Windtraveler shoji lamp – 2

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Working on the lamp base

Well, I've had another really long stretch away from lampmaking, more than a year. During that time, I again was immersed in amateur radio, this time specifically in a newer offshoot called digital voice. As I was attempting to learn about the related topics—D-STAR, DMR, and hotspot hardware and software—I discovered that there was a dearth of decent information online, so I ended up creating a new website and writing major articles on each topic I was learning, which can be found at⩘  . The good news is that a lot of people are finding the articles helpful.

I also did a number of related woodworking projects, like a stand for my radios and cases for a bunch of the various different hotspots I built. All of this took an insane amount of time over the past two winters to learn and create.

Then this past summer was entirely taken up doing outside woodworking projects: new deck stairs, a couple birdhouses, and sanding down to bare wood and refinishing the rest of our deck as well as a bunch of outdoor wooden furniture we have including three benches, a couple Adirondack chairs, and several small tables. It all came out beautifully, but once again took an insane amount of time.

That said, the real reason I didn't make any progress on this lamp for such a long time is that I was stuck. I just didn't have a winning idea about how to proceed with the base and stand. Ideas kept popping into my mind to audition, often when I'd awaken in the middle of the night. I'd think about them for a day or two, get a little excited, then invariably realize they weren't quite right.

Finally and recently, a couple ideas auditioned and won their parts! Since that happened, I've been working (playing) with joyous intensity once again, filling my workshop with the fragrance of wood. The angles are crazy and some of the steps are ones I've never before attempted, but with persistence, patience, and stubbornness, I've been figuring it all out, bit by bit.

The beginnings of the base

The three-part base is made of extruded deltoids that emerge from a triangular shoulder and pass through the faces into the main lamp body, where they will hold the light bulbs. Each is a different length, in order to create a more interesting dynamic for the light that will be cast through the deltoids of the main body. The shoulder, which reflects the shape of the triangular section of the main body above it (one of the faces of the icosahedron that is revealed in this lamp), will end up being an extruded triangle, and I have an idea for the stand for what will become a floor standing lamp.

Long, long, long way to go, but at least I'm on the way again … and I'm beginning to fall in love with this lamp!

A glimpse of the lamp base nitty-gritty

Here's what one of the extruded deltoids looks like up close after it has been oiled.1 The kumiko, designed to fit into the rabbets cut into the deltoids of the main lamp body, are glued to the extruded deltoid and embedded with neodymium magnets, which will help hold the lamp body to the extruded deltoids (along with a tight fit and gravity).

Closeup of one of the mahogany extruded deltoids

[1] I'm finishing the the mahogany portions of the lamp with Mike Mahoney's Finishing Oil, which is pure California Walnut oil high in linoleic acid that has been heat treated. It penetrates deeply, oxidize over time, and eventually hardens nicely. It does require patience because it has no added fast-acting toxic driers (it's a food safe finish), but that also makes it very pleasant to work with. The maple portions of the lamp are getting a few coats of General Finishes Satin Enduro-Var, which is a good quality water-based urethane that adds a bit of warmth and depth, and a nice sheen. There is a nice interplay between the darker matte mahogany and the lighter satin sheen maple.

So how does someone like me who unfortunately isn't a gifted mathematician come up with these unusual angles? By using various little tricks. For example, when I made the lamp body, I left one triangular section (made of three deltoids) disconnected so that I could get scrappers, sanding implements, and brushes into the interior of the lamp body. That piece also is the section of the lamp body through which the extruded deltoids will pass (although when everything is finished, that section will be screwed in place into the main lamp body before the extruded deltoids pass through it). I inverted that piece so that it rested on its three tips on the flat surface of my workbench, and then fashioned a prototype of one of the extruded deltoids out of cardboard, which I was then able to use to measure the various horizontal and vertical angles.

The cardboard prototype of one of the extruded deltoids sitting in position in the triangular section of the lamp body

Once I had the extruded deltoids built, I needed to figure out exactly where to place the kumiko. To accomplish this, I built three positioning stands to hold the triangular lamp body piece in place at the height I wanted it while I worked on the kumiko pieces and angles. The following photo gives a hint of how that worked, though there were many clamps, a lot of hours, various angle finders, and much sweating and mumbling under my breath involved as I got it all worked out.

