Introduction: Edison Lamp in 3 Hours

There's no substitute for the warm glow of a vintage incandescent lightbulb. This instructable shows you how to make a stylish, minimal table lamp in 3 hours for around $30.

I've been wanting to design a lamp with an exposed Edison Bulb for a while, and it occurred to me that since the whole point of a lamp like this is an exposed bulb, the rest of the lamp should be minimal and very simple. Why draw attention from this beautiful bulb?

Step 1: Design

I found this awesome switch on Amazon (which is about as minimal as they come) and combine it with the most low profile light socket I could find. All I did was offset the two by 3", then draw an egg shape around them by offsetting the profile by 1 1/4". This gave me a 4 1/4" X 1 3/4" X 2" tall block that everything would fit in snugly.

I designed it in Fusion because I wanted to make sure I was getting the depth right, but there's no reason you couldn't just do the whole project by measuring it directly on a block of wood.

The .f3d file is the fusion file I used to design the lamp. It's got the switch fully modeled and the socket- these might be useful if you want to model your own lamp using the same parts.

The .PDF file is the template you can use as a guide to cut out the parts.

The .stl file is just a 3D file for reference so you can see what the finished piece looks like. I didn't go over the top hollowing out the cavity on the bottom, I just drilled holes with ample room for parts and wiring.

Step 2: Tools & Materials

MATERIALS & PARTS

Vintage Filament Lightbulb: $5

Phenolic Medium Base Bulb Socket: $4

Latching Pushbutton Switch (5A 250V): $7

2-Conductor 18-Gauge Black Cotton Parallel Cord (5 ft.): $6

Rubber Rectangular Plug (Black): $2

Hard Wood (2"X3"X6" piece laminated): $8

Total: $32

TOOLS

Woodworking:

  1. Drill Press: This is important because the holes need to be perfectly flush.
  2. Forstner Bits: 1 1/4"Ø, 3/4"Ø, 1 7/8"Ø, 1 1/8" Ø. Every woodworker should have a set of these!
  3. Band Saw
  4. Sanding supplies: I used a belt sander, but this could all be done by hand.

Electrical:

  1. Soldering Iron
  2. Heat Gun
  3. Hot Glue Gun
  4. 18 gauge wire
  5. Heat shrink tubing
  6. Solder

Step 3: Lamination & Drilling

  1. I laminated 3 pieces of 1" Hard Maple to get the block I needed. I thought a 3" tall base might look good, and I was laminating anyway, so I gave it a try. I ended up cutting the whole thing back down to 2" on the table saw because the proportions looked better so this was unnecessary.
  2. 24 hours later I sanded the block down on the belt sander on all sides to make sure they were flush.
  3. With flush sides, I applied the templates with spray adhesive, being very careful to align the templates with the sides of the block. The two templates are different- one has smaller holes to fit the socket and switch, the other has larger holes to allow room for wiring.
  4. The larger holes should be drilled on the back side leaving about 1/4" depth on the top of the pieces. This creates friction for the socket and provides a surface for the switch nut to tighten against.
    1. To set the depth, I marked 1/4" on the side of the block, lowered the bit to align with the mark, then used masking tape to mark the depth on the threaded post on the side of the drill press. I didn't set the stopper nut on the threaded post because this depth doesn't need to be exact.
  5. Using the center marks on the templates, I aligned the forstner bits with the holes and clamped down the blocks. There's a lot of friction on these bits- use proper work holding! Be safe!

Step 4: Cutting the Profile

  1. Using the bandsaw, I cut the straight lines on either side of the profile.
  2. To cut the curves on each end, I made a series of straight cuts ending at the curve profile. This keeps the bandsaw from binding as you follow a tight curve.
  3. With the profile roughly cut, I brought the piece to the belt sander to clean up the jagged edges.

Step 5: Making a Channel for Wiring, Finishing the Wood

In order to wire up the lamp, you need a channel in the bottom of the base to allow the wires to travel back and forth to the switch.

