I’ve been very interested in the Brutalist design style lately. Mostly, it’s a mid 20th century architectural style that incorporates utilitarian materials such as concrete with limited adornment. Brutalism is also seen in some furniture design.
For this Art & Design project, I wanted to explore some of the Brutalist concepts and incorporate them into a useful, but artistic piece:
- This lamp features a harsh, square concrete slab as a base with no color or decorative elements added.
- The neck is made of a single oak board, bent into an arc.
- All the hardware and electrical components are exposed.
- I’ve included an antique-style bulb with no shade. Just harsh light.
Making the lamp
This project was a bit unusual in that I had to work ahead a couple days to deal with the wood bending and the concrete setting. I started by cutting 1/4″ (6mm) strips of lumber. To do this, I hot-glued a board to a simple sled and ran it through my table saw. This keeps the board stable and upright and keeps my fingers safe.
I set them in water to soak for a few hours. I’m not sure what the optimum soak time is, but this seemed to work. I think it would vary depending on what type of wood you use. Oak is one of the best wood choices for bending.
While those strips were soaking, I made a simple form for the concrete. It’s just a box made out of Melamine: its slick laminate surface prevents the concrete from sticking. I also attached a dowel in the middle to create the hole for the mounting bolt.
I mixed a small amount of regular concrete, poured it into the mold and leveled it out.
After a few hours of soaking, I bent the wood slats by forcing them between the jaws of a pipe clamp. There are a lot of methods for bending wood, but this is a very simple way that doesn’t require much prep. I let them dry for 24 hours.
I was impatient and removed the form from the concrete after about 20 hours. The concrete seemed a little fragile though, so I would recommend waiting 48 hours.
When you remove the bent boards from their clamps, expect them to spring back a little. Mine sprung back about 20%, making for a somewhat wider arc, which worked out well in this case. I cut curves in the ends and drilled a hole for the base mounding bolt and a larger hole for the light socket.
I finished the wood and sealed the concrete with spray lacquer, then attached the two pieces together. With a large bolt, nut, and oversized fender washer on top. The huge washer isn’t necessary, I just thought it looked cool.
I used a lamp socket from a clamp-on work lamp. These are less expensive than buying the cord and socket separately. It’s also worth checking out thrift stores for old lamps you can buy for their electrical hardware. I attached it with a metal pipe strap.
I held the cord in place with cord clips attached to the back of the lamp with screws and nuts.
And finally, I stuck some felt pads to the underside of the base.