Turned Table Lamp

A stack-laminated blank looks great and solves wiring problems.

A table lamp is a useful, attractive turning project that’s not hard to make at all. That said, there are certain criteria for any turned lamp, which this design meets nicely. It’s a good height and overall size for a classic vase form, although there’s no need to hollow it. In fact, the weight and mass of the solid form gives it great stability. One challenge with a wood lamp is creating a wire access hole through the center, since even a bit that’s long enough for the job would inevitably drift off course. The solution here is to stack-laminate the blank, creating a 3/8"-square channel through the axis by leaving a gap in the centermost laminate. Stack-laminating also allows the opportunity to incorporate some design flair in the form of contrasting woods. I used maple here for the main wood, with walnut laminates. Of course, laminating your blank like this also saves you the trouble and expense of finding a large kiln-dried piece of turning stock, which wouldn’t be as stable as a laminated blank anyway. 

I’m pleased with the shape of this lamp and the lamination pattern, but feel free to experiment, and don’t worry about following the shape exactly. The most important thing is to aim for nice, fair curves. Have fun with it!

Heavy and light

Stack-laminate construction is what gives this lamp visual interest and plenty of weight for a stable stance. The turning blank for this lamp is created by stack-laminating 3/4"-thick maple pieces, with 1/8"- and 3/8"-thick walnut pieces sandwiched in between for contrast. A channel at the center axis for the lamp wire and threaded pipe is created by leaving a gap between the central walnut pieces during the glue-up. The lamp wire exits the base through a hole that extends from a drilled recess in the bottom to the outside of the base. 


Go to woodcraftmagazine.com and click onlineEXTRAS to download these stories.

Order of Work

  • Prepare the blank.
  • Make and attach a mounting block.
  • Turn the lower section.
  • Invert the mounting, and turn the upper section.
  • Create the wire channels and install the hardware.

The blank comes first...

Prepare your laminations by dressing 10 pieces of maple to 3/4 × 8 × 14-1/2" and 2 pieces of walnut to 1/8 × 8 × 14-1/2". Also dress 2 pieces of walnut to 3/8 × 4 × 14-1/2". (If resawing is a problem, thin stock is available commercially. See page 70.) Glue up the blank as 2 halves, using Titebond III for longer open assembly time. Trim one end of each half, then crosscut both pieces to 14" using a stop block, and glue the halves together as shown. Now draw an 8"-diameter circle on one end of the blank (noting it with an “A”), and mark the corners for wasting. Because the blank is not square in cross section, bandsaw the waste as shown to produce balanced symmetry.

Ready, set… With clamps at the ready, use a wide plastic putty knife to spread a thin, consistent coat of glue onto both mating surfaces of the prepared halves. 
…and clamp. Snug up the bottom clamps just enough to press the faces together, then use an end-to-end clamp to pull the ends into alignment before attaching the top clamps and tightening all. 

Mark for wasting. After marking an 8"-diameter circle centered on one end of the blank (marked as “A”), use a combination square as shown to draw corner cut lines tangent to the circle. 

First pair of waste cuts. Referencing a waste cut line, locate your bandsaw fence to saw away the first corner. After making the first cut, rotate the blank (with the “A” end still leading), and slice away the opposing corner as shown.
Second pair of waste cuts. Rotate the blank end-for-end, and saw away the remaining corners in the same fashion. This cutting approach results in a balanced blank from an out-of-square block.

...then the mounting block

Make a 3/4"-thick waste block with a diameter that matches a lathe faceplate on which the screw holes are at least 2" apart diametrically. Then bore a 3/8"-diameter hole through the center of the block, and press a 3/8"-diameter × 3"-long dowel into the hole as shown to serve as a centering pin. Fasten the pinned mounting block to what will be the top end of the lamp blank. 

