Author Archives: Edison Bulbs

Desk Lamp From Vintage Gas Can and License Plates

Desk Lamp - Gas Can

Making a desk lamp from a vintage gas can is simple. For added flair, try creating a lampshade from license plates. It’s Americana, it’s vintage, it’s DIY lighting. This is the perfect desk lamp for man caves, garages, auto shops, any place the theme fits. It’s a unique gift for the guy who loves his toys.

For the desk lamp, you’ll need:

  • A vintage gas can. These are inexpensive at antique stores. You should be able to find one for around $20-$30. The one real criteria is to find one with a removable cap centered on the top.
  • A lamp kit. This lamp kit includes the hardware and wiring you need for the desk lamp. You’ll need this threaded pipe and a nut to mount the light socket to the fixture. And you’ll want a grommet to protect the cord coming out of the can.
    • An alternative to these, if you’re ambitious, is to go to a local thrift shop and purchase the ugliest lamp there. Buy it, disassemble it, and you’ll have the parts you need. Just make sure it has a harp to hold the shade. By buying the ugliest one, you’re making the world an ever-so-slightly better place 😉
  • Paint, optionally. I used two colors of paint on mine, explained below.
  • A drill, and a screwdriver

For the lampshade, you’ll need:

  • At least 4 license plates. You can create your own pattern using more. I found 4 is the fewest it takes to make a shade 12 inches in diameter. If you don’t have old license plates you can buy license plates with your favorite motif, or personalize them.
  • A rivet gun and an assortment of rivets. This rivet gun from Amazon is sturdy and supports different sizes of rivets, so it’s good to have on hand for other projects. I used it on the lantern light project as well.
  • The same drill you used for the lamp, with a smaller bit for the rivet holes.

Preparing the Vintage Gas Can to Become a Desk Lamp

Make sure the inside of the gas can is cleaned out. Then we need to drill 2 holes

  • Drill a hole in the side wall of the can, close to the bottom, and where you want the back of the desk lamp. This is where the cord will pass through. The size of the hole should be determined by the electrical cord grommet.
  • Drill a second hole in the center of the cap from the top of the can. This is where the lamp pipe will pass through and the light socket will mount. The size of this hole should be just big enough for the lamp pipe to pass through.

Then, replace any caps you removed and paint if you like. Mine had chippy black paint and no cool vintage logos or anything, so I painted it.

Desk Lamp Paint Layers

Desk Lamp Paint Layers

I wanted a red can, with another color showing through at the wear points on the can. I started with a tan/brown color as an undercoat. After that dried, I took a wax candle and rubbed it along the ridges on the can sides, top, and bottom. Then I painted the whole thing bright red. After the red paint dried, I used very fine sandpaper to remove the top coat and wax along the ridges, allowing the bottom color to show through. I had tried this technique with petroleum jelly before and was disappointed. Doing it with the candle worked much better. The top coat was easy to remove, and the bottom coat stayed intact mostly. You can see some of the original black in places.

I also used the brown paint to paint the brass parts of the socket, the harp, and the finial. I didn’t like the brass for this particular project. You can do the same if you prefer. Remove the brass sleeve from the socket to paint it so you don’t cover any electrical connections with paint.

Finally, I decided to hand paint a “66” logo on the can.

Hardware for the Desk Lamp

Once the can is ready, pass the lamp pipe through the hole in the top of the cap. On the outside of the cap, screw the harp mount and light bulb socket. Inside the cap, tighten a nut onto the lamp pipe. The lamp shade will be heavy if you’re making it from license plates, so it might bend the top of the cap. I decided to add a washer inside the cap before I screwed the nut on to reinforce the thin metal cap.

Desk Lamp Grommet

Use a grommet for the cord

Add the grommet to the hole at the bottom back of the gas can. Don’t skip this. It’s tempting to leave it out, it’s such a small part. If you don’t use a grommet here, the sharp edge of the hole will eventually cut through the insulation on the electrical wire and become a fire and/or electrocution hazard. For a tiny inexpensive part, it has a really important role.

Wiring the Desk Lamp

From the outside of the gas can, run the bare leads (non-plug) end of the wire through the grommet. Determine how much more cord you’ll need to reach the socket. Pull enough wire through the top of the gas can so that you can tie a knot in the cord which will be just inside the grommet down below. This is important to prevent the cord from being pulled out of the socket if the desk lamp is picked up by the cord, or falls off the desk and the cord gets pulled.

Once the knot is in place, run the cord through the lamp pipe and into the base of the socket. Screw the cap on the can tightly. Then wire the socket, using this article as a how-to if you need it.

There you have it, that’s all there is to making the desk lamp.

Building a Lampshade From License Plates

If you look around Etsy, you can see lots of different patterns people have used to make license plate lampshades. I had only 4 on hand, so I used 3 of them to create a circle, and the 4th for creating the mounting to the harp.

