For a time I built lamps and sold them at the Fremont Sunday Market here in Seattle. While some artists concentrate on the lamp base, my attention was focused on the lampshade.
The bases were made from square steel tubing. The lampshades were made out of mild steel TIG welding rod and wrapped with a variety of fabrics in the form of filaments. My favorite is Kevlar, as it provides a warmly diffused glow. Other materials I’ve used are Nylon, Dacron polyester, and Nomex.
I double wrapped the lampshades with the filament as a single wrap did not usually offer enough light diffusion. Notice that the lampshade is parallelepipedal, or box shaped. This is because the wrapping material would slide off a shade that did not have parallel sides. The continuous filament stays in place purely through tension, as no adhesives or other attachments were used. The lampshade frame is braced on the inside as the tension of the wrapping would bow the edges in otherwise.
In the case of the Kevlar wrapping, the material is in the form of a “tow” or untwisted parallel fibers. This form of Kevlar is usually used in “filament winding” in aerospace applications. Each individual fiber of Kevlar is very fine, and the resulting texture of the lampshade is surprisingly soft. Many folks believe it to be a natural fiber after touching it, but in fact it’s a result of the chemical genius of a DuPont chemist named Stephanie Kwolek. Kevlar is truly a “space age” material, having been invented in 1965. Note how warm the diffused light is with the Kevlar lampshade, especially considering that it’s synthetic.
I consider my lampshades a veneration of American petrochemical know-how…
I also made my own finials out of dice with two 1/4″ fine thread steel nuts that were welded together then glued into the die with epoxy:
The black color you see on the steel rods of the lampshade frame is a result of Parkerizing. Mild steel TIG welding rods are coated with a thin layer of copper, which I removed using a belt sander and a sandblaster. The welded frame was dipped overnight in the phosphate solution:
I resorted to Parkerizing instead of conventional painting because of difficulties I had in evenly applying paint to the small nooks and crannies of the wire frame. I used conventional Hammerite paint on the lamp bases:
I’m no longer building and selling lamps, but I’m proud of the ones I built.
This is the classic Kevlar lampshade. Note how “warmly” the light is diffused:
The white lampshade is a double wrap of 1/4″ fiberglass lacing tape. Note the large black die finial:
The green lampshade is make of an inner wrap of white Nylon lacing tape and an outer wrap of green polyester lacing tape:
One of my earlier table lamps. Note how the lampshade is slightly skinnier than the others. I widened my later lampshades to allow greater room for one’s hand while turning the switch off and on:
Here is a lampshade I made using a brick red Nomex lacing tape. Note the internal bracing rods:
Here are my lamps for sale at the Fremont Sunday market:
This lampshade is made out of a surprising material: Teflon!