Category Archives: Projects

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 πŸ˜‰
  • 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

Unique Floor Lamps Using Vintage Books

Unique Floor Lamps

I’ve seen a couple of unique floor lamps created by stacking vintage books up around the lamp itself. I wanted to give it a try myself. There are a couple of tricks to it, which I’ve learned and will share here. Depending on the lamp you start with and the books you choose, you can build some really unique floor lamps relatively easily. Here’s how mine turned out.

Unique Floor Lamps Using Vintage Books

Materials

The first item you want to select is the lamp you’ll use for the project. Everything else is dependent on the specific lamp, so choose this first. If you don’t have a lamp in mind second hand stores, thrift shops, and the like are good sources for unique floor lamps. You can buy lamps very inexpensively. Ideally, the shaft of the lamp should be smooth. This will make it easy to slide the books down later on. The two parts which are going to matter cosmetically are the base of the lamp and the head, where the socket and shade are. The books will cover most of the pole, so it needn’t be pretty.

The next thing to pick out are the books. There are an infinite number of options here. The only real requirement is that you have enough of them. I wanted to put a shelf on my lamp on top of the books. I measured a good height for a couch-side shelf would be about 28 or 29 inches. Subtract from that the height of the lamp base, and then you know how many inches of books you need.

You can pick matching books like I did, a set of encyclopedias, or you can use a collection of different looks and sizes of books. By picking different sets of books and lamps you can create several different looking unique floor lamps. Just don’t use any signed books, first editions, or anything which will become valuable :)

Book Lamp ShelfI wanted to add a shelf to the top of my stack of books, so I choose a board with the same width as the books I was using. Since my books were about 8″ x 11″, I needed 2 feet of a 1×9 board. I also used some wood stain to match the color of the rest of the lamp, and some polyurethane to protect it. I cut the board to a length about 1/2″ longer than my books, used a router and a shoulder bit to round off the edges, drilled the center hole, sanded it, stained it, and used the polyurethane to protect it from glass circles.

Depending on the baseUnique Floor Lamps - Base of your lamp, you may want a way to support the books slightly above the base. If your base is flat and ugly, the books can just rest on the base and hide it for you. If the base is decorative and you want to show it, you can support the books just above the base as I did. I used a piece of hardware called a shaft collar to mount on the pole at the desired height, then added a board on top of that, the same size as the books, which would support the books. There are no hard and fast rules to creating unique floor lamps, they wouldn’t be unique if there were.

 

Tools

Since we’re going to drill holes in the books and slide them over the lamp pole, we need a drill and a bit which is at least as large as the diameter of the pole. The lamp I chose had a 1 inch diameter pole, so i used a 1 inch bit. This way the books would fit snugly on the pole. I’ve seen other projects where a larger hole was drilled, allowing the books to move around. It’s purely your choice.

I chose to use a drill press instead of a handheld drill for this project for a couple of reasons. The drill press allows me to drill perfectly straight holes, so my books wouldn’t be cockeyed on the pole. The drill press lets me drill straight, repeatable holes.

Also, some experimentation showed me that drilling through a book with a high speed drill burned the paper and cover. A drill press typically has adjustable speeds, so I could drill at a slower speed.

I learned that if you drill through the book without clamping it tightly shut, pages in the middle will tear and build up around the edges of the hole. This makes the book fatter in the middle, and it won’t close neatly. To make sure the book will stay flat, it needs to be clamped tightly shut during drilling. Since the drill press has a table, I clamped the book to the table. This made drilling the hole simple and resulted in a neat hole. I used two ratchet bar clamps like this one.

Unique Floor Lampsunique floor lamps

If you’re looking for an excuse to buy a drill press this may be it. Make sure you get adjustable speeds, and make sure the reach of the press is enough that the book can be centered under the bit. I used an 8″ drill press, and it was just barely big enough to center a hole on an 8″ x 11″ book. I would suggest a 10″ drill press to be safe. I suggest this drill press:

It’s a 10″, it has 5 speeds, the price is great for a brand name, and it gets good reviews.

