Handmade Wooden Table Lamps – The fun of upcycling.
Back in the 1970s
When I was a child I remember that every man in my family had a shed and every shed had a variety of tools and tins/jars of fixings, screws and nuts and bolts. This was an era before today’s disposable society, a time where things were properly made to last and a time when people repaired and “made good” I also remember the old gents in my family “making” items, stools, boxes, steps etc. This was a completely different era and the outlook and thought process of people towards possessions was the opposite of today’s throw-away modern society.
Today the growth of upcycling, repurposing and restoration has made a new generation of people who are keen to repair, restore and make new items. You only have to look online at sites like Etsy and eBay to see how many people are making and offering unique and recycled items such as painted furniture, repurposed household goods and unique items of homeware. This relatively new and popular pastime of repurposing is covered on various TV programmes as well as the internet.
Repurposing or restoring an old item is hugely satisfying, whatever the subject of your project is there is a real sense of achievement in completing a task that gives new life and purpose to an older item. This type of restoration is also very “green” it will save an item going to the waste/recycling centre or into landfill.
My real passion is lighting, I love the unique and wonderfully imaginative ways people across the globe conjure unique pieces of lighting from items that were originally used for completely different jobs and tasks. Making something Unique is not too difficult, even if you have only basic hand and power tools and are working at home without access to advanced engineering tools.
Make your own lamp.
Part of my sourcing process is buying at Auctions, at a recent auction, I won a table lamp which came with a number of other “filler” items, these are bits and pieces that are included into a lot to add value. In this lot, I found a couple of really lovely Vintage wooden shoe lasts. These are lovely old items made from solid timber with steel soles. Manufactured in Brockton USA in the mid-1960s, these stylish shoe lasts have a great look and are full of Vintage charm. I love these old shoe lasts, they are tactile and speak of times, skills and craftspeople who have passed into history, I decided to repurpose one of the great old items into a table lamp.
This fabulous old last is of great quality, made to shape ladies shoes and full of makers markings, stamps and the year of manufacture. The finish is the original varnish which has protected the wood well since its original manufacture in 1965.
Mounting your lamp.
The first thing to consider on a project like this how to mount your object, being curved this last will only sit at an angle and will not be stable. My idea was to mount the last onto a wooden base made from dark wood which would contrast nicely against the lighter wood used in the manufacture of the last. In my small stock of wood, a had a nice strip of darker teak which was the perfect width to make a base for the new lamp, I measured the teak to a good length that would fully support the old last and cut it to length.
The all important wiring path.
Wiring path – The old last had a clear hole through its body where it would have been mounted onto a holding frame when is use, this hole was virtually the perfect size for mounting an electrical wiring mounting tube so it made complete sense to use this original feature of the last. New components were needed, this new lamp will need a length of 10mm threaded tube, a couple of 10mm nuts and washers and the all-important wiring grommets for cable protection. All of these items can be found online and in good electrical hardware retailers. These items were carefully but easily fitted then tightened into place ready to accept the new wiring. Once the new components were fitted into place I added an important part of the new set up which is the plastic grommets, these small but important components stop the outer sheath of the new electrical cable from rubbing against sharp edges.
When it came to mounting the last to the base I wanted to give the impression of a shoe during use, on the bottom of the last were two holes that were part of the original build, these made perfect mounting positions. The new base was drilled to match the centres of these holes and the last was screwed into position on its new base.
All of a sudden the old and forgotten shoe last came to life, it gained life and looked really stylish. The next job was to clean the wood with fine wire wool and wax and to add a cable cord grip under the wiring entry point. The base was also given a Green felt base underneath.
Wiring and Finishing.
The cable was passed thought the new entry points and a bulb holder was fitted. Here in the UK, we use earthed (grounded) wiring for metal fittings. When you add your wiring please look up your local standards online and make sure you use new and industry-standard components. If you are ever in doubt as a qualified electrician.
Once the electrical components were fitted the new lamp was tested and given a final clean and polish with wax, this wax clean bought out all of the old signs of use and manufacture which add great value and history, if you are using an older item don’t try and hide signs of life such as chipped paint and small dents as these become excellent features on your new lamp.
The final clean was made using the wonderful micro-crystalline infused Renaissance wax which is an amazing product as used by the British Museum.
The finished, waxed and cleaned Vintage Wooden shoe last table lamp. An old redundant item completely transformed into a unique and one-off table or desktop lamp.
In use, the decorations and marks on the old shoe last really come to life. It brings me great pleasure to breath new life into an old neglected and forgotten item.
I hope that you have enjoyed reading my post and that this unusual and unique project may encourage you to “go green” and give life to a Vintage or Antique item.
Materials – Wood cleaning wax. Earthed Wiring. Earthed brass switched bulb holder. Threaded tubes, nuts and washers. Cable stay.
Time Spent on the lamp – 2.5 Hours.
I would love to hear from anyone who has performed a similar homemade 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