View Full Version : Lamp Shade Frames

02-26-2013, 06:09 PM
Hi!, I'm looking for advice on manually bending 8-14 gauge wire in ornate patterns for lamp shade frames. These will be for personal use so not looking for hi-tech, high production or .high price machinery. I have been researching for months! This seems to be a lost art. Di Acro or Duo Might a possibility or best choice? Can anyone provide some guidance? :confused: I'm hoping....

02-26-2013, 06:23 PM
I built some trapezoidal frames for a pair of art-deco floor lamps that I also built. I used 1/8" gas welding rod. it comes in 3 foot lengths and a ten pound tube wont break the bank. Because of the copper flash coating, it can be soft soldered, silver soldered, or gas or mig welded. The advantages that I found were that a) it is straight, b) a convenient, workable length with little waste, and c) it is dead soft.
Black iron "fencing wire,"(get it at farm suppliers,) works OK, but it is coiled and must be straightened for some work.
Galvanized fence wire, used as the bottom strand for chain-link fences, is a bugger to work with. It is hard, springy and cant be soldered or welded without first cleaning the joints.

02-26-2013, 06:47 PM
Thx for the reply. I'm pretty sure I have wire type down. I am looking to make something like this http://www.lampshademaker.com/images/VirginianFrame.jpg Looking for the tooling to do and replicate the ornate, precision bending.

02-26-2013, 06:55 PM
how ornate? do you have an example image to point at?

a challenge of bending wire/rod 1/8 and up into arcs is spring back, and large diameters are far worse than small. If you devise a bender, there can be some brutal snapping action because of the spring; safety glass and gloves for sure and be careful.

The cnc way to bend is the the wire shoots out a nozzle and is defected by a bar; distance determines radius and the bar can be position to go at different angles. if you got into it, that might be worth building as a manual version

02-26-2013, 07:07 PM
This is a picture of how ornate I want to get http://www.lampshademaker.com/images/VirginianFrame.jpg

02-26-2013, 07:08 PM
Example in previous thread

02-26-2013, 08:24 PM
Might be a good question to ask in the Q and A section at http://LampGuild.org/. They also have a links page to repairs and restorations. Not a lot of difference in making lamp shades for electrokuted lamps vs oil lamps. Woody Kirkman still makes oil lamps from scratch in his shop/factory. http://www.lanternnet.com/

Weston Bye
02-26-2013, 08:56 PM
Seeing the example, I need to ask, how many are you planning to make of a particular pattern? If more than a few, you will want to make a jig or fixture.

Some time ago I did a bunch of mounts for glass paperweights for the local museum. They were basically the same, so I made a couple of bending jigs. From there, we adjusted them to fit the individual objects. I will try to post pictures in the next few days.

02-26-2013, 09:12 PM
I think some of the spring back issue will be solved by consistently using the same type of wire...knowing what wire and then experimenting with spring back in simple or complex bends (closed, or more close shapes). Depending on exact shape needed keeping things in plane could become a concern as well.

I would be tempted to go with some sort of jig/fixture for even just a few. The example in the photo looks to be perhaps 3 or 4 different curves that repeat in a pattern...perhaps cutting said shape out of MDF (the spring back issue will effect this actual shape and it may not be the exact finished shape) and routing a fine half round groove on the perimeter, bending wire to fit said groove and then repeating the shape until the whole is done?

Edit: as example, the scalloped "layer" second from the bottom, is likely (?, guesstimating) just a length of wire with partial curve bent (stamped?) repeatedly and then the length bent every third or fourth "point" so as to form a hex or octagon with each "side" having a matching number of scallops. To my eyes its the assembled final shape that makes the relatively simple look complex.

02-26-2013, 09:55 PM
Is there somewhere I can buy a manual bender that would come with the jigs/fixtures your referring too? That's what I have been trying to research and find but I can't find out enough information about technique to know what to purchase to even begin. Any guidance appreciated.