The next thing to consider is the bit. I tried both a spade bit and an auger bit for drilling through the books. The spade bit started to build up material (paper) between the bit and the edge of the hole, jamming the drill press. I was able to drill through, but spent a lot of time stopping and clearing out the paper from the hole as I went. I thought an auger bit might be better at evacuating the material so I switched to a 1″ auger bit. That turned out to be even worse. The tip of the auger bit is made to draw it down into the material, and did that so well that I couldn’t drill slowly. The bit was drawn down onto the book so tightly, it jammed before it could cut anything. Through some experimentation I found that the best combination was a spade bit (aka a butterfly bit) running at the second speed on the drill press. I still had to stop to clean out material, but only a couple of times per book.

Creating

Start by disassembling your lamp. Remove the shade and harp. Then remove the cover around the light bulb socket. Since these are crimped on, you may have to pry the bottom away from it a little, and rock the cover back forth. Once it’s removed, you can pull the socket up and unscrew the wires from it. Remove enough parts from the lamp to get down to the top of the pole. Leave the pole intact with the wire running through it to the top.

If you’re using a shaft collar, shelf, or anything else to support the books, add them in the appropriate order. Thread the wire through the parts, then slide the parts down the pole to the desired location. Tighten the shaft collar down well, it needs to support quite a bit of weight.

Drill the books. It’s best if you try one or two books which you don’t need first until you find the technique which works best for you. I wanted all of my books to line up neatly, so I drilled the holes in the same place in each book. If you want a jagged stack, offset the hole locations an inch or two toward the top and bottom of the books. This process takes a while, be patient.

Clean up the books and slide them onto the pole in the order you want them. I used a dry microfiber cloth to wipe the books down. It got the paper dust out of all the texture of the covers very well. If you want the books to stay in position relative to each other, you can hot glue the cover of one book and then stack the next book on it. I left mine free to spin so I could experiment with different looks later.

Once you have enough books on the lamp pole to reach the right height for the shelf, add another shaft collar to keep the stack in place, and then add the shelf on top of that.

Finally, just reassemble the top of the lamp. Thread the wire back through any sections you removed, and attach the wires back to the socket. Replace the cover, harp, and shade. Congratulations, you’re done!

Share Your Unique Floor Lamps

I’d love to see picture of unique floor lamps you’ve created like this – please share pictures!

DIY Pendant Light Kit – Quick & Easy Lighting Projects

DIY Pendant Light

I’m reviewing a DIY pendant light kit for those of you who may not be ready to wire up plugs and sockets yet. This is an inexpensive ready-made kit which takes care of the electrical bits for you, and leaves you flexibility of choosing a shade and a location.

DIY Pendant Light

The kit is available on Amazon and looks like this when you receive it.Β This is the kit I’m using on Amazon.

It is a plug-in pendant light kit, so you don’t need to hardwire anything. It also includes a switch to turn the light on and off, and lightweight mounting hardware. The kit says it’s for paper lanterns, but it can be used for other creative options as well. The socket has a mechanical strain relief, so it can carry a shade with some weight, although no weight limit is provided by the manufacturer.

Another very handy feature of this DIY pendant light kit is that it has a shade ring. The shade ring allows you to mount a shade on the socket. You can use standard commercially available shades, or get creative.

DIY Pendant Light Kit-Unpackaged

I tried 3 different shades on the DIY pendant light kit for different looks and hopefully stimulate some creativity for your project.The light cord is 15 feet long. The switch is located 5 feet up the cord from the plug. I noticed the description on Amazon says it’s an 11 foot kit. I don’t know if they’re measuring from the switch to the socket and still off by a foot – ? I took out my tape measure, twice, and measured what I received, and it is 15 feet in total length.

DIY Pendant Light Kit Project #1

First, I wanted to use an outdoor lighting enameled metal shade I picked up at a flea market somewhere along the line. It’s weathered and rusty and real…oops, I mean, it has β€œgreat patina” :). These aren’t too difficult to find at vintage stores, flea markets, and the like. Sometimes you can find new replicas on Amazon, and you can usually find a few on Etsy.