To make the channel, I just marked a line between the bottom hole and drilled about 1/4" deep with a 1/4" Ø forstner bit. With the holes drilled, I used chisels to clean up the channel.

With the channel made, I drilled a 1/4"Ø hole in the back of the base to allow the power cord to exit the base.

When this step was done, I also applied some tung oil to seal the wood and prevent staining.

Step 6: Wiring

The wiring is about as simple as it gets. One wire from the power cord is connected to the switch, the other lead of the switch is connected to one of the bulb socket leads, and the other bulb socket lead connects back to the other wire on the power cord (as shown in the diagram).

  1. Cut some 2" 18 gauge wires and tin the ends. If you twist the wires and tin the ends (soak them with solder) before you solder them to the leads on the switch, they will fuse together instantly and completely.
  2. Solder the wires to the leads on the switch.
  3. Use heat shrink tubing to cover the leads. This might be overkill, but it's a good habit to get into and it will prevent any unwanted contact (shorting out).
  4. Attach the switch mechanically. To do this, I inserted the switch, dropped on the nut, then used a pair of tweezers to keep the nut in place while I rotated the switch by hand. There's no need to tighten any more than hand tight.
  5. Insert the socket and tin the ends on its wires. The socket on mine fits snugly with friction, so there was no need to adhesives on this part.
  6. Connect one of the leads of the socket to one of the leads of the switch. I soldered these and covered them with heat shrink tubing, but you could also to this with crimped end connectors.
  7. Feed the power cord through the hole on the back of the base, strip, and tin the ends.
  8. Solder one of the power cord wires to the other lead on the switch, and the other power cord wire to the wire on the socket that's not connected yet.
  9. With heat shrink tubing encasing all of the connections, encase the wires connecting the switch to the bulb and the cord into the channel using hot glue.
  10. I also used hot glue on the power cable to keep it in place. NEVER rely on soldered or crimped connections to structurally hold wiring. Your wires will eventually short out and you'll burn your house down!
  11. With the plug housing on the power cord, I attached the ends of the power cord to the plug prongs, then assembled the cord end. This part is dead-simple and hard to mess up (the plug is well designed!).

Step 7: Enjoy

That's all there is to it! I did the whole project in about 3 hours (not counting the overnight glue curing). It's very small so there's plenty of space on my night stand, it puts out plenty of light, and has a nice warm glow.

Comments

author
sypher (author)2015-07-24

looking for good ideas, this is gorgeous, yet minimal... well done

author
Ploopy (author)2015-07-13

Cool!

I like the roundish design. :-)

author
NIronwolf (author)2015-07-10

I like your switch, but I'm also looking to make it dimmable. Has anyone found any cheap dimmer switches?

Best I've come up with is maybe one like this http://www.ebay.com/itm/Zing-Ear-ZE156D-Two-Circui... Although I don't know if it will actually provide a low setting on an LED based lamp since it's using a diode.

Or possibly finding a creative way to get a metal strip and making it touch sensitive with this http://www.ebay.com/itm/Zing-Ear-TP-01-ZH-Touch-Li...

TIA

author
rgamble2 made it! (author)2015-04-20

Ok I don't want to sound like a broken record but...I made another one. These are fun! Used different hardware those time. Ceramic white socket and little black rotary switch. Made it out of three slabs of Bubinga and I used analine dye to make it red...the light bulb is led but looks just like the Edison bulb. Made by Feit if anyone is curious.

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author
JON-A-TRON (author)rgamble22015-04-20

Like a boss! The keep getting better. Have you checked out Sundial Wire? They have really cool vintage lamp supplies and their prices are totally reasonable: http://www.sundialwire.com

author
rgamble2 (author)JON-A-TRON2015-04-20

Oh excellent! Thanks man I was missing the cloth cord detail. Was just using the 1.97 home depot 6 foot extension cord and cutting the plugs off!

author
rgamble2 made it! (author)2015-04-06

Thanks for the great write-up and the Adobe pattern! Decided to use what I could get a home depot. Picked out an old school brass switch and a rubberized socket. Used walnut from an old piano!