The triangular section of the lamp body resting on the positioniong stands

Here are three of my favorite precision stainless steel angle finders that I use for finding and transferring angles to my table and miter saws. The small one is a Starrett 47 Universal Bevel⩘ , the mid-sized one is a 6¼″ Shinwa⩘  Sliding T-Bevel, and the large one is a Shinwa Folding Gauge (not sure the Folding Gauge is still available, though they do still make a larger 10″ Sliding T-Bevel).

Three angle finders

I'm a bit hesitant to share these angles, especially of the kumiko placement, as there was some variation between the three extruded deltoids. But at least these approximations provide a starting point:

Approximate angles

The extruded deltoids will sit on this equilateral triangle shoulder. Even though I'm using heavy duty, high quality brass bulb holders, I decided to screw the extruded deltoids in place rather than glue them just in case I ever need to work on the lamp hardware again in the future. I did glue precisely fitted deltoid base pieces in place to ensure the exact positioning of the extruded deltoids so that they will slide easily and correctly through and up into the lamp body.

The triangular shoulder with the bulb-holding hardware attached

Here's what it looks like beneath the triangular shoulder. Basically, this is the lamp's "electrical box."

The bottom of the triangular shoulder with all the wiring for the bulb holders

Then I made a triangular box for that the shoulder to fit into and sit on top of. Eventually, the triangular box will be affixed to the lamp's stand.

The simple triangular maple box that the triangular shoulder will sit on top of

The triangular box will be securely screwed to the shoulder. To hide the screws, I made mahogany face plates that will be held in place with neodymium magnets.

The three mahogany face plates

Here's what it looks like when it's assembled.

The assembled triangular box, shoulder, and extruded deltoids

Here it is with the triangular lamp body piece slid into place.

The triangular lamp body piece in place around the extruded deltoids

Finally, here it is with the full lamp body in place. Woo-hoo!

The assembled triangular box, shoulder, extruded deltoids, and lamp body

No mar drill dit depth stop collarAfter this step, I drilled holes (228 of them) into the rabbets to hold the K & J Magnetics ⅛″ neodymium magnets⩘  using the No Mar Stop Collar and maple jigs I mentioned in my Rhombicosidodecahedron article⩘ , then glued the magnets in place with Eclectic Products E6000 glue⩘ . Next up is hours of careful finishing, sanding, and refinishing of the maple lamp body.

Creating the kumiko

This is an exacting and time-consuming step. Because there ends up being slight variations in the faces of the lamp body, I custom fit the kumiko frames to each face. I place a couple template pieces into the rabbets of each face and make a mental note of whether the actual pieces should be a bit longer or shorter, and then cut the actual pieces on my wonderful Nobex Proman 22″ miter saw with the custom angle jig that I discussed at the beginning of this article.

After the four sides of each deltoid are cut, to ensure preserving the match between the face and the kumiko, I punch a code into the rabbets of each face and a matching code into the kumiko. I use Starrett Automatic Center Punches⩘  for this, model 18A for the maple, and the smaller 18AA for the softer mahogany. Finally, I glue them together, using the rabbets to hold them in place.

Starrett Automatic Center Punches next to the hole punched kumiko

I allow the kumiko to dry overnight. The next day, I measure the exact position of each of the magnets in the rabbets (again, there are slight variations) using a little measuring jig I created, transfer the measurements to the back of the kumiko, drill the holes, and then glue the magnets in place. Again, I allow them to dry over the next night (the magnets are strong, so if they're not totally dry, they'll pop right out when I place the kumiko in the lamp frame).

Deltoid measuring jig

Next I drill holes through each of the joints and glue in dowels (made from bamboo toothpicks). After they've had time to dry, I sand them flush, and then place the kumiko in the jig I made way back at the very beginning of this project, and then measure, cut, and glue in place the center pieces of the kumiko. After they've had time to dry, I place dowels in them, too. Finally, I do some finish sanding to ensure the faces are flat and fit snuggly but easily into the lamp face. When they're just right, the magnets will catch and snap each piece into place.

Gluing up the center pieces of the kumiko frames

The sands of time … the sawdust of timelessness

Then the rhythym: measure … cut … fit … glue … measure … cut … fit … glue. While listening to books: The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman, narrated by the author … Reporter by Seymour M. Hersh, narrated by Arthur Morey … 84K by Claire North, narrated by Peter Kenny.