The shade ring isn’t the same size as the shade I have, so I am using a leftover metal washer I picked up at a local hardware store and painted as an adapter. The inside of the washer fits the shade ring, and the outside of the washer is big enough to hold up the shade.

I attached the washer to the socket with the shade ring, and now I can use shades with larger openings than the shade ring would support.

DIY Pendant Light Kit and Washer

I then routed the plug end of the wire through the shade from the bottom. Pull the cord all the way through, and the shade rests on the washer held by the socket’s shade ring.

DIY Pendant Kit Enamel Shade

Here’s a look at the new light, all built in 5 minutes. It makes for a great outdoor lighting idea, simple and cheap.

DIY Pendant Light Kit Enamel Shade Complete

 

DIY Pendant Light Kit Project #2

DIY Pendant Light Kit Small Shade

I wanted to try a smaller shade which would help the Edison bulb stand out, rather than be hidden. I happened to pick up a smaller piece which I think probably came from a lantern at some time. You could use almost anything really. This wasn’t meant to be a lampshade originally, but it works. There’s a saying that when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Well, when you want to build a light, everything looks like a light waiting to be made.

For this shade, the washer-adapter trick was needed as well. Simply thread the cord through the shade and you’re done.

My goal with this version was to make the bulb the focal point of the light. I chose a quad-loop filament for it’s interesting-ness, and a bulb of fairly large size. The shape/size of this bulb is β€œA23”. Here’s a link to the bulb. There are of course a myriad of filament/shape/size combinations available. Here’s a picture of the smaller shade with the bulb.

DIY Pendant Light Kit Small Shade Complete

 

DIY Pendant Light Kit Project #3

If you’d like a cleaner, more modern look you can use readily available glass lamp shades with this DIY pendant light kit. There are tons of colors and patterns available. A search for β€œglass 1-5/8″ fitter shades” will turn up plenty of options (link searches Amazon). I used a seeded glass shade for this, again so the Edison bulb could β€œshine”. Here are some other options:


 

The washer isn’t needed for the proper sized fitter shade (1-5/8 inches). Simply remove the shade ring, slip the shade on, and replace the ring. Don’t over-tighten the ring though. You want to hold the shade firmly in place, but not break the glass. Just snug is tight enough, and leaves room for minor expansion and contraction of the glass in the heat and cold.

 

 

 

Here’s the light with a seeded glass shade

DIY Pendant Light Kit Seeded Shade

Using a DIY pendant light kit makes it easy to create very different lights in minutes. It’s a simple project that’s inexpensive and practical.

 

DIY Lighting from a Hanging Planter

DIY Lighting from a Hanging Planter

Looking for a simple DIY lighting project? Creating hanging lights from a hanging planter is simple, and the look can blend with vintage, rustic, shabby chic, or industrial decors. This creative lighting project goes equally as well in the house or in the yard. Whether you’re looking for kitchen lighting ideas or outdoor lighting ideas, a wire basket light fixture fits the bill, and you can easily build this DIY lighting project.

What You Need

Everything you need for this DIY lighting project is readily available:

  • Hanging planter – I used a 14” planter, but 12” and 16” work as well. You can even find some decorative ones like this hanging planter on Amazon. Your local nursery or home improvement store has them as well.
  • One or two washers – from a hardware store. The size is important, explained below. I found that the big box home improvement stores didn’t have washers the right size, you’ll probably need to go to an actual hardware store.
  • Spray paint – to paint the washer to match your planter, brown or black most likely. Or any color, and paint both the basket and the washer.
  • A light socket with a shade ring – make sure you get one with a shade ring. This will be used to hold the basket. There’s this kit from Amazon which works. I also like this socket from Sundial Wire, but be sure to order the strain relief as well, it’s sold separately.
  • Electrical cord – Make sure you get the right length. Decide if it’s going to plug in to the wall or hang from the ceiling. I’m a big fan of cloth covered cord for vintage DIY lighting projects. I encourage you to try it, it makes a big difference. It’s available on Amazon (see our Shop page for a selection) and at the Sundial Wire site linked above. As far as bricks and mortar stores, I’ve seen it only in some specialty lighting stores, and then rarely.
  • A plug and switch – if you’re going to plug it into the wall.
  • JB Weld – If you don’t already have this as a staple in your toolbox, it should become one. It’s a 2-part mixture, like epoxy, but it’s more like liquid metal. You can do anything you want with it when it’s a paste, and when it’s dry you can treat it just like metal. It’s available at hardware stores, home improvement stores, and online.
  • A screwdriver and wire strippers

