A lamp out of rocks?…Am I crazy? Actually, I have been doing this for a few years now and when done correctly, the final product is beautiful and extremely unique. If you decide to take this venture on, be prepared for your family and friends to be in awe of your new wonderful creation. A stone lamp fits wonderfully in that cabin of yours in the woods or can be placed in that special rustic corner in your traditional home.
Lets get started with the tools and parts you will need. These tools are essential for getting this project done correctly and may require a little bit of a financial investment to get started.
A drill press. The press does not have to be a large, floor model…it can be a bench top type for now. It does have to have a setting on it that will enable the drill to go fairly slowly through the rock. A setting of around 200-300 rounds per minute is best.
A 3/8″ mortise bit. The mortise bit for this purpose only has to be around 5″ long. DO NOT buy a carbide-coated bit, as these seem to not work as well. Home Depot or Lowes both carry a standard 3/8″ mortise bit for around $5.00.
A lamp kit with a harp included. These lamp kits are easy to use and will come with everything you need to put your lamp together. You will want to make sure the kit comes with a harp also if you are planning on using a shade that requires a harp. These sell for around $8.00 at most hardware stores.
A 3/8″ thread rod around 10 inches long. This rod can be bought along with your lamp kit in the hardwares lighting section. Usually, the lengths come in 24″ to 36″ and cost around $4.00. After you put the lamp together, you will want to cut the rod to length and I will explain how to do that.
A hack saw for cutting the 3/8″ rod to length.
A good strong epoxy glue that sets within 30 minutes.
An angle grinder with a wheel suitable to grind rock.
The best place to get your rock for your lamp is to find a dried up riverbed. Rocks from dried riverbeds tend to be easier to drill and lend themselves more easily to making a lamp. Please note: We dont want to disturb riverbeds that are in use by our natural rivers and streams but picking up rock from dried up sources poses no harm to the environment. You will need a base to start with. Look around for a fairly flat base that when set down on a table, it wont rock back and forth but will sit stable. For this project, your base should be about 8 inches square and about 1 inch to 2 inches thick or thereabouts (any variation is ok as long it is fairly flat). After you have found your base, look for smaller rocks of different shapes and sizes and choose ones that are fairly flat on both sides too. This will make it easier to drill and fit together on your lamp. These should be around ½ ” thick or so. You will need about 6 of these smaller rocks.
Drilling The Rock
Now that you have gathered your choice rock for your lamp, it is time to drill. Place the base of the rock on your drill press and roughly find the center of the rock. (You do not have to be exactly perfect in finding the center as this is a rustic lamp and if you are a little off, it only makes it more rustic and interesting). You should make sure that where you are going to drill is relatively flat so the drill bit does not dance around on you. (Before you drill, make sure you have a little water on hand to either spray the drill bit or splash some on to it as the drill bit can get very hot and could break if not kept cool). Begin drilling slowly, around 200 to 300 rounds per minute, and continue until you are completely through. Yeah….you did it! Now, repeat these steps with your remaining smaller rock until all are drilled and ready to put together.
Take your length of 3/8″ rod and cut it down to about 10″ or so. Place the rod into the larger base and start stacking the smaller rock on top. Since none of these rocks are exactly flat, you may have to move them around a little to make sure they fit together snuggly so that the inner rod does not show. After you have completed this process you will most likely have extra rod on top that needs to be cut off. Taking your lamp parts into consideration, you will have to leave enough rod to hold your coupler, your piece that holds your harp, and your actual lamp fixture base. Usually, this means leaving about 1 inch or so above the last stacked rock. You can test this by getting all your lamp parts out, putting them one by one on the top of the extra rod, and then making a mark just under the first piece (coupler) to see how extra rod you need to leave protruding out. Mark your rod where you need to cut it, pull off the rock one by one keeping them in order and cut your rod to length.
Put your pre-cut rod back into the base and put some of your epoxy glue around the hole where the rod fits into and around a small area where your first small rock is going to sit. Take your first small rock and slide it down over the rod and put it on top of the glued area on your base. (It is important to keep your glue area small so it is not seen after the rocks are placed together). Continue this process until all the rocks are places tightly together on the rod. Make sure the inside of your rod is clear all the way through the center without any obstructions so you can slide your lamp cord through it in the next step. You have now completed the most difficult part of making this lamp. Let your lamp sit for a couple of hours or so to let the glue set up.
Using the directions on your lamp kit box, assemble the rest of the lamp parts as shown. You will have to push your cord all the way through from the bottom of the base. (Sometimes, depending on the rock base, your cord will not sit correctly under the base and may cause the base to rock a little. This is where you will need your angle grinder with a wheel suitable to grind rock. Turn your lamp upside down and take your angle grinder and dig a small indentation from the middle of the rock where the rod is towards the back of the lamp. Just make sure the groove is deep enough to hold the lamp cord).
Finally, spray the lamp with a satin or semi-gloss clear lacquer to seal the rock and to bring out the natural colors of the stone. Apply two or three coats of the lacquer. After the lacquer is dry, you may want to put a piece of felt on the bottom of your lamp so it will not scratch the table it sits on.
Congratulations, you have now made a beautiful rustic stone lamp!