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"Wooden Lamp" project, or: "Learning from one's mistakes"

Being a DIY enthusiast and craftsman is a continuous learning curve. Often, certain processes don't work the way they are originally intended, and you have to improvise, change your initial plans, or settle for a questionable result. This blog post was originally intended as a "building instructions" article, but became a real hurdle in the end, so I prefer to describe it as a type of "experience report".

Making a wooden lamp out of a tree trunk: this idea had been floating around my head for a while. The internet gave me plenty of inspiration, so I wasn't the first to try this.

Material list

  • Tree trunk (dry!)
  • Lamp holder with E27 socket
  • Power cable with switch
  • Tubular LED lamps
  • Wooden dowels
  • Felt pads
  • Wood glue

Tool list

  • Chainsaw
  • Power drill / Cordless screwdriver
  • Delta sander
  • Hole saws
  • Hammer and Chisel
  • Wood drill bit set

It was easy to get hold of the tree truck, since my family has the right of use of a piece of forest, and I could cut the necessary piece from an already-fallen alder. Once again I was amazed at the punch packed by the small cordless chainsaw from Einhell's Power X-Change range - its low weight and small dimensions are a particular advantage if you have to carry the tool a long distance through the forest. In choosing the type of wood, you should make sure that it is free from pest and fungal infestations and it isn't rotten in any part. It should also look appealing and have a straight trunk. Hard types of wood, such as beech or alder, are particularly suitable.

Once back home, I had to face the first problem. I wanted to cut the top half of the trunk into slices, so that the light from the bulbs would shine out between them, but neither my bench saw, my band saw, nor my jig saw, were the right size to make this cut. So in the end, this was also a job for the chainsaw. To ensure I could make the cuts at right angles to the axis of the trunk and parallel to one another, I built myself a kind of support guide out of wooden angles, which I could use for alignment when sawing. At this point, its a good idea to number the discs, so that later on they can be assembled in the right order and orientation.

Then, with the help of a hole saw, I drilled a circular opening about 7cm in diameter in each slice, into which the lamp will fit later. I also had to cut an opening in the base of the lamp, i.e. the leftover piece of trunk, for the lamp socket. I did this by first defining the shape with the hole saw, and then drilling out the inside with wood drills. The base of the cavity was then smoothed with wood filler, and finished off with a hole along the centre of the trunk for the power cable.

Of course, the cut faces of the discs were not particularly smooth since I had used the chainsaw, so a subsequent treatment with a grinder was unavoidable. This is where I came up against the next problem. The wood was clearly still too damp to be able to work it effectively. All I managed with my delta sander was to discolour the wood, but I could not achieve a smooth surface.

So the wood had to be dried somehow. Of course, I could have just left it all for half a year at this point, but I did not want to sacrifice so much time for this project. So the whole trunk was off to the warm boiler room for a few days!

I had imagined the result a little differently. The wooden discs were no longer wet, but due to the fast drying process, a large proportion had cracked and deformed! A beautiful parallel arrangement was of course not possible anymore, so I had to make the most of the situation and glue them one on top of another in a halfway attractive manner. I used wooden dowels cut into pieces as spacers.

Before moving on to the wiring of the lamp fixture, it must be explicitly mentioned that work on live cables should be left to a qualified electrician!

In my case, the wiring was easy; the cable had two strands (brown and blue) which were connected to the two mounting points provided on the fixture (the polarity didn't matter). Before screwing this onto the trunk, it is worth checking the LED lamps work, as troubleshooting will be difficult after assembly.

After the individual discs have been glued, the lid of the lamp can also be glued to the rest of the body. Because of the expected long lifetime of LED technology, you don't have to think about changing the lamp!

Before positioning your wooden lamp, you should attach felt pads to the base of the trunk, so that furniture is not scratched or damaged.

If I had to make another lamp, next time I would use absolutely dry wood, stored for at least two years, as well as a slightly smaller trunk, so that it would fit in my jig saw.
Philipp Weiler
AuthorPhilipp Weiler
Reading time10 minutes