Make A Japanese Lamp

Published on
March 23, 2023
Tim Major
Committee Member, Workshop Maintenance & Workshop Supervisor

The traditional ANDON oil lamp entered the Japanese scene during the Edo Period and took on many forms. The lamp consisted of paper stretched over a frame of bamboo or wood. The paper protected the flame from the wind. They were usually open on the top and bottom to allow air flow. The lamps often had a handle which allowed them to be carried from room to room or suspended from a hook.

The lamp shown in my images is made using Rosewood for the frame and Basswood for the Shoji side panels and Kumiko top panel. Timbers without too much, if any, figure are traditionally preferred. I have used Jelutong successfully for Shoji and Kumiko as the timber has little figure, is easy to work with and readily available. The Jelutong can be milled and dressed to 10mm x 5 mm strips using the workshop machinery. The frame can be coated, after assembly, with your preferred finish but the panels should remain raw.

The Shoji side panels, after sanding flat, are covered on the inside face with Washi Paper which can be obtained from JTA or a Western Australia supplier through e-bay. It is important to fix the Washi paper using Craft Glue, not wood glue, instructions should be supplied with your paper purchase.

I have used 6mm MDF, painted black for the bottom panel which supports the lamp base. The lamp holder should be connected to the cord, supplied with an in-line switch, by a licensed Electrician. The lamp shown is lit using a low wattage LED candle globe.

1 - Design Plan. Cutting List - 15x15 16 @ 178, 22x22 4 @ 300.
2 - Mark out and cut scalfs to 15x15, sand 45 deg corners using disc sander.
3 - Use a guide to sand 45 deg ends.
4 - Assemble frames. At this stage rout top and lower frames to take panels.
5 - Mark out and cut scarfs to 4 22x22 uprights.
6 - Dry check for joint fit.
7 - After fixing painted base panel, fix frames to uprights.
8 - Ensure all joints are tight and frame is square.
9 - Purchase this book to understand the Japanese art of Kumiko and Shoji.
10 - Cut and fabricate side panels using Jelutong dressed to 10x5mm. Panels should be a tight press fit into the lamp sides.
11 - Assembled side panels. Carefully sand side panels to fit into lamp.
12 - Cut and assemble top Kumiko panel using dressed 10x5mm Jelutong.
13 - After sanding side panels flat, attach Washi Paper using Craft Glue to back of side panels.
14 - Have a licensed Electrician fit a lamp base with in-line switch.
15 - Cut top panel corners to fit.
16 - After applying your preffered finishing wax to the frame fit the 4 Shoji side panels top complete.