I needed a lamp for my new desk, so I built one.
The One I'm Sort Of Copying
My lovely wife found this lamp that she liked the look of. At the time of this post, it was available from Shades of Light for $225.
Looking at it, you can see it's just made of steel pipe parts. It doesn't even look like any are custom cut & threaded. It looks like there may be a union in the middle of the longest pipe, possibly to make shipping and assembly easier, but it doesn't look like anything I couldn't do with a trip to the Orange Store or Blue Store.
I had a few hours to spend on a project on Labor Day, so I gave it a shot.
I'm doing this because I feel like doing a project. If I can build a lamp my wife likes as much as the one on the web site, we'll keep it. If my silly project turns out looking cheap & crappy or if she just has her heart set on another one, I'll abandon mine in the alley and buy her whatever lamp she likes.
I decided to use a pendant light that's designed to hang from its cord, because I don't actually know what kind of hardware converts from plumbing to lamp fixtures. If it hangs on its own wire, I can sort of cheat and just run the wire through the pipe.
I was hoping to have something that comes out looking like this one from Restoration Hardware, but made out of pipe like the first one.
I went to my local Orange Store and picked out a vintage-looking pendant lamp. It's made for mounting to a box in the ceiling, so (as with all good projects), I'll have to start by cutting up a perfectly good product.
The rest was just parts.
- The pendant lamp ($40)
- 6' galvanized 1/2" pipe, threaded at both ends ($18)
- 2 ea. 8" nipples, galvanized ($3 ea.)
- Floor flange, galvanized ($7)
- 1/2" tee, galvanized ($2)
- 2 ea. 45° elbows, galvanized ($2 ea.)
- 90° elbow, galvanized ($2)
- close nipple ($1)
- 1x12 board, 14" long to use as the base (I had this already)
- 4 ea. 3/4" wood screws to attach flange to base
- 12' extension cord, brown ($3)
- Plug-in dimmer ($8) unless you have a switched outlet
- Solder & heat shrink
Take the perfectly good pendant lamp and pull the cord out from the ceiling mounting fixture. This will leave you with a lamp & wire, but no housing to hang it from anything.
To make the head assembly, thread the pipe fittings over the wire in this order:
- 90° elbow
- 8" nipple
- 45° elbow
- 8" nipple
- 45° elbow
Screw everything together, being careful not to twist the wires on the inside as you do so. Now is a good time to check the height. I wanted mine hanging 3-4" below the pipe. Adjust the lamp until you have just enough exposed wire to hang right.
Cut the receptacle end off of the extension cord (that's 2 perfectly good things we've ruined so far!) and fish it through the tee fitting. The wire should make a 90° turn inside the tee. Next, feed the wire through the 6' pipe. This was tricky for me because the stranded extension cord wire wasn't rigid enough to push through all 6 feet. I had to tie a screw to a string and send the string through first. After that, I could use the string to pull the wire back.
Don't attach the tee, the 6' pipe, or the head assembly yet.
Split the wires on both the lamp and the extension cord. Thread heat-shrink tubing over the wire. I always forget that part. Figure out which side is the common wire and hook the wire going to the wider prong on the extension cord to the white wire on the lamp cord. Strip a lot of the wire (like 1") and twist them together. Solder it up. This is going to live forever inside a pipe where you'll never be able to inspect it again. It's important that you get a good mechanical and electrical connection between these wires. I put heat shrink over each wire and a bigger one around the whole connection. Shrink the heat shrink.
Test the lamp at this point. If it's not working, cut your work out of the middle of the wire and start over.
Attach the 6' pipe to the 45° elbow of the head assembly. Try not to twist the wire as you go.
Attach the tee to the other end of the 6' pipe. Again, try to keep the wire from twisting as you do this (it's a bit tricky and a few turns over 6' of wire will be fine, but don't let it get kinked).
Attach the flange to the base using wood screws. Insert the close nipple into the tee fitting and have someone hold the lamp so you can screw the base on.
I was going to paint it a cool hammered bronze color, but the galvanized came out looking pretty good, so I'm just going to leave it.
It took me 2 trips to the Orange Store (I built the lamp too short the 1st time; the 6 foot height is much better).
I spent about $150 on parts, including the pipes I didn't use and the paint that we decided not to apply. The whole thing came together in about 3 hours.
We can keep it! It doesn't look as cool as the $600 Restoration Hardware lamp, but it looks pretty good and it lights up the desk just like a lamp should.