Turning a Table Lamp

Submitted by Jo Miller

Our March demonstrator, Nick Cook, comes to us from Marietta, Georgia.  He is a production turner who had been in the same shop for 30 years

The table lamp is constructed in 2 parts: a base and the top, which are connected in a mortis and tenon fashion.  The lamp is made using 8/4 poplar that had been glued (Brian uses Tightbond I, which is water resistant; or Tightbond II if you need the  joints to be water proof) together to form either a 4” or 6” square piece.  Make sure the surfaces are flat – Brian suggests using a joiner first, and then put the piece through a planer once glued up

Making the Base

The base uses a 6” square approximately 6 “ long which is mounted onto the lathe using a screw center with a shim to reduce the depth of the screw.

  • The base is rounded , and the face smoothed off using a 3/8” bowl gouge. 
  • A recess for the lamp wire is then turned into the base approximately ¾ “ deep, leaving approximately a ¾” flat band around the perimeter of the base .
  • An additional center recess  ~2×1/4” is turned approximately  3/16th-¼” deep depending the size of your chuck – an expansion chuck will be used at this site so you may need to create a dove tail depending upon the chuck you use.  Brian uses a bedan for this.
  • Drill a ¼” hole into the side of the base approximately ½” from the bottom to the wire of the lamp to go through to the outside.
  • Reverse the base onto your expansion chuck and turn the profile you want for the base.  Brian used an ogee shape with some steps
  • Drill a hole for the lamp rod – at least 7/16” inch – drilling through the screw hole.  Use a slow speed (4-600 RPM) for drilling
  • Sand the base

Making the lamp top:

The lamp is made using 6 “ square poplar approximately 12” long

  • Round the blank and form tenons on each end – Brian uses larger jaws (4”) to provide better stability when drilling.
  • Drill a 7/16” hole through the whole piece for the lamp rod.  To do this, Brian starts by drilling a ½” deep hole with a 1-2/8” forsner bit in the center of the blank using a Jacob’s chuck.   He switches to7/16” brad point brad point drill bit, beginning with a short bit first, then moved to a longer one.  He drills half way through then turns the blank around to complete the drilling.  He suggests bringing up the tail stock when turning the blank around to make sure the piece is centered.
  • To shape the lamp, Brian uses a cone center in the live center for the top of the lamp.
  • Prepared a special drive center that allows the piece to turn smoothly:
    • Use a 4”x 3” piece of poplar , round and form a 3/8” tenon on one end to fit your chuck. 
    • Turn and remount in your chuch, then turn a tapered tenon approximately 1-1/2 “ long and tapering to ~3/8” at the end to fit the hole in the base of the lamp.
  • With the lamp mounted between the special drive center at the head stock, and a cone center in the tail stock, Shape the lamp as desired.  Begin with the top and work down to the base of the lamp. 
  • Turn a tenon to fit the base of the lamp. 
  • Sand and finish the lamp

For shape ideas for the lamp, Brian recommends the book: “Classic Forms” by Stuart Dyas