Rustic Driftwood Lamp

See how Dan O'Neil creates a beautiful lamp made out of driftwood.


Born and raised in Sewickley, Pa., Dan O'Neil spent his childhood near the river. But it wasn't until later in life that driftwood along the banks of Pittsburgh's famous Three Rivers caught his attention. As an adult he started his own landscaping business and during the off-season dabbled in traditional woodworking. One day while flipping through a lifestyle magazine he saw a picture of a chair made from twigs. The beauty of the piece inspired him to make something similar with driftwood. Today, when he's not running his landscaping business, he's creating tables, chairs, mirrors and lamps from driftwood.

Materials and Tools:

driftwood for lamp and finial
compressor and sand for sandblasting
60- to 150-grit sandpaper
wire brush
water-based polyurethane
8" harp lamp hardware
lamp shade (to fit 8" harp)
3-way lamp switch/socket
brass finial knob
8' to 12' lamp cord with plug
3 feet of electrical lamp wire
wood base (cut from 1-3/4" thick spruce board)
1/4" hardboard (for use under wood base)
1-1/2" threaded steel nipple
Thread Lock adhesive
2 wood screws
1/2" nails
2 wire nuts
electrical tape
3-way light bulb
1-yard suede fringe
box of bronze furniture tacks
drill and bits
miter saw, chain saw or hand saw
safety glasses
safety equipment for sandblasting
damp rag or tack cloth
wood chisel
palm sander


1. Gather driftwood and let it dry for 3 to 6 months. Once dry, select a unique piece for building a rustic driftwood lamp.



2. Cut the piece of driftwood to desired size using a miter saw, chainsaw, handsaw or bow saw. Make sure that it is flat and level on both the top and bottom.



3. Clamp the piece down to the workbench or work surface and drill through the length of the wood using a 1/4-inch wood-boring drill bit. Drill straight through the center of the piece, exiting out the bottom.

4. Sand the driftwood.

  • If sandblasting, you'll also want to hand-sand the piece with 150-grit sandpaper.
  • If you do not have sandblasting equipment hand sand starting with a rough grit (60), then working your way up to a 100-grit, and then finishing with a 150-grit to reveal a nice, smooth finish.

5. Wipe the piece down with a damp rag or tack cloth.



6. Make the base of the lamp using 1-3/4 inch spruce board (available at any home improvement store). Set the lamp on top of the spruce board and, using a pencil, create an outline for the base that is 2 to 3 inches wider than the lamp itself. Cut out the pattern of the base using a jigsaw or band saw.



7. Drill a 1/2-inch diameter hole through the center of the base. This is where the lamp cord will be fed through.

8. On the bottom of the base, draw a 2" x 2" square around the center hole. Using a wood chisel, notch out the square, about 3/4 inch deep. This notch is where the cord wire and lamp wire will be spliced together.



9. Determine the "back" of the lamp. On the bottom of the base, chisel a groove from the 2-inch square out to the edge of the base. This is where the cord wire will exit the back of the lamp.

10. Sand the base using a palm sander and 100-grit to 150-grit sandpaper and wipe it down with a damp rag or tack cloth.



11. Apply three coats of water-based polyurethane to each, allowing each coat to dry in between.



12. Join the lamp and base together using two 1/2-inch wood screws. Line up the center hole in the base with the center hole in the lamp.

13. Create a finished bottom for the base using 1/4-inch hardboard. Place the base of the lamp on the hardboard and trace the exact pattern of the base. Cut out the template from the hardboard using a jigsaw or band saw and set it aside.

14. Take a 1-1/2 inch threaded steel nipple and apply Thread Lock adhesive to the outer threads of all but 1/4 inch of the nipple. Hammer the end with the adhesive on it into the center hole in the top of the lamp so that 1/4-inch of the nipple sticks out. This is where the base attaches to the 3-way lamp switch (socket).

15. Wire the lamp using a piece of lamp wire and a lamp cord. Feed the lamp wire through the steel nipple at the top and exit through the bottom of the base. Leave a few inches of wire at both the top and bottom for later connections.



16. Wire the lamp cord to the bottom end of the lamp wire by splicing the cord's end and the wire's end and attaching them, plain side to plain side, and ribbed side to ribbed side using two wire nuts. Secure the wire nuts by wrapping them with electrical tape. Coil up the attached cord/wire and insert it into the 2 inch square notch in the bottom of the base, extending the lamp cord along the straight notch out toward the back of the lamp.

17. Attach the hardboard to the bottom of the base using small 1/2-inch nails.



18. Attach the 3-way lamp switch (socket) to the top of the lamp following the manufacturer's directions.

19. Assemble the 8-inch harp, the lampshade and a 3-way light bulb.

20. Add a driftwood finial for a rustic touch.



  • Select a small piece of driftwood with an interesting knot or fork, about 3 inches to 4 inches in length.
  • Cut one end so that it is flat.
  • Drill a hole in the flat end that is the same width as the top of the finial knob.
  • Gently hammer the top of the finial knob into the hole so that it is a tight fit.
  • Give the wood finial a light sanding.
  • Wipe clean with a damp rag.
  • Apply three coats of water-based polyurethane, allowing each coat to dry in between.
  • Attach the finished rustic driftwood finial to the top of the lamp.


21. Attach a length of suede fringe around the base using bronze furniture tacks. Space each tack 1 inch apart.

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