Making a Unique Architectural Salvage Lamp.
Architectural Salvage is a term that covers a huge and very often an interesting range of objects. If you visit a salvage yard you will find yourself looking at everything from old timber doors right through to light fittings, doorknobs, garden furniture and hopefully a range of oddities that were salvaged due to a decorative possibility that the dealer had seen in the item. There has been great popularity in the art of upcycling and re-purposing over the last 20 years, this has been driven by TV programmes and specialist internet sites and also by people wanting to make something unique and “green”. To feed the market for modern upcycling there are specialist salvage dealers who import containers of Architectural salvage from across the globe. All items of Architectural salvage be they a light fitting a door or an item of stoneware will have one thing in common and that is signs of age, life and maybe use, this can manifest as a finish that is highly weathered and impossible to recreate or maybe a painted finish that has been over painted many times providing today’s up-cycle fans with a unique pallet of colour to work with.
This is the story of a recent up-cycle that I carried out on a fabulous and interesting old lump of wood. This large piece of timber is a piece of Asian Architectural salvage, the piece is made from a tropical hardwood with a long fibrous grain. The wood has been covered in ornate carvings which are carried out by hand and which have a basic but appealing decorative look. The wood also has its original weathered finish which is painted in dark red with lighter highlights, the finish even has remnants of a varnish type topcoat. The wooden element is urn-shaped and would have been used as part of a fancy building entrance of gateway in somewhere like Indonesia or Thailand. As soon as I saw this great big lump of old wood I could instantly see its potential and possibilities as an upcycling Architectural Asian salvage table lamp project. The general condition of the wood was very good, the finish was patchy and had scuffs and marks from use, there were also found to be areas of thick varnish build-up and irregularities in the carving but all of these imperfections add to the great appeal and are part of the history of the wood, this look would be impossible to recreate in a modern item.
Here are some images of the Wooden section as found. As a bonus, the wood had a basic hole drilled through its length and that along with its great condition made this fabulous piece of old wood a fantastic upcycling project.
The Wiring Route.
The first thing that I had to address on the big lump of old wood was the route for the wiring. As the wood was predrilled for its original fixing it was just a case of drilling out the side of the base for cable entry and figuring out a way of fixing a lamp holder mount at the top of the wood. At the top of the wood the hole was carefully and slowly opened up to allow the fitting of a female threaded brass nipple, this nipple would be the anchor point for the electrical fittings and would be key to the success of the lamp build. The wood opening was made to be a tight friction fit on the brass nipple. The Brass was then deeply scored on the outside to provide a key to the brass surface. Using a two-part epoxy resin cement the brass nipple was gently hammered into position and allowed thirty minutes to set solid, this worked well and was the most testing part of the build. At the bottom of the wood one face was drilled out for the cable entry point and the hole on the bottom of the lamp was opened up to a wide but shallow depth to make the cable passing a touch easier.
Cleaning and finishing.
Once all of the drilling and glue work had been completed the wood was cleaned, it was in relatively clean condition so it was gently cleaned with a stiff brush to remove dirt and any loose flakes of paint and varnish. The wood was then gently cleaned further using a high-quality clear wax, this wax took away and small particle of dirt and also gave the finish a slight shine.
Here is the wooden base ready for the next step.
Wiring up the new table lamp.
Note – If you are carrying out a rewiring project like this there are a few points to remember and to incorporate into your project.
- Make sure you use components that meet the safety standards in your country
- In the UK earthed (grounded) wiring must be used with metal components.
- Make sure the wiring route avoids sharp edges and use plastic grommets or sheathing for cable protection.
The wiring for this lamp was straightforward, some new components were needed, a Brass earthed switched BC Bayonet bulb holder, a brass reducing male thread and an aged brass all-thread 10mm tube to lift the bulb holder clear of the top of the wooden lamp base. The wiring was passed down the length of the wooden base and was made ready for the fitting of the components, the small 10mm plastic grommets can be seen here, these are small but important parts of a safe wiring project.
The aged brass tube and bulb holder were fitted and the beautiful old lump of wood suddenly looked like a high end salvaged wooden table lamp. On the base of the lamp, a cable tie was fitted under the base as a cord grip, this is another safety feature that would prevent the wiring from being pulled out of the brass bulb holder in the event of the cable being pulled or the lamp being dropped.
After the wiring was completed the new lamp was sealed and protected with a final coat of wax. For this final protective coat, I use a top-quality wax which is called “Renaissance Micro Crystalline Wax Polish” This is the best wax finish for such a final finish and project like this as it cleans, protects and brings out texture and colour from any material, it is used and recommended by top museums. It is expensive but a little goes a long way and it is definitely worth the cost.
Here is the completed wooden table lamp.
The table lamp in use.
When fitted with a lampshade and lit up the beauty of the old wood started to shine, here you can see the lamp in use. This is now a one-off table lamp, there will not be one the same anywhere in the world and this fact alone is one of the major reasons that this type of project provides a sense of satisfaction.
The new table lamp providing a unique and eye catching lighting effect.
Converting this old piece of wooden Architectural salvage to a beautiful lamp was fairly straightforward but very rewarding. I would always encourage anyone to have a go at a project like this, there is nothing like getting your hands dirty and having the satisfaction of bringing new life to an old and forgotten piece of architectural history.
If you are interested in more of my lighting renovation projects you can read them from the following links
I hope you like the result of this up-cycle project, I am very pleased with the result and the way the up-cycled wooden Architectural element made such an interesting and one-off table lamp.
Cleaning and Finishing Wax. Earthed Wiring. Earthed switched Brass bulb holder. Aged copper tube and various wiring sundries.
Time Spent on the lamp – 3 Hours.
I often have several Vintage Industrial items for sale in my eBay shop here – Hertfordshire Lighting and Design
I would love to hear from anyone who has performed a similar restoration project; it’s always great to share ideas with other people.
If you have any questions or need advice on any item of Vintage lighting please contact me and I will do my best to help.
Michael Adkins. email@example.com