Introduction: DIY Copper Overhead Desk Lamp
Runner Up in the
Dorm Hacks Contest 2016
This is a simple step by step guide to making an awesome overhead desk lamp!
This light is perfect for studying and working at your desk as it gives of great light, no matter the time of day. There are very little shadows cast on your work as the long fluorescent tube shines the light from a broad angle.
I am a student and I always found myself not studying at night because the ceiling lights are never bright enough. This made reading text books very unpleasant as my eyes would always strain whenever I would work once the sun went down.
My solution was to build a very simple (and relatively cheap) desk lamp which would provide a substantial amount of light exactly where I need it, without being intrusive.
Step 1: Tools & Materials
I tried to keep the tools as basic as possible as not everyone (especially students) has access to a full workshop. Some of the tools that I used to build this lamp can be replaced by common items you can find lying around (using the right tool for the job generally makes things easier though.)
- Screw driver
- Nail (or any sharp metal object)
- File (sandpaper also works)
- Tape measure
- Under cabinet light (20W) - Try find one that is not too heavy
- G clamp (75mm)
- Copper tubing (22mm diameter x 1.65m)
- Copper end cap (22mm)
- Copper elbow (22mm)
- Screws (self tapping)
- Small piece of carpet
Step 2: Cut the Copper Pipe
Cut the copper into two lengths. I cut one length of 75 cm and another of 90 cm.
The 75 cm length will be my "upright" support. This length is determined by the height at which you want the light to sit above your desk. Keep in mind that this pipe will still need to be attached to the G-clamp so the actual height will be lower than 75 cm (mine ends up being about 65 cm above my desk.)
The 90 cm length is the horizontal beam which supports the light. I decided to make mine 90 cm long as at this length the light is centered above my desk. You can't make this pipe too much longer than 90 cm as the tubing will begin to flex. If your light fitting is heavy you might want to make the horizontal tube as short as possible.
Once the tubes are cut to length, file the cut edges down so they will slide easily into the fittings.
Use some fine steel wool and clean the copper. I have not included the steel wool in the parts list as this is an unnecessary step, but it makes the copper nice and shiny!
Step 3: Attach Light Fitting
Decide where the light is going to attach to the horizontal copper tube (make sure you are working with the correct tube, don't get them mixed up!)
My light is going to be attached to the left of my desk (as this is the side of the closest plug point) and I wanted the writing on the fitting to be facing the back so you don't see it. That is how I determined the orientation of the light.
Use the marker to mark the points on the copper where the light fitting mounts are going to be attached. Try to get them aligned as best as possible (the round tubing makes this fairly difficult.) I placed the tubing and light fitting flat on a table, that seemed to get them aligned pretty close.
Use the nail and a hammer to punch small holes in the copper. The holes don't have to be very big, just big enough so that the self tapping screws can get a grip. Try find a nail with a sharp point, if the nail is blunt it might not pierce the copper, instead creating a large dent as it squishes the tubing.
With both points punched, take the screws and (whilst applying a fair amount of pressure) screw them partially into the copper to get the threads cut. You'll feel when the screw has bitten into the copper.
Unscrew the screws all the way and attach the light fittings, ensuring that they are aligned as they are tightened down.
Step 4: Cut a Slot for the Cable
Cut a narrow slot in the "upright" tube, just longer than the length of the female elbow socket and with a width of the cable.
The pictures really do the talking for this step.
An alternative method would be to keep the cable on the outside of the tubing and use cable ties to fix the cable down the back of the pipe. This would still create a neat finish as all you would really see would be the cable ties.
Step 5: Glue the Pipes Together
Once you have worked out how you are going to neatly run the cable along your lamp, do a "dry run" to make sure everything fits together nicely. Slide the pipes into the elbow and make sure everything looks correct (once the epoxy sets the structure will be permanent.)
Mix up a generous amount of epoxy and apply it to the inside of the elbow. I decided to only apply epoxy to the inside of the elbow as this would prevent blobs of epoxy building up around the connections as I slide the fittings together.
It helps to have something which is 90 degrees in order to ensure that the pipes are at right angles to each other.
The end cap can also be attached with epoxy, but this is not necessary as there will be no forces acting on the end. I just pushed it on and it seems to have a tight enough grip to not want to slide off.
Step 6: Attach G-clamp
Whilst the epoxy sets, mark out two circles on the small piece of carpet. Use the clamp to determine the size.
Cut the carpet out and glue the pieces onto the clamp (one on each side), the epoxy will also work for this. The purpose of the carpet is to protect the desk from scratches, etc. when you attach the lamp to a desk.
Once the epoxy has set (on the copper elbow), it is time to join the clamp to the copper. Slide the pipe clamps over the G-clamp, then slide the copper pipe through the pipe clamps. (Once again, the pictures explain this step fairly well.)
Tighten the pipe clamps down fairly tightly, using the screw driver. Check and make sure that the upright is perpendicular to the desk surface then fully tighten the pipe clamps to ensure that the copper wont slide out.
Step 7: Conclusion
This was a very simple project with very pleasing results. It is possible to create lots of variations of this light, for example: you could use an LED strip light and create your own wiring instead of using a ready made under cabinet light fitting. This will cut costs as well as present a greater challenge.
This lamp can be made with much fewer tools than what I used, which makes it great for students without access to such tools. For example, you could ask to have the pipe cut to length when you buy it, eliminating the hacksaw. The light fitting can be attached to the copper with epoxy, making that process much more simple.
I can't think of much that I would do differently, other than finding a more elegant way of attaching the G-clamp to the copper. This just seemed like the simplest method and if the table is near a wall (like mine), the clamps aren't too noticeable.
Thanks for reading my instructable, if you have any comments or suggestions please let me know.
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Please be positive and constructive.