Making a Table Lamp:
Andy Coates makes a table lamp from a reclaimed oak post.
Andy Coates makes a table lamp from a reclaimed oak post
Every once in a while somebody will give you some wood that has already been used for something else. Such gifted wood usually looks quite cheesy, but despite its appearance there probably is something you can do to re-use it. However, reclaimed wood requires a little more thought and care prior to use. The first thing I always look for is evidence of nails, screws or staples. These will play havoc with your carefully ground cutting edges, and might even present a danger to you; so if you have a small metal detector, the type used by electricians for finding stud partitions, then make use of it and scan the wood prior to selection. Should you find any evidence of metal you will need to decide if you should reject the piece of wood or try to clear the buried metal.
I am using an old oak fence post for the project, but some of it was a little rotten, so I have included options for dealing with the less solid sections. The main thing to be wary of is using wood that is so flawed it could cause an accident. Common sense should prevail at all times. Is it worth the risk?
The process I use to make table lamps is slightly different to the norm, but it is one I find effective and simple. You may decide to take a more traditional approach.
Plans and Equipment
• 10mm long-ground bowl gouge
• 10mm long-ground spindle gouge
• 10mm parting and beading tool
• 2mm parting tool
• Long hole boring auger
• Hollow tail centre for long hole boring
• Strip of Formica
• Abrasives 180–400 grits
• Cellulose sealer
• Hard wax stick
• Various surface finishes
• PPE: Facemask, gloves,
Drawings and how to resize them
To enlarge or reduce the size of drawings right click on the image to download it and then go HERE to watch a video on how to use paper with a grid to do exactly that.
LEFT: Three standard head and tailstock drives which can be useful. MIDDLE TOP: Chucks with 55–75mm internal jaws and large grip 90mm+ jaws RIGHT: Standard long hole boring centres BOTTOM: Shell auger, twist auger, twist auger
If you do not have a hollow tailstock, or the required long hole boring kit and associated tail centres, the central bore can be achieved using standard auger bits in a brace. It may require you to bore from each end to the middle, but with care it is an achievable job. Bore the blank prior to turning and mount on the resulting holes to ensure concentricity
1. Before you begin work, take a look at your blank. Is there an orientation you prefer? On this piece there was a patch of burr that I felt would look better on the base section rather than turned away. This meant that I had to initially mount the blank with this area at the headstock end
2. Mark the centres as accurately as the blank allows and mount between centres. The first task is to cut a 90mm tenon to suit the gripper jaws. If you do not have gripper jaws ensure the tenon is perfectly formed for your jaw type
3. When you have a lamp with a square base it is vital that the end is perfectly flat across the corners. If there is a slight concavity here there will be a gap in the middle of the baseline, and if convex the base will not sit flat. This is a good opportunity to practise getting it right
4. With the tenon turned remount the blank by the tenon. Ensure a tight hold. Clean up the opposite end, making sure it is flat as noted above. Mark a 75mm diameter. Begin to hollow a recess using a 10mm beading tool. Take light cuts to reduce vibration. Cut to 20–25mm depth. Mark the centre with a small V cut
5. Reverse the blank and mount in expansion mode in to the recess on your C jaws. Do not over tighten as this can cause stress fractures and result in an accident. Mount the deep hole tailstock centre DHTC. If it is not a revolving DHTC, apply some paste wax. Wind the quill in but do not over tighten
6. I used the 5/16in shell auger to bore the hole through the blank. Lathe speed should be no more than 300rpm. Carefully feed the auger in and use light force to pick up the cut. Cut 20mm of depth and then withdraw the auger to clear the shavings before returning to cut. Take it slowly, working methodically, until the auger breaches the base. You will feel it break through
7. Having completed the bore, swap the DHTC for a revolving cone centre and bring it in to the hole for support. Now assess your blank and decide where you want the base to be. Either 50/50 or 1/3–2/3 works well. As I intend to leave a square section I decided on 1/3–2/3 to hopefully retain some of the burr feature in the base
8. Any turning that requires a square section leaving can prove difficult for a novice; the required cut is initially only cutting four corners and tool control is paramount. My preferred approach is to use the long point of the skew. Use a high entry point and pivot the tool into the cut at the marked point on the blank. Note the masking tape on the toolrest to provide a visual reference for where the cut needs to be. Cut down to achieve a round section
9. Use a spindle roughing gouge to reduce the blank to a cylinder. Take light cuts and remember, this is reclaimed wood; it may contain splits and cracks you cannot see. Be aware of tell-tale sounds that might indicate a loose section of wood that requires the lathe to be stopped and the fault assessed
10. Begin shaping at the headstock end, as these will be the wider sections. If your skew work at the pommel left a poor surface finish, you can use a long-ground gouge to clean up the surface, rubbing the bevel fully to ensure good control. Mark off your first feature and begin to turn, taking care not to catch your hand on the four corners of the square section