 

DIY Lighting

Socket passes through basket

Mounting the Basket to the Socket

If you look at the light socket shade ring and the hole in the bottom of the hanging planter, you’ll see that the socket and shade ring would pass right through the planter. That’s where the washer comes in. You need a washer with an outside diameter which is larger than the hole in the planter, and an inside diameter which is equal to the size of the socket and smaller than the shade ring. It sounds confusing, but it’s actually not complicated.

  • The standard light socket with a shade ring needs a 1 3/8” hole, so that’s the diameter you need for the inside of the washer.
  • The outside of the washer needs to be just bigger than the diameter of the hole in the bottom of the planter.
DIY Lighting

Finding the right washer size

 

Finding the right washer might be the most time consuming part of this DIY lighting project. An alternative is to use two washers stacked on top of each other. In this case, the bottom washer needs to fit the shade ring, and the top washer can be bigger to match the hanging planter.

Once you’ve found the right washers, paint them to match the basket. Or, you could decide to paint the basket as well, in which case you can use any color you want for both.

 

Once the paint is dry, it’s time to JB Weld the washer to the hanging basket. This will make sure the washer holds on to the basket, as the socket holds on to the washer. Just mix a pea size amount from each tube of JB Weld until you get a nice gray color. I use a wooden skewer from the kitchen to mix JB Weld on a piece of cardboard. Whatever you use to mix with and mix on, make sure it’s disposable. Put the JB Weld on the points at which the washer contacts the basket, and put the washer in place. Put some weight on it while it dries to help maintain contact.

DIY Lighting

Washer affixed to basket with JB Weld

Once your wooden skewer is permanently affixed to your cardboard, the washer is likewise permanently affixed to the basket.

Β Wiring the Light

Now it’s simply a matter of wiring up the socket and attaching the socket to the basket. Thread the wire through the top of the socket shell. If your socket does not have a strain relief, tie an Underwriters knot. This will hold the weight of the basket so the wire screw terminals don’t have to. Strip the wires and connect them to the socket.

DIY Lighting

Wiring the socket

There are separate articles on how to tie an Underwriter’s knot, wire a light socket, and strip wires.

Reassemble the socket and attach the basket with the shade ring. If you are using a plug, attach that as well.

DIY Lighting

Socket mounted to basket using washer

I selected this bulb for my hanging basket DIY lighting project. I wanted a large bulb size, and decided on the quad-loop filament. This is going over the breakfast nook which is surrounded by windows to provide natural light, so I didn’t need a high wattage bulb.

DIY Lighting Project Complete

There you have it, a hanging basket DIY lighting project that was simple to make and complements many different decors. Have fun making your own, and share pictures with us.

DIY Lighting

DIY Lighting basket light complete

This is a project you can vary to fit your own resources & taste. You can use any type of basket, not just hanging planters. Here are a few different looks I’ve seen using basket lights.

 

Lantern Light – Simple Vintage DIY Lighting

Lantern Light

I’ve always wanted to use a vintage railroad lantern to make a lantern light. I’ve been searching for a good candidate lantern at a great price for some time. Unexpectedly, I recently had the opportunity to fix a lantern light for a family member who had built it decades ago. The light bulb isn’t visible in the finished project, so you don’t need an Edison bulb, but it’s a great vintage lantern light and it’s so super-simple I wanted to share it here.

Here’s the lantern.Β Lantern Light It has two sides which the light shines through. One is a plastic panel which I assume was put there to replace an original piece of glass. This gives off a diffused general area light. The second is the original glass lens which is very thick. This provides a focused spotlight effect, as well as a little ambient light.

