Woodwork Lamp Turning


Before we start, its worth noting the person completing this lamp has had 8 years experience in woodworking as a hobby and is experienced with the tools he is using. These tools can seriously injure you. Please follow all machinery safety guidance, keep a clean clear work space as much as possible, wear safety glasses and avoid wearing loose fitting clothing turn machinery. If you do not feel safe completing this, you should not.

This project was completed with electric machinery, but this can be completed by hand using similar hand methods. It will however take considerably longer to do so.

I like creating furniture and household accessories as I can make them exactly as I want and they are totally unique. They also make great gifts for friends & family.

The first thing you should do is choose a piece of wood and draw a design. As we will be turning this, we only need to design what we want half of it to look like.

For this project we have chosen a piece of cherry wood. This is a hard wood, you cannot use soft wood on a lathe as it will split and splinter. This piece was chosen because of its nice grain pattern.








For this project in particular we will also need a lamp kit. You can either take apart an old lamp and recycle the parts or buy the kit itself.

I have found that buying a cheap lamp from a pound shop gives you all of the parts you will need at the lowest cost.









Next you will need a range of chisels and tools for the lathe. Its best to have a range of chisels which have different ends and ultimately provide different finishes.

Later in this instruction I detail the chisels I am using and what they are best for.

I also have a long drill attachment for the lathe which we will need later to drill a hole down the middle of our project.







For this project I am using a wood turning lathe. As noted previously, you should always follow instructions, practice good safety precautions and use with caution.








I start by taking the corners off of the piece to make it as round as possible.

Take care not to take too much off that it impacts on your project.

While I do this I am using an extractor vent to remove as much wood dust as possible. Not only does this keep the work area clean but also reduces particles in the air and reduces what you may inhale. You can use a tight fitting face mask while completing this if you do not have an extractor. Some wood types can be carcinogenic, in which case you should operate only when wearing a face mask and using an extraction fan


Now that we have cut the corners off I have made it more round and it will be in a better position to use on the lathe.

It is important to round it off as much as possible as it makes smoothing it out on the lathe easier and reduces the risk of the chisel jumping out of your hands, small pieces coming off at high speed and avoid the piece of wood coming off the lathe.










Here I am using a cast iron plate which I attach by screwing into the wood. I want to put this as centrally as possible which will avoid the piece of wood wobbling and create a more even finish.

Try not to get the screws too close to ends, otherwise you may hit these while you are using the chisels on the lathe to round it off.





Remove any chuck you have attached to the lathe and connect this. Make sure it is connected securely. I am also putting the support bar as close to the wood as possible ahead of smoothing this out. You must be mindful not to get too close, but the closer you can get it ensures that the chisel is adequately supported.






Move the free centre attachment of the lathe towards the wood and press it into the wood to mark a central point.

Pull the free centre back and drill a small hole a few cm deep into the centre of the wood.

Move this towards the wood and screw in the thread at the end to push it in towards the piece of wood. Be mindful not to overtighten it, otherwise it will not turn.




At first, using a chisel will be a challenge. You want to choose one with a large gouging end. Firmly hold the handle end in one hand and them press it down against the support bar with the palm of your other hand. At first, it will be jittery, so you will want to go slow and take care. This is why rounding it off as much as possible with the saw is so important.

Take care to not use too much of the chisel initially and go slow. Large chunks of wood may come off and if this is not adequately secured to the late, the whole piece of wood could come off. Once the wood starts to smooth out you can start to use more of the chisel.

At this point you don’t want to turn the piece of wood down to the finished project. You should just be lighting rounding off. You will be able to tell that the item is rounding off as when you look at it side on the line of the top or bottom of the turning piece of wood will look straight. If it is not round the line will look fuzzy.

Once you have rounded off the piece of wood you will need to prepare it to attach it to the drill lathe chuck. You will need to use the chisel to cut the end down to size. This will need to be turned down to a point where it fits into the chuck.

You don’t need to turn down width wise – only an inch or two. Enough so the chuck can hold it securely.





Once this is turned to size remove the chuck attachment from the lathe, remove the screws from the plate securing the wood and put the end you have just turned down into the chuck. Make sure it is sat evenly within the chuck to prevent wobbling. Secure the piece of wood tightly to the chuck. Then secure the chuck tightly to the lathe.

