“When I feel that something I’m writing is going well, everything in my life is good and the things in my life that aren’t good are completely manageable. If it’s not going well, Miss America could be standing there in a swimsuit handing me a nobel price and I wouldn’t be happy about it”
Aaron Sorkin

The Element

Kumiko Unfolding – Part 7: Small Lamp


After stumbling my way through a first lamp I realized that I wanted to continue exploring new patterns and that lamps can be a good canvas to hold the patterns as I make them while creating something beautiful and useful (I am not drawn to Kumiko patterns hanging on a wall as a decoration).

I had some leftover strips that were just enough to explore another pattern and so I started with that. The Kumiko strips were not uniformed enough (which is why they were leftovers) so the result was mediocre but it did allow me to experience the pattern (including planning marking/cutting sequences to bring ease and quality into making increasingly smaller pieces):

Creating Kumiko strips was becoming a pain-point. Cutting strips by hand is laborious and not particularly pleasant. As a result I started treating treating Kumiko strips as a precious and scrace resource. I would hesitate to cut into them and get nervous when one broke. This is not the experience I wanted to create for myself when I started this Kumiko journey.

So I paused. I deliberated for quite some time how to move past this point. I knew that machines could help, but this presented two challenges. An intellectual challenge: which machine(s) would best help with this task. An emotional challenge: am I prepared/willing to invest even more money in this venture (even basic machines are expensive by my standards of living). I took time to inquire into the intellectual question and used that time to allow for some emotional simmering and resolution.

I ended up getting a bandsaw. In a place like Romania even this can be an adventure. Just thinking back on it makes me feel exhausted and I am not inclined to write about it because I would probably just rant. Suffice to say that a bandsaw did eventually arrive:

Right around the same time we experimented with a new source of firewood. We ordered leftover strips of oak from a fabrication plant. This is what we got:

In the pile were pieces with enough material to create useful work pieces for the scale of work I am currently doing:

So a new workflow was born. Sticks with usable material were set aside next to the workshop:

There they are cut to length:

AND … thanks to the bandsaw … easily cut into roughly squared pieces:

… which are then stored for later use:

Now I had some oak (hard wood) to work with and I wanted to see if I can create a smaller lamp with it. I wanted to find a design/method for producing lamp frames that would create good results with correct effort. I had a specific design pattern in mind and it presented some challenges. So I set out to build one model lamp.

I also decided to rebuild the thicknessing jig with an aim for tighter tolerances. I decided to go for a version that is shorter (50cm instead of 80cm) and has no moving parts. It includes a base in which I can run the plane and spacers that can be stacked in the base to achieve different thicknesses. The result is better but I want to be able to get to even better precision:

Then I needed to decide on the size of the lamp. To do that I created two paper mockups to choose from:

I then set out to build the lamp frame using the recycled oak and revised thicknessing jig. In the picture is the first attempt at creating the (first step of) joinery the design called for … and the first time I ever attempted such joinery:

I got so involved in this phase of work that I forgot to take more pictures along the way.

I then revisited the pain point – making Kumiko strips. Again, using the bandsaw I was able to convert some rough-cut Linden and got a decent enough handful of Kumiko strips:

… I arrived at a frame (with a removable base for a lamp) finished with shellac (another first experiment) and Kumiko strips ready to become a lamp:

Then it was (finally!) time for some Kumiko work:

… and … it became a lamp:

… and lessons learned … and ideas about next steps.

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