clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

If you're looking for a stylish and original way to spruce up your home's landscaping, well, look to the right.

This outdoor lighting project is deceptively simple to build. Made of rot-resistant western red cedar, the fixture consists of a 2x4 center post to anchor it, a horizontal arm to hold the lantern, and 1x6 cladding that yokes the 2x4s together and creates attractive shadow lines. Fitted with a handsome copper-and-glass candle lantern, it exudes Zen-like beauty day and night.

This Old House senior technical editor Mark Powers installed our lamppost along a garden path but says its proportions would complement virtually any outdoor space, from a patio to a water feature. If you'd prefer to wire the lamppost for low-voltage lighting, he shows how to do that, too.

SHOWN: H. Potter Craftsman Lantern, 9¾ by 10½ inches, $80; H.Potter

Watco Teak Oil Finish, $11 per quart; Rust-Oleum

Download and print the lamppost cut list

Step 1: Lamppost Overview

Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Day-to-day timeline

  • Day 1: Cut to size and shape the cedar boards (Steps 2–8).
  • Day 2: Assemble the lamppost and install it (Steps 9–18).

Pathway Lamppost Cut List

  • 2x4 post: 1 @ 6 feet
  • 2x4 crossarm: 1 @ 12½ inches
  • 2x4 crossarm: 1 @ 3 inches
  • 1x6 post cladding: 2 @ 4¾ inches with a 45-degree beveled top
  • 1x6 post cladding: 2 @ 36 inches
  • 1x6 crossarm cladding: 2 @ 27 inches with 1-inch noses and 45-degree angled ends
  • 2x10 base trim: 2 @ 6 inches
  • 2x10 base trim: 2 @ 7½ inches

Both pieces with a 45-degree beveled edge at the top and measured between long points of the mitered ends

Download and print the cut list

Shopping List

  • 2x4 common cedar board. Get one 8-footer to make the center post and lantern arm.
  • 1x6 clear cedar boards. Get two 8-foot lengths to clad the post.
  • 2x10 clear cedar board. Get one 6-footer to wrap the base of the post.
  • construction adhesive
  • 2- and 2½-inch-long finishing nails for a pneumatic nailer
  • ⅜-inch hardwood dowel
  • ⅜-inch-diameter spade bit waterproof carpenter’s glue to glue dowel rods in place
  • polyurethane glue for mitered joints on the decorative base
  • 100-grit disks for the random-orbit sander
  • 1-inch screw hook for hanging the lantern or light fixture
  • copper candle lantern
  • low-voltage land-scape light fixture (optional)
  • transformer (optional)
  • 12-volt cable (optional)
  • cable staples (optional)

Step 2: Crosscut the 2x4 to Length

Photo by Kolin Smith

Refer to the cut list. Use a sliding compound miter saw to crosscut the 2x4 into three lengths: the long vertical center post and the two shorter pieces that make up the core of the lantern arm.

Step 3: Miter the Post End

Photo by Kolin Smith

Set the miter-saw blade to its sharpest angle (some go to 55 degrees) and trim the bottom end of the center post. The resulting sharp point will allow you to later pound the post into the ground with a sledgehammer.

Step 4: Cut the Wiring Channel

Photo by Kolin Smith

Follow this three-step sequence if you plan to connect a low-voltage landscape light fixture. If not, skip to Step 7.

Mark the centerline of the post from where it will meet the ground to its intersection with the lantern arm, 6¼ inches from the top of the post.

Use a ½-inch spade bit and a drill/driver to bore a ½-inch-deep hole at that intersection. To make the wiring channel, set the blade of a circular saw to ½ inch deep and make several cuts parallel to the centerline, no more than ¼ inch to either side.

Do the same from the drill hole toward one edge of the board.

On the lantern arm, follow the same process to continue the channel from the post; drill a similar turn hole 2 inches from the end, and cut a channel to the edge to reach the lantern.

Step 5: Remove the Waste Wood

Photo by Kolin Smith

Use a wood chisel to pry out the waste wood from the channel and scrape it clean.

Step 6: Set the Cable in the Groove

Photo by Kolin Smith

Lay the low-voltage electrical cable in the groove, making sure to leave a few feet extra at the lantern arm.

Fasten the cable in place with cable staples. Note that 12-gauge low-voltage cable is sufficient for most landscape lighting systems that total 200 watts or less.