02-26-2013, 10:00 PM
Thank you. I have tried to research at lampguild.com and came up empty (site dedicated to oil lamps). Also, plenty of difference in the oil/electric lampshade industry. The frames I'm making would go up in flames if put on an oil lamp. Appreciate the feedback though!

02-27-2013, 12:50 AM
Thank you. I have tried to research at lampguild.com and came up empty (site dedicated to oil lamps). Also, plenty of difference in the oil/electric lampshade industry. The frames I'm making would go up in flames if put on an oil lamp. Appreciate the feedback though!

The finished shades are very different for obvious reasons, but the means to make them is not. There are a lot of fabric lamp shades for oil lamps, in fact, and they use wire frames. That practice predates electric lamp shades by centuries. I took from your question you wanted to understand how the shade frames were made and not so much what the final application was.

Paul Alciatore
02-27-2013, 01:31 AM
Going by the example, I doubt that you are going to find a ready-made tool to make that.

I would construct some hardwood disks for patterns and mount them on a dimensional board (2 x 12 perhaps) with holes around them for bolts to hold the wire while it is being bent around the pattern. Two bolts about 120 degrees apart will provide the spacing for one arc. Put first bolt in and bend to the second hole and then put the second bolt in and bend backwards around the bolt. Then move that cusp to the first bolt and repeat.

You should only need one disk of each diameter so you can construct them in 1" or even 1/2" increments to give you a good selection.

After doing a bunch of arcs, probably with several lengths of wire, weld the pieces together and complete the circle with the two ends clamped to a metal block with a small gap where the ends meet. A bucket or barrel can be used to pre-form them in a circle in a smooth manner.

Other shapes could also be made, square, hex, etc. For sharper corners you may need to use a hardwood scrap with a groove in it for the wire and a hammer. Even spirals should be possible with multiple piece patterns. The first piece would do about 270 degrees and then a second piece would be added on top of the already bent wire for the next 180 degrees or so. Additional pattern pieces would be added for more turns.

02-27-2013, 06:14 AM
For each individual piece you need a flat wooden board with a variety of wooden formers, posts and radii attached that are equivalent to the finished shape and with a fixed point at one end for holding the wire firmly at the start. The various formers would only be temporarily fixed to the board such that they can be moved in order to modify the final overall shape. For any one piece you will need to experiment and move/adjust the formers a few times until you achieve the desired shape.

This is very similar to how a blacksmith would do wrought iron work.

Ps: once you have the board set-up each piece will be identical to each other, with the minimum effort/skill.


02-27-2013, 08:10 AM
Now were getting somewhere! Thx Paul and Philbur! Any other advice you can think of will be appreciated.

john hobdeclipe
02-27-2013, 09:19 AM
Ditto what Paul & Philbur said. I'll add that you will probably want to invest in several hole saws for cutting the hardwood discs, as it will take several tries to determine what size disc will give the bend radius you actually want. And be prepared to patiently mess up a lot of wire while you learn it's bending and springback characteristics.

And since you're working on a project that I also have a bit of an interest in, I'd like to ask a couple of questions:

How will you weld the various parts together? Do you have a spot welder? Or will you use another method?

Who will do the fabric work once the frames are finished?

Please keep us informed as this project takes shape. Thanks.

02-27-2013, 10:25 AM
Yes, spot welded. I am relying on advice for that also but haven't decided EXACTLY which wire I'm going to use. I do the decorating of the shades myself hence the need for the frames. I have been buying new/used frames from other crafters/companies and have used a few different types of metal. I just decided to "take on" the whole process from frame to finishing touch.

02-27-2013, 02:39 PM
I have been doing stuff like this for a long long time. Decorative wire work of all kinds, in sizes from 1/8" up to 1" in diameter.

I use a hossfeld bender. Standard dies will do almost everything you want- this is made up of a combination of arcs, and sharper bends. With a hossfeld, you can freehand bend anything you want, you can bend repeatable curves with radiuses from 1/2" up to 36" with standard dies, up to huge radiuses with a few easy cheats.

