My First Floor Lamp – Part 1

Most of the desk lamps that I have come across are made of metal and are called ‘balanced arm lamps’. These lamps use springs to balance the weight of the arms (using certain proportions), which allows the user to position the shade at the desired height. I experimented with this while making my first floor lamp Reflect. This was a great learning experience with a ton of trial and error.

I wanted to make a floor lamp that was adjustable in height, as I felt this could be a useful feature. The design was tricky and I had to change certain aspects whenever something didn’t work out as I had imagined. I like how the lamp looked in the end, and I’ve described the process in this post. Unfortunately, I did not click pictures from the start, so the pictures that I will share here are of the finished lamp.

I worked on the design with the following criteria in mind:

  • I must only use wood that I already have (and not buy more)
  • The lamp must have a height-adjustment feature
  • The shade must be unconventional
  • The shade must also be adjustable in some way, like a tilt or pivot feature
  • Though essentially a floor lamp, it should work well next to a work table/desk as well

To make the height of the lamp adjustable, I took my inspiration from the design of a standard mic stand, like this one:

I needed one vertical piece that was fixed to a stable base, and another vertical piece that could be moved up or down and fixed at the required height using a simple mechanism. I had some lengths of pine wood left over from my balcony mesh set-up, and these were square sections ¾” in width and breadth, and about 2’6” long. I chose two of these, and for the base I used the horizontal piece between the two Xs of my coffee table base (shown in the pic below). We had made this during my first weekend workshop and I did not intend to use this as a coffee table.  

I decided to make a series of holes on the two vertical pieces, such that they could be aligned and held together at different heights using a pair of hex bolts and wing nuts. To do this accurately, I marked and drilled eight equidistant holes on a strip of thick card paper, and used this as a stencil to drill the holes in both strips of wood so that the positions of the holes would match. This was harder than it sounded and took some time to get right.

Before drilling the holes, I noticed that the two strips of wood were not perfectly square and not exactly the same width, which would cause the edges to be misaligned when fixed together with the nuts and bolts. I had never planed wood before and I had only a small block plane. I used the block plane as best I could to get the two strips square, but it was very frustrating because I kept getting slopes.

Eventually, I measured the narrowest part of both pieces, used an L-square to mark this measurement down the length of each piece, and planed down to the line. I had a lot to learn about how to set up, sharpen and use a hand plane. I also watched some Youtube videos and read tips on various woodworking forums to learn how to plane wood by hand.

The next step was to have a tilting arm that would be perpendicular to the vertical body of the lamp, and to which the shade could be attached at one end. More about this in my next post.