Mid Century Modern Glass Block Lamps
Compared to many other items we have concocted in our shop, this pair of lamps came together with relative ease. We bought the glass blocks a while back knowing we wanted to make lamps of them. We had assumed that we would drill holes in the blocks to insert light bulbs and then create wood frames/cases, but this assumption led to aesthetic disappointment; light bulbs inside the blocks were clunky looking and did nothing to enhance the rainbow of colors within the block design. Finally, we decided to try using LED strip lights wrapped around the perimeter of the blocks and poof! Instant cool.
From that starting point, we selected two 2 inch thick chunks of black walnut from which to form the bases and another slab over one inch thick to slice up to form the cases for the glass blocks. We routed grooves in the case sides in order to nest the pieces down over the edges of the blocks and biscuit-joined the mitred corners.
We mounted the cases on the bases with a pair of 1/2" steel tubes, painted with glossy textured acrylic and routed a criss-cross of grooves on the underside of the bases so that the cords could come out on any side. These lamps have no front and back and can be displayed with either side facing forward. The glass blocks give off different colors and shading depending on which side you are looking at. One side has more golden and green colors in it and the other side has more blues, purples and pinks.
The glass blocks are lined with long life LED strips which are held in place with micro-dots of superglue. These lights should last a very long time. However, we elected to create a removable case bottom just in case they should need to be replaced. The bottom side of each case is not glued, but held in place with counter-sunk wood screws. Should the lights need replacing, the bottom can be removed, the glass block will slide out of the case, and the strip of lights gently popped off the sides.
To finish off the look, we finished the walnut with a semi-gloss, hand rubbed oil and urethane finish to match the sheen of the glass blocks and the acrylic paint on the steel tubes.
If these lamps sound bulky, it's because they are! They are 'old school' heavy, like things used to be made, of solid, thick chunks of wood, steel pipe, and heavy glass. Each lamp measures 16" tall, with the bases measuring 12" long x 6" deep and the cases measuring 9" long x 4" deep. Each lamp weighs in at a very hefty 11 1/2 pounds!