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DIY: Razor Clam Pendant Light


DIY: Razor Clam Pendant Light

June 27, 2014

One sure sign of summer in my family: Aunt Sheila coming in from the flats carrying a bag full of razor clam shells. These she employs to add texture throughout her house, most famously on a living-room shelf (seen here and in the Remodelista book
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I suppose it was inevitable, then, that the rest of the family would get into the game. Recently, I decided to try my hand at making a pendant lamp with a razor clam shade inspired by the porcelain sculptures I spotted at Parma Lilac. The next time Sheila headed to the beach, I tagged along.

Read on for a list of materials and step-by-step instructions:

Photography by Justine Hand for Gardenista.

razor  20  clams

Above: First, go to the beach and collect many razor clams. Here, Uncle Mon holds a day’s haul. This is about as many as you’ll need.

To avoid confusion, let me clarify: On the East Coast, what we call razor clams (because their elongated shape resembles that of an old-fashioned razor) are actually Atlantic jackknife clams, Ensis directus. These are to be distinguished from Pacific razor clams, which are more oval in form. Atlantic jackknife clams are found all along the East Coast. Or you can buy the clams fresh, cook a nice meal and save the shells.


bleaching  20  razor  20  clams  20  in  20  the  20  sun


Step 1: Prep the shells. If your finds are already bleached by the sun, great. More than likely, though, they’ll need some help. Luckily, all this requires is time. I laid out mine for a couple weeks on my sunny deck until the brown bits had dried up enough to be easily scraped off, leaving pristine white shells. If you don’t want to wait, use bleach and a scrub brush.

making  20  a  20  razor  20  clam  20  lamp  20  supplies

Above: Supplies: drill, scrap board, wire, clams.

drilling  20  hole  20  in  20  shell

Step 2: You’ll need a diamond-point bit to drill through the thick shells without shattering them. I bought a Dremel 7134 Diamond Wheel Point ($5.03 at Ace Hardware). Get two, in case one wears out.

I set my drill at Level 3, then placed the bit about 1/4 inch from the end of the shell. I didn’t bother to measure because I wanted a random look.

drilled  20  razor  20  clams

Above: Be sure your shells are all facing the same way when you make the holes so that the finished lamp will lie right. Drilling all the holes took no more than 10 minutes.

threading  20  wire

Step 3: Cut a 2-foot section of wire and thread it through the holes one shell at a time, making sure they’re all facing in the same direction.

threading  20  the  20  razor  20  clam  20  shells

Above: A few shells done; many more to go.

strung  20  shells

Above: I strung two sets to make a double-layered pendant. You can also make a single layer.

Hammer  20  and  20  Heel  20  light

Step 4: Though any fixture will do, I chose a vintage-style Matte Black Bare Bulb Pendant Light with a cloth cord from Etsy seller Hammers & Heels. You could also choose a cage pendant for this project. 

finished  20  razor  20  clam  20  lamp

Step 5: Spread the shells along the wires so they’re evenly spaced. Wrap the first layer around the light and twist the ends of the wire to secure them. Fasten the second layer so it sits slightly higher than the first. Trim the wire ends and hang near an outlet.

The Finished Look

razor  20  clam  20  pendant

Above: My lamp emits a soft glow.

finished  20  razor  20  clam  20  light  20  Justine  20  Hand

Above: Fittingly, I gave my first razor clam lamp to Aunt Sheila. Here it perfectly complements the shiplap siding in her guest room.

razor  20  clam  20  lamp  20  sade  20  detail  20  by  20  Justine  20  Hand

Above: A detail of the textured clam shells.

Looking for more projects from beach finds? See my Gardenista DIYs on How to Turn Flotsam and Jetsam Into Wall Art and Pressed Seaweed Prints. Also have a look at Julie’s favorite ways to use Beach Stones as Decor.

DIY Razor Clam Pendant Light portrait 16
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