These simple, modern light shades are a great way to start out working with wood if you’ve never tried it. They require no power tools or specialized equipment and can be made in an afternoon or two.
Wood veneer is simply very thin wood – about 1/40th of an inch thick. It’s an efficient way to use a tree and it can be found in all sorts of beautiful grains. Most of the time you can cut it with the same kinds of tools you would use for things like card stock and illustration board.
*Important Safety Information*
These are made from wood and paper. Don’t use them with real candles. LED votive candles are a great alternative, and they also have a warm glow when placed over LED Christmas lights. If you do choose to ignore my excellent advice and use real candles with them, be sure that they’re placed where there’s no other flammable materials nearby so that if your shade starts to burn it won’t spread to your drapes or paperwork or whatever. Never leave fire unattended. As with everything on this blog, proceed at your own risk.
If you wish to avoid any fire risk completely you can add a bottom to it and use it as a container!
Materials and Equipment
– Wood veneer – you want a standard, thin, NOT paper backed wood veneer in any species you prefer, this is maple. You may have to order it online if a local home improvement store doesn’t have it. Ordering online gives you many more species to choose from.
– Paper – a block printing or mulberry paper is a good choice for this. It’s the structure of what you’re making, so long, strong fibers will work better than something like a cheap typing paper. Acid free is a good idea, too.
– “Yes!” Paste – you can use all sorts of glues for this, but you have a pretty good chance of everything coming out smooth and flat with this glue.
– Scissors, Utility Knife and a Cutting Mat – for cutting paper and veneer.
– Brush – for applying the glue.
– Sandpaper – to smooth out any rough cuts and remove any pencil marks.
– Heavy flat objects and/or flat boards with clamps – to keep parts flat while drying.
– Small spring clamps – hold pieces while the glue sets so you don’t have to.
– Waxed paper – to prevent things from sticking together where you don’t want them to.
– Card stock – to make a template to trace around.
– Pencil – very sharp or mechanical for tracing templates onto wood and paper.
– Clear varnish (optional) – an acrylic varnish is more fire resistant than an oil based finish, if you’re planning to use them with fire.
– Gold paint or gold leaf and leafing size (optional) – if you want to make them gold use one of these.
Print off THIS TEMPLATE or make your own. Everything is based on regular pentagons, this template is set up for a standard 1.5 inch votive. The finished shape is a dodecahedron.
*Use caution with sharp tools. Fingers can be cut/cut off, and shrapnel can fly into your eyes. Take all possible precautions, you’ll miss your fingers or eyes if you suddenly don’t have them.*
(It’s not shown above, but use a cutting mat or old magazine to cut on if you’re using a utility knife!)
Cut 10 pentagon pieces from wood veneer. Trace your template onto the wood. If you’re going to push them together, use a utility knife and straight edge to cut them, if you spread them out you can use scissors. Cut them as neatly and evenly as possible.
If the wood is cracking try cutting it very lightly with several strokes of a very sharp utility knife. If it’s still cracking stabilize the pieces with a bit of masking tape until you glue them to the paper.
Cut 5 pieces from paper.
If you’re the kind of person who has a workshop at your disposal and you’d like to make a few of these, you can make the cutting more efficient. Sandwich a stack of veneer sheets between some scrap wood (masonite, thin plywood, etc,) clamp tightly, and trace your pattern onto the top. Then cut the whole stack with a bandsaw or jigsaw, if it’s small enough. In no time you’ll have a giant stack of pentagons ready to assemble!
Glue two wood pentagons onto each piece of paper. Consider the orientation of the grain. Spread a layer of paste onto the wood, carefully stick it onto the paper. Do the same with another piece of wood. If they’re flexing you’ll want to cover them in waxed paper then set them under something flat and heavy, or clamp them between two boards while they dry.
Glue all of the pairs, allow to dry thoroughly. Make sure to keep your paper oriented the same way so that you’ll have gluing flaps where you need them.
Pre-fold all of the crease lines.
Glue all five pieces together along one edge. Allow to dry, under a weight if necessary.
It’s easier to continue if you leave the piece flat (as opposed to gluing one edge into a loop.) Glue two tabs to their corresponding pentagons, and allow to dry. Some small spring clamps might be handy to hold the pieces in place while the glue sets.
Continue gluing tabs to neighboring pieces. The assembly is fairly self explanatory if you set the five pieces in the right places initially. You would actually have to work very hard to glue things together incorrectly!
To finish them you can varnish the whole thing or just the inside (to make the paper more translucent.)
You can also paint them gold or apply a layer of gold leaf. I used gold paint because I thought I might want a thin wash of gold, but I eventually chose to cover them opaquely. If I was doing it again I would have just used gold leaf.
Apart from the one that I painted gold I left the others unfinished on the wood side and applied a light coat of acrylic varnish on the inside.
The best way to use these relatively flammable light shades is with LED votives (see the safety note at the beginning of the post.)
All that’s left is to enjoy your warm, modern faceted wood shades or give them to someone who will!