Putting the "log" back in Blog

Floor Lamp Project and Some Design Inspiration Tools


Posted on March 6th, by Andy Brownell in Design, Projects. 2 comments

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I tend to shy away from drawing designs out on paper and continue to postpone learning Google SketchUp. Right or wrong, I’m far better at developing designs slowly and iteratively during the fabrication phase. I do much better in three dimensions. While miniature prototyping has been something I’ve done in the past for original design projects, my latest project, a multi-function floor lamp has taken a slightly different route.

Social media tools like Pinterest (for image search, discovery and inspiration) and Canva (for design curation and layout) have helped me fill in gaps in skills like drawing. I’ve got a fairly clear concept in my head in both form and function, where I’m headed with this lamp. I’ll pull from prior project design and fabrication techniques, starting with the core structural elements like the base, supports and screen. Then, I’ll begin to refine the shapes to take on the characteristics of the design board above.

Design Inspiration

This floor lamp pulls from several personal interests that I want to integrate into the overall design:

First is geology. From the shape of volcanoes, to their eruptive sound and colors, these will play a significant role in this design. I’m also fascinated with the irregularity of mineral formation, particularly in hexagonal forms taken on by colorful crystals and dense columnar basalt. The materials I’m going to use include the varied browns and reds in ribbon Sapele, and the dense rich red of Bubinga.

Next is technology. I spend my days surrounded by technology. On-demand video and audio are available in a variety of devices throughout the home. This connected home concept is nothing new, however, I’m interested in seeing how I can integrate tech into furniture design and home decor. This will definitely be a functional art piece for the home. I’m going to use a number of LED bulbs that offer full color control for regular or ambient light. These bulbs also integrate a bluetooth speaker into their design. All controlled by a single app, I’ll have the ability to control the light, color, and sync it to music.

Finally I’m looking at integrating both geometric and organic forms. Stacked lamination and it’s density will work well as a solid base for this 5′ tall lamp. And, the last year of stacked lamination work I’ve done should help in the process. Rather than carving away the material for a smooth surface, I’m going to create both a base and support structures that are more akin to the “Fortress of Solitude” sitting atop “Giants Causeway“—a massive, 55 MYA volcanic basalt flow forming tall, mostly hexagonal columns that cooled and fractured into it’s current characteristic shape. For the screen, I’m going to create a 1/2 circle column using bent lamination techniques and then remove a large amount of the material in an irregular pattern, similar to a bowl I made earlier this year.

Parallel design and fabrication

As it stands, I’ve started on the bent lamination for the shade structure. It stands at 46″ tall, and is 7.5″ in diameter. I’ve made this from four sheets of 1/16″ thick, 12″ wide ribbon Sapele veneer, pulled from a 12′ long, 26-piece flitch.

After running a small sample test to verify the potential strength and integrity of the piece, as well as power carving in a few of the organic-shaped holes, I assembled the full piece. I applied a generous portion of DAP Epoxy resin Weldwood to three of the sheets, stacked them together with the fourth, and laid them over a $6 heavy-duty cardboard tube used for concrete forms purchased from my local big-box. I also placed a sheet of plastic wrap between the tube and the wood, to prevent any sticking. I then used heavy-duty nylon string enforced packing tape to bend the veneers around the tube, covering essentially the whole surface with tape and then plastic packing material for an even distribution of bending force.

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Twenty-four hours later, I unwrapped the tape and the wood screen retained its form with little spring-back and plenty of strength. Next I creatively joined both edges on my joiner using the safety fence as a support to produce clean, parallel edges and then cross-cut to length on my miter saw.

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I’ve got a good idea on how to consistently and evenly transfer this tessellated pattern onto it’s surface, but that’s jumping ahead, and will be a part of another blog post. For now, I’m going to start with planning the shape of the ribbon Sapele base which will consist of four pieces of 2.5″ lumber. Plenty of 6-sided geometry is in my future.





2 thoughts on “Floor Lamp Project and Some Design Inspiration Tools

  1. Hi I just found your big walnut table that you made on instagram with the two curved legs with a connector piece and noticed that you commented on some mid century furniture. I was wondering I just got a table that looks a little like yours without the conecter piece. Its pretty old walnut has to leaves. But I can’t find anything like it. Was wondering if I sent you a pic without the leaves I’m still working on them that you might know something about it. Seems modern. Thanks for concedering it.

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