Turning A One-Piece Wooden Lamp Shade From a Tree Section

Craft & Design Furniture & Lighting Woodworking
Turning A One-Piece Wooden Lamp Shade From a Tree Section

Kiwi master craftsman Sören Berger is a woodturner, teacher, and inventor with 35 years at the lathe. It shows. In this amazing and slightly terrifying video, you’ll see him turn a giant tree trunk section that starts with the bark still on it, inside and out, until it’s perfectly smooth and translucent-thin. Inspiring and wonderful. Absolutely do not miss it. [via nerdstink]

74 thoughts on “Turning A One-Piece Wooden Lamp Shade From a Tree Section

  1. James Liddy (@JamesALiddy) says:

    What a amazing way to waste wood… why wouldn’t you just cut in and skin the outside so the inside of the wood is still useable?

    1. Roy Jacobsen says:

      Have you any notion how many trees die and simply decay? Is that any less a “waste?”

      1. Janne Torvela says:

        It’s still waste.

        You could speed up the video and put the Benny Hill theme song in, and it would be similiar to the old Bugs Bunny cartoons where a factory makes a single toothpick out of a tree.

        Why not? I mean, trees die anyways so you can just waste energy in turning a chunk of wood into sawdust, right?

  2. CarverTech says:

    What an incredible waste.

    1. bryce says:

      Yup a waste…. Like the hundreds of trees that have fallen down around my house. I would rather see logs like that get stacked up to dry and get burned up in a sauna or campfire.

  3. Roy Jacobsen says:


    My hat is off, sir. I would have used veneer.

  4. Paul Arkay says:

    I appreciate the use of sustainable wood, and responsible use of the shavings, but I still see wood turning as ultimately a wasteful activity.

    Why not just use a wood veneer? I suppose I wouldn’t have had a 3 minute video to watch on the internet had the creator done that.

  5. William Abernathy says:

    Dude. You totally need to check out his toothpick-turning video.

  6. benDEEpickles says:

    Reminds me of an old cartoon where they lathe down and entire tree for 1 tooth pick, but the process is automated so its one tree after another for 1 box of toothpicks.

  7. Brian D says:

    I’m sorry for the people here who cannot appreciate the beauty this man created and the joy that comes from performing and even watching such a virtuoso artistic act. If you have one once of plastic or junk mail in your home you are sponsoring more waste than this. Do you think we should burn the contents of the Louvre to provide heat so that all that wood and canvas aren’t “wasted”?

  8. John Matthews says:

    Great video it takes skill and experience to make the shade

  9. LDM says:

    The PBS Show “Rough Cut” had a different lampshade turner on, Peter Bloch from New Hampshire. It’s a good show if you’re interested in woodworking, put together by the North Bennet Street School in Boston. More practical than The Woodwright’s Shop and less power tools than New Yankee Workshop.

  10. Dave Bell says:

    “If you have one once of plastic or junk mail in your home you are sponsoring more waste than this.”

    I can possibly believe this wrt plastic, but how do you equate 1 ounce of junk mail with a cubic foot of wood?!?

    Yes, I would have made one of veneer, as well, but that would also leave a seam showing. For my own use, I’d turn the seam to the back and forget about it, but if I were creating a piece of art for sale (at what I expect is a very handsome price), it should be seamlessy perfect.

  11. Sean Ragan says:

    “A waste.”

    Not a reaction I was expecting or, frankly, even understand. It makes me sad.

    1. Dani says:

      I was surprised as well. The lampshade is beautiful.

    2. Jake Spurlock says:

      So amazing. I love the craftsmanship. Also amazed by what is considered “waste” to a lot of people here…

    3. William Abernathy says:

      I guess my gut reaction had to do with the materials I work with. I’m not a wood guy. I mostly work with metals and plastics, and with these sorts of materials, which tend to be more expensive and do not literally “grow on trees,” removing 99% of the material to make a functional product out of the remaining 1% just screams “extravagant.” Likewise, the “sawdust” from my jobs generally can only be recycled in quantity. You can’t compost it or burn it to keep warm, and smaller quantities of cheap materials, like steel and some plastics, aren’t, economically speaking, worth recycling.

      It is a pretty shade, though, and the craftsmanship is undeniable.

  12. William Abernathy says:

    Don’t get me wrong. The guy’s mastery of the material and technique (not to mention his tool-sharpening ability) is impressive. but you have to admit, that’s a lot of wood he’s laid to waste to get what he’s after. It’s old-world craftsmanship *and* old-world extravagance.

  13. Darrel E. Edson says:

    Simply beautiful, but man, I thought I was good at making saw dust in my shop. I bow to the master.

  14. worldpuppet99guspuppet says:

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  15. Tony Morris says:

    As a wood turner, I come across “free” wood all the time that, if I didn’t take it, would sit on the ground and rot. Storms, pests and human encroachment never cease to produce source material. I always find good uses for shavings and scrap wood.