The pile of mahogany cutoffs and sawdust behind the miter saw

A day slides by. When I look up I notice it's dark out and quite late in the evening. Then another day and another. The little bits and pieces of mahogany cutoffs pile up in the beautifully hued sawdust. I sweep them away, they pile up again.

Here's what it looks like after three long days in the workshop, about halfway.

Deltoid measuring jig

By now, it's getting easy to see the various other polyhedra outlined in this lamp: the kumiko reveal the rhombic triacontahedron, while the edges of the deltoid faces reveal the dodecahedron and icosahedron, and the interplay between the edges of the deltoids and the kumiko reveals the disdyakis triacontahedron.

And then, after another long three days, the kumiko are finished, ready for oiling.

The kumiko are finished and ready for oiling!

Next up: oil the kumiko and create the stand. Then the fun final step of picking out and attaching the washi. Very close now.

Taking the stand

One question I pondered for a long time: how to create a stand that both complements and expresses the motion of the Windtraveler's lamp body?

Initial Sketchpad drawing of stand cross section in the shape of a camera shutter

Evaluating a mock-up

The progression: from Sketchpad drawing to an actual size cardboard cutout of the lamp base's triangle to a 3″ high mock-up, which gives me a chance to evaluate how it looks under the lamp's body and base.

Cardboard cutout in the actual size of the lamp base's triangle
3″ high cross section mock-up
Cross section mock-up in place under the lamp base - front view
Cross section mock-up in place under the lamp base - side view

Yep, I'm happy with how the stand integrates with the top part of the lamp. And I like the way the 15 great circles (orthodromes) are prominent in these views.

First glimpse

Finished the woodworking on the stand, which is 5½″ in diameter. It is heavy! Took almost all of the wood from a 9′ 1″×10″ piece of hard maple. The combination of the weight and the diameter of the feet (14″) makes it quite stable.

Lamp on stand

Definitely an unusual overall design, but it's growing on me. Reminds me a bit of a hot air balloon and its gondola rising up into the sky.

Final steps

Applied the first coat of General Finishes Satin Enduro-Var⩘ , a self-crosslinking, water-based polyurethane, to the stand. I'm growing to really like the Enduro-Var. It goes on well, dries quickly, and unlike other water-based finishes I've tried, yellows slightly like an oil-based finish, which imparts a nice warmth to the wood.

Finishing the stand and kumiko

Yesterday, I spent several hours oiling the kumiko with Tried and True Danish Oil⩘ , a non-toxic polymerized Linseed oil. I really dislike most modern Danish oils, which are mixed with toxic driers, though I do like the end result, the deep richness the oil imparts to the wood. But I always ended up with terrible headaches after using those Danish oils, and finally decided to stop using them.

One alternative I use is Mike Mahoney's Finishing Oil, which is pure California Walnut oil, but it dries very, very slowly, and for the kumiko, I'm a bit concerned that it will remain somewhat oily even after drying for a considerable length of time, and might soak into the washi, the paper I glue to the kumiko, which would be unacceptable. (Since we're at a very hot point of summer, I didn't want to use heat lamps like I did when I dried the kumiko of the Pentafleur lamp.)

So I'm glad to have found the Tried and True Danish Oil. I didn't get a headache from using it, and I'm hoping it will dry both more quickly and more completely than the walnut oil. After 24 hours, it appears to be drying well, though it's not yet dry enough. We'll see how it goes.

A couple days later: after the third coat of finish had dried on the stand, I ran the extension cord up the center. I found a very beautiful cord to use, a grounded, 16AWG, fabric braided cord with a subtle white and light gray pattern and a low-profile plug. It's made by Jasco, though it's branded GE under license. I cut off the 3-outlet end and then attached a single female plug so I can easily disconnect the top of the lamp, if ever necessary (the "electrical box" in the extruded triangle gave me room for that).

Then I plugged the lamp in for the first time. This is the first time I've used three bulbs in a lamp. I'm using good-quality dimmable A21 LED bulbs by Philips (I previously had tried Cree LED bulbs, and to my great disappointment, several of them either shattered or burnt out quickly—these are bulbs claimed to last for many years—so I'm staying the heck away from that brand from now on!).

