Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A very quick lampshade

J and I got this vintage/antique floor lamp a while ago--I don't remember how long ago, but it was long enough ago that it was still warm out.  I found it at the local Salvation Army thriftstore, and it was only $5 because it was missing a socket (the one that's now shiny in the picture).  J has done some electrical work in theater, and we've rewired lamps and ceiling lights before without blowing anything up or starting fires, so with a five dollar lamp kit from the hardware store, we got a new, cheap, awesome antique lamp.

The metal is cast iron, and I'm not sure whether the rest of the base is glass or stone, but which ever, the whole thing is quite heavy.  The only other problem with this lamp was that it didn't come with a shade.  It turns on by pull cords hanging from the sockets, which I thought was a cool vintage detail, so we didn't change that when we rewired (there are lots of different switch types available if you rewire yourself).  I originally wanted a glass lamp shade, or a mod drum shade, but couldn't find anything in our price range that didn't look way out of sync with the base.  

So I started playing around with the idea of making my own shade, based on these tutorials, but couldn't figure out how to make them open-bottomed to leave access to the switch pulls.

I played around with some sheets of paper and some tape, and ended up with a set of cones to put together.  I used some large sheets of beige paper left over from a bookmaking class cut down to 13x10 inches because it gave the dimensions I wanted, but regular typing paper could be used because it's about the same proportions.  I wanted a kind of layered, sculptural look, so I cut one line on a diagonal on each short end of my paper, like so:

The red lines are the cut lines; the blue dots are the midpoint of the diagonal line (the center black line is the center line and the two diagonal lines are just for illustration, they shouldn't be marked on your paper).  I measured 14cm in on each long edge and 8cm down on each short edge, and found the center point of the line.  If you want wider or narrower cones, play around with wrapping your cones before cutting; I found my measurements by marking the center of the overlap on a wrapped, uncut sheet.

After each sheet got its cuts, I slipped the slits together, and put a few pieces of clear tape on the inside at each slit to keep it together, and some pieces of double sided tape at each point on the outside to keep them down (without this, they would have pointed up, giving a more sculptural effect, which might be what you want, but was too much look for me).   I did the first two cones with glue, but it wrinkled my paper and showed through when lit, so I switched to the tape, which didn't show up.  Test whatever you use on a piece of scrap first.

Then with more double sided tape, I taped together all the cones at the bottom point and near the tip of the cone.  I put mine together flat on the table, and the tape allowed a degree of flexibility, but to put the final cone in and to stabilize it in the last step, I propped it inside a wide mixing bowl.  When all the cones were together, I put it over the lamp to see what kind of angle I wanted, put it back in the mixing bowl, and used short lengths of clear packing tape to tape the backs of the cones together at the angle I wanted.  Then the whole thing got taped to a ridiculously bad looking wire prop I'm too embarrassed to show the internet, and the wire prop was secured to the lamp post with a nut.  I'm thinking about getting a decorative finial to stick above the shade, but haven't found one yet. 

And there's the lamp, looking unbalanced because that was the only way I could get the whole thing into a photo.  When it finds a final home, I'll try to get a shot of it in the wild.  

I used CFL bulbs to minimize the risk with all that paper and tape (and after leaving it on several hours, the underside was still cool).  I thought the beige paper would warm up the cool light, and it does some, but it's kind of weird warm-on-top, cold-on-the-bottom effect.  The bulbs might have to get switched out for warmer toned CFLs, because it's a not a very friendly light without other lamps on, and that sort of defeats the point.

Overall, the whole thing took about an hour, including experiment time, but not including wire prop-making time.  If I'd been thinking, I'd have scavanged the innards of a thrifted lampshade, but this was kind of a spur of the moment afternoon project.

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