Simple Tools

The only tools and supplies I needed for this were a rivet gun with a couple of rivets, a drill, a pair of pliers, wire strippers, and a couple of wire nuts. All cheap, and mostly on-hand. I did have to buy a rivet gun and rivets. In researching rivet guns, I found the criteria for me were one that was well built enough to last, and had heads for multiple sizes rivets. This rivet gun from Amazon fit those criteria. Pick an assortment of rivets like these as well. The tool is inexpensive and rivets are easy to use, so there’s one more tool in my toolkit.

Refurbishing the Lantern Light

The side of the lantern light with the panel opens, and a metal tray slides out. This is where the original light source sat. I’m not sure if it was simply a candle or a more sophisticated kerosene burner of some type.

Lantern Light OpenAs you can see, a candelabra light bulb base is now attached to the tray. The one in the light when I got it was defective due to age. I replaced it with the one in the picture, which is identical to the one which was there before. The new candelabra base came with a straight post on it. I used the pliers to make a 90 degree bend in the post at the same point as was on the original one. I then drilled out the original rivets so I could remove the original base. I drilled two new holes in the new base and riveted it to the metal tray. It was important to use two rivets, because using just one would have allowed the base to rotate on the tray.

The bulb base may come with two wires affixed to it. On the lantern light, a hole had been punched in the side and a simple plastic electrical cord routed through it. I would have used a cloth covered cord, but in this case it’s not my light so I left it as is. Another concern I had was the sharp edges of the hole in the metal could cut through the cord, causing a short. When you route a cord through a hole, you need to think about possible wear on the cord. Using a rubber grommet, a few cents from the hardware store, is a wise idea. Another consideration is strain relief. If this gets carried around by the cord, there’s nothing keeping the cord from pulling right out of the lantern light. In this case, a simple knot tied in the cord inside the lantern seemed appropriate. It wouldn’t pass UL testing, but it’s better than nothing.

Once the power cord and bulb base are in place, it’s a matter of stripping the wires and connecting them with the wire nuts.Β Identify the neutral wire The neutral wire in the power cord is indicated with a ridge on the insulation of that wire, and attaches to the white wire or outer ring of the socket.

Completing the Lantern Light

With everything connected, I slid the tray back into the lantern and replaced the bulb. The original bulb had a Sears brand name on it. I’m not sure if you can even buy Sears branded light bulbs anymore. It was burned out anyway, probably by the bad socket. I used a clear flame tip bulb like this one. A torpedo bulb like this would have been more appropriate, but flame tip is what I had on hand. When putting a light bulb in an enclosed space like this lantern light, you need to think about heat when you decide on a wattage. Lantern Light VentilationIn this case, the lantern is already ventilated around the top and was designed and built to have some high heat source in it. I used a 25 watt bulb, which it turns out produces plenty of light in this case, and the lantern doesn’t get too hot to touch.

Here are a few pictures of the newly refurbished lantern light all lit up.

Lantern Light Complete

If you’ve made a lantern light, I would love to hear about it and see some pictures.

Building a Simple Edison Bulb Pendant Light

DIY Pendant Light Kit

Creating your own Edison bulb pendant light is simple, inexpensive, and adds flair to your decor. All you really need is a pendant light kit and an Edison bulb.

Pendant Light Kits

First, look for a pendant light kit which meets the needs of your application. Here’s a list of things to consider when buying a pendant light kit:

  • Will this light fixture be wired into an existing ceiling electrical connection, or do you need a kit with a plug so you can use an outlet instead?
  • If you are using a plug, do you want an on/off switch in the cord, an on/off switch at the light socket, or are you using an outlet which is already on a switch?
  • Are you going to have the bare Edison bulb hanging from the socket, or do you need a socket on which you can mount a shade?
  • What color of cord will work best?
  • Do you want a simple cord, or do you want to add some flair with pulleys, a mason jar, or use a chain for hanging?
  • Make sure the light socket is the same as the bulb base you want to use (standard base, candelabra base, etc.)

Here are a few kits that work for a few different conditions:

This Pendant Lamp Kit uses a plug, and has a switch in the socket itself. It comes with the necessary hardware for hanging and adjusting the cord length. A really nice touch is that the cord is two-conductor twisted cloth covered electrical wire. That really adds to the vintage feel.

