About a year ago had some scrap cherry sitting around and really wanted to find a way to show off the warm tones of the wood in a lamp. I get so sick of the hard metals or plastics so common in lighting and wanted something that really just exuded the warm welcoming texture and feel of wood, almost like sitting in front of a campfire. In my mind, this would come from indirect lighting.
Initially I planned on just a very simple 3 layer design where the light is on the middle layer, the front layer hides it and the back layer acts as a backsplash to soak up the light and simply be pretty.
While that idea would work, it is kind of boring. It also has a problem of light overshoot. If you were to make this, you’d find that your light shines outward and without something to block it, will illuminate the wall across the room. Ideally, nothing other than the wood can get direct lighting.
As I was thinking of how to achieve this, for example adding a lip on the furthest side, I started picturing how the light would interact with perpendicular surfaces on the wood as well. A perpendicular surface to the light would be very bright, while horizontal ones would have a slow gradient fall off (seen above in the final product). Suddenly my mind hopped back to the notion of a campfire and I realized that with a little creative planning, I could elicit the same visual feeling. That’s where this terraced layout came from. By building terraces that break up the light, you create the bright “flames”, but you still get all the warm glow around it.
To design this, I started with what I knew I had on-hand: 1×6 cherry. I cut it into 3 equally sized chunks. I glued two together to create a thick blank that I could carve the bulk of the material out of. I also decided to create a storage area inside where I could hide wiring or a power supply if I wanted to make this more complex. The remaining piece would be cut to shape and attached to the front with magnets to hide the light but also offer easy access and assembly.
While you might assume the terracing is based on some geology, it isn’t. I simply drew some visually pleasing curves and extruded them into the model in my CAD software. After that, it was only a matter of CNC machining the whole thing to fit.
Honestly, I think you could recreate this effect much easier by cutting everything with a jigsaw. You would have to use thinner wood to get the layers offset the way you want, but there would be no need to think about workholding, tooling, feeds and speeds, tool head collisions, etc. However, I wanted to play with the CNC machine, so I did think about those things.
I have to say. This has been in my living room for about a year now. I look at it daily and still think the light shining off those vertical bits is gorgeous. It may be my favorite bit of woodworking I’ve ever done.
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