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Pacelli O’Rourke saw Jack “the Lamp” Kearney make light work of October’s Demo.Jack at work



 Well Jack Kearney certainly whetted our appetites for this demo by putting on show a number of wonderful examples of his filled glass lamps, from a pint glass lamp full of golf tees, to a milk bottle and a stunning and colourful tall stem-vase version. “You can make a lamp out of anything” says Jack, in terms both of the glass vessel and the contents you choose to fill it with. Jack has a specially soft spot for exotic sea shells.



Drilling the bottom of the glass vessel

Jack drills the glassJack uses an 8mm spade-head diamond bit, available in tile merchants. He stresses the need to:

1. Keep the glass and drill-bit cool, with water

2. Avoid forcing the cut.

I noticed he used an elliptical hand movement to open up the cut as the bit penetrated. He uses a rubber pad around the hole so as to cushion the glass against a break-through plunge. Because glass is such a brittle material, it is in imminent danger of cracking under stress. For precisely that reason, Jack changed to a different, predrilled vessel to continue the demonstration. This had a reducing taper-towards the mid point, widening toward the top.

Forming the base

For this Jack used a piece of beech 200mm (8”) in diameter. By 50mm (2”), mounted on a screw chuck. First task was to true up the face and edge. A shouldered recess is made which will serve two purposes, firstly for an expansion-hold in the chuck while the top of the base is being

Forming the top

Beech is used again. This is dealt with on the same lines as the base, except that a spigot is formed for reversing to form the top of the top. Again the glass needs to be accommodated in a carefully measured and executed groove. A hole is bored to suit the stem onto which the bulb holder will be attached.

Putting it all togetherJack fills the glass with wine corks

A length of hollow threaded bar is used, with requisite nuts and washers, to hold the bottom of the glass vessel to the wooden base. Jack chose to raise the position of the bulb-holder (and therefore eventually the shade), above the wooden top piece so as to maximise the visual impact of the glass container and its contents, by again using a short length of hollow threaded bar. This can be supplied by Halls (Late ‘Harkness’) of Harold’s Cross. , I noticed Jack used a socket-and-extension bar to gain access through the top of the vessel when tightening up the bottom section. The bottom is feathered lightly with a square head scraper reducing the need for sanding. Sanding itself goes from 180 through 240 to 320 grit. For finishing Jack prefers Liberon paste wax followed by Chestnut micro crystalline wax (applied with a kitchen scourer). For buffing? What else but a soft table napkin courtesy of Charlie Chawke! Now the base is reversed. Jack uses a rubber arbour pad in the tailstock to push the blank-flat against the chuck. He now trues up the top-face of the base. The diameter of the glass bottom is measured with callipers, and this measurement transferred to the wood. A groove of a few millimetres depth is cut with the 3mm (1/8”) parting tool. A slight convex curve is formed on the floor of the recess, ensuring that there is optimum contact between the glass and the wood at the point of fastening. A hole is drilled through the base, lining up with that which was cut into the base of the glass vessel. Sometimes the glass is not truly circular. While this is irritating there is nothing you can do but accommodate it as necessary. Jack now formed a decorative bead on the side of the base, with a gently rising curve towards the edge of the groove already mentioned, ending with a slight area of flat. Again he uses the lightest of touches with a sharp square head scraper to achieve the best possible result before reaching for the abrasive. I was intrigued at just how very close the tool rest is to the wood, which obviously increases the control and effective sensitivity of the turner. We all saw the gossamer ‘feathers’ floating away from the tool edge. Jack has only to drill a 6mm hole in the side of the base, for the cable, and the base is fully formed. Sanding and finishing details as already mentioned. WiringJack completes the lamp

The cable is threaded through, leaving play for when the shells, - or in this case wine corks – (“I had to get pissed for this demo!”) – are put in. It is legally – and safety wise – essential to put a restrainer on the cable. “Jack being Jack” uses a small cable tie. A circle of cork cut from a cork tile forms a nice blank-off for the bottom of the base, stuck in with silicone. Jack then used a handy template for the position of three small felt feet. Now the wires are secured into the bulb holder (always including the earth!) and the whole top assembly is siliconed onto the top rim of the glass vessel. Jack prefers ‘Trans 7’ translucent silicone; not the cheapest but “absolutely fabulous.” I noticed that he placed the whole affair on a piece of freeto- rotate circular plastic which formed a perfect turntable for ease of access when assembling. So there you have it. Jack commented at one point “There is no rocket science in my turning.” Perhaps not, but what he does he does to perfection. This was a flawless performance in terms of design, method and practical techniques. His use of the scraper with the rest only millimetres from the work, raised that tool to a precision instrument belying its humble name.  The icing on this particular cake was that Jack immediately handed his beautiful glass lamp over to the chairman to be auctioned for The Alzheimer’s Association. Nice one Jack! And thank you for a most instructive, entertaining and encouraging demonstration. Pacelli O’Rourke Photos by Hugh Flynn, Tom Delaney and Rich Varney