We originally worked with a company in Los Angeles back in 2015 to make prototype shades for us with the intention to make these ourselves someday.
Doing that would give us more control over the process and the ability to make changes or new designs down the road. More importantly, we wanted to make this lamp, in our shop, from top to bottom. Making these lamps ourselves makes a big impact on the design itself and vice versa.
Companies that specialize in wire fabrication usually make things like wire baskets, shopping carts, racks, etc - in addition to things like lamp shades. Most of them have computer controlled machines to do the precise wire bending that is needed, but we had to develop our own tooling and experiment with bending things to get the shapes we wanted. If you form a wire around a 2” diameter round shape, the wire is not going to come out at exactly 2” in diameter. Materials tend to “spring back” a bit after you bend them, so you have to “over bend” them a bit so that they settle into the desired shape when they are removed from the tooling and spring back. That process took quite a bit of trial-and-error to figure out.
Along with the forming, we had to buy two pieces of welding equipment to join the parts together. One is a butt-welder, which welds two wire ends together, making our horizontal rectangle shapes. The second is a spot welder, which is normally used to join two sheet metal parts together. These are commonly found in auto body shops, which is where we bought ours second hand. In our case, we adapted it to weld the intersections of the vertical wire forms with the horizontal rectangle shapes. A simple fixture was used to hold everything in place while spot welding.
One improvement we made to this round of shades was making small coped notches in the vertical wire forms so that the rectangular shapes would “snap” into place. It provides a much better mechanical joint and also makes alignment of the parts easy when we’re assembling parts in the fixture and doing the spot welding.
From this stage, the shades go to a powder coater to give a chrome-like finish, since we opted to not actually chrome them. We then have them wrapped in a white wool felt by a shade coverer here in Maine. When possible, our outside finishing vendors are always fellow Maine companies.