For work like this, I use an annealed black wire, springback is not an issue at all. I buy it in bundles of 10 foot lengths from Artsons- they will cut you pretty much any diameter wire, in any size from .048 up to 1/2", and ship it to you by truck- it seems like a high shipping cost, but when amortized out over a couple of thousand feet, its not much. Or they will sell you big coils of the smaller sizes, you unbend it yourself.
I use 3/16" for most of my lamp shade and similar small projects- 1/4" hot rolled is available locally, but 3/16" is generally not.
The annealed black stuff is really easy to work with, takes paint well.

Here are pictures of a couple of sculpture, made from different sizes ranging from 3/16" up to 3/8". All bent on the hossfeld.

I would be happy to explain any specific bend on a hossfeld, and how it is done. Most of it is really easy and repeatable, with stops for length of cut and degree of bend. There are standard radius dies for sizes from 3" up to 36".
Its a universal tool, no need for dozens of funky custom jigs. Its made in america, industrial quality, and will last a lifetime. More than one, usually.

when I make small wire stuff like this, I always tig weld it. more controllable than spot welding, and repairable. For really thin stuff, I tig braze with a silicon bronze filler rod- for instance, I used to manufacture a candlestick with a stamped 24 gage steel leaf attached to 3/8" round bar- tig brazing was quick and permanent. The problem with spot welding is that it is limited to certain access dimensions- the tongs wont fit in many smaller spaces. And if it screws up, it melts the wire back, and, unless you can tig weld, the whole piece is now scrap. I own a spot welder, and use it for sheet metal. But I find it not a very good tool for wire welding like this. I suppose if you were running the same weld all day every day, it would be more efficient and cheaper, but for small runs of different stuff, its not a very good choice. Plus, depending on wire size, you are probably talking about a big, watercooled 3 phase spot welder- not cheap, not easy to find, not small. I have a small 110volt miller spot welder, and it would not work well for this at all.

Its true, however, that a hossfeld, the right annealed wire, and a tig welder, are a sizeable commitment, moneywise. A hossfeld is around $625, new. A tig welder that will do this easily, like, say, a Maxstar 150, is maybe $1500. But they are lifetime tools, and resaleable- both hold their value pretty well.
Since I make stuff from metal for a living, I have a lot of tools, and consider both of these essentials.
Each of these sculptures is about ten feet tall. So the majority of the wire is 3/16", 1/4", and a bit of 3/8". Circles like the Headlights on the truck are about 3" in diameter. The Chainsaw blade is similar to your lampshade lower edge- a simple bend, setup with a degree of bend stop, bend, move to index mark, flip, bend again. The beauty of the hossfeld is that with the exact same tool, you can make 3" scallops, or 4" scallops, or 5" scallops, just change the stops.

02-27-2013, 02:59 PM
Agree with everything Ries said but, perhaps, this is the most important :
But they are lifetime tools, and resaleable- both hold their value pretty well. Since I make stuff from metal for a living, I have a lot of tools, and consider both of these essentials.

just saying, this is often the stumbling block for me, large $$$ outlay on what is a hobby at best. Quality is always the way to go but can be difficult to justify even if something simple. Do you get a 12" reach "C" clamp for just one project or do you jury rig a "solution"?
Of course the other view is the right tool, even for good $$$ just makes life so much less aggravating...that alone can be worth it.

02-27-2013, 03:14 PM
These will be for personal use so not looking for hi-tech, high production or .high price machinery.

Got some extra skins you need to use up??

Any suggestions on getting the tattoo ink out?? I have a hell of a time with that stuff.

And now these damn kids keep piercing all the good pieces...............

02-27-2013, 03:22 PM
I would have thought that soldering would be good enough an a lot lower cost than welding equipment. ($15 blow lamp)


02-27-2013, 04:59 PM
I dont think you are going to have much luck soldering 1/8" or 3/16" round bar, with a standard home electrical soldering iron.
You could braze them with an oxy-fuel torch, or maybe with a mapp gas torch.

