Introduction: Cadillac Dystopic Lamp

Picture of Cadillac Dystopic Lamp

When I'm going through midterms I need to think of something else to break the monotony of studying German and History.  To do that,  I brainstormed about this project.

As far as what "Genre" it's placed in.  I don't really care.  However, It doesn't look particular Victorian so it can't really put it with Steampunk (disregarding how much I would like to) but it does look like a lamp that might be used by a literate War Lord in the Mad Max Universe.  So...I'll go with that.  Crazy Mad Max Lamp.

This project takes several skills and combines them to make awesome.

Sweating Copper Pipe
Making Solid Electrical Connections
Cutting Glass

If you have all these skills then do this project.  If you don't.  Do some research, then be careful doing this project.

Step 1: Tools and Supplies

Picture of Tools and Supplies

Tools are a biggy on this project.  You can't really complete the project without them.

Propane Blow Torch
Tubing Cutter
Dremel Tool Kit
Drill with Bits
Machinist Vise
Pocket Knife
Leather or Heavy Canvas Work Gloves
Safety Goggles

Supplies for this project will set you back about 50 Dollars

6 Feet of 3/4" Copper Pipe
4 90 Degree Elbow Fittings
4 Three Way Fittings
6 End cap Fittings
1 Electrical Box
2 Electrical Box Clamps
2 Hose Clamps
1 Light bulb Dimmer
1 Garden Spicket Knob
1 Appliance Cord
1 Electrical Box Faceplate
2 Perrier 1 Liter Bottles (or other large green glass bottles)
1 Cadillac Hood Ornament
Electrical Tape
1 Wine Cork
2 Light bulb fittings
2 Olde Timey Light bulbs
2 Screws
4 Washers
2 Nuts
Speaker Wire
Raw Wire

Step 2: Plans

Picture of Plans

These are the plans that I was working off of when I made this project.  They are mostly correct.  Do what I say in the instructable.  Not the plans.

Step 3: The Base

Picture of The Base

When you have acquired all of your supplies you need to work on dry fitting the parts for the base.

Get out your Tubing Cutter, Copper Pipe, and Pipe Fittings.

Take the Labels off of your fittings, pipe, and Green Bottles.  I did this with crazy hot water.

Cut these lengths of Copper Pipe

2" x 4
2 1/2" x 7

Now dry fit your creation together.

After you know that it fits you need to drill a 1/4" hole or larger in the bottom of  the center three way fitting for the electrical cord to go through

First use the hammer and nail to center punch the hole.  Then use a 1/4" bit or larger to drill the hole.  It is likely that the drill will catch the brass at this point if your not using a drill press.  Be careful.

Take your dremel and clean the hole up.

Start Sweating.

Sweating a Copper Pipe is dangerous business.  You can burn yourself badly if you screw up.  If you are under 18 get a parent to help

Here are some resources for sweating together Copper Pipe

Popular Mechanics - "How to Sweat a Watertight Copper Fitting"

Easy2diy - "Soldering Copper Pipes Tutorial"

This is my 2 Cent Tour

1) Get out your first pipe and fitting
2) Put flux on both the end of the pipe and the fitting
3) Put pipe and fitting together
4) Put pipe and fitting in a machinist vise with the fitting below the pipe
5) Put on Gloves
6) Heat the line between the fitting and pipe with the Propane Blow Torch until the flame is green
7) Apply solder all the way around the joint
8) Wipe the joint clean
9) Let the Joint Cool

Now you need to simply sweat all 20 joints required for the base so your dry fit looks like your soldered fit.

Be careful around 3 way joints.  When you heat up one side the other sides also heat up.  Sometimes this breaks joints.

Don't burn yourself

After you finish the base.  Get the Electrical box, punch out one hole in the box, attach the fitting to the electrical box, wrap the top of the top pipe of the base with electrical tape.  Tighten the fitting around the brass pipe

Step 4: The Tower

Picture of The Tower

Now is the time to add the top of the lamp.

For this you need these lengths of copper pipe

2 - 3 1/2"
1 - 4"

Before you do any sweating you need to make the end caps that hold the lamp.

