How to Make Mica Lampshades

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How to Make Mica Lampshades
Mica is also known as muscovite. (Photo courtesy of mrmac04 at morguefile.)

Mica lamp shades are easy to make and decorative alternatives to "plain" lampshades. Only modest changes are made to the mica itself. Making these lamp shades does not require skills atypical for a do-it-your-selfer. When you are done, you will have a natural lampshade made from beautiful mica that leaves a soft deep glow similar to the deep brown colours found in some Tiffany lamps.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • 2 coat hangers
  • Old mug
  • Lamp with standard bulb
  • Pliers
  • Wire cutters
  • Soldering iron and lead-free solder
  • Sheets of lampshade mica
  • Dremel tool (or drill) with a 1/8-inch bit
  • Clean, flat piece of surface of scrap wood (as a backing during drilling)
  • Copper wire (24 gauge craft wire)

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Bend the coat hanger in the middle around an old mug to make the bend round. Remove the wire from the mug and tighten the bend further so that it forms a loop that is the same diameter of the glass part of the bulb from a top view. Repeat the process with another coat hanger so that it is the same size as the first. Place the coat hangers side by side and twist the four free strands together four times around. Do this maintaining the diameter of the loop or bend so that it is still the same as the diameter of the bulb. It will require pliers to do this part. You will end up with two loops next to each other with the four strands on the side of the twist that is opposite the two loops.

  2. 2

    Turn the wires so that the loop hangs toward the floor with the free ends up toward the ceiling. Separate the four strands of coat hanger wire into four separate directions as they emerge from the twisted area. Each wire should be 90 degrees from the wire next to it (side to side) as well as 90 degrees from the wire across from it so that it sticks up from the loop toward the ceiling at a 45-degree angle.

  3. 3

    Bend the four coat hanger wires at a distance from where they all touch that is equal to the height of the mica sheets. The bends need to be counterclockwise and parallel to the ground. Twist the free ends after the bend you just made into a 24-inch-diameter wreath shape so that the free ends wrap around the wire that is counterclockwise to it. Clip off the extra wire and solder the wires in place with a lead-free solder.

  4. 4

    Make sure that you are wearing your pain respirator and mask. Spray paint the wire with a copper-coloured paint in a well ventilated place where the paint won't get on anything that you do not want painted.

  5. 5

    Drill holes in the mica sheets at the corners an inch in from the four corners of each the sheets. Mica drills easily if it is backed up against a clean, flat surface. Use the craft wire in 3-inch sections to tie the mica at the top to the "wreath" of the hanger. Fold the sharp part of the wire over and cut off the excess with the wire cutters. Twist small 4-inch pieces of copper wire to keep the mica sheets together with their neighbours through the holes at the bottom and at the top holes where the wire is also holding the sheets to the coat hanger.

  6. 6

    Separate the two loops of wire slightly at the centre of the lampshade so that they will grip the light bulb firmly without breaking it. See that the lamp is fairly balanced by holding it on the tip of your finger. If necessary, you can (carefully) shave off layers of the mica to get it to balance better. Make sure that the bulb is gripped firmly by the coat hanger wire.

Tips and warnings

  • Use multiple layers of mica to get a darker shade. Do not use the high-grade mica or it will look like you are simply using tinted glass. Mica can be glued with a transparent, high-temperature glue to a safety-glass backing to make it stronger and more durable. Sometimes mica is called muscovite and can be found in sheets online.
  • Check to see that the mica lampshade is balanced and that the bulb is firmly grasped before turning on the lamp. Make sure that the lamp stays away from anything flammable and that it does not overheat. If your mica is covered in a shellac, as some decorative mica is, make sure that the lamp does not melt wax in the mica (making a sticky coating) and that the shellac does not burn. When drilling the mica, make sure not to destroy the surface underneath by using a clean, flat backing of scrap wood to allow drilling through.

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