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Picture of Fluorescent Tube Floor Lamp

This post modern vertical fluorescent lamp is a bold interpretation for a lighting solution, inspired by Gian Nicola's Gigante floor lamp (c.1981). Today, Nicola's lamps are a rare find, only sold at auction fetching anywhere from €900 to €1200. I decided to try making my own, with the additional challenge of only using parts found at my local home improvement and do-it-yourself store, The Home Depot.

I was able to recreate this lamp for $200 using off the shelf components. The most costly component was the chrome bars that made up the frame, if you have an alternative you can make this lamp for about half as much.

Ready to see how I built this vertical fluorescent lamp? Let's make!


 
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Step 1: Supplies

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Step 2: Mitre and cut boards

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Mitre the top, front, and sides. The bottom and back will be butt joint and set inside the box.

To keep a clean look to the box I chose to make a mitre joints. A mtire joint is made by beveling the end parts to be joined at a 45° angle to form a corner. I wanted to show off the natural wood grain, and a mitre edge gives a nice clean edge, as opposed to a butt joint. If you're painting your box then a butt joint is much easier.

I started by ripping the boards to 7" wide, trimming off the edges. The table saw was set to 45° and one board was ripped to have a bevel on one side. Next, the mitred board was chopped into lengths; two longer pieces for the top and front of the box, and two shorter pieces for the box ends. Then the ends of each cut board was mitred.

2x 7"x24" board (one mitred long edge, one square edge, both ends mitred)
2x 7"x7" (two adjacent edges mitred)

These pieces will form the top, front, and ends of the box. The back and bottom pieces will not be visible and can be butt joints. The other board was used to create these pieces.

Step 3: Drill upright openings

Picture of Drill upright openings

In the top piece of wood a centreline was drawn lengthwise. A perpendicular line was drawn about 2" from each edge, this will be the location of the upright frame.

A hole saw was used to drill an opening. The heavy duty chrome pole is 1-5/16" in diameter, which is a weird dimension. I used a 1-1/4" hole saw, then widened the opening by hand with sandpaper. You want a tight fit.

Remove the chrome pole for now, we'll install it later.

Step 4: Create box with mitred edges

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After the top openings have been made the box can be assembled. Start by gluing the mitred sides to the top, ensuring squareness. After the glue has dried glue the mitred front to the mitred top, completing the front and top faces of the box. Finishing nails were used to secure the edges. Ensure squareness on all pieces assembled, then allow glue to dry completely.

The bottom of the box is not mitred, and will be hidden by the front and side pieces of the box. I measured the bottom piece dimension at 22"x6.5". This piece was cut from the other project board and glued into place. More finishing nails were used. The back piece will be cut an installed later.

Step 5: Stability anchor for uprights

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For added stability for the chrome frame a dowel was added to the bottom piece of wood where the poles terminate inside the box. A 1-1/4" wood dowel fits perfectly inside the chrome pole used for the frame and will act as lateral support.

The poles were inserted inside the box and an outline was traced where they terminated on the bottom piece of wood inside the box. Next, the pole was removed 1" sections of wood dowel were cut and installed where the pole was traced.

Step 6: Openings for wires in box top

Picture of Openings for wires in box top

After the box has been assembled openings can be drilled for the fluorescent connections on the top of the box. The distance between the chrome poles and divided by the number of lights I had. A small opening was drilled which will allow the wires to pass through, the fluorescent tube clips will be clipped on after.

Step 7: Sand box

Picture of Sand box

With all openings made and the box mostly assembled (aside from the back) the box can be sanded to give a nice smooth surface.

Starting with about a 200 grit sandpaper and moving to a 400 grit the box surfaces were sanded to a nice smooth finish.

Step 8: Fluorescent strip lights break down

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With the box made we can turn our attention to tearing down the fluorescent lights.

There's really not much to fluorescent strip lights. The light cover is snapped into place and can be easily removed, inside there's an inductive ballast (used to limit the amount of current), and wires that run to the connecting ends for the tube bulb. The ballast is usually held in place by a clip or bolt and is easily removed, the connecting ends are also snapped into place and can be removed with little effort.

Step 9: Clip and extend fluorescent wires

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For this lamp we only need to extend one wire to be fed through the chrome pole and extend to the top horizontal frame. To reduce clutter inside the box the other wire was trimmed shorter.