Get your two copper end caps.

Center punch them with a nail and hammer.

get your bolt, washer, nut assembly and match the bolt to a bit that would drill the appropriate hole.

Drill the hole with the help of a machinist vise.  Watchout for breakback.

Drill a hole in the hose clamp near the mechanism of the clamp

Assemble the end pieces.

Drill a hole in the three way fitting like you did in the center three way for the base.

Sweat the fittings and pipes together.

This is your last Sweating.  You can put the Torch, Solder, and Flux away.

Now you need to add the Cadillac Hood Ornament.  I used wire to attach it to the lamp.  You can use whatever you want.

Step 5: Making the Shroud

Picture of Making the Shroud

This is the most frustrating step of the whole thing.  You need to learn how to bottle cut.

haventmadeabombyet's Practical Bottle Cutting

Ojuiceboy09's Bottle Cutting Instructable

Make's Bottle Cutting

If you don't like any of those you can try my instructions

1) Get the bottle you want
2) Put a hose clamp around the part you want to cut
3) Get a Plate Glass cutter
4) Trace one side of the hose clamp with the plate glass cutter until you have a deep, straight groove.
5) Heat the groove up with a candle or very carefully with your blowtorch
6) Plunge the bottle into ice cold water
7) Repeat steps 5 and 6 till bottle is cut
8) Sand sharp edges

This skill is an art.  The deeper and straighter your cut the better your bottle will break.

Cut the ends off of two bottles that you want to use for the lamp

Tape the end of the bottle up with electrical tape

Put it into the clamps on the tower of the lamp

Move to the next step

Step 6: Electrical Work

Picture of Electrical Work

Now for the electrical work.

Get out your electrical equipment

Appliance Cord
Light Bulb Sockets
Light Bulbs
Speaker Wire
Raw Wire

The first thing you need to do is wire the lamp.

Take your cork and shave it down with a pocket knife until it fits into your 1/4" hole in the bottom of the lamp

Then drill a hole in the cork that your appliance wire can fit into.

Run the Appliance wire through the cork.

Run the wire up to the electrical box

Jam the cork into the bottom of the lamp leaving about 4 inches of wire at the box and the rest at the bottom of the lamp.

Next you need to attach the Light Bulb Sockets with the Lightbulbs.

Drill three holes in the caps of both of the bottles that you are using

Tie your raw wire to the center of the Socket

Put a loop into a length of rope.  Run it down the neck of one of the bottles.  Tie the wires from socket to the rope and pull it to the top.

Put the 3 wires through the three holes in the bottle tops.

Use the raw wire to tie off the socket to the top of the bottle

Repeat with the other bottle

Make all of the required connections with solder and electrical tape

Screw in the dimmer

Move to the next step

Step 7: Add a Bit of Flair

Picture of Add a Bit of Flair

For one final touch you need to remove the standard wheel from the dimmer

Remove the center of the dimmer wheel with a dremel tool

Take that center and glue it into the Spicket wheel.

Let it dry

Put it in the place of the dimmer wheel


Now your done.  Congratulations on your awesome lamp.


berekleonard (author)2010-03-18

I have found the best way to cut glass is with a diamond cutting wheel for a dremel tool.
(Second best, nichrome wire heating)  Score the bottle as you would and, under a trickle of water, make several passes around that line until the cut is complete. Water is messy and electrically dangerous but it quells the glass dust and keeps the cut cool. This method has opened my possible materials to everything from projection tv CRT's to large HID bulbs for my lamp making.

PopEye42 (author)berekleonard2010-03-20

I think I'm going to check that out...have you ever done Nichrome wire heating?

berekleonard (author)PopEye422010-03-20

I did after I researched how CRTs are recycled. Hot wire glass cutting is really good for oddly shaped cuts and works the best out of all thermal-shock methods but still leaves a jagged edge. It's a little bit more involved than the candle method but basically you're heating up a wire to 1200+ deg F within a few seconds on a very isolated area. Check out the nichrome wire article on wikipedia for the approximate amps needed per wire size and temperature required.   

