A client referred by a local Antique Store asked me if I could make a ‘wicker’ top for their Stickley style lamp. I said sure and they came to my shop with a picture of what they wanted and the lamp shade over which the wicker covering would fit. So not knowing any better I said sure.
Between the time I said ‘sure’ and the time they picked up the lampshade I learned how to make the cover. I actually spent more time thinking about making the shade to the actual process of weaving. It also had a snowshoe weave pattern with which I was familiar as they are the same as the rawhide seats on my Quebec/Virginia ladder back chairs I make.
I first measured the diameter of the top and bottom rings, divided by two and multiplied it by 2 pi [6.28\, that math I hated in high school comes in handy come to think of it. I then cut a rather thick piece of maple veneer to 5/8″ wide and 40″+ for the top hoop or ring then not having veneer material long enough I used a rattan chair spline, for factory woven cane, I had left over from another job. I cut it to 62″ long and put a scarf on each end so I could glue them together. The maple was also slightly scarfed and roughened with a file to increase the surface area for the Fish Glue.
With some scrap aspen I made a framework to hold both hoops 11″ apart in such a manner as I could weave the cane material, while keeping the hoops in place. I purchased chair caning, 250 feet of 3.5mm, just over 1/8″ wide, it was the widest they sold and the shortest length. I figured I used about 60 feet to complete the shade.
I first did a test with some linen string to make sure everything worked out, the first attempt had too many purchases; so I reduced the number. The number of runs needs to be odd for the weaving to work out. It is also critical that the strands running diagonally to say the right must be on top while the strands running diagonally to the left need to run on the back to make the final horizontal weaving possible.
Instead of soaking the cane material in water, I only did that to take the folds and kinks out of the pieces then allowed them to dry completely. For use I just got the parts wet where I was knotting them to the rims. I did a test of a piece that was soaked and cut it 12″ long when wet, it shrank over 1/8 inch in length which would cause problems. So I just got it wet where it was looped over the hoops.
When I was ready to match the ‘fumed’ stain on the lamp I had the client bring the lamp base over. They asked if it fit and I said I have no idea if it will fit. There was a pause then they said ‘you must be very confident that it will fit?’, to which I said yes, the diameters of the hoops did fit on the test fit and the height is right.
The picture below is showing a couple of sticks and a holdfast to flatten out the upper hoop that got a bit of a dip in it during the process, it worked out fine.
Because the material will not fume evenly because of the different materials, so I used shellac with red iron oxide, burnt umber, yellow ocher, and a touch of black iron oxide to get a good pigmented stain/finish that matched the original. I had help from my apprentice with staining the entire shade, the horizontal strands were stained before they were woven in place. A bit of fish glue on the ends finished things up.
This is only the second Arts & Crafts period piece I have worked on, I built a white oak bookcase for a friend.