House Technique Woodworking

Lamp Clamp

Making replacement parts…

Sometimes a big thing can be rendered useless when a small part of it breaks or goes missing. I’m beginning to find that with some basic woodworking skills under my belt, I can fashion replacement parts and keep things alive for a few more years. This is most evident around the garden, where weather takes its toll, and replacement parts are often needed (such as Fork Handles…) On this occasion I had a smaller, indoor fix to make.

When I was a teenager, I had an anglepoise lamp (a copy, not a real one) under which I did most of my homework. It came up to university with me, and has basically hung around my homes ever since. Its base comprised a plastic widget with a metal and plastic G-clamp built in, that could grip the side of a desk and hold it steady. Over the years, this clamp wore down, and the lamp started to become unreliable in its attachment. Recently, my son has been trying to use it, but found it would no longer stay fixed to his desk, and had a habit of nosediving onto his work whenever he tried to move it.

Then, a part of the G-clamp went missing. We were left with a set of connected metal rods and springs that had a pin sticking out of the bottom and no way of standing it upright. So now we have a challenge: can we make a new base that will allow the lamp to come back to life again?

Son and I set to work on some designs. We basically needed a block that had a hole in the top that would take the pin of the lamp, and a means at the bottom to hold the piece down securely on a table or bench.

One thing that occurred to me was, rather than custom-building a clamp, we should make the base able to accommodate a standard G-clamp bought from a hardware store.

First idea was to use two clamps, one either side of the hole for the pin. This would be secure, but would take up more desk space.

In the end we settled on having a single clamp that would somehow sit underneath where the pin would go. This led to a taller construction in three parts: at the bottom there would be a base that the clamp would hold. Around this would be a piece that gave room for the end of the clamp to reach into the base. Above this would be a piece with a hole into which the lamp would sit.

Initially we drew this as a cube shape. Then it occurred to us that it would look a little more stylish if we made it round. I remembered back to a project building a Banister for our stairs, and how a little lateral thinking had let me see that a hole-cutter on a piece of wood would produce both a hole and a nice neat cylinder that could be used for something else. So, we decided to dig out the hole cutter again.

The design would have two sizes of cylinder. The top and middle sections would be quite tall and narrow, and the base would be thinner but wider for a little more stability.

For the wood selection it was time to raid my off-cuts pile. We found a random block of wood that was a little over 4cm thick; ideal for the top section since the lamp’s pin was 4cm long. It made sense to use this wood for the middle section too. For the base we found some plyboard, about 1cm thick, which would be strong enough to take the clamp and hold still under any movement from the lamp.

And so to cutting. I positioned and secured the wood, while Son powered up the drill and did the cutting. Our hole cutter blades were 3cm high, so would not go through the whole thickness of the wood. This was fine as we didn’t intend to do the whole cut in one move anyway. Instead we cut through to the middle. Then turned the wood over and cut again from the other side. The cutter’s centre drill would go all the way through the piece giving us a guide hole to line up when we turned it over. Cutting from both sides ensured neat edges with no splinters at the top or bottom of the piece, and the roughness in the middle where the two cuts met could be sanded out quite easily.

The three pieces would be glued and screwed together. Two screws would secure the base to the middle, and two other screws would hold the middle and top. This meant the middle piece would have four screw holes, and would need some care to ensure they didn’t clash. I used the centre hole drilled through all three pieces as the way to line them up so I could mark out places for the screws. Then I could cut the middle and top pieces to their final shapes.

The middle piece needed to be cut into a “C” shape to make a space for the clamp to sit. Time to get the junior hacksaw and chisels out to form this shape.

Time also to get the big drill bits out to make the hole to accommodate the lamp’s pin.

And with that, and a heck of a lot of sanding and polishing, the three pieces were ready.

A quick assembly and test, and the lamp appears to sit nicely once again.

Son wanted the lamp base to be bright red (he wants everything to be red.) So, it was now time to get painting. I found some glossy paint in the cupboard that more or less matched the lamp itself, and got him to work. I secured a stick inside the hole using some plasticine so that he could pick the piece up and turn it around while painting. First he applied a couple of coats of primer-undercoat to flatten the surface and give something for the gloss to hold onto. Then the red paint came out. He made a pretty good job of it, I think.

Two full coats, and a quick go round with a touch-up brush, and we had a nice shiny new lamp base.

Now all I need is for the shops to open again so that I can get a slightly smaller, dedicated clamp for it – preferably a red one. Then I can reclaim this slightly too heavy duty clamp back again.

By nickcnickcnickc

I spend my working life staring at computer screens, so in my spare time I look for things to do with my hands, preferably involving wood. It's a little ironic then that I've now starting writing a blog about my woodworking, and thus introducing computer screens to my main hobby..!

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