PopEye42 (author)berekleonard2010-03-20

Thanks alot man...those bottles have no straight sides at all.  My usually clamp and glass cutter method didn't work all that well.  Nicrome Wire sounds like a pretty good way to do it.

Bowtie41 (author)berekleonard2010-03-20

There are also several videos on youtube that show how to tie a string soaked in lighter fluid,it also works well for bottles

PopEye42 (author)Bowtie412010-03-20

I've tried that before.  I can't get it to work.  The diamond cutting wheel sounds pretty promising to me

PopEye42 (author)2010-03-15

Dear 3036 People,

Thanks for liking my instruct able.  I worked a long time on it.

I still have plans to make it better.

- The bottles are are not cut well enough.  I'm going to get some wine bottles and cut them appropriately
- There is a structural problem with the box connection.  I need to strengthen that connection with copper pipe.  I'm not sure how
- The Cadillac Hood Ornament is not connected very well.  I need to find a better way to connect it



Sparkyrob (author)PopEye422010-03-19

One option for better connecting would be to sweat on a copper threaded male end that fits the knock outs in the box.  Since electrical fittings and plumbing fittings share the same NPT threading patterns it should be possible to find parts that match in size.  The only drawback to this is that the copper to steel connection might cause the dissimilar metals to corrode quickly.  Just a thought.  Other than that I like the overall look of ot.  Good one.

PopEye42 (author)Sparkyrob2010-03-20

That is an awesome idea.  I think that would make the lamp much more sturdy

haruspex (author)PopEye422010-03-18

 The Cadillac hood ornament looks tacky. Personally, I would leave it off. It looks much better without it.

PopEye42 (author)2010-03-18

Dear Everybody,

Thanks for your comments.  I do know that this project is a little dangerous right now.  I know the electrical work is done wrong...however, I did this in 8 hours and over Easter I'm going to re-do the wiring.



GaRy GNUb (author)PopEye422010-03-19

 super wonderful, bro! nice creativity! i haven't even delved into the mechanics of it ye

kokla (author)2010-03-18

 Can I suggest something for improved electrical safety? Use a three pin plug and replace speaker wire with appliance cable that includes an earth wireand connect that with your ground wire. That creates an alternative path to earth for a fault current that isn't through the person switching it on. 

Great instrctable, I'm a sucker for making lamps. 

I love lamp.

Sparkyrob (author)kokla2010-03-19

You are absolutely right on with your comment.  PopEye42 would be much safer using a 3 wire lamp cord and bonding all of the metal parts to the grounding conductor.  Either that or only plug it into a GFCI outlet.

Regardless, it is a fantastic lamp!

darcythomas (author)2010-03-18

 I think that this could be Steam Punk, not aristocratic Steam punk, but scavenged together after an (air)ship wreck etc etc...

bigmattyc (author)2010-03-18

In place of the cork here I would perhaps have used a rubber grommet in the downtube assembly and above that, in the tube, attached a stopper of some sort, like a small clamp, to the electrical cable to prevent it from pulling out farther from the base than it should.  That keeps it a littel bit neater, in my opinion, but otherwise, I love you writeup.  Great project!

kokla (author)bigmattyc2010-03-18

 Or tie a zip tie onto your cable, nice and tight so it can't fall through the corked up hole.

catfish23 (author)2010-03-18

 need to ground the ground to a copper pipe that GOES UNDERGROUND! not just part of the lamp! That kind of actually reverses the point of grounding. But, excellent idea, just needs some work with the actual electrical part

Lucidman (author)2010-03-18

This project requires lots of heavy duty tools, but the finished product is cool

DavidKaine (author)2010-03-18

This is a gorgeous piece of work.  I like the pipe valve as a switch, though it could use a little more distress to match the rest of the lamp.  The green bottle glass and copper goes together fantastically!

DavidKaine (author)DavidKaine2010-03-18

Also, and you might have been called on this already since I haven't read all the comments, but there is no Positive and Negative in AC current... only Hot and Neutral.  Hot is what carries the live voltage, and Neutral is somewhere for the voltage to go. 

whiteoakart (author)2010-03-18

Not sure I would call this dystopian.  Dystopia, being the opposite of utopia, is a place where everything about life is horrible.  Somalia is dystopia.  (Sorry if I have offended any Somalis. Not my intention.  The Somalis I have known are great people. The standard of living in Somalia is another thing altogether.)

