Claremont Designs

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Chalking Up Another Walnut Edison Lamp

As soon as I finished the last walnut lamp it was time to turn around and build another one. The challenge is that I was out of any suitable walnut to build it out of. So a quick trip to the closest woodworking store was required. Unfortunately the only walnut they had in stock they referred to as “wide stock” or something to that effect. More importantly that meant that they were going to charge $9 a board foot for that lumber. For those that don’t know, a board foot is basically a cubic foot of lumber (1″ thick by 12″ wide by 12″ long). Similarly for those that don’t know, $9 is a lot for walnut. My last stack cost me around $3 a board foot. So after $54 for a 4/4 board 9″ wide and about 8 feet long it was off to the shop.

Once in the shop the first day of build followed a typical routine. I first selected the section of the board to use for the lamp and cut it to rough length. From there I needed to rip the board to an appropriate width. My jointer is only 8″ wide, so the 9″ wide board wasn’t going to work. More importantly if dealing with any cupping issues, you can get to a flat surface quicker if you start with a narrower board. Unlike my rough sawn lumber this piece was already surfaced on both sides (although not straight and flat). So before heading to the jointer, I’ve marked the boards with chalk to help check my progress (see photo below). The basic idea is that once all of the chalk is removed, I can be pretty confident that the lumber face is smooth and flat. After that its the same old process… Joint the edge; resaw a 1/4″ piece for the top at the band saw; rejoint the face and edge; run the boards through the planer; cut pieces to final dimension; then breakout the dovetail jig; cut the groove for the top board; sand the interior to 220; then glue the base up.


In this build the walnut was a hair narrower than I usually used so I switched over to the 14 instead of the 11 degree bits. The 14 degree bit is just a tiny bit too short (in my opinion). Consequently there was the smallest lip at the end of the cut. If you look really closely in the photo below, you might be able to see it. Not that big of a deal though – an extra couple of minutes of sanding before being able to glue the piece up. The base is sitting in the clamps now and will be ready for a lot of extra fit and finish next weekend.


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Second To Last Step In Building 3 Edison Lamps

Well it isn’t really the second to last step in building an Edison lamp, but photos of the final wiring steps are (possibly) less interesting than these photos of finalizing the fit of the lamps. The photos below show the inner components of the lamps. The close-up shows the bottom side of the single bulb koa Edison lamp. I used a different style socket in this lamp and as a result I had to reroute the wiring. Normally I can keep all of the wiring above the wooden support, but in this case the wiring needed to be routed through the nipple. To prevent the wiring from extending past the base of the lamp I glued a thin piece of walnut scrap where the wires come through the bottom. Although the base is screwed into the box in this photo, I will need to remove it before applying the final finish. The second photo shows the five sockets for the 5 bulb cherry lamp. Much like the koa version, I established the final fit by screwing it into place before moving to the finishing steps. The next post will include final photos of the finished products.



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Continuing the Build of a New 5 Bulb Edison Lamp

Continuing along with one of my earlier posts, I figured that I would focus in on the building of an Edison lamp. In this case I wanted to show two of the aspects of the build that I don’t usually give a lot of attention. For the lamps, I’ve started using a full range dimmer switch. The switches are a little larger than the ones I used to use, but the ability to dim the Edison bulbs is worth it. The lights are capable of being used as a room light source, but for the most part they are a decorative piece of furniture. And when the light is dimmed down low, it’s really easy to see the patterns of the filaments in the bulbs. The challenge is to make room for the switch. First I locate the position of the switch and then move over to the dedicated mortising machine. The goal here is to make the back of the lamp thinner where the switch is located. Next I need to take a forstner bit to make room for the knob. It’s important that the knob is recessed into the lamp to improve the overall appearance of the piece. The photo below shows a quick test fitting of the switch.


The next aspect I wanted to highlight was the location of the holes for the sockets. In all of my lamps, I use a wooden board to attach the sockets to… The challenge is to get the hole for the light socket nipples dead center in the larger diameter hole that exposes the sockets. I start by sizing the support board so that it fits perfectly inside the top lip of the lamp. Then with simple layout lines, I locate the center point of each bulb (shown in the first photo below with pencil lines). From here I’m able to use a drill press to drill a series of holes at each location to generate the final cutouts shown in the second photo. The process starts by drilling one hole through the support board and the top at the same time. This is followed by making the hole in the support board just a little wider to fit the nipple. Finally after removing the support board, I cut out the larger diameter hole to fit the socket.



In the next post, I’ll highlight more of the interior working of the Edison lamp. Then it’s off to finishing.

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Initial Clamping For A Dovetailed End Table

I previously wrote that I didn’t agree with the common woodworker’s sentiment that you can never have too many clamps. I’m not making a complete reversal, but I would at least like to change my stance to note that I don’t think you can have too many reasonably sized clamps. The end table that I’m building has three separate dovetailed boxes each about 11″ x 22″ x 7″. Unfortunately I ran out of clamps and was only able to get 2 of them glued up before last leaving the shop. I still have plenty of extra clamps laying around the shop, but I didn’t have any that weren’t far too long or far to short to sensibly clamp up the third box. The picture below shows one of the boxes clamped up (standing on my ever trusty table saw workbench – I really need to finish that piece that has occupied my table saw for the past few months).


