Saturday, November 9, 2013

Copper and Steel Floor Lamp

I have been trying to do more lighting recently.  This piece grew out of a desire to use big copper bowl as a lampshade, and a need for a light over my dinner table in my apartment.  I'm really happy with the final product, it was a long build but I learned a lot about wiring, welding, and just how much time it takes to raise a big copper bowl like that.

Process pics after the jump

Here's the copper disk after I've started blocking it down to give the copper a bit of a bias in which way it's going to want to form.  This is an 18" disk of 18 gauge copper sheet.  I probably should have annealed before starting, it just ended up as a big taco.  I'll anneal this and start raising.

One full course and the sides are just beginning to come up.  This is going to take a while.  At this point I'm working over pretty much the entire surface area of the disk, these first couple of courses are taking something like an hour and a half to get through.  Then I anneal again and raise the sides up another couple of degrees.  Terribly exciting stuff.

2 courses.

Here's a shot about halfway through a course.  The idea is that you make a sort of wrinkle in the metal at the center and then hammer that out in concentric circles to the edge.  

3 courses

4 courses

5 courses

6 courses

7 courses.  At this point I didn't really have any end goal in sight, I was truly just raising for the sake of raising, hoping a project would present itself or the piece would grow into something.  I then set it aside for a couple of months while I worked on things like the copper kettle and some other small side projects.  

During this time I moved into a new apartment, which meant I lost my basement studio.  Through some guys I work with I found space at FluxSpace in Philadelphia.  The building is definitely in the hood in North Philly, but the shop is pretty incredible.  I have access to a full woodworking shop, and a pretty decent metalworking space.  I also have a personal work space, a unit about 12' x 24'.  All this for $250 a month, you really can't beat the price.

After getting all set up in here and knocking out a couple of little projects I decided to turn back to the big bowl.  At this point I decided it was indeed going to be the shade for a some sort of lamp, and I started again the raise the sides up even more.

8 courses

9 courses

10 courses

11 courses.  This is as far as I was interested in raising this piece.  Now I'll start planishing courses to regulate the shape, true up the form, and smooth out all the hammer markes all over the surface.

Here's the form after one full course of planishing.  The curves are rounded out and the final form is pretty much set.  For the first course I use a hammer with a slightly domed face, for the second round I'll go over the whole thing with the flat polished face, which will really help smooth everything out.  

This is what it looks like as I go through the second course of planishing.  Here I've worked about halfway down, starting in the middle of the bowl.  The circles are drawn on as reference lines using a compass with an extension arm and a small dimple in the very center of the piece.

And the fully planished bowl.  To do the flare at the bottom I actually had to hammer from the inside over a rounded stake.  After this I again used the centermark as a reference to draw a line all around the very edge as close as possible and still be touching all around.  I can then trim the edge with some snips and get a nice clean circle.

It then gets pickled and cleaned to remove all the surface oxidization.  I can then give it a light patina with a liver of sulfur solution.  A quick coat of Renaissance wax will seal it and give it a nice luster. 

I then used a small cutoff disk and my flexshaft to cut some holes for ventilation and for the socket to fit in.  Clean them up with some files and attach the socket.  

The finished shade.  Probably about 30 hours into just this part of the lamp.  Absolutely worth it though.

For the stand I wasn't really sure about how to go about it, so I took a week or two just sketching and planning what I wanted it to look  like, how it might work, materials, and proper dimensions for everything.  I ended up getting a couple of steel square tubes, and used a some scrap steel around the shop to put it all together.  My buddy Mike helped me with the welding, and we were able to get it all together in pretty much one evening.

Here's a great photo of it in the metalshop before the shade got attached.

The finished and fully wired and functional piece.  The arm pivots and is adjustable to three different heights. 

The three pieces are riveted together, and adjusted by hooking the short arm in a series of holes drilled in the vertical piece.  

Middle height

Tallest height

The copper shade again.

This was a pretty fun project, and the final product looks great in my house.  I would love to do more of these in the future, I got some thoughts about smaller free hanging pendent lamps with copper shades like this.  If anyone is interested I'd be more than will to reproduce this project.  Feel free to contact me through my email at about this and any other inquiries.  

Thanks for reading


  1. This demonstrates a huge amount of work and learning. Sometimes as an artist or craftsperson one doesn't have the end in sight and lets the material speak. It has spoken here. Tres bien, Carson.

  2. Nice work. Had a friend who was a silversmith and watched the raising/courses process. Achieving some semblance of symmetry always was fascinating. I like the adjustment feature with the back stay. Less moving parts and more solid.

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