Lamp Shades

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Project by Peter Oxley posted 01-31-2008 07:08 PM 4359 views 6 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This started out as one of those relaxing weekend projects. I actually had a day to do some woodworking for myself instead of for clients. The lamp shades on a couple of our floor lamps had been damaged in a move, so I thought I’d spend an afternoon building new shades.

Recently, several installations have required me to do some cutting with handsaws. I found that my handsaw skills were a little rusty, so I thought the lampshades would be a perfect project for some handsaw practice. While I was at it, I decided not to calculate and measure every cut, and instead used a story stick and bevel gauge.

Cutting the pieces to length and cutting the angled half-laps went pretty well, but took a lot longer than I had expected. I don’t know where my good back-saw wandered off to, so I used a small pull-saw. The cutting would have been faster and the joints would have been tighter if I had used the right saw. I glued up the eight little frames and was pleased with how well the pieces went together – not perfect, but like I said – my handsaw skills are a little rusty, and I wasn’t really using the right saw. Eight panels means 32 joints – further evidence that you can never have too many clamps.

The afternoon was shot, so I left the parts in glue-up and returned to them the next day. Of course, by then the glue squeeze-out was set up, and had to be removed from all the nooks and crannies with a card scraper and a chisel. Once the glue was off, I routed a recess for the panels and cut the bevel for the frames to attach to each other and glued them up. I cleaned off that glue and slopped on some Black Walnut Danish Oil. The fabric panels were cut out of the old lampshades (one yellow and one blue-grey) and attached in the recesses with 23ga pins.

I tried to use the hardware out of the old lampshades, but both of them broke, so I fabricated an “X” out of ¼” BB ply to attach the shade to the lamp.

This relaxing, afternoon project wound up stretching out to a little over eight hours! Still, it was a fun diversion, and I got to practice some skills I don’t use often.

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7 comments so far

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 4168 days

#1 posted 01-31-2008 07:42 PM

Looks to me like it came out pretty darn good, Peter. Somthing to do while we watch it snow?? This global warming is about to freeze me to death down here on the desert. LOL Got lots of wood for the fire.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View cajunpen's profile


14578 posts in 4271 days

#2 posted 01-31-2008 08:30 PM

Great looking lamp shade.

-- Bill - "Suit yourself and let the rest be pleased."

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 4028 days

#3 posted 01-31-2008 09:09 PM

These are very nice lamp shades. I know that I would not have the initiative to try these with nothing more than hand tools- maybe that is why my hand skills are lacking. I admire and respect anyone who can use hand tools to create a project like this.

This is an inspirational project.

Thanks for sharing.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 4080 days

#4 posted 01-31-2008 11:00 PM

Great job. They really look nice.

View mrtrim's profile


1696 posts in 4086 days

#5 posted 02-01-2008 01:31 PM

some guys have all the fun ! great job peter

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 4080 days

#6 posted 09-23-2010 03:46 PM

JeorgeG made this critique in a forum post, but I thought more people might benefit from the critique and my response if they were attached to the project!

Peter, it looks like you had fun making this shade, there are a couple of things I see that maybe are because of the photography (way it was photographed) that bothered me a little with the project. In my opinion, I feel the shade would have looked more balanced if you had cut the top and bottom straight instead of leaving the slanted corners, but that is a matter of taste. What I did notice is that the mortise and tenons do not seem to fit flush, as I said maybe it is the photography, if not, may I suggest using a scraper to even out the edges. The styles also do not seem to be flush, was this a design choice? If not maybe for the next shade you might try mitered corners, I think they would add a touch of elegance to your project.

JeorgeG – thanks for your comments. I apologize for the photography – those pictures were taken with an older camera, and I’ve never taken new ones. Basically, each of your suggestions are aesthetic choices I made during the building process, to varying effect.

I had originally planned to knock off the corners of the stiles, but as I was building the frames I decided I liked the look of the “tails”. If I were to build these again, I think I would leave the tops as they are and extend the bottoms a little farther, or perhaps use an arching bottom rail.

As I mentioned in the description, the rails and stiles are joined by half-laps, not M&T. You are correct that the rails are proud of the stiles. I’ve used this detail on door frames (wider rails and stiles) with about 1/8” offset, and it makes a neat effect. I reduced the offset on these because of the narrower rails and stiles. I agree that the detail doesn’t work as well in this case. However, since I cut them with a Japanese pull saw instead of a back saw, I’m pretty happy that the offsets came out so consistent.

You are correct that the stiles are not flush with each other where they meet at the corners of the shade. I was puzzled for a moment by your comment about miters, but I think it’s a difference in terminology. I think of “miter” as an angled cut across the grain, and “bevel” as an angled cut along the length of a piece. As I mentioned in the description, the frames actually do meet in a bevel – that’s how they are glued together. But the bevel is only half the thickness of the material, leaving the reveal you noticed.

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View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 4080 days

#7 posted 10-08-2010 05:16 AM

Jorge – in this application, M&T would probably be an easier joint to make with power tools, but I made these as a hand-tool exercise, so the joint was cut with a handsaw. There are a few reasons the half-lap is easier with hand-tools …
~ With a handsaw, an open mortise is two rip cuts and then some chisel work (or coping saw), and a tenon is two rip cuts and two cross cuts (total: six cuts plus chisel work). However, each half lap is one rip and one cross cut (total: four cuts).
~ Rather than calculating the angles, I just laid the pieces in place and struck a line with a marking knife. Any error in striking the line on the tenon shoulders would have shown as a gap in the assembled joint.
~ The half lap also allows for some error/variation in thickness, but if M&T has variation the fit is either too tight or too loose.

Thanks again for your feedback!

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