This blog gives you a brief outline of the processes involved in making our lights.

It’s not as detailed as a ‘how to’, but I hope to give you a flavour of what happens in the workshop. I will cover the turning of the spindles for our wall lights, the curved laminations which make the frames of the sails and the shaping and glueing of the 0.6mm wood veneer which gives our shades their warm translucense.

First some terms: Sails, ribs, leaves and stems – see diagram to the right.

Stems

Stems are turned on a conventional wood lathe. We select even-grained timber for the spindles that is free of defects and a good colour match with the accompanying veneer. For ‘Specials’ a more characterful, varied or figured timber is generally used.

For longer stems we need to use a shop made steady (image below) to take the whip out of the spindle and reduce chattering.

Woodstar lathe

We designed and commissioned a special turning chisel to produce the lipped grooves which retain the sails in place on the stem (see image to the right). The sails of wall-mounted models are ‘sprung’ into place under compression.

The unique tapering curve of the stem is turned by eye without the use of copy lathe or template, making each one very slightly and subtly different.

The stems are further shaped with a router to create the socket for the ceramic lampholder. A hole is then drilled from front to back to allow the electrical cable to travel through the stem from the lampholder to the wall, where the supply is located.

The stems are fixed to the backplates, and the porcelein lampholders are fixed and wired in; the wiring and lampholder are then tested.

The Leaves

Again, selection of stock is key – in selecting out the 0.6mm veneer which comprises the translucent outer covering of our lights, we’re looking for an even, parallel grain and a robust, flexible (not brittle) structure. The colour and translucense of the veneer is critical. Its not possible to predict what the colour of a veneer will be when illuminated from just looking at it. So, it’s necessary to take a light source to the veneer merchant and see the veneer backlit before making a purchase, and it’s not possible to purchase unseen veneers – they have to be seen in the flesh. Selection of suitable material is critical to a succesful end result.

The first process the veneer undergoes in the workshop is the application of finish – a cellulose wood lacquer. The veneer is fine-sanded on both sides, and then sprayed with two coats of lacquer on the outside face only. The reason we don’t lacquer the inside face is because a layer of finish would weaken the glue joint between rib and leaf – wood to wood is strongest. When the lacquer is dry the finish is de-nibbed by further hand sanding with a very fine abrasive paper. The sheets of veneer are now ready for shaping into individual leaves.

The veneer is cut into rectangular leaves on normal paper-cutting A3 guillotines. The final shaping of the curved long edge is formed with a router using a bearing guided pattern cutter and template. The leaves are processed in ‘decks’ (as in playing cards) approximately 40 at a time.

The edge profiled leaves have to be cut at their ends to fit the sail pattern, this is done on a guillotine for smaller numbers – sufficient for a single light, specials or a single bespoke order. For batch orders we use a wide chisel guided in a jig.

Forming Sails

Sails are formed by glueing the leaves onto the ribs. This is done by putting the ribs into a holding jig which clamps them in position, the leaves are then fixed to the ribs with PVA glue. The leaves are compressed onto the curved ribs using specially adapted crocodile clamps. When the glue has dried the overhanging leaf ends are sanded off using a linisher. The edges of the sail are then handsanded all round with a fine abrasive to soften the corners. Finally, the whole sail is hoovered and sprayed with a final coat of lacquer.

All lights are then assembled, inspected, signed, catalogued and packaged.

The Ribs

The curved ribs are made by laminating veneers of 0.6, 1.5 and 2.5mm thickness. The rib blanks are laminated in especially designed formers, which use wedges and a wooden thread to exert a strong and even compressive force along the length of the blank. A crucial part of the process is the selection of suitable veneer stock. The ‘constructional’ (thicker) veneer used for laminating blanks needs to be regular, flat, defect free and ‘relaxed’ – i.e. without too much tension in it. If there is tension in the veneer – if its overly twisted, bumpy or cupped – it leads to twist in the blanks.

The veneer is cut to width on a table saw and cut to length with a radial arm saw. We then apply a specially formulated PVA wood glue to all surfaces of the individual laminates (layers) with a roller. The laminates are then placed in the former where pressure is applied and the curve formed.

When the blank has cured – a few days – it is removed from the former and the individual ribs are seperated off on the table saw. The ends of the ribs are then machined and shaped with the necessary slots, grooves and profiles to make them work with the different designs.

Leaf before shaping

Router template jig used for shaping leaves

Leaf after shaping

This blog gives you a brief outline of the processes involved in making our lights.