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author
JON-A-TRON (author)rgamble22015-04-20

I just found out I can give out free 3-month Pro Memberships to people who make IMadeIt's! Enjoy!

author
rgamble2 (author)JON-A-TRON2015-04-20

Thanks!

author
jeanniel1 (author)rgamble22015-04-13

Wow, what a nice job and I love that you reused the wood from an old piano.

author
rgamble2 (author)jeanniel12015-04-13

Thanks! I am a piano technician so there are plenty of those around.

author
JON-A-TRON (author)rgamble22015-04-06

This looks awesome! Well done.

author
strooom made it! (author)2015-04-02

Nice !

Here is what I made last year. I used one of those retro on/off switches

And now there are nice LED equivalents as well..

IMG_3651.JPGswitch.jpgScreenShot005.png
author
JON-A-TRON (author)strooom2015-04-20

I just found out I can give out free 3-month Pro Memberships to people who post IMadeIt's! Enjoy!

author
jeanniel1 (author)strooom2015-04-13

Where'd you get a bulb like that?!??! Awesome-ness

author
strooom (author)jeanniel12015-04-13

Amazon : search for LED Rustika 1.7W, here is an example.

author
JON-A-TRON (author)strooom2015-04-02

Very nice! I love the two toned wood.

author
JON-A-TRON (author)JON-A-TRON2015-04-02

Also, good on you for finding an LED bulb that has the same effect- you're doing your part to reduce carbon emissions.

author
jeanniel1 (author)2015-04-13

Where'd you get the round bulb, too? Thanks for the Amazon link to the LED bulb - awesome!

author
jeanniel1 (author)2015-04-13

I agree with you about the beauty of the bulb itself, and not have to spoil it's simplicity with a covering or artwork around the light. Great idea and execution!

author
elakle (author)2015-04-09

sorry for my english
But this kind of bulb get very hot quickly no ? Don't you think there's a risk with the wood ?

author
JON-A-TRON (author)elakle2015-04-09

No way! Wood combusts at like 500ºF, there's no way any 120V incandescent lightbulb gets anywhere near that hot.

author
thundrepance (author)2015-04-06

i really like it, jon; it's cool-looking! it reminds me of that bulb in the san francisco firehouse that's been burning since 1901 [it's been left on almost the entire 114 years]! :^)

author
JON-A-TRON (author)thundrepance2015-04-09

I've heard of this! I need to get over there and see it. It's in Walnut Creek I think.

author
brightsparks (author)2015-04-05

I like it! i could see being a thing in my house. i love that bulb and the style of the switch. I like the felt base suggestion and discussion on correct wiring.

I would put my two cents in here, in addition to what has been said.

In the lamps current form it needs an Earth wire- that switch has an exposed metal case, which if you are pumping 240v through it needs to be bonded to the earth system. or if it was a plastic switch it would be deemed double insulated, and no need for the earth wire.

if the internals of the switch break down and the case becomes active, you have a dangerous situation. With and earth wire it would trip the gfci before anyone was exposed to the danger.

author
JON-A-TRON (author)brightsparks2015-04-06

Thanks for the compliment! I'm in the US, so the outlets here are between 110V-120V so it's less risky. The switch is actually plastic on the inside, so I think it is insulated. I think a fuse and careful wiring are definitely a good idea.

author
timothybil (author)2015-04-03

Nice Project. Two items: 1) I would have put some felt on the bottom to lessen the change of damage to any surfaces and make it more likely to not slide around. 2) As far as I can tell you did not observe polarity when wiring the lamp. The exposed shell of the socket should always be wired to the white wire of the cord. (If using a socket with screws, use the silver screw) Otherwise the socket shell will be live as long as the lamp is plugged in. Likewise, always use a polarized (one blade larger than the other) plug, and the white wire attaches to the larger blade (it should also have a silver screw). Since the white (neutral) wire is always at ground potential, the screw thread part of the socket will never be live. (This is also good because sometimes the bulb threads will be too deep for the socket and will extent part way above it.) See here for details:

http://www.familyhandyman.com/electrical/repair/fix-a-lamp-cord/view-all

Good description steps and nicely illustrated.

