Claremont Designs


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The Shop Has Moved (and a Shift to Lamps in Inventory)

It wasn’t quick and it wasn’t easy, but the Claremont Designs shop has made a 9 mile move. It seemed like it would be easy to move a 600 square foot shop… but 10 years of work (and sawdust), several pieces of equipment over 300 pounds, and a few projects that are perpetually WIP added to the complexity.

During the (extended) move time, the Etsy Shop has been on vacation mode. I’m sure Etsy has a better description, but it basically means my Etsy shop existed with nothing listed. It also means that all of my search rankings plummeted… After years of having several of pieces show up in the top 5 positions when people search for Edison Lamps, Claremont Designs is now not even in the top 50 (it’s probably worse than that, but I gave up on counting other listings before I found any of my lamps). Hopefully that will be fixed by the holiday season.

I haven’t made too much of a mess in the shop yet, so it’s still pretty clean. I’ve made 3 new lamps since the shop was setup, and I’m still happy with the level of cleanliness. Beyond being new and clean, the biggest improvement in the new shop is actually having some natural daylight and overhead lights that actually work. I hope that means that quality of furniture coming out of the shop will improve, but time will tell.

The other big change with the shop is that I’m going to transition away from only selling made to order lamps. I think that will improve options for both me and customers.

For me, I’m going to enjoy building furniture (and lamps) on my schedule rather than the (largely) unpredictable timing of lamp orders. I’m also going to start building lamps from wood that I think is interesting, as opposed to wood which is fairly generic. It might sound counterintuitive, but when building custom pieces it is not generally the best idea to use interesting wood. Interesting can refer to the color, the grain, the lack of uniformity, etc. The challenge when building custom pieces (when only interacting over Etsy and building to an aggressive timeline) is that it is usually safest to use lumber with consistent color and straight grain. Going forward, I’ll try to build more lamps that use “interesting” wood. We’ll see if customers want that… An example of one of the new lamps is the 3-bulb Ambrosia lamp below.

While I’m trying to do some more interesting wood choices, I also want to make sure that I build the lamps that customers have been expecting (and purchasing for the past few years). To start building up the inventory, I’ve built 2 single bulb lamps. One is in cherry and one in walnut. Over the years, walnut has by far been the most popular wood choice, but I like the cherry the best.

For customers they will get 2 big benefits. First, they will know exactly what they are buying. The pictures on the Etsy listings will now show them exactly what they are going to get. For customers that like the surprise, they can still order a “made to order” version of the lamp. But my primary reason for the made to order option is for customers that want to make some small changes to the lamps (e.g., different size, different finish, custom cords, etc.). The second big benefit for customers is that I can ship the lamps much quicker. I’ve listed the shipping times online at 3-5 days, but I’m hoping I can ship faster than that.

We’ll see how this all goes, but hopefully these changes will make the process better overall.


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Catching Up With The Shop… And One New Piece

It’s been 995 days since I’ve posted anything to this blog… kind of embarrassing, but I’m guessing that I’m not the only one that has taken such an extended break from updating.  Although the title of this post implies that I’ve only created one new piece, that’s not really accurate.  But time spent making Edison Lamps has monopolized most of my shop time.  Originally the lamps were supposed to be made between making other items, and only if someone found me on Etsy to buy.  Since that original thought I’ve sold about 80 lamps.  Consequently, the other pieces coming out of the shop have slowed significantly…

Earlier this year, I finished a new entertainment center.  You can see pictures of that piece in this post.  It is built of solid cherry and has 2 major pieces.  The main body that supports the stereo equipment and the turntable is just a large through dovetail case.  For those reading this that mainly know my lamps, this is basically the body of an Edison lamp (but a lot bigger).  The dovetails are visible when you are viewing the piece from above or the side.  They don’t do anything special in the function of the piece, so they are largely form over function.  There is some function in there too though…  The dovetail is great for ensuring a 90 degree angle in the corners, and it is much stronger than other joints than I can use.

The second major feature of the piece is the mortised and tenoned exoskeleton (14 mortises and tenons to be exact).  The legs, bottom box support, side rails, and top rails are all made from different size pieces of cherry.  The legs are the largest at roughly 2 inches square.  The rest of the pieces are slightly smaller.  I wanted to use different sized pieces on the frame to create interesting shadow lines when looking at the piece and to give the piece a sense of depth.

The original concept was that I would build the box and the exoskeleton separately.  Then I would be able to slide the box into the exoskeleton.  It wasn’t that simple, but let’s just pretend it was…  This is one of those times that an extra set of hands in the shop would have been nice.  Overall this was a fun piece to build, and it gave me a chance to try some new techniques [some by design (knife hinges) and some out of necessity (carved door pulls)].

Up next in the shop…  As you might have guessed, more lamps.

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Setting the Depth of the Top Reveal on an Edison Lamp

Selecting the depth of the reveal is partly for aesthetic reasons and also for a simpler build out process.  I hinted at these reasons in a prior post about updating the Edison lamp prototype.  Probably the first 5 versions of the lamps I built were similar to the prototype.  Since then, I’ve set the Edison lamp top about an 1/8th of an inch lower.  It’s a minor change but it has significantly reduced the number of times that I’ve had to rebuild a lamp – frequently the corner of one of the pins would chip out when routing the channel for the top.