By contrast, this pendant light fixture is for hardwiring into an existing electrical junction box (It’s simple to do, see our article on Replacing a Existing Light Fixture). It comes in two color choices. It does not allow for adding a shade, opting for a clean streamlined look instead.

Here’s a hardwired pendant kit which does allow you to add your own shade. Although the picture shows white, it is available in an oil-rubbed bronze finish.

There are also kits which come with mason jar lids so you can create your own mason jar pendant light. When looking at mason jar kits, look for ventilation holes as there are in these. Here are 2 different finish options:

Dark

Galvanized

Note that in these kits, the mason jar itself isn’t included. If you don’t have any extras, they’re pretty inexpensive and readily available:

…and you can even get vintage colors…

Be sure to get the Quart size or larger, not the pint. Make sure both the kit and the jar match in mouth size, there are wide mouth and regular mouth kits and jars.

Another option is to add a simple wire cage instead, for a more industrial look. This one is easily attached to most sockets:

Edison Bulbs

Once you have selected the kit for your Edison bulb pendant light, choose the right bulb to match. Some points to consider:

  • Make sure the socket in the kit is the same size as the base of the bulb you are going to use. (We have separated Standard Base Edison Bulbs and Candelabra Bulbs in our Shopping pages to make this easier – or try Bulb-O-Matic to help you compare Edison bulbs)
  • Select a bulb shape which makes sense with the kit from a design perspective. If you selected the streamlined kit above use an elongated bulb, don’t try to fit a globe shape bulb into a mason jar, that sort of thing.
  • Think about heat – if the bulb is enclosed in a mason jar, or if you are using a combustible shade like paper, use lower wattage bulbs.
  • Look at different filament designs. For Edison bulb pendant lights, the filament design is an important part of the look.

Here’s a good streamlined bulb

Here’s an interesting Quad-Loop filament design with smoked glass

Here’s a candelabra base with an interesting filament

That’s all there is to it! The ready-made kits make creating your own Edison bulb pendant light very simple. Have fun doing it – and we would love to see pictures of your finished project! Let us know when your project is complete and we can share it here.

Building an Ox Yoke Light from Found Vintage Materials

Ox Yoke Light

This simple project is built mostly from materials picked up at antique stores and flea markets. It makes a great light over a sink, dining table, or backyard island. It’s easy to put together and adds a very cool vintage touch to the atmosphere.
Ox Yoke LightAs I was browsing through antique stores, I started to notice a number of old yokes, like those pulled by an ox, horse, or donkey in farming work. They’re built using metal hardware and wooden bodies. The metal usually has a nice rusty patina and the wood is weathered by time. I can’t imagine how hard it was to farm with these. Maybe that’s where the saying “a tough row to hoe” came from? I can imagine, however, a great light fixture using one of these.

So the first piece you need for your ox yoke light is – an ox yoke. Or any yoke, it doesn’t matter who pulled it in it’s previous life.

Hanging bare bulbs from the end of the yoke would work, but I thought the piece needed something to make it more substantial. I wanted it to be prominent, and not just be invisible in the scene and provide light. Another object from the past I really like is the old enamel gas station outdoor light shade. These represent the attention to detail which has largely disappeared from modern Vintage Light Shadeworkmanship. Modern outdoor lights have cages, or nothing aside from the housing and lens for the light bulb. Back in the day, I guess they decided a light should look like a light, and they spent the extra time and money to make it look like one by adding an enameled metal shade. It’s both functional in reflecting the light downward, and a design element.
I decided to add a couple of these old outdoor enamel light shades to the project. They add some color, and some mass. They transform this project from a fragile looking bulb-on-a-wire to a serious light fixture. If you’re too busy or can’t find these, you can sometimes buy replica porcelain enamel shades in blackvintage light shade and greenvintage light shade on Amazon. If they don’t have them when you’re looking, you can try a search for vintage outdoor light shade to find something which will work.

