My first wooden lamp

During my early explorations into woodworking, I came across the Bengaluru-based Bent. I visited their workshop and met one of the founders. I found him to be down-to-earth, practical and passionate about woodworking. At the time, I was learning about basic joints and trying them out on pieces of waste wood. He suggested that I try making actual, functional products- like simple pieces of furniture or accessories, in sizes that I could manage. He felt this would help me learn about design, planning and execution in a holistic way rather than focusing only on the joints.

It was a good suggestion and I am grateful to him for it. It encouraged me to try making my first functional product- an adjustable desk lamp. I’m not sure why I chose to start with a lamp. It might be that I have always had an affinity for lamps- I feel they can really change how a space looks and feels. It could also be that while rummaging through a cupboard I found three powder-coated metal lamp shades- blue, yellow and orange. I had bought these at a little roadside stall in Mumbai 18-20 years ago and finally, their time had come.

I began my design process with a self-imposed constraint: I must make the lamp using just a single length of wood. I chose a strip of beech wood beading, which was about 180 cm long x 3 cm wide x 1 cm thick. After working the design out in my head, I cut the strip into shorter lengths and intended to put them together using fasteners of some sort that would make the lamp adjustable in some way.

Taking a cue from a few images on the internet, I decided to use wing nuts and hex bolts. I couldn’t find these at any of the local hardware stores, and had to make a trip to the wholesale market on SP Road, which was truly fascinating.
SP Road is a long, narrow and crowded street in the heart of Bengaluru. It is lined on both sides with shops that sell all kinds of electronic components and parts, followed by shops selling industrial stuff like coils, metal sections, metal spare parts, rubber parts, hydraulic spare parts and a few shops that sell woodworking tools. I was able to find the nuts and bolts that I needed. I also bought some pipes and strips made of copper and brass, mainly because they looked really nice, and I thought they might come in handy sometime.

So coming back to my desk lamp- I had finished cutting the beading strip into pieces of the required length, based on a rough design I had in mind. I started putting the parts together using the nuts and bolts I had bought at SP Road, and the lamp started taking shape and looked like this.

I then attached the blue metal lamp shade using a smaller bolt and nut, and wired it up with a bulb holder and two-pin cord.

The three pieces at the bottom could be turned towards the front or the back, but the lamp had a tendency to topple to one side, and I needed a solution for that. So I took the lamp apart and attached another piece of wood perpendicular to the two outer base strips, using dado joints.

This addition helped improve the overall balance and stability. I sanded the wood, stained it a dark walnut tone, and then finished it with clear varnish.

I made two more desk lamps in the same style, using the yellow and orange metal shades.

Each of these was made from a single length of teak wood instead of beech, and finished with a clear varnish without any stain or polish. I called this design Focus.