One More Project

One other project that I forgot to mention in my Summer Plans post was the clarinet lamp pictured at left.  This clarinet belonged to my late grandfather, who played it in the North Carolina Symphony in the late 1930s.  When it was passed along to me I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with it, but I knew that I wanted to preserve it in some way. Sadly, I found out that it wouldn’t be worth it to restore the instrument to playing condition – imagine the wood sitting in a non-climate controlled basement for the last fifty plus years! – every bit of moisture had been leeched out of the wood.  However, there weren’t any major cracks in the body, and all of the keys were in decent condition, so my wife and I decided to turn it into a lamp, which we gave to my dad as a Father’s Day present. I neglected to take any “before” pictures, but needless to say it didn’t look anything like the finished product.  The first thing we did was remove all of the keys – actually one of them was more or less permanently attached due to a stripped screw head – and treat the wood with Danish oil. After thoroughly cleaning and then painting the keys, we began the long process of reattaching everything (see the picture at left).  My advice to anyone considering this type of project is to label the keys meticulously and sketch a diagram as you remove each section.  I didn’t do this, and I wouldn’t have been able to get the thing back together without my patient and resourceful wife!  Many of the screws and pins were unusable after disassembling the instrument, so we used various other methods (superglue) to reattach everything.  Knowing that the instrument would not be played again made the process a little less complicated, but it was still a complex task for my horn-playing brain.  Thankfully I was able to find several helpful diagrams online, which were lifesavers.  Once we put the clarinet back together, we had the body of our lamp.  We then sprayed a clear lacquer coating over the entire instrument to seal and protect it. The rest of the process was involved, but not nearly as tedious as everything up to this point.  My wife fashioned and painted a base for the lamp, and we used a bottle-lamp kit and shade purchased from a local home improvement store for the rest.  Two elements of the design that you can’t see in the pictures are the hollow, threaded metal tube running from the bottom of the base to the lamp socket.  The wire is contained inside this tube, and the socket attaches to it at the top of the lamp.  The metal tube is attached to the top and bottom of the base with threaded collars, the lower one being countersunk into the bottom of the base so that the lamp rests evenly.  Finally, we cut a shallow groove in the underside of the base for the cord, and glued on a felt layer so that the lamp doesn’t scratch anything where it sits.  Wiring the socket was fairly straightforward, as was attaching the shade.  The lamp does work, and looks pretty good too.  There are some pretty ornate lamps of this type out there (check out this site to see some of them), but this was the first project of this sort for me, and I am very pleased with the results.  Will I be making other instrument lamps in the future?  I’m not sure, but it certainly is a possibility.  I owe a huge thanks to my wife for her help on this project.  She did most of the painting, and provided much needed artistic advice.  I shudder to think what the lamp would have looked like without her help!

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