DIYdiy projects

diy project: woven balsa wood lampshade

by Kate Pruitt

Balsa is one of my all-time favorite materials: It’s cheap and lightweight and easily handles bending, cutting, staining, painting, glueing and pretty much every other technique that comes to mind. It’s also a great resource for creating professional-quality results with few tools, as you can see in this awesome balsa lampshade project from Jamie Samples of Pomp & Circumstance. Using just a few strips of balsa wood and some glue, Jamie created this modern, organic shade in minutes. I love the braided look of the pieces weaving in and out of one another; it truly feels like a finely crafted technique that only a woodworker would know how to achieve, but luckily it’s extremely DIYable. I can’t wait to try this on a lampshade this weekend! — Kate

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Read the full how-to after the jump . . .

I made this lamp recently when I was styling a room for a mid-20’s single man. I had painted the room a dark navy/almost black color, and was looking to add some fun while keeping with the original vision: dark walls, bright white and wood accents, with some lighter aqua shades thrown in to brighten things up and add a bit of fun. I happened to have an extra lampshade lying around, and had a few bases to choose from. I grabbed a base, spray-painted it to fit the aesthetic of the room, and threw together this playful balsa wood shade! Enjoy! —Jamie


  • lampshade
  • balsa wood strips (different amounts depending on the length/width you get, but buy extra because you’ll need more than you think — also, get balsa wood that is super thin and bendy, that way you don’t have to steam the balsa to get it to bend)
  • glue gun and glue sticks


1. Line the top and bottom edge of the shade.

2. Add pieces willy-nilly! Tuck the ends into other pieces and wrap in a manner that leaves a little space and isn’t completely flat against the shade.

3. Keep adding! Keep tucking! My goal was to have all the ends tucked so none were showing.

4. Check for loose ends and apply glue to adhere. You can remove any wispy glue strands by blowing them with a hairdryer.


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  • thanks for the wonderful project but please tell us where you found the balsa
    strips (and whether you used precut strips or cut from sheets) and any other
    sourcing info you can add…

  • I’ve spent many a night cutting balsa wood to make models in design school, and seeing it like this makes me really appreciate this peice. Very creative!!

  • I love the DIY. It seems like you could use any kind of bendable material. This is really classic. Thanks.

  • oh this is just what i needed. i have a stack of lampshades waiting to have a little life brought back to them. thanks for the tutorial!

  • Ooo! This is fantastic! It looked like this would be hard (since it’s so cute and lux looking), but then the tutorial makes it look pretty simple. I’m looking forward to trying this one for my guest room!

  • Love it! How does it look with the light on? And yes, Source on the balsa wood, please. Thanks!

  • I also would like to know where to get the balsa strips like you used. What are the specific widths.

    I’m also curious about how much light shows through. I absolutely love the look, but am wondering as to whether the light still shows through as well. Does it?

  • Hi, when you say superthin, help us out here, I’ve found it as thin as 1 mm in width, affraid that might be too thin.

  • My company manufacturers paper-thin real wood that may actually work better for this project than balsa wood. We produce the wood without the use of chemicals, sanding or any other harmful processes and the yield we get can be more than 10,000 square feet of wood per log. We offer the wood in both birch and cherry (both sustainably grown and harvested species from the midwest). We don’t sell direct to consumers, but I can direct anyone that is interested to a company that does.

  • Hello John Gregory I really would like learn more about the paper-thin real wood that your company manufacture.Coukd you tell me where I can get it? Thanks so much

  • Would the Balsa Wood still work for this project if it were spray-painted a metallic gold or another color? Or would you loose the flexibility?

  • I like the lamp shade but fell in LOVE with the pillow there in the same pic! Do you have a tutorial or can you make one for it?
    -Beginner DIYer

  • The PILLOW is handmade (I’m assuming), just find some fabric you like, cut into two equal size pieces, put the outside faces together & sew all the way around the outside leaving a 3-4 inch opening. Turn the pillowcase right-side out, fill with stuffing, hand sew the open edge, then apply whatever phrase or decorations you like (you can use decals, fabric paint, embroidery, felt… just about anything will work- even a permanent marker!) Or you can apply the above minus the case to a pillow you already own. You should be able to get the BALSA WOOD at any hobby/craft/art store. You could also use ribbons, strips of fabric, even film reels for this project! (film reels look neat, because you can see the pics when you turn the light on!!!

  • This is quite something especially if you have an old lampshade or would like to style up your current lampshade. The whole setup is quite lovely with the unique lamp, the pillow, the seat and the 3 in 1table.