I first tried Philips 16-watt (100-watt equivalent) Daylight bulbs (5000K), but the light they cast was a bit too harsh for the space I'm going to use the lamp, so I changed to 16-watt Soft White bulbs (2700K), which are perfect. I have them plugged into a GE mySelectSmart Dimmable Wireless Remote Control Light Switch. The bulbs can be dimmed down to 2200K. At that level, they cast a really nice, warm ambient light, while at full power, they brighten the room without harshness.


At long last, the very final step: choosing and gluing on the washi. Fortunately, the kumiko oiled with the Tried and True Danish Oil have dried very well, so they're ready for this step. Wow, there were times when I wondered whether I would ever get to this point, so it feels very … well, deeply relaxing.

After spending the last hour looking through all of my papers, I've decided to use the same papers as I used for the Pentafleur lamp, though in a slightly different manner. For the middle portion of the kumiko, which outlines the shape of the rhombic triacontahedron, I'm going to use Japanese Mizutama, a white random raindrop pattern lace paper that is partially see-through and probably made from rayon. For the rest of the kumiko, I'm going to use Furuta Chochin, a traditional, off-white, 100% kozo lantern paper made by Mrs. Sayoko Furuta. I have a few wonderful papers similar to the Furuta Chochin, but I just love hers. Sadly, she passed away a few years ago. Fortunately, years ago I purchased a supply of her paper from New York Central Art Supply (sadly, also passed away).

The story of Mrs. Furuta and her paper is such a special one that I want to copy and re-share a snippet about her from another part of my website.

In 1969, the techniques of Hon Mino-Gami (which means authentic washi from the Mino city area of Gifu prefecture, where highly praised papers have been made since the year 702) were designated as Important Cultural Properties.

Mino prefecture map location
A view of the location of Mino city⩘ , Gifu prefecture in Google Maps

Mino prefecture satellite view
A closeup view of Mino city⩘  in Google Maps

Five members of the Mino-Gami community were selected as National Living Treasures of Japan. One was Mrs. Sayoko Furuta, highly regarded among her peers for her ability to produce exceptional sheets from 100% kozo, a variety of mulberry that grows wild in Japan. She made her papers only during the winter months—when the coolness results in a much finer, crisper sheet—including one of my favorites, Furuta Chochin, a traditional lantern paper that I have used in several of my lamps.

Mrs. Sayoko Furuta
Mrs. Sayoko Furuta and her husband Mr. Kozo Furuta,
from an older Hiromi Paper catalog⩘ 

I find it quite challenging to capture the exquisiteness of these papers in photos, but I made an attempt by placing them on a teal blue background in order to highlight their texture:

Mizutama washi

Mizutama washi
Furuta Chochin

The best current suppliers of exquisite papers that I know of in the U.S. are:

How Mino Washi Japanese traditional paper is made
How Mino Washi Japanese traditional paper is made

Yoshio Ikezaki, one of the artists featured in the Washi Transformed: New Expressions in Japanese Paper art exhibit, has this to say about washi:

Through the years, I have come to know washi as medium for expression rather than just a material to be used as a foundation. With my handmade washi, I wish to capture a trace of the enormous energy collision that happens in nature, the miracle of lives being born, the changing of the environment, and the mysterious living things that settle deep within me as well as on the paper. I also enjoy making washi as a Zen practice. Zen does not give me any definite answers to my questions. It only gives me an example of how to think and handle matters without any suggestions. With the sutra works, I put myself in the mirror and question myself. I use these ideas to practice and create my washi and artworks because I can stay free. Even if I never understand the true meaning of emptiness or nothingness, I try to clarify it little by little by making artwork as a true mark of my self.

The Windtraveler takes flight!

The Windtraveler

Dedicated to my good friend Thomas Hey'l,
who inspired me to look at design more deeply
and to take even more care about precision.

Thomas Hey'l
I met Thomas through my work
on Google's international help forums.
Though we met in person only once at a conference,
we grew to be good friends through the years,
writing back and forth often to chat about his passions
for motorcycle restoration and precision modeling,
my passion for woodworking, and many other topics.

Thomas was born in Milan, Italy, in 1960
and moved to Germany in 1972.
He passed away on May 18, 2019.
His light shines on.

The Windtraveler - alternate views

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