Figured Black Walnut Lamp with Maple Accents – Build Process

posted in: Black Walnut Lamp, Projects | 0

As you will see with most of the projects I’ll be working on my focus is on highly marketable products with builds that are fast, repeatable and easily batched.  Meaning this is a lamp that may take you 4 – 5 hours to build once but can easily be batched out in lots of 5 – 10 which will significantly cut down on your stock preparation and layout time.

All in I spent approximately 6 hours on this build although there were some minor adjustments I ended up having to make due to some of the pieces I initially prepared not fully cooperating.  You’ll see what I mean shortly.

Black walnut and maple lamp cuts


Last year I purchased some very nicely figured half inch surfaced walnut that had not yet found a home in one of my projects. Over this time the board decided to move quite a bit so using the stock in any lengths of more than 10 – 12 inches was pretty much out the window.  Because the lumber was pre surfaced I did not need to run it through my planer.  The unevenness probably would be resulted in that being a bit of a disaster.

The wood still required some prep though as the edges were still rough so I ran it through my Grizzly G1182 planer to get a flat edge and then ran the other side through the table saw to get the width down to 5 1/4 inches.  I then chopped the pieces down to 11 inches in length on the miter saw.

The maple accents were cut from a leftover piece of 1 x 5 hard maple I had from a cabinet build last year.  I resawed the pieces on the table saw leaving only a thin strip in the middle holding the pieces together. The two sides easily snapped off  and I ran them through the DW735x planer to bring them down to their finished thickness.

My next step was to cut the maple down to 1 3/4 inch squares on the miter saw and begin setting up the table saw to make the dado cuts.  I use a Olshun 8 inch dado stack on my table saw which, as I imagine most table saws do, comes with a number of spaces that range from .005 to .02 inches in width.  I used these to really hone in on the width to ensure I had a perfect fit.  Too tight and the maple may break (foreshadowing) and too loose and the gaps would be very noticeable in this build.

Measuring the thickness using my grandfather’s Starett caliper

I set up a pretty simple table saw jig to make the dado cuts using some leftover walnut and a number of clamps.  Not the prettiest or the most precise but for this build it worked just as I needed.  Cutting two pieces at a time made really quick work of this step.

After this was completed I had all the pieces I needed to start fitting the lamp together.  At this point I had not yet received the lamp fixture so I held off making any cuts for the mounting pieces until I could measure the fixture height.  I brought everything inside from my unheated shop (more foreshadowing) and did a test fit to get a feel for how the final product would look.

Well the next day I got a couple lessons in wood movement.  The first when I tried to take the pieces apart and the joints were just a bit tighter than they had been the previous evening.  Luckily I had some extra walnut to make some new pieces.  One downside of this design is one leg on each of the walnut pieces will be very weak due to the grain orientation.  It was suggested after the fact that I rotate the walnut 45 degrees to counter this.  Tip for next time.

The second lesson was my super highly figured piece of walnut decided to develop a significant crack across the entire board and was at risk of breaking in half.  I quickly cut out some butterfly keys using my Bosch plunge router, 1/4″ downcut spiral bit and butterfly key template.  This should provide the necessary support to hold it all together and does add some pretty cool detail to the piece.

At this point I had received the light fixture so I measured the clearance it needed from the base and routed in two 1/4″ slots that would accept a piece of 1/4″ thick maple.  To make the cuts I once again used the Bosch plunge router, 1/4″ spiral bit and an edge guide. I cut a 1 1/2″ hole in the center of the maple and the light fixture screwed into the hole.

From there it was on to some light sanding and glue up.  The glue up was actually a bit more difficult than I had anticipated.  Getting all the pieces to line up and putting the appropriate clamping pressure on the correct points took some time but I was able to complete it working off and on over the course of two evenings.

Everything glued up, sanded and light installed.

I finished the piece with a few coats of boiled linseed oil and that was that.



Ultimately this was a really fun project and I’m super excited with how it turned out.  End to end I probably spent 7 or 8 hours on this lamp versus the 5 I had originally estimated.  This was in part due to having to recut the broken maple pieces and add in the butterfly keys to stabilize the walnut that had developed a crack.  The glue up process could also be done quicker if I had a few more clamps at my disposal.

Next we’ll look marketing this lamp and explore a few different design versions that could easily be batched out when building these for sale.

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