Move the stabilising bar as close to the project as you can without getting too close and again drill a small hole into the end on the right now for the free centre attachment. Screw the free centre attachment into the right end of the wood as you did when working from the other direction, ensuring you do not screw it in too tight

From here, make marks on the wood where the project sticks out. I will use this piece of paper for reference as I am working, but know what the widest point is, and where the base starts.

To mark all the way around, turn the lathe on and place your pencil on the wood to mark it all the way around in any location you are marking.




Next I will work on turning and shaping the piece of wood, removing any bulk of wood and shaping it to the design I have made. I will use various chisels for the job, which I have noted the difference in below. As I am working I will switch between chisels depending on what I am working on and what I am trying to do. If you find one chisel isn’t quite doing what you want, change the size or type of chisel.

I keep the piece of paper close for reference. Firmly hold the handle end in one hand and them press it down against the support bar with the palm of your other hand. Similar to when we were rounding off you may find a lot of resistance particularly when you are removing large portions of mass. Work up and down throughout the project moving back and forth. If you stay in one spot you will effectively cut down into the wood and it will be more difficult to create a smooth finish.

You can watch a time lapse of the turning process by clicking here  

This is a gouge chisel for removing mass. The larger of the two on the right will create a rougher finish but remove mass quicker.









Straight line chisel is ideal for marking if held so the blade is vertical or smoothing if it is held horizontal.

These chisels are good for smoothing out the basic shaping that you would do with a gouge chisel.








This chisel uses a very small attachment which works well for creating rounded areas or creating a fine finish to the project









I continue to turn and shape using the chisels until the wood matches the shape of my template and desired finish.








For a lamp, you will need a centrally drilled hole for the wire to run through. Remove the free centre attachment and attach the drill bit.

It is important to use an attachment that is a suitable size compared to your wire. You do not want the hole to be too large or too small. reference your wire and the thread near the head of your lamp. Make sure the drill bit is very slightly larger than this.

It is best to get started to first drill a hole into the wood using a regular electric drill. That way the drill attachment fits securely into a pre drilled hole.

It is also important to know how far to drill. Measure your project from the bottom to top and then place a piece of tape around the drill bit to indicate the length of the project. As the tape reaches the wood, you have an indication that you have drilled the length of the project.

Screw the thread forward to push it in. To prevent build up of wood on the inside, thread forwards and then back out so the wood dust does not compact in one area. Depending on the side of your project you may have to remove the drill, move the attachment closer and start screwing in the thread again.

Now you should sand the project while on the lathe. I am using mesh sandpaper that is flexible but taking care not to let it get tangled up in the project or the chuck and holding onto it with two hands.

First I use 80 grit, then I move on to 120, then to 180 and next to 240. This ensures that initially a more course sandpaper is sanding the wood and it is getting progressively finer.

I finish with a scouring pad to take the wood dust out of the grain. This will also bring out the shine in the wood.






To polish the project I am using friction polish. This stays liquid until it is hot and then sets. I am using lint free material and only need a small amount so I fill the cap with the liquid and dip my material into this as I am using it. This can be very sticky.

As I press down onto the project lightly it creates force and heat and then sets. This gives it a nice gloss shine.

It is important to use lint free material as if you do not the project will become fuzzy





Here I have finished turning, sanding and oiling the project and I have remove it from the chuck.

Next I will be removing the raw end of the project with a band saw so that the bottom of the project is flat.

Ensure the hole you drilled is drilled all the way through. You may need to use the drill to open the bottom hole up further.

Have a look at your project. The wood may have some imperfections on it. Choose a side to be the ‘back’ which is where you will direct the channel on the bottom of the project


Next I am using a dremel with a round burr attachment to cut the channel into the project for the wire to sit in so the project sits flat.

Take care not to go to deep and reference your wire so you know how deep to go.







String the wire through the project but leave it the lamp head attachment out slightly. Mix epoxy and wipe this around the top of the thread of the wire just under the head of the lamp.

Push this into the lamp and pull the remaining wire through. Leave to set.





Next wire the plug end. For this project the wire had an on off switch. Follow instructions for wiring the plug and take care to ensure this is completed correctly.

Add lamp shade and your project is now finished.