LED bar lamp from cherry and beech

This lamp is an experiment. I was shooting for a late 50s / early 60s style with a shape kind of like an old-school radio or TV capital “T” aerial. One of the low ones, like a “rabbit ears” aerial with the two arms set in a horizontal position if you know what I mean.

I started with a slim piece of cherry that my Dad gave me. It’s about a metre long, and also a small panel of beech, which is an offcut from the local saw mill. Both were still rough sawn when I began, so I started by planing them to be square and then cut the beech into two pieces.

This gave me a base about 15cm * 9cm * 1.5cm, a vertical support about 2cm * 3cm * 15cm as well as the light bar itself at about 1.5cm * 3cm * 96cm.

For the light I have a set of three rigid LED strips from Lidl, which came with a switch and flex, the whole set cost just a few euro.

I measured the width of the LED strip and allowing enough space for the flex to be laid along side it, I routed a groove down the center of the cherry strip. I left a solid 7cm or so at each end.

To mount the vertical support into the base I used a mortise and tenon joint. To cut the mortise I drilled two 15mm holes with a Forstner bit and removed the rest with a 3/8” mortising chisel. I cut the sides of the tenon with the bandsaw and then cleaned them up with the same chisel.

I had a little rusty bracket knocking around so I decided to try mounting the light bar with that. I cleaned it up on the belt sander and sprayed it matt black, then found three contrasting slot head stainless steel screws to hold it on. I’m still not sure if I like them or not. You can see the dry fit of the base and vertical support, as well as the groove routed for the LED light bar itself.

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I wasn’t particularly happy with the look of the full width vertical support so I add a taper from front to back in an attempt to lighten the appearance. This worked great on the finished light.

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Then I cut a shallow recess to allow the LED light strip to sit flush across the mounting bracket of the vertical support.

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At this point I sanded everything to 400 grit and then gathered all of my components ready to drill pilot holes and to partially dry fit the screws.

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I carefully applied standard wood glue to the mortise and tenon of the base/vertical support and wiped off the squeeze out with a damp cloth. Then I clamped it gently in my bench vise, repeated the wiping process and left it to dry. I gave the base unit a final sanding with 400 grit before wiping off any remaining dust and then I could begin to apply finish. First on went two coats of teak oil, then a really light sanding and then another coat of teak oil. A light buffing and I applied some clear wax before giving the finish a final buffing. I fitted the bracket for attaching the bar to the vertical support and then added the little retaining brackets for the LED strip.

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I fitted the LED strip, and then set about adding clips to retain the flex so that it wouldn’t hang down. I had been dreading this part and it was painful as expected but I got the flex retained back to the centre point. I used a semi-permanent solution for this because I might swap out the flex for something more appropriate to time period if the cheap plastic one doesn’t blend into the background well enough. The flex is retained with a three tiny cable clips. I had to nip off the edge of the nail in each to ensure it wouldn’t come through the top of the lamp.

So here it is - the finished lamp. I’m pleased with how it came out, it provides a gentle light to the corner of our living room.

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Things to learn from this one?

I forgot that the retaining brackets for the LED strip would add about 1mm to its height so I should have routed the recess by another millimetre or two. This means that the individual LEDs of the strip are visible when the viewer’s eye level is below the lower edge of the light bar. We have the lamp on a low shelf unit so it’s not noticeable when standing but it is visible when sitting down. I suspect most people wouldn’t see this as a problem but it’s just not quite what I had in mind so it’s standing out for me.

Either way, I’m really pleased with how this came out, the teak oil and wax finish on the two timbers looks lovely and surprisingly the beech of base (and vertical support) and the cherry of the bar ended up being complimentary to each other.

On to the next project.

Fergus Neff