If its all about low cost, buy em already made.

02-27-2013, 05:54 PM
Ries, Thank you so much for sharing. Your artwork is incredible! So, should I look at the Hossfeld #2? Does it come with a set of custom dies or what standard tooling pieces would you recommend (I see they have different set groupings on the website)? Basic, Bar & Angle, etc.... This is exactly the kind of information I was hoping to find. Do you know anything about the Diacro and how it compares? I have been researching their products but I don't think they have one model that does as much as the Hossfeld. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and skills.

02-27-2013, 06:38 PM
Depends on how you design the joint. It's a wire frame for a lamp shade, not the Forth Road Bridge. This whole forum is about doing the most with the least. Otherwise we would all have shops full of new Swiss built machine tools.:eek:



I dont think you are going to have much luck soldering 1/8" or 3/16" round bar, with a standard home electrical soldering iron.
You could braze them with an oxy-fuel torch, or maybe with a mapp gas torch.

If its all about low cost, buy em already made.

02-27-2013, 07:56 PM
Everybody is different.
I have actually built a bridge. In my shop.

Anyway, bang for the buck, the hossfeld is the tool that has done the most for me of any tool in my shop. It has made me, literally, hundreds of thousands of dollars since I bought it for $750 in about 1980. That price included a bunch of optional tooling. I have paid for it on one job. About a hundred times, easy.

I think NOT buying a hossfeld is false economy. I can bend anything with it but light. Gotta use smoke and mirrors for that.

For making these lampshades, I would buy a basic hossfeld, with its standard tooling, for $625.
Bolt it down to a sturdy workbench, or, better, onto a metal stand that is bolted directly to the floor.
Then, for what you want to do, in round bar up to about 3/8" or even 1/2", you can do all your bending on top of the frame.
For that, you would need a 16B eye bolt bending dog, and two pins to go along with it- a 17B flat head pin, and a 18B eye pin. For the really tight corners, you would want to buy a 20B5 center pin with turned down ends. With this stuff, and a few pieces of scrap flat bar, a couple of vise grips, and a silver pencil, you could make your lampshades.
For material bigger than 3/8", you would want to buy the 4' extension handle, 28B5, which is another $65.
There are lots of other dies that could be useful over time, but this basic setup will do everything you want on 1/8" and 3/16" and 1/4" round bar.

If you can find a used hossfeld, even better, although people tend to lose the dies.

I have a whole set of circle dies for it that are just pieces of ordinary schedule 40 pipe, cut off about 3" long. I have every pipe size I can find between 1" and about 8", in 3" long sections, you put them on the center pin and you can bend nice repeatable circles or parts of circles around them. These are very cheap- I buy scrap pipe pieces or get them free, and cut off a slice.

the basic setup to do this kind of bending is shown here- I am bending 3/8" round into a quarter of a circle. I could easily keep going, and make a complete circle, or flip the piece, and make an S shape. Thats a piece of about 2 1/2" pipe I am using as a die, but any size of pipe will work.

A diacro costs a whole lot more, and is capable of doing a whole lot less. Current retail for a new, medium sized Di-acro, is about 3 grand. And they make a lot less choices in tooling- back in the day, in the fifties and sixties, there was quite a wide range of Di-acro tooling available, now, there is mostly tube bending tooling, and its quite expensive. Its really rare to find a used Di-acro with any tooling.
Hossfeld, on the other hand, still stocks hundreds of different tools to bend just about anything.
Its really the swiss army knife of shop tools.
I have built carports, trellises, the aforementioned bridge, fences, gates, railings, furniture, candlesticks, brewery vessel parts, boat parts, car parts, truck racks, and a million other things on mine.

john hobdeclipe
03-01-2013, 06:23 PM
to the original poster:

What do you currently have available in the way of shop tools? Drill Press? Torch? Arbor Press? Anvil? Woodworking stuff? Table Saw, Router and such?

03-01-2013, 11:55 PM
Here is an appropriately sized bender for something the size of lamp shades and can be used from a workbench or vise.


