An illuminating idea.

Lighting Solutions, Other Projects / Saturday, January 4th, 2020

Some days ago, under Christmas holidays, I was at home from work with nothing to do… so I wanted to do something creative, to built something with my hands.

So since some months ago I started working as a mechanical designer for a company that produces custom led lighting, I had some ideas of my own for building some lamps.

I always used to love industrial design and style so I finished up scrolling on Pinterest looking at a lot of cool lamps and I found some nice examples of minimalist lamps where the bulb itself was the centre of attention.
One quite caught my eye, it was made of a square wood base and had a cool vintage looking filament bulb.

But it was not so well finished and was made out of two blocks of plywood painted and screwed together. The lamp holder was made of plastic and it had a quite sad circular on-off switch.
So I liked the overal idea but I tough it could be improved a bit.

So I just took a piece of Italian hickory wood (that we call “noce nazionale”) that I had around in the lab for quite sometime and I started cutting it off with a hand saw and then profiling with a rasp and a planer. I got quite the shape I wanted and then I put it in the slide vise of my drill press.

I installed an economic woodworking endmill in the chuck and I started milling out the pocket for the cables and the on-off switch.
It was quite hard to do because the drill press wasn’t an optimal machine to mill hardwood.

So I made quite a mess and the lamp prototype was just ugly A.F. and since it was quite cold in my lab and I had lighted the fireplace I just decided to throw it there. Ugly or not it made quite an excellent job as firewood 😛

The I just took the day off deciding that I would do another attempt the next day.
The evening I decided that a bit of designing before actual production would be a smart move, so started drawing the lamp base on Fusion 360.

Then the next day I took again the same big wooden plank and I did it all again. Obviously this time for milling I opted for usign that “big useful cnc machine” that I had just next to the drill press.

I made the toolpath on the Fusion 360 CAM starting from the drawing that I previously did, then I exported the g-code and loaded it on the cnc software (colibri-cnc).

Then after homing and zeroing the machine I clamped the block of wood in the precision vise and I launched the program and milled the pocket necessary for the cables and the switch.

I used the same woodworking endmill and the result was quite good this time using the rights speeds and spindle rpm on the cnc machine.
I used a safe step down of 0,5mm, 4200 rpm and a speed of 1500mm/min.

The switch I chose was a good old toggle switch that made a quite satisfing “clack” when it was activated. As you may know:

“Everything is cooler with a toggle switch!”


I found then a old black oxide washer to put under the switch nut and I decided to clean it with a scotch brite wheel and heat colour it to a nice deep blue/black colour.

Then I started searching an appropriate E27 bulb holder. I found some cool ceramic and brass ones in an old box of electrical material belonged to my grandfather, they where kinda dirt and the brass was oxydised, but after a quick wash they were good as new! And that patina on the brass was just the best.

So after a quick check to see if all the parts fitted well I took all apart and started finishing the wood with abrasive paper, I used 80 grit then 180-220-400-600 and then some Scotch Brite sponges I think around grit 1000.

I then took an old kydex sheet. (kydex is a plastic material used to make sheats and holsters that can be manipulated in various shapes when it’s heated and then retains it’s shape). And I fixed it to the base and shaped it to fit the lamp and then I refinished everything once more to remove the scratches caused from the grinding of the kydex.

Then I cabled the lamp using a cool cable covered in bronze coloured fabric and attached a wall electric line plug. And I bought a cool bulb made similar to the first Edison bulb but that used leds powered filaments instead of tungsten wire.

I added some felt pads on the kydex sheet of the bottom of the box to cover the screws and to avoid the lamp to scratch the surfaces where you put it. And well that’s the final result:

I hope you enjoyed this journey to lamp making!And I hope to see you soon back on my website!

3 Replies to “An illuminating idea.”

    1. “Noce nazionale” means “national walnut” and it is a species of walnut tree that grows here in europe, it’s similar to the northamerican hickory tree.
      The “noce nazionale” wood is of a darker brown color than the american one, I sometimes use in my projects due to his hardness and beauty. ^^

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