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Initial Steps In Building a New 5 Bulb Edison Lamp

I’ve had quite a few posts on building Edison lamps over the past year. I figured in this post I would show a few more of the steps getting the process started. Everything starts by finding one good piece of cherry at least 7 feet long and a little more than 4″ wide. The goal is to get all pieces of the lamp out of the same piece of lumber. Sourcing from one piece helps in matching the color, and you can match the grain wrapping around the piece. It’s not always easy to figure out what a piece of rough sawn lumber is going to look like once surfaced, but you want to avoid knots and splits / checks as much as possible. The picture below shows 2 pieces from the same board. The bottom one has been passed over the jointer whereas the top board hasn’t.


Thankfully the original piece of lumber was a little over an inch think. As a result I was able to get the top of the lamp out of this same piece of lumber. With one face and one edge jointed and square to each other, I proceeded to the bandsaw to resaw the boards to make quarter inch think pieces for the top. This generates much more 1/4″ lumber than needed, so I will just use the excess for additional drink coasters. From here it’s one more quick trip to the jointer followed by the planer to get everything surfaced and the correct thickness (I usually shoot for 1/2″ to 5/8″ thick for Edison lamps). This is followed by cutting boards to width and length. At this point it is time to move to the dovetail jig (and praying that there isn’t any much tear out). Finally, a little work at the router table to create the groove for the 1/4″ think top board. The end result is what’s shown in the photo below.


Now it’s time to move to the random orbit sander. Once it’s glued up, I’ll never be able to get to the inside of the box. In general the inside is not seen in the finished piece, so the sanding job doesn’t need to be perfect. Most of the effort is dedicated to the small lip above the groove for the top. That is the only part of the “inside” that will ever be seen in the final product. Once the sanding was done, it was time for gluing and clamping. It will sit in the clamps overnight, and I’ll start finishing the exterior in the morning.


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Dimensioning Walnut For A Dovetailed End Table

It can take a lot of work to get the rough sawn lumber ready for a new piece of furniture. In the last shop trip I spent several hours selecting, jointing and planing about 10 board feet of walnut. Normally I spend a fair amount of time selecting lumber for the piece I’m building, but in this case I’m down to only a few boards left in stock (so I made the most of what was available). After work on the jointer and the table saw, I was left with the stack of lumber you see in the first photo. As you can see, one side of the lumber hasn’t been surfaced and the boards are all of various thicknesses. Some boards were a little over an inch thick, but by the time I got them all to the same thickness they were somewhere around 5/8″ thick. For the piece I’m building the actual thickness is less important than having every piece being the exact same thickness (and completely flat). A little more work dimensioning on the next trip and then a lot of time in the dovetail jig.



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Sanded Koa and Birdseye Maple Dovetailed Boxes

With all of the prior patch work completed on the boxes, I was able to finish sanding up the two small dovetail boxes that I was working on. Assuming that there is enough room on the interior for a dimmer switch these will both become single bulb Edison lamps. The only thing left that I could screw up would be cutting the hole for the light socket. Hopefully this will be finished up after one more shop trip.


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Patching the Koa Dovetailed Box

Short trip to the shop today to work on a variety of items. The day started with a quick surface sand on the koa and birdseye maple boxes. Both needed a little bit of touch-up (as is to be expected). On the koa box there was a reasonably sized chip out that I had to deal with. In this case I’ve got a scrap piece of koa glued into the gap. Next week I’ll cut that scrap out and proceed with a complete sanding of the box. The photo below shows the fill piece glued into the gap.


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Koa and Birdseye Boxes

For the first full trip to the shop in 2013, I worked on some new dovetailed boxes (also made a new pen / iPad stylus but no photos of that one). One of the boxes is built from a small piece of koa that I picked up earlier in the week. The other is built from some leftover birdseye maple from the 5 bulb Edison lamp I built at the end of 2012. I haven’t decided the ultimate purpose of each individual box, but one will be a coasters holder and the other will be a single bulb Edison lamp. Each box had some chip out issues with the dovetails. We’ll see how well I can patch up or sand out any of the issues. If they come out nicely, I’ll probably put them up in my etsy shop. Otherwise I’ll just selectively photograph them and list them as built to order.

The photo below shows the individual pieces being organized before rapid gluing and clamping.


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Edison Lamp Finish Coats and Fancy Coasters

A real mixed bag of project work today. Thanks to a tardy FedEx delivery, started the day by running down to the shop to fit a dimmer switch into a new Edison lamp. With that out of the way, it was on to finishing work. Although I prefer to use an oil urethane blend for my finishing work, I switched things up a bit this time. This weekend’s finish work was using exclusively boiled linseed oil. It’s a finish I like, but you just need to be very careful with your rags because of the spontaneous combustion issue. The photo below shows my impromptu finishing area (aka my living / dining room with pieces resting on the edges of cardboard boxes.


The following shots just show some extra perspectives on the current pieces that I’m working on. In the photos are the Birdseye maple piece that has been featured in the past few posts on this site. Also featured is a smaller 3 bulb version built out of cherry. The cherry was particularly light, but it has been warming up with more coats of finish. In the photos below, the small cherry piece has two coats of boiled linseed oil. The maple piece has just received its first coat (keeping in mind, that my iPhone doesn’t take the best photos). You’ll also notice scattered 3.5″ square pieces of wood. Given the amount of wood furniture I have in my house, coasters are an absolute must. Building items like the Edison lamps has generated a lot of thin stock that has no other use for me, so I’ve decided to start making drink coasters. If I make enough and get motivated, they might be the next item to make an appearance on etsy. Next post should have nicer photos of the finished pieces.