In this post, I’ll show you how to make a wood table lamp. The wood I used is a piece of cedar tree, and I left part of it “live edge” or natural edge. A lamp like this can work in many decor styles from rustic, to cabin chic, farmhouse, and even to mid-century modern. In addition to the wood, your choice of lamp shade can really influence the overall “look” of a natural wood lamp.
PREPARING THE WOOD
- palm sander (optional)
- saw (optional if you want to straighten the top and/or bottom of the wood)
- 3⁄8” x about 12″ to 18″ drill bit (length varies depending on height of your wood)
- pencil, level (optional)
First, get a piece of wood for the lamp. I usually get my wood from ads on Craigslist or from a nearby tree service business that gives away wood. The piece of wood I used for this project is spalted Eastern red cedar. It was an irregular shape, sort of triangular in the longer dimension. Two of the long sides were already cut, and the “back” was the uncut natural live edge. I sanded it with a palm sander and by hand to remove the bark and even it out.
I wanted the top and bottom of the lamp to be relatively parallel, so I trimmed the smaller end, which became the top of the lamp, with a hand saw. Depending on your piece of wood and your aesthetic, you may not want to cut the top flat. First, I drew a cut line using a level. To do this, I drew a level line on two sides of my wood.
Then I used a hand saw to cut the wood. I must say that this cut was hard to do. I couldn’t stabilize the wood easily because of the shape and size, and cedar is hard to cut. (Okay I’m not sure, but I’m sticking with my story.) If you have access to a table saw or band saw, I’d use it! As I mentioned, you may not need to do any cutting.
The next thing to do was drill a 3⁄8 inch hole through the wood for the lamp wire. I bought this auger-style drill bit from Amazon, and it worked fine: IRWIN Wood Installer Bit, 18″ x 3/8.”
It was a little hard to drill because I didn’t have a good way to stablize the wood. I ended up wedging it between my feet and drilling. It wasn’t ideal, but in the end, it worked. If you have a vise big enough or at least someone to hold it for you, that would be better!
I drilled another 3⁄8” hole through the back of the lamp into the main vertical hole so that the lamp wire would exit the back.
After drilling the holes, I finished the wood with Minwax Wipe-On Poly.
WIRING THE TABLE LAMP
- light kit (may need additional different length neck and/or harp)
- screw driver
Follow the instructions that come with your light kit. Your instructions may be different than what I show for the kit I used.
Before you wire your lamp, I suggest picking out your shade, harp height, and neck height. I found that it took some trial and error to get a good look for my lamp regarding the style and size of the lamp shade, the neck length, and the harp size. The dimensions of your piece of wood and your aesthetic sensibilities will be different from mine, so you won’t be using exactly the same parts as I did, probably.
I wanted the lamp shade to sit a little higher above the wood than the neck that came with my lamp kit would allow. I had an extra 3-inch piece of lamp pipe that I had previously ordered from an online lamp parts supplier (Grand Brass), and I used it for this project. Most lamp kits come with a neck that is about an inch high. If you want a longer neck but don’t want to order from an online specialty supplier, local home improvement and hardware stores commonly sell extra necks of the same height, and you can stack these together on a longer threaded nipple, which these stores also carry.
Extra Threaded Nipple
Most lamp kits include only one threaded nipple, which connects the neck to the socket. You will need another one that is an inch or two in length that connects the bottom of the neck into the wood. I’ll describe later how to glue this into the wood.
The lamp kit I bought included a 10-inch harp. I ended up using an 8-inch harp which I bought at the same store (Menards). As I mentioned, picking this out was an effort in trial and error to see what I thought looked the best for my piece of wood.
I used a bushing where the lamp cord exits the wood. Bushings protect the electrical cord from potential damage if the cord rubs against the wood. It is not necessary, but a nice touch. These are only available from specialty suppliers, from what I have seen. Here is the one I used: 1/8 ips Male Black Bushing. There are many other styles available.
Finials are so much fun! Finials screw into the top of the harp and are basically ornaments. I used the finial that came with my lamp kit, but I’m planning to switch it out with one I like a little better for this lamp.
In the photo below, notice the following parts from the top: finial, harp, socket, threaded nipple, neck (lamp pipe), threaded nipple, wood, optional bushing (not shown), lamp cord.
The first thing to do is thread the lamp cord through the wood from the back. I put a bushing (optional) on the cord as shown then inserted the cord in the hole at the back of the lamp. I used a screw driver through the hole in the bottom of the wood to encourage the cord to make a 90 degree turn into the main vertical hole. Then I pushed the cord through to the top of the wood.
Once through, I put a nipple, then neck, then nipple on the cord.
Then I put on the bottom piece of the harp and the bottom piece of the socket onto the cord.
After this, I made an underwriter’s knot on the end of the cord.
I removed the top part of the socket to reveal the two screw, a silver one and a brass (brown) one.
Following the instructions that came with my lamp kit, I attached the ribbed wire to the silver screw. Then I attached the smooth wire to the brass (brown) screw. (Please note that your instructions may be different. Follow your instructions.)
After this, I replaced the top part of the socket to sit over the screws and reconnected the top part of the socket to the bottom part of the socket.
Next, I screwed the top nipple into both the socket and the top of the neck. I also screwed the bottom nipple into the bottom of the neck. The basic wiring is done.
To connect the neck to the wood, I glued the bottom nipple into the top hole in the wood. The hole I drilled was slightly bigger than the nipple, so I put glue on the nipple, then leveled the lampshade and taped it into place until the glue cured. I used Titebond 3 wood glue for this, but other types of glue would work, too (for instance e6000, glue gun, jb weld, silicone construction adhesive, etc.)
You might want to put felt or felt stickers on the bottom of your lamp to protect surfaces from scratches. I haven’t done this yet, but plan to. Here are a few more photos.
Thanks again for stopping by. If you are interested in lamps, check back soon because the next project will be a DIY cement table lamp. All my best to you!