I have a simple lampshade design, on the picture is made out of paper: enter image description here, it's a basic truncated cone from a single sheet of paper.

I want to make the same lampshade from veneer sheet. I do understand that veneer wouldn't probably allow to bend as much as my needed curvature radius of 2 cm. So I'll probably replace the figure with a truncated 3-sided pyramid, with sides interlocked like puzzles. I've got the idea from http://inhabitat.com/at-labos-wood-veneer-lamps-are-puzzles-you-put-together-yourself/. I plan to laser CNC cut the pieces.

My question is: veneer sheets on sale here in Ukraine look like this: enter image description here

How do I make them nice straight and stable like this: enter image description here Second question: Typical thickness of veneer on sale is 0.6 mm. Can I expect much light to go through? What's the most transparent wood from commonly available oak/beech/maple/ash?

  • You can steam them, but there is no guarantee that they won't change shape again. Normally veneer is mounted to a substrate which keeps it flat. You could try some form of framing, but I don't know what kind.
    – keshlam
    Jan 24, 2017 at 14:34

2 Answers 2


I do understand that veneer wouldn't probably allow to bend as much as my needed curvature radius of 2 cm

This is doable if you don't try to do it with the veneer dry (it's much more flexible and less prone to cracking when dampened, or dampened and heated).

However, I don't think the wood can possibly be robust enough by itself. But, just like with paper, it could be stiffened by being impregnated with resin or glue. That may give you a stiff shape but I think it will be stronger and more stable if you bond the veneer to a stiffened cloth backing.

Typical thickness of veneer on sale is 0.6 mm. Can I expect much light to go through?

Well there's one good way to find out...... ;-)

Seriously the best way to get the answer you seek here is to get a scrap sample and check. How much light will go through a thin piece of wood very much depends on the species and the colour of the individual piece, not just on the thickness.

  • Am I right that first I need to assemble and then impregnate it with glue or resin. Would I need to varnish or oil the veneer on top of resin?
    – Gleb
    Jan 24, 2017 at 21:36
  • Yes I think you'd want to assemble, then coat. You wouldn't need to varnish on top of resin, the resin could be the finish. Or you could use varnish as the resin, which is how some paper projects are stiffened.
    – Graphus
    Jan 24, 2017 at 22:12
  • How those two compare against each other for my application?
    – Gleb
    Jan 25, 2017 at 0:27
  • It's hard to say. A pure resin product like epoxy is stronger, but it may not penetrate as well and it'll also be more expensive and possibly harder to apply. A good varnish has less resin (because of the oil base) but will penetrate better and is much cheaper and much easier to apply. Both will slightly increase light transmission and both will colour the wood slightly, varnish making it slightly more yellow than epoxy or another pure resin but the difference shouldn't be huge. So between all that different people will choose differently depending on their own preferences :-)
    – Graphus
    Jan 25, 2017 at 8:54
  • BTW in case this is an important project for you I highly recommend you do some tests first to check how things work!
    – Graphus
    Jan 25, 2017 at 8:54

Your first picture looks more like a stack of lumber than sheets of veneer. If the veneer has actually warped that much due to sitting outside absorbing moisture, then moisture is what it will take to get them smoothed into the shape you're looking for.

I would suggest making a form to wrap the veneer around, then steam or even soak the wood until it's soft enough to bend without breaking. Wrap the softened wood around the form, then attach the edges and set it aside to dry.

If you're planning on gluing an overlap, you could use a Gorilla™ type glue that will activate with the moisture in the wood and stick, otherwise, you'll probably need to clamp the veneer in place on the form and wait until it's dry to do the actual gluing.

If you're planning on very small nails brads to hold it together, you might be able to inlay a piece of metal into your form as a nailing backer to bend your brads over as they go through.

Once the veneer has dried, slip it out of the form, et voila! Lamp shade!

To give you something to mount the bulb-base and hanger to, I'd suggest cutting a disk of wood that you would slip in from the bottom end and affix (glue or brads, to match) to the top. To give the bottom some strength and shape holding, you could either use a disk as at the top, or cut a hole in the disk to allow some additional light to come out the bottom.

No matter how you do it, this sounds like a neat project, and I hope you'll come back to update us with your progress & final result.

  • I need 40 of those lamps, so I want to let CNC machine do most of the job. For joining I'm looking for interlocking cuts like this flic.kr/p/8zJNBd
    – Gleb
    Jan 24, 2017 at 21:22
  • I don't need a hanger or a bulb-base. It's not clear on the first picture, but if you look closely you can see that the lamp is hanging on the wire, and the lampshade just sits on the led lamp bulb. The angle and radius of lamp shade cone make it hang on a certain height on the lamp bulb. It's a spotlight.
    – Gleb
    Jan 24, 2017 at 22:29
  • Ah, it was hard to tell from the original picture, @Gleb. I figured that there was a standard sized bulb in there, but I guess that would be hard in a 4cm wide cone - that just didn't register at first. You will need something to mount that LED in, and something to attach the wire to, thus my suggestion for some sort of disk at the top that would serve both those purposes and add some structure & stiffness to the otherwise very thin structure. If you don't feel you need it, then, by all means, don't add it in - it was merely a suggestion. I'll leave it in for others who may see this.
    – FreeMan
    Jan 25, 2017 at 19:44

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