Crafting a Shade
WoodGlow lampshades are made from a wood called Aspen, or as it is known in New England, "popple" or "poplar." This is considered a "junk species" by foresters, since it is not used for lumber or even firewood. Aspen is a common species in New Hampshire, and all logs are sourced from local foresters and loggers. Its main advantage is that Aspen makes a remarkably translucent lampshade, but Peter also enjoys taking such an unloved species and turning it to something that is cherished.
Turning the Shade
Each log is cut into 20" long sections. A chainsaw is used to make a rough "cone" shape before being hoisted onto the lathe, a machine that spins the shade at over 800 rotations per minute. All of the cutting is done with hand-held carving tools, and the shape and contour of each shade are improvised as the shade is spinning. The objective is to get the shade to be evenly translucent and very luminous. The log chunk can be more than 200 pounds when it first sits on the lathe, before being carved down to a final weight of less than a single pound and 1/10" thick.
Sanding & Oiling the Shade
Once the shade takes its final shape on the lathe, it is then hand-sanded for hours with fine grain sandpaper until it is completely smooth to the touch on every surface. Finally, the shade gets three coats of a polymerized oil finish, which serves to increase its durability and longevity, while also giving the wood a rich luster that brings out its unique features. The finish is permanent – shades require no maintenance, they are heirlooms that will last generations.
The strength of the shades comes from their thinness, which allows for a lot of flexibility. When lit, the wood does become very dry, but it will not crack because the shade can expand and contract freely.
Crafting the Base
While every shade is made of Aspen wood, the bases that hold the shades can be of nearly any wood imaginable. Many are classic, luxurious woods such as Mahogany, but Peter also experiments with exotic species from around the world, including Banksia Seed Pods from Australia and Camphor Burl from the South Pacific region. Fellow craftspeople from New Hampshire have also collaborated with Peter to create unique bases that incorporate elements made of ceramic, wrought iron, and basketry. Bases may be customized based on the wishes of the client.
Click on the video link below to see a 5 minute movie that provides some glimpse of the process of making a translucent wood lampshade.