The connector ends are slip-fit onto the wires and can be easily removed by twisting while pulling on the connectors while holding onto the wire.

The stock wires that come with the strip light are about 2' long. I clipped one wire to be about 6" long, and used the trimmed wire to extent the other wire to about 3.5" long.

In this model of fluorescent strip light there is an additional connection point for connecting lights in series. Since we're connecting these lights in parallel we can ignore this wire, or (like me) you can trim that wire down.

Repeat for all 3 ballasts.

Step 10: Group ballasts

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After all the fluorescent strip lights have been broken down and the wires shortened/lengthened the ballasts can be mounted together on a thin sacrificial piece of plywood for easier management.

Ballasts were aligned and screwed to the sacrificial plywood using the original mounting brackets.

The ballast assembly was then glued to the bottom piece of the box using wood glue. The ballast assembly was positioned between the pole anchors.

Step 11: Trim connectors + make shrouds

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To hide the light connectors a shroud was made from a small slice of 1-1/2" ABS pipe - the fluorescent light connectors almost fit perfectly.

When the light connectors come out of the fluorescent lights they have attachment clips on them, we'll need to trim these off to have them fit inside the ABS shrouds. Using wire snippers the plastic clips on each light connector was trimmed until it could fit inside the ABS pipe.

1/2" rings were cut from the ABS pipe, these rings will act as shrouds for the light connectors. Because the connectors fit inside there needs to be a way to pass the bulb prongs through the shroud a small slit is cut into the shroud ring.

After, each ring was sanded with 1500 grit sandpaper, then buffed to a high gloss finish.

Step 12: Feed wires through box

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With the light connectors removed, feed the shortened electrical wires from inside the box through the small openings drilled earlier. I used epoxy to attached the light connectors to the top of the box, just above the drilled wire openings, with the wire connectors facing the drilled openings.

Once the epoxy has cured the wires can be inserted back into the light connectors.

Before we finished the electrical we need to work on the chrome frame to support the lights.

Step 13: Cut upright frame

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I used heavy-duty chrome closet rods as the structure to support the fluorescent lights, without it the bulbs would easily be crushed and broken. Getting the exact height for the upright frame can be tricky, especially with the 90° bend accounting for some of the height between bulb connection points. I made a stand-in reference bulb from a scrap piece of dowel that was the same length as one of the 4' bulbs I was using.

The chrome poles were inserted into the box, the wooden dowel bulb stand in was placed on top of the wooden box to determine how tall the chrome poles would be. Leaving myself some room for error, I undercut the poles. Small, incremental cuts could then be made later to shorten the chrome uprights to the correct length. The trimming from one of the cuts was used as the horizontal cross piece which will later hold the light connecting the horizontal and vertical members will account for some of the measurements. For now, we'll leave the chrome poles as it until we refine the elbows.

Step 14: Cut frame elbow

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Chrome plated plumbing J-bend (quarter bend) pipe had a tight radius and fit neatly around the chrome closet poles I was using. The J-bends needed to be modified slightly to

were too long to use off the shelf, so I trimmed the flange from the connecting end and trimmed the tail end to be shorter, creating a small 90 degree bend. The edges of the cut ends were deburred using a deburring tool, alternatively you can use emery cloth or sandpaper to smooth the edges.

With the elbows finishing the frame structure the elbows were then placed onto the upright chrome pipes and horizontal piece to determine the correct lengths. The chrome poles were then trimmed again to the correct length.

Step 15: Tape frame ends to create secure connection

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After the chrome pipe has been cut to length we can focus on the connection points between the 1-5/16" chrome closet rod and the 1-1/4" J-bend, a 0.06" difference. I used a few winds of fabric gaffer tape to build up the chrome pipe and fit snugly inside the J-bend. The tape was hidden inside the J-bend, and any exposed tape was easily cut off using a sharp utility knife.

Install the J-bends to the uprights chrome poles only, the horizontal connection pole will be installed after the wiring has been brought up from the ballasts inside the box.

Step 16: Top wires inside frame upright

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With the ballast short wires already installed to the box top the elongated wire connectors were labeled to the corresponding ballasts. These wires were threaded through a small opening created near the base of one of the chrome rods which would be hidden inside the box.

With the connectors removed, the wires were fed into the chrome pole opening and upwards through the pipe and out the 90° bend. There should be able wire length to complete the electrical connection for the lights.