By lowering the top a fraction of an inch, I’m able to route the front and back of the lamp without using a plunge cut.  On the sides the plunge cut is still required.  Basically what I’m doing is dropping the lamp side down on top of the router bit.  The photos below show the result of the plunge cuts.  The first photo shows the result of two plunge cuts and a little clearing between the cuts.  Technically a single cut on each side would be more than enough, but I’ve taken the belt and suspenders approach.  To make sure that I don’t extend my cut too far, I clamp a stop block to the router table fence.

From there I’ve flipped the side over and drawn lines on the top of the lamp sides.  The lines are shown in the second picture below.  I align the marks with router table fence where the cuts start and stop.  In the picture the left side of the piece is complete.  From here I repeated this process of plunge cuts and marking the sides on the right side of the piece.  Finally I remove the stop blocks, plunge the piece over the existing cuts and then route the piece between the plunge cuts on each side.

This whole process takes maybe 15 minutes to complete properly, but any missteps can result in having to start the entire build over again.  Thankfully by dropping the top a fraction of an inch, the number of rebuilds has dropped to zero.  Final picture below shows the end result – the latest single bulb koa Edison lamp to leave the shop.

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Updating the Edison Lamp Prototype

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve updated this site with some Edison lamp photos.  It seems that the walnut lamps are the most popular.  In 2013, I’ve sold 21 lamps and 15 of those have been in walnut.  While I don’t list more walnut lamps than cherry on Etsy, it appears that their search algorithm favors that iteration of the lamp.  Perhaps that is the reason for the popularity of the walnut version.  Of course it’s possible that people just prefer the walnut look.

The original prototype I built was walnut.  Recently, I took it into the shop to update some of the hardware on the lamp.  I updated the switch to a dimmer switch and I swapped out the sockets to a new porcelain version.  The prototype also featured a few design elements that I ultimately changed.  The most obvious change is the shift from 4 tails (in the prototype) to 3 tails (on the current version).  I’ve also recessed the lamp box top a little lower on the current version.  Whereas the shift to fewer tails was purely for aesthetics (I think it looks nicer), the change in the lamp top makes the build process a little easier.

The first set of photos below, show the original prototype (which was just sold).  Below the 2 photos of the prototypes are photos of the new design.  The next lamp was built out of lacewood (and can be purchased from my etsy store if you are interested). The final lamp is built from walnut and was highlighted in an earlier post.

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3 New Lamps Have Left DC

I’m still working to get this blog in sync with actual activity happening in the shop, and it is now close. The photos in this post show the last 3 lamps that have been shipped off to customers. Nothing too unique about these builds, other than one lamp was shipped off to Canada (little pricey and a lot of paperwork) and one of the walnut lamps was done in just boiled linseed oil (wanted a slightly different finish than normal). Currently in the shop are 2 more lamps (one in walnut and one I’m trying out of lacewood) and a bunch of walnut strips that I’m turning into cutting boards.

I’m guessing now that the next post won’t be that meaningful either. Hopefully by the end of October I’m back with posts that highlight the build process as much as the finished goods.

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4 New Edison Lamps Have Landed at Etsy

I don’t usually do posts that are straight up advertisements that say “please buy me” but I figured adding one of that type isn’t that big of a deal… I’ve enjoyed building the dovetailed boxes that are used in the Edison Lamps that I make, but I wanted to start making some that are “ready to ship” rather than “made to order”.

I just finished an additional 4 lamps that have been posted to Etsy. 2 are made from curly maple. The other 2 are from walnut. Both of the walnut lamps are a new design. These are the first that have featured just 2 light bulbs. They are slightly different widths as I’m trying to figure out the best spacing for a 2 bulb design. I like both of these, but I’m not positive I’ve nailed the ideal proportions yet.

The other reason I wanted to make these “ready to ship” is that it gives me a chance to use lumber I like, but might not appeal to people generally. The best example of this is the wider 2 bulb walnut lamp. The lamp base has a significant change in the color of the walnut – shifting from a dark brown to a much lighter brown (almost yellow) color at the top. I could never sell that to a customer without them seeing it first. I love the look, but I know that it’s not for everyone.

Bunch of pictures below. You can find the lamps listed here.

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Finished Peruvian Walnut Edison Lamp

Just a quick post here for the latest Edison lamp to be finished. I’ve actually got another 5 that just need to be wired and photographed, but I don’t have the time right now to do the wiring. And this isn’t exactly the right time of day to be photographing the lamps. Between the wrong time of day and it being overcast in DC, the photographs weren’t coming out great. Even had to break out the flash for a few pictures. Those photos probably do the best at capturing the color of the Peruvian walnut. The color is incredibly dark and rich. The grain is pretty straight and uniform. Maybe I’ll try again on a bright sunny day to get a couple better photos of the lamp.

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