03-02-2013, 02:48 PM
Sorry Dennis, but thats what I would call "bench racing". Recommending a machine that you probably dont own, in all likelihood have never even seen in person, to do a job you have never done.
Which wont work.
Its a tubing bender, and will do fixed radius bends in a very few sizes of material. Wont do sharp bends in anything, and wont make the lampshades.

I know, the big objection to my suggestions is cost. Which is absolutely true. Good tools cost money.

But if the OP walked into my shop right now, I could make a couple of sample lamp shade frames this afternoon, exactly to order, with the tools I recommended. Quick, right, and relatively reasonably priced (I dont work for peanuts. Bourbon, maybe).

Which you could NOT do with that cute little tube bender and soldering.

The cheapo way to bend this stuff is a three pin bender, not a tubing bender. It lacks much of the flexibility and repeatability of the hossfeld- but a basic home built three pin bender in a vise would, indeed work. If you are good, you can use a three pin bender to bend any shape- you make a pencil drawing, bend, check, bend, check, unbend, check, and so on. I have done very complicated shapes this way.
You have two fixed pins, far enough apart to accomodate your biggest bar size. And one swinging frame with a third pin.
Here is a link to a pretty nice little commercial one.
basically what this does is replicate one of the several hundred things a hossfeld will do.
This one is nice because it has a long enough handle to give you some leverage, and degree of bend stops- using a pin and holes, so they are not infinitely variable, but still, better than none.

03-02-2013, 03:19 PM
I have the hossfield as well but if you planning on lighter stuff this is basicly a small version. http://www.metalbendingtool.com/mighty-mite-bender. The basic bender is only a hundred the tooling you can make yourself.

03-02-2013, 03:37 PM
Sorry Dennis, but thats what I would call "bench racing". Recommending a machine that you probably dont own, in all likelihood have never even seen in person, to do a job you have never done.

You would be wrong. I didn't recommend it - I stumbled on to it and shared it as an example. You should leave your characterizations and bitterness at PM where it is more at home.

In fact I have done quite a lot of lamp repair and wire forming and have a growing collection of old oil lamps. I'm on the BOD of the Lamp Guild organization as well as serving as the web host for that site. My father had a jeweler's wire and spring bending tool set that is even smaller that the kit I linked and it worked with extreme precision. Most of the metal I have on hand at home is specifically for hammering and bending into decorative objects or practical objects like pot stands, etc. The need to use a Hossfeld to make a lampshade or any of this exists only between your ears. They are extremely nice benders, but not the only appropriate bender. My favorite bender is an anvil.

The unit I linked is configured as a tubing bender but the principles apply to angled metal, square, and wire. Only the components change.

The bender you linked is another good option in terms of scale but costs several times what the DIY kit costs, but I'm sure it will do a fine job. Had I seen that one first (was not even looking for one) I would have been happy to pass that on. There are many correct/applicable solutions for the OP.

03-02-2013, 03:53 PM
so, you dont own one.
as I thought.

I am not "bitter" in the slightest.
But while I know next to nothing about writing software for drugstores, bending metal is what I have done for my entire adult life.

A bicycle is just like a semi truck.
Only the components change.

03-02-2013, 06:01 PM
Nice hijack, Ries. I don't own one - I've used several similar. I've made 3-pin benders. I've even used a Hossfeld and a Harbor Freight bender. I prefer to use an anvil. It is not necessary to own a thing to understand how it works and what it does. I've never had a baby but I understand the process.

What do you have against the M. Figes tubing bender design? Lots have been made using that design and modifications of that design. With a different set of dies, home made, you can grow it to solve any need and bend angle, square and round rod, and square tubing. Adding attachments is easy. It is easily capable of making lamp shade frames and without the need to be anchored to a concrete floor or require permanent real estate in the shop. Fits in a drawer when you're done. You don't own one either but probably realize all this is possible. Hmmmmm - have you actually ever seen the M. Figes design in person and used it? Are you having a pot-kettle moment?