PS: Since you have so much space available in the lamp base, I would design a little circuit that would start out dark, flicker a few times, then brighten to full brightness over a couple of seconds. Makes it look like the generator is just starting up, to go along with the Edison style of the bulb.

author
JON-A-TRON (author)timothybil2015-04-03

Thanks for the tip! I used to be in the habit of being very careful about wiring, but recently an engineer friend told me that it doesn't really matter because it's A/C (the current alternates between the poles). He's not an EE though, so maybe I should take his advice with a grain of salt. Better safe than sorry!

The felt's a good idea, and I like the idea of a flickering circuit! You going to make one?

author
jcook20 (author)JON-A-TRON2015-04-03

Don't ignore the advice you were just given. This guy explains it good as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=keaE7QTKTYE

author
JON-A-TRON (author)jcook202015-04-05

You guys are awesome. Thanks for the stellar advice!

author

Furthermore, if someone hasn't already said so, the switch is always wired in the live lead, not the neutral. Also all line powered devices should have a properly sized fuse so that if there is a short circuit the current is interrupted rather than melting down the line cord and possibly causing a fire.

author
timothybil (author)JON-A-TRON2015-04-03

Yes, it is alternating, but it is alternating positive and negative with respect to ground, which is ALWAYS zero. So since the white wire is grounded at the breaker panel, it will always be at zero potential with respect to ground, unlike the black wire, which will measure anywhere from -120v to +120v with respect to ground.

I'm not capable of designing a circuit like that. I know the basic theory, but the details escape me. I will look around some of my sources and see if I can find one.

author
Vintagelavalamp (author)2015-04-05

This is great! I might make one myself in the near future. I think I'll add a potentiometer to be able to dim it;)

author
NitroRustlerDriver (author)2015-04-02

I was slightly disappointed the Instructable wasn't about making the bulb itself. But otherwise, very well done. I like the tapered shape of the base. Looks nicer than if it were rectangular.

author

Yeah, I'm not sure I've got the right gasses on hand to make one from scratch. Let me know if you make one though!

author
techno guy (author)JON-A-TRON2015-04-03

you could just use helium, or in worst case scenarios, carbon dioxide...

author
Oz2814 (author)2015-04-02

That is an amazing lamp you have there!

author
vfx (author)2015-04-02

Clear drawings, nice photos, good explanations. Instructable is a simple as the desgin of the prodcut. Terrific.

author
JON-A-TRON (author)vfx2015-04-02

Thanks a lot! Good to know you're doing what you're trying to do.

author
AzraelsRequiem (author)2015-04-02

This is beautiful

author
Tardisrepairman (author)2015-04-02

The Autodesk interactive 3d viewer shows me the object as solid white on a solid white background. :-(

I can only say it has a very attractive shadow. ;-)

Very nice design.

author

That's weird, it's blue on a white background on my screen. Fusion 360 is free though (30 day trial, then free for life with a "startup" license) if you feel inclined to play around with this or any of my other models from other instructables.

author
spark master (author)2015-04-02

wot

author
Amaries (author)2015-04-01

Very beautiful, I like the design!

author
krisprince (author)2015-04-01

This is awesome! I've never tried an electrical project yet, but this will probably be my first. Great job!

author
JON-A-TRON (author)krisprince2015-04-01

Thanks! This is a great one to start with- it's super simple.

author
technovative (author)2015-03-31

Nice, that's a handsome looking lamp.

author
JON-A-TRON (author)technovative2015-03-31

Why thank you.

author
makendo (author)2015-03-31

Awesome. Really simple & stylish.

author
JON-A-TRON (author)makendo2015-03-31

Thanks!

About This Instructable

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Bio: I'm a full-time Designer at the Instructables Design Studio (best job ever). My background is in residential architecture, film set design, film animatronics, media ... More »
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