It’s not as detailed as a ‘how to’, but I hope to give you a flavour of what happens in the workshop. I will cover the turning of the spindles for our wall lights, the curved laminations which make the frames of the sails and the shaping and glueing of the 0.6mm wood veneer which gives our shades their warm translucense.

First some terms: Sails, ribs, leaves and stems.

Woodstar light diagram

Stems

Stems are turned on a conventional wood lathe. We select even-grained timber for the spindles that is free of defects and a good colour match with the accompanying veneer. For ‘Specials’ a more characterful, varied or figured timber is generally used.

For longer stems we need to use a shop made steady (image below) to take the whip out of the spindle and reduce chattering.

Woodstar lathe

We designed and commissioned a special turning chisel to produce the lipped grooves which retain the sails in place on the stem (see image to the right). The sails of wall-mounted models are ‘sprung’ into place under compression.

The unique tapering curve of the stem is turned by eye without the use of copy lathe or template, making each one very slightly and subtly different.

Woodstar chisel

Special turning chisel

The stems are further shaped with a router to create the socket for the ceramic lampholder. A hole is then drilled from front to back to allow the electrical cable to travel through the stem from the lampholder to the wall, where the supply is located.

The stems are fixed to the backplates, and the porcelein lampholders are fixed and wired in; the wiring and lampholder are then tested.

The Ribs

The curved ribs are made by laminating veneers of 0.6, 1.5 and 2.5mm thickness. The rib blanks are laminated in especially designed formers, which use wedges and a wooden thread to exert a strong and even compressive force along the length of the blank. A crucial part of the process is the selection of suitable veneer stock. The ‘constructional’ (thicker) veneer used for laminating blanks needs to be regular, flat, defect free and ‘relaxed’ – i.e. without too much tension in it. If there is tension in the veneer – if its overly twisted, bumpy or cupped – it leads to twist in the blanks.

The veneer is cut to width on a table saw and cut to length with a radial arm saw. We then apply a specially formulated PVA wood glue to all surfaces of the individual laminates (layers) with a roller. The laminates are then placed in the former where pressure is applied and the curve formed.

When the blank has cured – a few days – it is removed from the former and the individual ribs are seperated off on the table saw. The ends of the ribs are then machined and shaped with the necessary slots, grooves and profiles to make them work with the different designs.

The Leaves

Again, selection of stock is key – in selecting out the 0.6mm veneer which comprises the translucent outer covering of our lights, we’re looking for an even, parallel grain and a robust, flexible (not brittle) structure. The colour and translucense of the veneer is critical. Its not possible to predict what the colour of a veneer will be when illuminated from just looking at it. So, it’s necessary to take a light source to the veneer merchant and see the veneer backlit before making a purchase, and it’s not possible to purchase unseen veneers – they have to be seen in the flesh. Selection of suitable material is critical to a succesful end result.

Woodstar lighting veneer leaf

Leaf before shaping

The first process the veneer undergoes in the workshop is the application of finish – a cellulose wood lacquer. The veneer is fine-sanded on both sides, and then sprayed with two coats of lacquer on the outside face only. The reason we don’t lacquer the inside face is because a layer of finish would weaken the glue joint between rib and leaf – wood to wood is strongest. When the lacquer is dry the finish is de-nibbed by further hand sanding with a very fine abrasive paper. The sheets of veneer are now ready for shaping into individual leaves.

The veneer is cut into rectangular leaves on normal paper-cutting A3 guillotines. The final shaping of the curved long edge is formed with a router using a bearing guided pattern cutter and template. The leaves are processed in ‘decks’ (as in playing cards) approximately 40 at a time.

Woodstar shaping jig

Router template jig used for shaping leaves

The edge profiled leaves have to be cut at their ends to fit the sail pattern, this is done on a guillotine for smaller numbers – sufficient for a single light, specials or a single bespoke order. For batch orders we use a wide chisel guided in a jig.

Woodstar lighting leaf after shaping

Leaf after shaping

Forming Sails

Sails are formed by glueing the leaves onto the ribs. This is done by putting the ribs into a holding jig which clamps them in position, the leaves are then fixed to the ribs with PVA glue. The leaves are compressed onto the curved ribs using specially adapted crocodile clamps. When the glue has dried the overhanging leaf ends are sanded off using a linisher. The edges of the sail are then handsanded all round with a fine abrasive to soften the corners. Finally, the whole sail is hoovered and sprayed with a final coat of lacquer.

All lights are then assembled, inspected, signed, catalogued and packaged.