Bore for the pin. After fastening the mounting block to your faceplate with double-faced tape, turn it true. Then drill a 3⁄8"-diameter hole through the center to accept a dowel that will serve as a centering pin.
Press-fit. Use a scrap block against your tailstock to press the centering pin into its hole without damage.

Attach the mounting block. After drilling all the clearance holes through the mounting block, slip the centering pin in the wire channel, and press the block to the blank. Drill a pilot hole for one screw, install it, then install the remaining screws. Make sure your screws extend at least 11⁄4" into the blank. 

Turn the lower section...

Mount the blank on the lathe, supporting it at the tailstock end with a live center. Round the cylinder end-to-end using a large spindle roughing gouge. Mark a 4-3/4"-diameter circle on the bottom to establish the outside perimeter and a 3-1/4"-diameter circle for the bottom recess. Then cut the chuck recess perimeter as shown. Mark a line 6" up from the bottom as a major-diameter reference. Rough out the profile below the line, then above it. To finish up, drill out the bottom recess and then finesse the bottom surface. 

Rough-shape the lower section. Referring to the drawing on p. 37, shape the lower 6" of the blank using a large spindle roughing gouge.
Rough-shape the upper section. While the blank is still firmly mounted to the face plate and supported by the tail stock, it’s wise to take the opportunity to remove most of the mass from the upper section of the blank. 
Drill the bottom recess. Using a 21⁄2"-diameter Forstner bit, drill out the 11⁄4"-deep secondary recess in the bottom.
Finesse the bottom. After putting the tailstock live center back into play, use a 1⁄2" spindle gouge to true the bottom, turning a very slight concavity. 

...then the upper

Remount the blank with the bottom now in the expanding jaws of a 4-jaw chuck, and the top end supported by a live center in the tailstock. Then mark the neck perimeter. Use a large roughing gouge to start defining the body’s shoulder as you begin to create the neck. Then refine the neck. Finish up smoothing using a scraper, and then true the top. 

Shoulder the body. Using a large roughing gouge, and working from your major diameter line toward the top, begin defining the shoulder of the body.
Refine the shoulder and neck. Switching to a 1⁄2" spindle gouge, refine the top section of the blank, moving from the center toward the top and from the top downward to the neck, referring to the diameters on the drawing.
Scrape to smooth. Use a scraper to smooth the shoulder and neck.
True the top. Use a 1⁄2" spindle gouge to true up the top end, flattening it in the process.

Ream, bore, and sand to finish up

To clear away any excess glue squeezeout from the wire access hole, first ream it out with a drill bit. Then, to finesse the cleanout, don a pair of tough gloves, and put the lathe very slowly in reverse while repeatedly inserting and retracting a 30" length of threaded lamp pipe. Complete the wire access path by drilling a hole through the side as shown before sanding the turning through 400 grit. Apply your favorite finish. I wiped on 6 coats of General Finishes’ Wood Turners Finish, scuff-sanding between coats and rubbing out the final coat with 0000 steel wool. I then followed that up with a coat of Renaissance Micro-crystalline wax polish. Finally, install the hardware as shown in the drawing on p. 37. For safety, knot the wire at the socket using a UL-approved lamp knot. (See OnlineEXTRAS.)

Ream the center wire channel. Mount a 16"-long, 3⁄8"-diameter drill bit in a tailstock drill chuck, and ream out the center channel to prepare it for the threaded lamp pipe. Rather than cranking the bit forward, simply muscle the entire unlocked tailstock in and out to do the job.
Drill the side wire hole. Using a 3⁄8"-diameter brad-point bit, drill the cord hole into the 3⁄8"-thick walnut section, 1⁄2" on center up from the bottom. Angle the hole slightly upward to avoid hitting the chuck jaws. 

Finish sand. Smooth your work using a power disk sander while spinning the piece slowly on the lathe. Sanding through 400 grit will yield a surface that begs to be touched. 

Spin a finish. Apply your finish while spinning the piece very slowly on the lathe. 

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