DIY: Razor Clam Pendant Light by

Issue 25 · Vacation House · June 23, 2015

DIY: Razor Clam Pendant Light

Issue 25 · Vacation House · June 23, 2015

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 Remodelista: A Manual for the Considered Home).

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.

gathering razor clams for pendant light, Gardenista

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 razor clams in the sun, gardensita

Above: If the shells you find 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 scrubbing brush.

making a razor clam lamp, supplies, gardenista

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

drilling hole in shell, gardenista

Above: 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 razor clams, Gardenista

Above: Make 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 wire, Gardenista

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

threading the razor clam shells, by Justine Hand, Gardenista

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

strung razor clam shells, by Justine hand, Gardenista

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

Hammer and Heel light, Gardenista

Above: Though any old fixture will do, I chose a vintage-style bare bulb pendant with a cloth cord from Etsy seller Hammers and Heels. You could also choose a Cage Pendant Lamp ($40) for this project. 

finished razor clam lamp by Justine Hand for Gardenista

Above: 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.

razor clam pendant by Justine Hand for Gardenista

Above: My finished lamp emits a soft glow.

finished razor clam light Justine Hand, Gardenista

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

razor clam lamp shade detail by Justine Hand, Gardenista

Above: A detail of the textured clam shells.

Want more ways to turn foraged beach finds into home decor? See my DIYs on How to Turn Flotsam and Jetsam Into Wall Art and Pressed Seaweed Prints. Over at Remodelista, Julie shares her favorite ways to use Beach Stones as Decor.

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