Tip: Adjust your combination square to the distance between the edge of the post and the edge of the channel, and use that setting to avoid puncturing the cable in Steps 9 and 18.

Step 7: Mark the 1x6 Arms

Photo by Kolin Smith

Cut to length the two 1x6 boards to clad the lantern arm. Use a combination square to mark a 45-degree cutline on each end of both crossarms.

Position the lines so that 1 inch of the boards' ends remains square.

Step 8: Cut the Pieces

Photo by Kolin Smith

Set the miter saw to 45 degrees and trim the arms at the cutlines you marked.

Next, you'll cut the four 1x6 boards to clad the center post.

First, though, bevel one end of each board at 45 degrees and use those ends to make the short pieces that fit directly above the lantern arm.

Step 9: Lay out the Cladding

Photo by Kolin Smith

On a flat work surface, arrange the three 1x6 pieces that make up one side of the lamppost, as shown.

Step 10: Position the 2x4 Parts

Photo by Kolin Smith

Lay the 2x4 center post on the boards. To center it, use a 1-inch-wide scrap-wood block and shift the 2x4 until the block is flush with one edge of the 1x6.

Mark the 2x4's final position with a pencil, and repeat the process for the lantern arm.

Step 11: Join the Post Parts

Photo by Kolin Smith

Remove the center post and arms, apply construction adhesive to them, and press them into the outlines on the cladding.

Tack the 2x4 pieces with a pneumatic finishing nailer and 2-inch-long nails. If you installed the electrical cable in Step 4, be sure to keep the fasteners within 1½ inches of either edge of the 2x4. Apply construction adhesive to the exposed faces of the 2x4s and set the remaining cladding in place; use your combination square to align it with the opposite layer of cladding.

Press the boards down. For added strength, you can tack this cladding in place with a pneumatic finishing nailer and 2-inch-long nails. If you do, be sure to fill and sand the nail holes.

Step 12: Bore the Dowel Holes

Photo by Kolin Smith

To strengthen the joint between the post and the lantern arm—and to lend the piece a handcrafted look—install two hardwood dowels.

Use a combination square to draw a 45-degree line where the post intersects the arm. Make two marks along the line, 2½ inches in from each corner.

Slip a scrap board underneath the joint, then use a drill and ⅜-inch-diameter spade bit to bore two holes at the marks; go completely through to the other side.

Step 13: Trim the Dowels

Photo by Kolin Smith

Smear waterproof carpenter's glue or polyurethane glue onto a ⅜-inch hardwood dowel.

Tap the dowel into one of the holes until it protrudes at least ⅜ inch from the opposite side. Trim off the excess dowel with a Japanese-style flush-cutting handsaw, as shown.

Peg the remaining hole, and trim the excess.

Step 14: Bevel-Rip the Base

Photo by Kolin Smith

Clamp a 2x10 cedar board to a sturdy surface with its long edge overhanging. Use a circular saw to rip a 45-degree bevel along that overhanging edge.

If necessary, clamp a long straightedge to the board to guide you to a perfectly straight cut.

Step 15: Miter-Cut the Base

Photo by Kolin Smith

Tilt the miter-saw blade to a 45-degee bevel and adjust the miter angle to zero. Bevel-cut the 2x10 into four lengths to wrap around the base of the lamppost.

Step 16: Attach the Base to the Post

Photo by Kolin Smith

Apply construction adhesive to the back of the first piece of base trim and press it to the lamppost, square end flush with the end of the cladding.

Use a pneumatic finishing nailer and 2½-inch-long nails to attach it, then attach the remaining three base pieces in a similar fashion.

Use construction adhesive against the post, but apply waterproof carpenter's glue or polyurethane glue to each of the four mitered corner joints. And be sure to nail through the corners, as shown.

Sand all surfaces smooth with a random-orbit sander fitted with a 100-grit disk.

Step 17: Sink the Post

Photo by Kolin Smith

Hold a 2x4 block on top of the center post and tap it with a 3-pound sledgehammer to drive the pointed end into the ground.

If necessary, loosen the soil first with a shovel. At least one-third of the post should extend belowground.

Use a 2-foot level to plumb the post. Treat it with teak oil if you want to preserve the color.

Step 18: Hang the Lantern

Photo by Kolin Smith

Twist a 1-inch screw hook into the underside of the 2x4 arm, and hang the candle lantern from it.

If you wired the lamppost for low-voltage lighting, hang the fixture from the hook, then complete the electrical connection.