Outdoor Lantern

Five-sided Posts

Load your sander with #100-grit sandpaper and sand both sides of the acrylic. It takes only a couple of minutes to turn the clear plastic into frosted plastic.
Load your sander with #100-grit sandpaper and sand both sides of the acrylic. It takes only a couple of minutes to turn the clear plastic into frosted plastic.

As I mentioned earlier, I used a biscuit in each joint to line everything up during assembly. Now it’s time to cut those biscuit slots. Mark the location of each slot and cut a recess for a No. 10 biscuit in each post and in each long edge of the panels.

You could leave the posts square and your lantern will look fine. I tapered one corner to give the lantern a lighter look. The taper clips 3/8″ off the top outside corner of each post and then tapers to nothing at the base.

Some woodworkers might build a jig to make this cut. The simplest way is to mark the taper in pencil on the post, then plane down to that line using a block plane or bench plane. Each post should take less than five minutes to complete.

Sand your posts to their final grit and you’re ready for assembly.

Assembly
Don’t try to glue up all four posts at once. You’ll want to be able to adjust the panels and posts as you clamp everything, and eight parts sliding around is enough to make any woodworker panic.

When deciding which posts should go where, take a look at the figure. Each post should have one face that is flat-sawn grain and one that is quartersawn grain. Position the posts so the flat-sawn grain faces are together and the quartersawn grain faces are together. This is one of those things that might bug you about a project years later.

Begin by gluing up two assemblies that have two posts and one panel. While the glue is drying, nail the cleats for the lamp base to the other two panels in the location shown in the illustration. Then glue the two assemblies to the two remaining panels.

Final Details
Next, turn your attention to the top. Begin by cutting the 3/8″ x 3/8″ chamfer on the underside of all four edges. To let the heat from the light bulb escape, drill four 3/8″-diameter holes in the top, following the diagram.

Glue and nail the spacers to the top. Then add the top caps on top of the spacers. Screw and glue the feet centered on the posts.

The light fixture I purchased for this lantern was designed to sit in a 1-1/2″-diameter hole. Drill the hole for your fixture in the center of the lamp base and attach the fixture to the base using silicone. Then attach the lamp base to the cleats using (again) a little dab of silicone.

The “rice paper” is my favorite part of the project. It’s made from inexpensive 3/32″-thick acrylic I bought at my local hardware store in the glass section. Cut the acrylic to size using your table saw and sand both faces with a random-orbit sander to get a frosted effect. Attach acrylic to the inside face of each panel using silicone. A spring clamp will hold it in place while the silicone cures.

Four cleats hold the top in position on the base. Turn the entire lamp upside down on your bench with the base centered on the underside of the top. Mark the location of the base. Measure in from those lines the combined thickness of the panels and the acrylic. Then nail four cleats at those locations.

As for the finish, I left mine natural for now. I might someday put a few coats of an outdoor finish on it, such as tung oil. But first I want to see if it survives our next outdoor party. PW

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Christopher Schwarz is executive editor of Popular Woodworking.