbath than turning off a switch? If so, you could also build in a breaker that turns the light off when the lamp is rotated to the closed position, thus turning off the lamp with the same amount of effort. Less waste of energy causing people at the power company to work harder.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    No offense taken. The issue with turning on or off electrical devices isn't about doing work, because, as you said, it's not exactly the hardest thing to do. The issue is (I'm pretty sure) with building and destroying, two other things you can't do on the Sabbath. There wasn't a complete circuit there before the Sabbath and now there is. It's like you "built" it.
    About the energy thing: another thing you can do is put the lamp on a timer to turn off at, say, midnight. You can still control when the lights go out and don't waste electricity when you definitely won't be using it, like really late at night or during the day.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    My understanding is that it is that during the advent of electricity, it was decided that electricity was fire.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    The problem arises from the fact that the Talmud has not been revised for about 500 years and the assumption is being made that making fire would always be a laborious process. In the mean time we have replaced flint and steel tinderboxes with Zippo Lighters (artificial flint and steel with a volitile tender). Thus the Yshevas (Hebrew Seminaries) need to have a real world course on the sciences so that they can understand the world we live in.

    Nobel Prize winning Physicist Richard Philip Feynaman in his book "Surely You're Joking Mister Feynaman" tells of being asked by students while he was staying at a Ysheva "Is electricity fire? If electricity is not fire, what is the spark when a switch is opened?"

    The answer is electricity is not fire, and the spark is air heated to incandescance by the passage of electricity is not combustion (fire) because it can occour in an inernt gas such as helium, neon or argon.

    The spark can be eliminated by placing a capacitor across the switch contacts.

    I would dare each Ysheva class to have a Friday picnic where they make fires by old fashion methods like flint and steel tinder boxes, or fire drills or baboo fire saws, and then roast a few KOSHER hot dogs and discuss how hard it was in the old days to make fire.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    interesting you mention that because when electrical lights began to be used more, a group of prominent rabbis actually got together with a scientist (or group, I'm not sure) and discussed in detail, including learning all about electricity and what exactly is happening in the bulb, and decided that it did in fact fall in the categories of actions not allowed on the Sabbath.

    About the timer issue: you (Mumfi) are right in that it is because the action is initiated before the Sabbath starts. A motion sensor does not work the same way because although it is turned on before the Sabbath, you activate it (thus starting or breaking a circuit) during the Sabbath. The issue is what you are doing before and what you are doing during.

    About the refrigerator lights: many Jews unscrew the bulb so it doesn't go off. Side note: great way to save a little bit of power. You don't notice after a couple of days.

    I don't understand what you (also Mumfi) mean by this:

    "Also, you are changing the state of a simpler light circuit instead of the slightly more complicated electrical one."


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    If you use a timer, is that not the same as using a tool to do the same building or destroying? You initiate an action before the sabbath with the understanding that the tool will complete its work during. It doesn't seem right. If that's ok, you might as well install movement sensors, they operate of their own also. Or one of those lamps that are touch sensitive, no switches there. Are transistors considered switches. Are you allowed to use any electrical equipment that changes states at all?

    What do you do about the refrigerator light?

    Also, you are changing the state of a simpler light circuit instead of the slightly more complicated electrical one.

    Sorry, I had never heard of this and I got genuinely curious.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    This is a great Instructable! Well written, and the SketchUp pictures make things much clearer than the usual blurry macro photos ;-)

    Besides Sabbath observance, this would be great for smaller children (though my daughter loves it that she can do the switches all by herself!).

    It's still a bit of an energy-waster with a CFL (not as bad as an incandescent), if you leave it on Friday to Sunday. Perhaps one of the new LED lamp bulbs?