Desk Lamp Rivets

Rivet the license plates together

For the 3 curved ones, I actually used Embroidery Hoops at the top and bottom of each plate to create a uniform curve. I then drilled holes in each of the 4 corners of the first plate. I placed all three in the circle I wanted them in, determined how much they should overlap, and used a pencil to mark where the holes in the second plate should be. I drilled 2 holes in the second plate, and riveted it to the first. You can then determine the best hole locations for the third plate, finish drilling the holes, and rivet them all together.

I used the 4th plate as a brace across the top, and drilled a hole in it to fit on the desk lamp harp. I used tin snips to cut the license plate to the shape I wanted. A hacksaw would work as well, but is really better just for cutting straight lines.
Because of the weight of the shade, I remove it whenever I move the lamp so the gas can top doesn’t get bent.

License Plate Lampshade

Cut to fit, bent inside, riveted in place

That’s all there is to it. A desk lamp from a vintage gas can with a license plate shade. It’s inexpensive, simple, and unique.

Desk Lamp - Vintage Gas Can

Vintage Christmas Gifts You Had…And So Can Your Kids

Vintage Christmas

This year, try sharing vintage Christmas gifts you received as a child. Many of those toys are still available today. A few have evolved a bit over time, and some are still the same. Here are a few of the things you probably had as a kid, and would be great to share with your kids, nieces, and nephews.

Red Ryder BB Gun

I had to start with this one. The Red Ryder BB Gun was made a classic by the movie A Christmas Story, the debate of when is too soon to buy a child their first BB gun still goes on today. I had a BB gun, it was lots of fun. Yes, I hurt myself once or twice, but one learns quickly when the repercussions are swift and stinging – I lived, and so did plenty of other kids.


The Slinky has been around since 1945. I didn’t have stairs in my house when I had a Slinky, but I stacked books on the kitchen counter, arranged stools and chairs below the counter, and watched that Slinky walk its way down. It’s amazing how much time a kid can spend with a seemingly simple thing. You can still buy the original metal ones today, as well as plastic ones in different colors. There’s no way those plastic ones make the same sounds as the metal ones though, I’d recommend going with the original for your vintage Christmas.

Lincoln Logs

Lincoln Logs are a classic vintage Christmas gift. They have been around since 1918! They’re in the National Toy Hall of Fame! This set comes in a classic tin, but there are plenty of other sets available. One of the great things about Lincoln Logs is that kids have a lot of flexibility in what they build. Sure you can build the cabin on the box, but you can also let your imagination run wild and create all kinds of structures. They also then tie in with other toys like cars, horses, and people. Why not build a log cabin and stables for your Lego men and dragons?

Erector Set
Erector Set - Vintage Christmas

Erecotr Set - Vintage Christmas

Vintage Erector Set Ad

The Erector Set has changed a bit through the years, but still has the same fundamental principles. There are lots of specific kits available made to build a single toy, but this set is “multi-purpose”, and maybe even more so than the Lincoln Logs, let’s you build anything you can imagine. Instead of crushing candy on a smartphone, how about building (and learning) something?


Build Your Own Internal Combustion Engine

Speaking of building and learning, this is both a model-building and a practical learning experience. As you build the Internal Combustion Engine model, you learn about the parts of of the engine, their purposes, and how they interact. It’s good to know the difference between a camshaft and a valve. This could be a great school project as well. Start feeding that inner-tinkerer now!

Easy Bake Oven

The Easy-Bake Oven has changed a lot through the years, but the same concept still applies – kids can safely cook food that they (and you) can actually eat. This set is exclusive to Amazon and includes everything you need to start cooking Christmas morning.

Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots

Knock his block off!!! Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots is way more fun than violent, as anyone who ever had one will tell you. It’s a classic and hasn’t changed in years and years. Need to settle a household dispute between siblings? Don’t take sides or flip a coin – best 3 out of 5 rounds wins!


Yep. Jacks. Seriously, have tried this game? It’s hard! I would argue it’s better for hand-eye coordination than any game console – these things can go anywhere! These ones come in a cool classic tin container. Think vintage Christmas stocking stuffer.

Pick Up Sticks

Not ready for Jacks for just yet – try classic Pick-Up Sticks. It’s quieter and takes longer to play, which moves it up the parental rating scale in my book. Here in a cool wood container.


For the Little Ones

Here are some classics for the littler ones who shouldn’t be playing with jacks

Wooden Letter Blocks – You can use these Wooden ABC/123 Blocks
for decor or arts & crafts when the kids are done with them.

Wooden Building Blocks – Add these Wood Blocks to your Lincoln Log collection above.

Play-Doh – You know you need this, Play-Doh
needs no explanation…


Use the Comment section to let me know what vintage Christmas gifts I’ve missed, or just to reminisce