Step 17: Horizontal frame openings

Picture of Horizontal frame openings

Openings need to be made in the horizontal chrome frame piece that match the electrical openings in the box.

Because a portion of the horizontal pipe will be hidden inside the elbow J-bends, the measurements we made for the openings on the box don't exactly match. I found the easiest way to ensure the light bulb electrical openings line up is to find the center of the pipe lengthwise and making a mark using a permanent marker. The horizontal bar was then laid on top of the box, with the center marks aligned, and the electrical openings on other side on the box were transferred to the horizontal pipe.

Ensure all marks for the electrical openings on the horizontal bar are along the same plane.

Using the same drill bit used to make the electrical openings in the box, carefully drill the openings in the horizontal chrome bar.

Step 18: Horizontal frame connector shroud

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Just like the shrouds on the wood box hiding the bulb connectors, there needs to be some at the top. The challenge here is that the shrouds need to fix to the rounded horizontal bar.

To accomplish this a 1-1/4" hole saw was lined up on the end of the ABS pipe and used to cut a crescent shape through the pipe. The pipe was then cut below the valley of the crescent to complete the shroud shape. The crescent side fits around the horizontal pipe, and the flat side will surround the bulb connector.

Just like with the box shrouds, small slits were cut into one side to allow the prongs for the fluorescent bulb to pass through and be installed into the fixture. The shrouds were epoxy glued in place.

Step 19: Horizontal frame wiring

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Thread the wires from the top of the chrome uprights through the horizontal pipe with one wire exiting through the drilled openings. The wires were labelled so that they could be matched with the corresponding ballast and connection point in the box.

I found an easy way to get the wires through the pipe and out the openings is to make a kink in the end of each wire and allow it to hook onto the opening edge, then use pliers to grab the wire and pull it through the opening. The bulb connectors were then attached to the wire ends and the excess wire pushed back into the horizontal pipe. The connectors were then epoxied into the shrouds.

The horizontal pole was then fit into the J-bends, completing the frame assembly.

Step 20: Add sockets for vertical frame

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The pole sockets usually used to mount the chrome closet poles were slid onto the upright

Step 21: Extension cord wiring

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Most times fluorescent lamps are wired in the ceiling and you don't see how they are connected to the light switch. This lamp is on the floor and will need power running to it by way of a power cord. A medium-duty power cord was used, you'll probably want a long length so you can move it around without being tethered too close to a wall outlet.

These lights are wired in parallel. The positive wires from the ballasts were twisted together, then the negatives wires together. The end of a power cord was stripped to expose the wires, then twisted to the corresponding ballasts wires. Twist-on connectors were used to make the connection between the power cord and the fluorescent ballasts.

Step 22: Back of box

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With the majority of the box complete we focus on finishing the back of the box enclosure.

To compliment the clean and modern look of the rest of the box I didn't want to use any visible fasteners to attach the back panel, and I also wanted to allow the box to be opened for any repairs or inspections. I chose to go for a slip fit piece of wood with a simple finger hole to allow it to be removed.

I measured the back opening dimension and cut a panel from the remainder of the project boards left over from the box creation. Remember to drill your finger hole before you start fitting the panel into the back of the box, otherwise you run the risk of getting the panel perfectly fit inside the box and unable to get it back out again. Since this panel relies on a tight fit to hold it in place there are no mitre cuts. I recommend cutting this piece slightly larger than the opening and sand the edges until it fits. To accommodate the power cord a notch was drilled into one corner to allow the panel to slip into place flush without pinching the cord.

To prevent the back panel from traveling too far into the box when closing I added small wooden cleats to keep the panel at the right level. Checking the thickness of the board, a line was drawn in pencil of the board thickness. Six small cleats from a scrap wood and glued in place along the offset of the board thickness. Once the glue was dried the back panel could be installed and the back of the box sanded to ensure a flush and even connection between teh panel and the rest of the box.

Step 23: Finish wood

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I love the look of natural wood grain. With mitred edges and no mechanical fasteners, I spent a lot of time and effort to showcase the wood grain of the box.

To seal and protect the wood box I used Danish oil, a hard-wearing matte finish. Wearing protective gloves and working in a well ventilated area Danish oil is put onto a rag and worked into the wood. Excess oil is wiped off after application.

Danish oil has a small potential risk of spontaneously combusting, so make sure you dry them flat before disposing.

