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Swing Arm Lamp



For years, we had two of these swing-arm touch lamps beside our bed. When it came to making something new and custom, I used them to help gauge (more or less) how far out from the wall my new lamps needed to reach. We also found that we never really used the middle pivot, so I could simplify my plan by omitting that.

I worked through several prototypes. First I just used a piece of plywood (top in the photo) and just positioned it against the existing lamp, wrapping it with lamp cord and trying out different very rough ideas. Then I move on to the second one shown. With that one I tried excavating the top (and bottom) to see if I could just fit the cord in that way and hide it, but it just did not look right. So finally I made the last prototype. On this one I first tried excavating a trench in two pieces and gluing them together to make an arm. I could then feed the cord through it. I made this one a full prototype - with hinged mounting block and painted it black. Later we decided to go with walnut instead of painted pieces.

I actually mounted this one in the bedroom and we lived with it for approximately a month to be sure we were okay with the design. This is shown in the next photo. (Poor lighting, sorry!) I also worked up a few designs on the computer in Sketchup CAD as well.

In Sketchup, I made a 2D layout of the parts I needed. I imported this into the Woodgears Big Print program and used that to generate 1:1 plans that I could print out. (These are the plans you can purchase at the links at the top of this page.)

For the "innards" of my lamp I am using a fixture/cord set from Ikea that I already owned. For a shade I found these very nice compact stained glass lamp shades on (Links to all these items, or similar, are at the bottom of this web page.)

I'm using walnut for my lamps -- did I mention that I'm making two lamps? It does not require much wood. I started with preparing stock for the arms, as that needs the most wood, since you need two peices for each arm.

These had to be planed down to about a half inch thick (12.5mm), since my goal is for the lamp arm to be about one inch thick (25mm) when it is finished.

I cut out the 1:1 plans and glued them to my walnut pieces. I then used a spoon bit in my palm router to excavate the trench that I needed. I used a fence to help guide the router along the edge. On my original prototype I had cut this freehand, and I can tell you that using a fence felt much safer, and gave a nice clean smooth cut. My spoon bit was a bit small (1/4" in diameter) so I had to make two cuts in each piece, moving the fence between cuts. I did still have to freehand cut the curved ends of the trench with the router, but that was less than an inch of wood to cut.

I then cut out the pieces on the bandsaw and applied a thin layer of glue to the pieces and clamped them together. I was VERY careful, as I need to ensure that the two pieces line up together.

After the glue was dry I used a chisel, disc sander, and belt sander to clean up the the pieces.

I then prepared stock for the hinge/pivot blocks and the wall-mount plates.

I was again VERY careful to set up the arm on the drill press and clamp it firmly in place before drilling a 3/8" (9.5mm) hole through the large end. This will accept a piece of 3/8" (9.5mm) dowel and use that to pivot on and swing back and forth.

I drilled matching holes in the hinge/pivot blocks. In this case I drilled only partway through the bottom blocks, but I drilled all the way through the top blocks, as I would need to feed in the 3/8" dowel from the top.

I drilled the same size 3/8" (9.5mm) hole through the wall mount blocks. I then used the palm router and spoon bit to excavate a trench on the backside of the wall mount blocks. This is so we can feed the power cord from the arm through the wall mount block and then have it turn and fall straight down along the wall. (Otherwise it might dangle away from the wall, which would be undesirable) I used a chisel to clear away some wood where the two holes met, to give a bit more room for the cord to be able to make that tight 90-degree turn.

I used a roundover bit to ease over all the edges of the arms and wall mounting plates.

I carefully measured where the bottom hinge/pivot block needed to mount on the wall mount blocks, and used some CA glue to fasten it in place. I then laid the lamp arm in place and then used some more CA glue to fasten the top hinge/pivot block in place. I want the fit between the arm and the hinge blocks to be snug as I found on the prototype that even a small gap means that the arm moves too easily.

I next carefully drilled, countsersunk, and inserted two #6 screws into the hinge blocks from the back. I used a dab of furniture wax on the screw threads to help them smoothly drive into place.

I then took the pieces outside and finished them with some spray lacquer. (Not shown)

My section of 3/8" (9.5mm) dowel was a bit too tight to fit into the holes that I had drilled. So I chucked it into a drill and then used some sandpaper to reduce the diameter of the dowel just enough that it would slip into the hinge blocks.

A dab of espresso gel stain nicely darkened the ends of the pale maple dowels that I used for pivots.

It was now time to fit the wire into the lamp arm. In this picture you can see to the right that I cut the plug off of the end of the cord. If you can detach the fixture from the cord then I would do so, but I could not see a way to do that, so I just cut the plug off and bought a replacement plug from the hardware store. The cord is fairly stiff so it was not too hard to push through the channel, and once it had gone the full length, I used some needle-nosed pliers to extract the end and then I could just pull on the wire to complete feeding it through.

After that, all I had to do was mount the lampshade. Here is the finished lamp. In the next two photos you can see the two lamps installed in my bedroom, but this photo is far better, since I have much better lighting in my shop.

Hope you found this interesting.


Some of the Tools/Supplies Used In This Project: (Affiliate Links)

Stained Glass Lampshades

The cord and fixture set was one we have owned for years, and I do not have an exact link to it. But I found something similar at Ikea -- Search for their “HEMMA Cord set” -- One option and here is Another option
And here is something similar at Amazon

Stanley Leverlocks -- love these tape measures
Other auto-locking tape measures
Painter's Pyramids
Long Ranger Dust Collector remote control switches
Rust-Oleum clear Lacquer
Watco Spray Lacquer

3M Super 77 Spray Adhesive

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases you make using my affiliate links.


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See Also:

Exotic Red Nightstand

Mission Nightstand with a twist

Floating Walnut Shelves