Blacker House Sconce

Click here for all posts on building these sconces

This project was something of a turning point for me.  It was my first project done in the “Greene & Greene” style, which I’d been seriously enamored with for a long time.  It was also the most complex thing I’d built, and the first time I did stained glass.    If I were to do it over there are several things I’d change, but I’m still quite pleased with the results.  This pair of sconces is mounted to light up the stairs up and down from the main level in my house, and they throw a nice, warm glow over the main living area in the house.

Completed "Blacker Sconce"

Completed “Blacker Sconce”

I had two false starts on these, the first with the scale of the parts amazingly too small.  I found one of the early mockups recently and had to laugh at how small it was.  That’s one of the things that I’d change about the “final” version if (when?) I make these again…they should still be a skosh larger.

Early mockup of parts for the sconce body...waaaaay too small!

Early mockup of parts for the sconce body…waaaaay too small!

Fitting the mortises, tenons and glass rebates into a small package was the first big challenge.  The glass rebates had to be deep enough to hold not only the glass, but to allow the adjacent glass to fit in as well – without intersecting the mortises.  I ran into problems with this and had to adjust the design to move the location of the mortises further away form the glass rebates (and they are still too close for comfort).

Rails and stiles for one sconce body - the clearances between the mortises and glass channels were too close for comfort and necessitated severely offset tenons.

Rails and stiles for one sconce body – the clearances between the mortises and glass channels were too close for comfort and necessitated severely offset tenons.

The joinery for the sconce body was the hardest part, both because of the scale and because I’d not done anything this complex before.  But they came out just fine, all the joints were tight and square.

Two sconce bodies glued up

Two sconce bodies glued up

From there is seemed like things got a lot easier.  I’d been struggling to climb the “joinery hill” and now I was on the downhill slope.  The tops were simple breadboard construction with Ebony plugs.

Sconce tops with ebony plugs completed

Sconce tops with ebony plugs completed

and the wall brackets were even simpler, twin through tenons, a hole for the lamp socket and wires.  This is something that I’d change in a revised version, my wall bracket is too narrow compared to the original, and probably a bit too short as well.

Completed wall bracket

Completed wall bracket

There were a few details to sort out on how to assemble all of the parts, but the last major obstacle was making the stained glass panels.  I found a one day “intro to stained glass” class and took it with my teenage son — who absolutely loved it — and I was hooked.  I think stained glass is a must-do compliment to woodworking.  The tools are not expensive, and the skills are very approachable.

I made patterns for the glass in CAD, cut ground, foiled and soldered the glass, and applied a patina to the solder seams.  I’d choose different glass next time to be more in keeping with the original.  The glass should be less transparent and it should be iridized, which is a metallic coating that makes the glass reflect rainbow colors when not backlit.  But this worked well too.

Stained glass panels for the sconces

Stained glass panels for the sconces

The finish was just linseed oil.  The finished sconces were too light at first, but in the past year have darkened to a more pleasing color.  That’s something else I’d do differently — the finishing.  I should have built up more color in the wood for a richer appearance.  But, again, I’m quite happy with the results in the end.

I’ve sort of been outlining what I would change as I write this — probably because this is something that I plan to make again in the future.  The short list of changes for the next time is below, but there are a number of little details I won’t bother with listing.  One of these days I’ll make another pair of these that are closer to my “ideal”.

  • Scale up overall, by probably 10% at least, maybe as much as 25%
  • The wall bracket should be slightly longer and moderately wider than it is in relationship to the sconce body
  • There should be Ebony pegs in the sconce body
  • The finish should have more color
  • The stained glass should be made with glass that is iridized and probably opalescent
1 Comment

One thought on “Blacker House Sconce

  1. Pingback: New “Favorite Project”: Greene & Greene Sconce | McGlynn on Making

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