For safety reasons, I generally don’t use vintage electrical parts. I use replicas which are manufactured with modern safety concerns in mind. Old wires with frayed insulation, and light sockets which are heavily oxidized can cause sparks, and sparks can start fires. I highly recommend using new electrical parts in your lighting projects. You can find ones made to look vintage so you don’t have to use some tacky white extension cord or new brass colored light sockets to mar your project’s appearance.

Since the wires would be visible on this project, I decided on red twisted pair wire. If it’s going to be visible, it made sense to make it a design element. The particular yoke I used had some red paint on it, beneath a layer of green paint. The red wire would tie in well with the red in the yoke. A brown wire would work as well, but I thought it may come off as a poor attempt at a camouflage job. You can buy 25 foot lengths of twisted pair cloth covered electrical wire in Blackblack cloth covered electrical wire, Redred cloth covered electrical wire, and Brownbrown cloth covered electrical wire.

If twisted pair isn’t your style, there’s round blackblack cloth covered electrical wire and Black and White Zig Zag / Chevroncloth covered electrical wire wire in 25 foot lengths as well.

Aside from wires, I purchased light socketslight sockets which were large enough that they would not pass through the holes in the tops of the shades. The socket itself will hold the shade up.

Finally, since my version of this is a hardwired fixture, I bought a canopy kitlight canopy kit for the ceiling, and a chainlight swag chain and swag hookslight swag hooks to hang it with.

YokeLight7To assemble the fixture I simply wired up the sockets (How to wire sockets), and ran the wire through the shades. Then I wrapped each wire on each end of the yoke so that it would support the shade and socket. I routed the wire around the yoke and through the center ring. The fixture is ready to hang.
YokeLight5To hang it, simply attach the chain to the yoke’s center ring and to a hook mounted in the ceiling near the electrical junction box. Route the wires through the canopy cover. Connect both neutral wires (one from each light) to the neutral wire from the junction box, and likewise with the hot wire. Attach the canopy to the box, and installation is complete.
To make a plug version of the same light, you need longer wire as it has to reach from the ceiling to the floor and then to the nearest outlet. Aside from longer wire and a plug, everything else is the same.
Now, it needs bulbs. The fixture is big enough, it needs some bulky bulbs, so I decided to go with 60 watt globe shaped Edison bulbsglobe edison bulbs.

All in, this project takes maybe an hour after you’ve got the materials and makes a huge and lasting difference in your decor.

Ox Yoke LightOx Yoke LightOx Yoke Light

Making a Vintage Pendant Edison Pulley Light

Pulley Light

This is a super-simple pulley light project that uses only a few design elements. Because it’s simple, it really shows off the Edison bulb. I had seen it done before, and I immediately wanted to make a pulley light of my own.

Here’s a picture of the pulley with the bulb. The antique pulley complements the vintage attitude of the bulb. I used cloth covered electrical cord to keep that vintage design.

Vintage Pendant Wooden Pulley Light

Vintage Pendant Wooden Pulley Light

The Pulley

First, I needed a pulley. It turns out these wooden pulleys are still pretty common in vintage and antique stores. It wasn’t much trouble to find several of them. It turns out you can even buy vintage pulleys on amazon.com. I used a few criteria to select this particular pulley. First, I wanted a wooden wheel. There are metal ones as well, but I like the warm feel of wood. None of the wooden ones looked as nice as this does now, the wood is normally dried out and lighter in color. I wanted to make sure it didn’t have any major cracks and wasn’t missing any big chunks. The rest is fixable.

The next thing to consider is the metal frame of the pulley. These range from simple to intricate in design. Some have words or numbers molded into the metal, which to me makes them more interesting. It also makes them easier to research, if you’re interested in their history. This one was manufactured by the Louden Machinery Company in Fairfield, Iowa. They manufactured farm and barn equipment from the 1860’s through the 1950’s. I couldn’t find any information on the particular model, so I don’t know exactly when it was made, but I know it’s old. Condition of the frame is also a factor, you don’t want a cracked one. Also, think about how this will be hung. Most pulleys have a ring on top, some have a hook. Just make sure there is some way to hang it when you’re done.

Once I got the pulley home, I cleaned up the metal frame with a wire brush. I then gave it a coat of WD-40 to prevent further rusting and to give it a slight sheen.