This project, conversely, is pretty cool.  When I was in art school in the 80s, this was called Functional Art. 

I would love to see the wires on top made from some coiled cable, like the cord that used to connect a receiver to the rest of the telephone.  I haven't made up my mind about the water faucet dimmer.  One one hand, it certainly goes with the theme of the copper pipes.  It is just not very interesting.  I think a porcelain high voltage insulator grafted onto the dimmer shaft would look pretty cool there.

I absolutely love the cut bottle lamp shades, the type of bulbs, and the copper tubing. Perfect. 

Maybe, it needs some interesting feet.  The bottom of the lamp looks unfinished to me.  You would need to dig around in the scrap bins for some kind of grommet or perhaps our resident mad-scientist taxidermist, canida, could scrounge up a set of four duck feet to glue onto it.  Just a thought.

MaxineLaRue (author)2010-03-18

What a cool lamp - I love it! Thanks for sharing.

I also like the idea of just epoxying the pipes together to give it a cleaner look.

Or, something similar could be made with EMT (electrical metallic tubing) and pray-painted any color you like.

Panda1 (author)2010-03-18

This is great just like it is. I wouldn't change a thing. If you have kids or plan on putting the lamp where it can be played with, you might think about changing the wiring. But I'd think the glass would be more of a danger.

theproles (author)2010-03-15

Seriously badass!  I have been enjoying seeing instructables for steampunk furniture, but dystopia seriously bypasses that genre for me.  I hope more follow.  I'm not really that creative, so seeing such an interesting design element is a real pleasure.  Thanks

godfish (author)2010-03-13

 Hello, thinks for showing us your idea.

It doesn't look to electrically sound to me I would have ran to bulb wires through the pipes THHN wire is not to be exposed like that, and I would make sure the whole thing is grounded and maybe AGIF on it, but that's just me I get shocked a lot. ;)

PopEye42 (author)godfish2010-03-13

I don't think I'm quite done with this project.  It was my origonal plan to run the wires through the pipes but it was getting I just finished it.  I grounded the box but not anything else.

What is a THHN and AGIF?

godfish (author)PopEye422010-03-14

 Hello sorry it took me time to answer, THHN is a wire type that is sold in most hardware stores. it's stamped on the wire jacket. If you check the NEC you will find it's not made for direct exposer.

AGIF is a Arc-fault-ground-interrupter, it's faster then a regular GIF so if the lamp was to short it would turn off the current to the lamp, has a red reset button.

Just Ideas, most lamps don't have them but most lamps don't have exposed wires.

I LOVE the look, Good job on the brazing.  

PopEye42 (author)godfish2010-03-15

Ok.  I'll think about it.  Finding a dimmer switch that is also AGIF is really hard to do.  Maybe that's an internet purchase I can make.  Idk.  Thanks for the comment

bluefly1215 (author)godfish2010-03-14

in a design aesthetic view, the wires look good like that. You could still run the wires through the pipes and put fake wires on the outside to give it the look. This would look really good on set for a movie. 

bluefly1215 (author)2010-03-14

I love to make different lamps with unusual items. This is a really cool idea.  

armourkris (author)2010-03-13

That lamp is Sweet. I think I may have to try and make myself something siilar when I'm in my new place.

Also, I think Post Apocalyptic should really be it's own category. It's definitely got it's own style of design.

PopEye42 (author)2010-03-13


l8nite (author)2010-03-12

bad azz lamp and great "ible" for safety and ease of building though you could use epoxy to hold the pipes together, its not like it needs to be waterproof...  I'd like to see a picture of the finished lamp under other lighting conditions so the details can be made out

lemonie (author)l8nite2010-03-13

The original image is big, apart from the areas in shadow you can make it out pretty well. But another shot in different light would be good.


kelseymh (author)2010-03-12

Very nice!  Dystopic is a great word, especially if you wear glasses ;->  

(I think "dystopian" is the formal term)

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