Claremont Designs

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Stacks of Edisons

Super quick post tonight. In the photo are the 9 Edison lamps built this weekend. 9 lamps required about 4 total hours of sanding today (combination of random orbital and hand sanding). Thankfully, the next meaningful post should include some photos of finished lamps. Even better, I’ve got enough inventory now that hopefully I don’t have to spend all of next weekend building lamps.


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New Approach to Aligning Sockets

I finally changed up my light socket solution to the Edison lamp build. I first started building with the basic black phenolic sockets that you can get at the local hardware store. These were more than adequate, but they had one primary shortcoming. The base of the socket would screw down on a rod (known as a brass or steel nipple). The challenge I was having was that the hole in the base was not centered on the bottom of the socket. I’m sure this must have been for a reason, but I can’t fathom what that reason would be. As a result, regardless of how much effort I put into aligning the nipple with the dead center of the hole for the lightbulb, there was a better than not chance that the socket wouldn’t be aligned. I found all sorts of ways to fix that, but no fix was great.

After the phenolic sockets, I moved up to porcelain sockets. These are slightly nicer sockets but more importantly the hole in the bottom was better centered. Alignment was less of an issue, but it still wasn’t perfect. Actually I could make it perfect, but screwing the nipple into a piece of wood and then screwing the socket down onto it was still more difficult than it should be.

I finally shifted to the trusty internet. Not for advice, but for better product selection. I’ve finally found a socket that I think I like. I don’t mean to write about this like it is a new product innovation, but it is a case where no local store stocks the product that I need; but I can find it on the internet. This one gets rid of the need for the nipple all together. In this case, you use screws to attach the socket directly to the support board. The challenge now is to find out where to locate the socket.

The series of photos bellows shows how I did this. First I went through a lot of effort to identify the center of a scrap piece of wood (that would become my template). From there I drilled a hole (the same size that I use in the final build) directly through that center position. I then cut that template to the same size as the base of the socket. In the second photo, I was double checking that everything was centered on the socket opening. What’s not shown are the boards that I used to ensure that everything was aligned. From there it was on to a live test… In the final photo, I’ve traced the hole openings on to the board that will support the five light sockets. This is done by first placing the support board inside the lamp base and pushing it against the underside of the top of the base. I then take the new wood template and align its hole with the circle traced to the support board. From there you trace the outside of the template. The socket will be located right inside this final traced square.




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The Cost Accounting Approach to Building Edison Boxes

I’ve started to work on yet another batch of Edison lamps… I decided to use the principles of my education a bit this time. I’ve been talking about cost allocation approaches and ways to optimize output over the past couple of weeks in my big boy job. The basic idea is that there are certain factors that drive cost or dictate yield. It actually means much more than that, but as applied to my one man shop, that’s the basic idea. For the lamp builds, the concept is that in addition to raw material costs, I bear a cost (in terms of time) to build each lamp; and there should be some optimal number to build that minimizes my average cost per lamp while producing the most high quality lamps.

The way to optimize my time is to understand what are the drivers of my cost. For example, every lamp build has common steps including the first steps of dimensioning the lumber. In order to do this I must joint a face and edge of each board. I then resaw one board for the top. Finally I plane all boards to final thickness. There isn’t much time to save here though, because the time to setup each piece of equipment is minimal. There is zero effort on the jointer, because there isn’t any “setup” that is required. As a result, the time varies directly with the amount of lumber I’m jointing. This discussion isn’t all that interesting, but the point is that if I’m building 1 or 30 lamps, I can’t save any time by building more than 1 lamp at a time. Once this step is completed, I ended up with the stack of lumber seen in the photo below.


Once all of the lumber is jointed and planed, the next step is to get the boards to final length and width. In this case, measuring is required. As a result, there is effort to position the table saw fence to get the boards to the right width. Similarly, all lamps are 4 1/2 inches deep. This is another case where I can setup the equipment once and just cut as many side pieces as quickly as possible (while being safe of course). Technically, I could cut the sides for 1000 lamps at once and save significant time. But if I took that approach it might take months before I finished a lamp. That’s both bad for customers waiting on lamps, and I would be carrying far too much inventory cost. A little time is saved here, but it isn’t super significant. Once that step is finished, I ended up with the stack of lumber below.


Similar to the last step, cutting the dovetails can generate some real cost savings. There are a lot of setup steps (setting the depth of the router bits, changing the router bits, and setting up the jig). Each of these steps takes considerable time. This is one of the major areas where I can save time. Once all of the routing is finished, I ended up with the pieces in the photo below.


Ultimately, I could treat this as a big equation. I could optimize the build quantity for the time and effort to build, controlling for inventory costs, changing raw material costs, travel time to the shop, etc. But ultimately, I’m building these lamps because I like spending time in the shop working with wood. The reality is that I decided to build a few lamps this time, because I want to have some in inventory to sell (as opposed to building them all to order).