For the wood, I first used Murphy Oil Soap to clean the years of dirt and grease out of the grain. Once it was fairly clean I let it dry.Β  The soap lightens the color quite a bit by removing the dirt, but it also leaves the wood dry. If not treated, it will start to crack over time. To restore some luster and hydrate the wood, use a product called Howard Feed-N-Wax Wood Polish and Conditioner. This has a combination of beeswax and orange oil in it. It really does a great job rehydrating the wood, giving it some great color back, and shining it up. I recommend this stuff. It’s inexpensive and very worth it.

Now the pulley is complete, and it’s on to the electrical parts. I really want the pulley and the Edison bulb to stand out, so everything else should be minimal and complementary.

The Electrical Parts

First, the socket. Since it will be very visible in this minimalist design, I wanted a socket which had a vintage look, like this socket. There’s also a version this socket with an on/off switch, which may be a better choice.

For the plug, I picked a plug with a neck in hopes that it might encourage people to pull it out by the plug rather than tugging on the cord. The one I had on hand and used in the pictures below is different, but the linked one above will serve the same purpose.

Then, for the cord. Since this is a vintage light, I wanted a vintage cord. For me, that means cloth covered cord. While there aren’t as many colors available for cloth cord as there are for plastic cords, you can usually find something which works. I’m always shocked when someone goes to the trouble to replace a cord on something vintage, and they use the cheapest modern day cord they can find. It completely detracts from the item. You’ve heard the saying “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right”. There’s a reason that’s a saying, it’s true. Use decent cords. In terms of length, the light will have to plug into an outlet near the floor, go up to the pulley which may be 6 to 10 above the floor, around the pulley a few times, and back down maybe low enough to be right overhead when sitting in a chair or on a couch. It should probably be 20 or 25 feet to be safe.

You can get round cloth covered cord in 25 foot lengths on amazon. This one even includes a wire stripping tool. For this light, I used a flat cord, but I would recommend using a round cord. The flat one just doesn’t coil well.

Before attaching the plug or socket, I wrapped the wire around the pulley a few times. The plug and socket are too big to pass through the metal frame for the pulley. Then on one end of the cord, I stripped the wires, tied an underwriter’s knot since this plug doesn’t have any mechanical strain relief built into it, and attached the wires to the plug. There are articles on stripping wire and attaching a two prong plug on our site. Here’s the plug end:

Pulley Light Plug

Pulley Light Plug

 

Note that I wrapped electrical tape around the cut cloth covering. It will unravel if you don’t secure it.

On the opposite end of the cord goes the socket. The socket I used here is slightly different than the one linked above in that it has a strain relief incorporated in it. Otherwise it should work the same as the one linked above.Β  I slid the strain relief cap and then the strain relief. This strain relief is designed to screw into the top of the socket. When you tighten the cap it squeezes the cord, preventing any pulling on the wire connections. After the strain relief, I routed the wire through the top of the socket housing, and connected it to the internal electrical part of the socket.

Pulley Light Socket Components

Pulley Light Socket Components

No underwriter’s knot was needed in the wire since there’s a strain relief on top. The socket halves screw together

Pulley Light Socket Strain Relief

Pulley Light Socket Strain Relief

Then screw the strain relief into the socket, and then screw the cap on the strain relief. Take care not to turn the cord or socket, just the strain relief parts. The final assembled socket looks like this

pulley light socket with strain relief

pulley light socket with strain relief

A shade could be added to the light, but I didn’t want to obscure the Edison bulb at all so I decided not to add one. I found a hook made for hanging plants, and added that to hang the pulley from. Rope would work aesthetically as well, but then you still need a hook to hang it from. You can find simple and fancy brackets, depending on your taste.

I chose a bulb with a shape and filament I thought fit my pulley light.

Pulley Light Bulb Filament

Pulley Light Bulb Filament

The Pulley Light

Here’s the final pulley light before mounting it.

Completed pendant pulley light

Completed pendant pulley light

Β Resources for Your Own Pulley Light

I included several links along the way, but thought it might be helpful to group everything you need to re-create this pulley light in one place: