ISSUE 25  |  Vacation House

DIY: Razor Clam Pendant Light

June 23, 2015 4:00 PM

BY Justine Hand

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.

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.


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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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. 

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.

Above: My finished lamp emits a soft glow.

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

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.