  16. Venetia Gibson says:

    @ Tony Morris-ditto! Us “old” folks live on 20 acres. We love our trees and never purposely cut any of them down. One exception sweet gums! They wear me thin! Was just wondering today if I put all those balls in my shredder would it explode…lol
    Of course to cut them down would cause us to loose some of our prize trees so we continue to rake up gum balls. We spend our time daily regardless if it is summer, winter or fall fighting mother nature! One night of storms, high winds and yes tornado’ can wipe out 100’s of old trees that once stood tall! We spend endless hours hauling to the burn pile! How awesome it would be to have someone that wanted to create something beautiful come haul them off instead! Sure would make our wood burning pile easier to handle! Heck, the electric company sent their men out to cut away from our power lines and the trees they destroyed made us both cry! Although, they stacked the big pieces up in nice little stacks we are still trying to move and clean up their mess! Not to mention how I would love to have all the shavings for my flower beds but not willing to fight the rattlesnakes and copper heads they disturbed! So hats off to you wood turners!

  17. zman says:

    There is guy in New Hampshire does that too.

    For those people who say waste of wood, it not waste at all. We have a lots of trees around here. Actually there is a large trees fallen down in wilderness behind me recently, probably could make about 50 of those lamps.

  18. Scott R. says:

    This craftsman is a master at what he does. I have alot of respect for anyone who can create something like this!

    Also, this is not a huge waste like some may think. A tree with that diameter trunk would have been a very large tree which means that there would be plenty of areas to get a log this size.

    One of my art teachers once told me that, “Art is a very hard word to define. But its purpose is to get a reaction out of the viewer.” I think that this craftsman’s piece definitely did that.

  19. joe says:


  20. Brett says:

    It’s very cool to see. The comments about wasting wood are very strange. I’m as “green” as the next guy, but there’s no way this low volume art and craftsmanship is a waste. Veneer, seriously?

    We have a similar lamp from another woodcarver, Billy Hall. It’s an absolutely beautiful heirloom piece to pass down to the generations.

  21. AndyL says:

    If we all pretend he sold the sawdust to a place that makes pellet fuel, can we appreciate the craftsmanship?

  22. Peter Bloch says:

    In the other comments, I am mentioned, so I guess I will chip in to the conversation. By way of background, I have been a professoinal woodturner for 30 years and have been selling turned wood shades for 20 years, now having made close to 1400. You can learn a lot more about my work at http://www.woodshades.com. As far as I am aware, I am the first to do this kind of work, and for that reason I feel a bit paternal about the concepts involved.

    So about this business of waste. I will speak only for myself. I use exclusively Quaking Aspen to make my shades. This is the most common hardwood in the world, and has very little use in the forestry industry. Basically Aspen trees grow, die, fall over and rot back in to the soil. When I make a shade, 99% of the wood becomes shavings, and those go back on to the ground around my home. And what is left is one amazing lampshade, unique in the world and celebrating the beauty of wood in a way that can not be achieve otherwise. What’s more, at least in New Hampshire where I live, we are not short on trees. One hundred years ago, NH was 10% forest and 90% farm and developed land. Today it is 90% plus forest. Fly in a plane over our state and you will understand.

    A few people mentioned veneer as an alternative. The shape shade that Soren is making in this video actually does bring that questoin to mind, since is is essentially cylindrical. My shades are always more sculptural in shape. The organic shapes are certainly an added feature, and those would be impossible to make with veneer. Veneers are easy to work with. But you have to live with the overlapped seam. Plenty of people make veneer shades. They are lovely and certainly less expensive.

    I hope you do go to my web site and poke around. Lots of information on how my shades are made, a video is there. I am glad to know about the work that Soren is doing, and anyone else who is creating illuminated beauty from wood.

    1. Sam says:

      Ooh, I wish I were well off enough to purchase one of your pieces!

    2. Roy Jacobsen says:

      Mr. Bloch,
      Thanks for providing the background and perspective.

      I’m one of the ones who mentioned veneer, and I did so because I couldn’t begin to do turn one like this (as much as I wish I could); veneer is the only way I could come anywhere near this effect.

  23. Gizzmo says:

    If not harvested for anything else, this block of wood would have end up in some ones fireplace anyway. Now the maker has a very beautiful lamp shade, and can still use the 99% wood ships to start his fireplace or like Peter Bloch mentioned, other practical use!
    Very nice craftsmanship!

  24. discutons says:

    What all those who cry waste don’t realize, is that they probably used more energy by accessing this website and posting their comment than this guy did to make his lampshade. And that drop of solder that you didn’t use in your last circuit board, do you have an idea how much ore needed to be extracted, smelt, refined to obtain it ? In other words, put things in perspective. Wood is one of the less wasteful materials there is.

  25. turning a one-piece wooden lamp shade from a tree section | make handmade, crochet, craft says:

    […] to my home decor, and this lamp shade from Sören Berger takes that to a whole other level. Sean at MAKE writes: Kiwi master craftsman Sören Berger is a woodturner, teacher, and inventor with 35 years […]

  26. Lights | Pearltrees says:

    […] 2 bloggers like this post. Wooden Lamp Shade […]

  27. Turning a one piece wooden lamp shade - Router Forums says:

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  28. LiLRdWgn says:

    This is just my 2 cents but, That beautiful lamp shade will be “around” a LOT longer than just a tree laying on the ground and roting. Everything was put on this great earth for a reason. More of my 2 cents, people with their negative comment more than likely don’t even have a clue of the talent and skill it takes to turn a lathe on, let alone how it works.

  29. D.K says:

    This is awsome. IKEA lamps are a waste of energy/resourses and are made for landfills. Make or buy something nice keep and/or pass it on. Enough with wanting a new one every three seconds.

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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