11. The first section is a ball shape sitting on a double V cut flange. The skew chisel is ideal for this, but do bring the toolrest in as close as possible to ensure total tool control. Use the long point, cutting on the tip, and take care at the base of the cuts where the possibility of cutting two surfaces is to be avoided
12. Reduce the next sections to cylinders suitable for the features to be turned. Mark out in pencil and turn the series of features. These are all standard spindle turning features, fillets, coves, swell and beads. Use the opportunity to practise with both skew and spindle gouges. Keep features crisp and regular
13. Having completed the stem section clean off the end flat with the tip of the skew chisel. Depending on which type of fitting you have, the next part may be different. The brass fittings I use have a small brass stub that needs to be inset. Take the diameter and carefully cut a recess to suit it in to the end of the stem
14. Cut a shallow chamfer on the top edge of the recess to provide an area for epoxy glue to pool. When ready for final fitting use two-part epoxy resin, and take care not to let any of it get on to the threads that will take the lamp holder. Use light tailstock pressure in the end of the stub to ensure it is true. Allow epoxy to fully cure
15. Before fitting the stub the lamp needs to be abraded, sealed and finished. This is personal choice, and here I have gone for a traditional wax finish. Be wary of the square corners when abrading. A flexible sanding pad can help reduce risk of knocking fingertips
16. Having fitted the brass stub you can now build the lamp. If you are giving the lamp as a gift or selling it, there are specific regulations you need to adhere to. Check with local trading standards. At the very least all components must be CE marked, unmodified, cable strain relief fitted, and competently fitted. You might consider having it PAT tested for compliance
17. Having now turned your lamp from reclaimed wood, you might decide to try something new with it. There are lots of options, but here are a few to whet your appetite. I made a copy of the original to work on. It was abraded to 240 grit to leave the grain quite open to accept the wax
18. There are a range of different coloured waxes available you might try; patinating, liming, coloured. All can provide interest and add value. I chose to use liming wax on the second lamp. Rub the wax well in to the grain, working along the grain as you go. Apply liberally and allow the wax to fully cure. The process here is the same regardless of which wax you choose
19. Once cured, buff off the excess wax with clean white paper towel. If you have over-spill on the square area you can remove this with a wire brush
20. On a spare blank I tried a few other approaches. If your blank has soft areas due to rot you can often remove these by using a bristle brush on a drill. Working either with the grain, or against it, can produce different visual and textural effects. Play about with it and see which appeals to you
21. If you prefer a ‘natural’ look then brushing out the softer grain can result in a pleasing surface that responds well to a simple oil finish. I prefer hard wax oil for such surfaces as it gives a pleasing sheen and is a durable finish
22. Another approach is to scorch the surface using a blow torch. Allow to cool down and then use a bronze brush to remove the loose carbon. This can then be oiled or waxed, and will produce a lovely effect, or the surface can then be wire brushed to drag out the softer growth, creating a two-tone effect
23. Another option is to use a rotary wire brush on the surfaces. Wire brushes can be brutal – especially on flesh! – so take care and ensure you wear eye and lung protection. With wire brushes I prefer to work with the grain, removing softer growth and rot as deeply as possible. Once again your choice from here is personal: simple oil or wax, or why not try decorative wax
24. One of my favourite decorative waxes is verdigris wax. I love the colour, and it really seems to suit ‘character’ wood. Having applied liberally and allowed to cure I then buff out with a large drill polishing brush. Once the verdigris wax is cured and buffed you could wipe black patinating wax over the surface, getting down in to the grain, and wipe off quickly removing the top layer only. This creates a pleasing two-tone effect
25. Your final lamp should end up looking something like this
Surface textured with synthetic bristle brush on corded drill. Over-sprayed with red acrylic gloss, allowed to cure and then abraded back to produce contrast
Surface scorched, textured with synthetic bristle brush on a corded drill, verdigris wax applied and buff with polishing brush on a corded drill
Surface textured with wire brush on a corded drill, liming wax applied and buffed off with a nylon pad
Surface textured with wire brush on a corded drill and hard-wax oil applied, left to cure then buffed with a lint-free cloth
• If your reclaimed blank has nails, screws or staples embedded, you must ensure they are all removed prior to turning. Not only could they constitute a safety hazard for you and your tools while turning, but any stray pieces of metal could cause the electrical cable to become damaged in use, and this would constitute a very serious safety hazard.
• Every country, and sometimes different regions within a country, has specific regulations for the manufacture and sale of electrical items. Do ensure you make yourself aware of these regulations
and comply with them fully. The onus is entirely on you to do so. Failure to comply could not only result in injury to a friend or customer, but could also result in the confiscation of stock, civil charges, or compensation claims.
• Using reclaimed stock: reclaimed wood can present safety and health issues that ‘clean’ wood might not. Chemicals may well have been used on, or entered, the wood. There may be inclusions such as nails or barbed wire. There may be splits, cracks, fissures or even parasitic infestations in the wood.