Step 24: Add bulbs

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With the Danish Oil finish dried all that's left is to move the lamp into place and install the bulbs. Just like regular overhead fluorescent lamps, bulbs are inserted through the slit in the connectors and turned a quarter turn which both locks them in place and completes the electrical connection.

Step 25: Plug in remote switch

Picture of Plug in remote switch

There no switch like with normal overhead lights, so we need to account for operation. I originally thought about doing a foot operated switch, but instead found a remote switch for about the same price as a foot switch.

The electrical cord was plugged into the remote switch box, then the box plugged into the wall outlet.

Step 26: Vertical fluorescent lamp

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This project was a great way to learn and practice new skills, and was a lot of fun to build. This striking design goes well in any room and is sure to be a focus of visual attention, and the centre of conversation.

While the mitred box was difficult to build the results of the extra care to create mitred edges really stands out, and the natural wood grain combined with the industrial chrome is a great look.

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Kiteman1 year ago

That's really nice, although it's too big for my own home.

With my health-and-safety nerves twitching, I wonder whether it would be safer* to replace the fragile fluorescent tubes with acrylic tubes stuffed with LEDs?

* For homes with small children or inebriated youths.

Florescent tubes are actually surprisingly strong. Try smashing one with a hammer some time. Generally takes a couple hits before they will break.

You can also get plastic covering tubes fore them as well. They sell them in the same section as the bulbs themselves, usually for a few bucks a piece.

They are very easy to break when body weight is involved...a hammer strike is quite different to someone's full body weight crashing through... Also the murcury is highly toxic in them so GAS MASKS haha.

http://www.superbrightleds.com/cat/t8-series-tube/... this website sells fluorescent sized LED tubes

This would simplify the wiring also ... nothing to be routed up the side tube. But you would not have the "all around" lighting that the fluorescent tubes would produce ... hmmmm wheels turning ....

Why not put multiple strips in one tube and then you would get the all around look you are going for as long as it was diffused. maybe stick them around some kind of small pipe or something. Or maybe twist the led strip and get some sort of twisty spiraling light effect.

Those are cool.

The LED tubes sounds good however if you're considering acrylic anyway, you could simply place two frames over each side of the lamp frame and that would protect the tubes. Don't worry, I share your health and safety nerves! My first thought was "what if someone falls on it?!"...

The problem is a clash between my aesthetics and my over-active H&S reflexes - it's the exposed tubing that really makes this piece.

Anyhoo, the argument is bootless, since, as I said, I don't have spare floor to install one.

why does it have to sit on the foor? attach it to the ceiling?

You could use iron pipe rather than chrome... more industrial feel and no modifications to the pipe. You could use "T" fittings for holes rather than drill them. Lowes cuts the pipe for you (don't know about Home Depot)

Love the way you hid the wires.

The only problem would be getting the black pipe in the exact size. If you can't then you would have to cut it back and rethread it but I don't know how you would do that withouht some special die tool. I like the idea though its the first thing I thought of when I saw this too and would be much cheaper that the chrome.

Restaraunts in many places are required to have a plastic sleeve over their overhead flourescent bulbs. They are clear - for a couple years, before yellowing. But they are cheap, so can be replaced when that happens. I have purchased them at Home Depot's.

Not a prefect answer, but less messy if something did happen.

There are a lot of sizes of tubes. Down scale it to fit. And if kids are a concern I think this could look interesting with a screen or mesh on each side. I'd probably put those shop light safety tubes over the bulbs too.

sseagrave459 months ago
Forget the light! I want to build that bench/room/nook in the background. I've got a closet perfect for that. Could you make and instruct able for that?
domenic311 months ago

WOW amazing instructable :)

bsv-win12 months ago

Very good! )))

For cutting metal pipes, I'd use a pipe cutter, then there will be more careful

mjhill4341 year ago

Thanks for Sharing.. Looks Great! :)

alcurb1 year ago

An unrelated question:

In the first picture's background there is a modern seating tunnel with a green screen behind it. What is that from, a movie set?

alcurb1 year ago

Beautiful work. Nice 'ible, especially the photography.

This is the sort of thing that you need to put museum rope around it, not only because it's an art piece but mostly because a little accidental tap with your elbow and you'll find yourself sweeping up the broken glass, phosphor dust and mercury. I suggest that perhaps you might consider adding a clear acrylic tube around the fluorescents.

You definitely don't want children and pets near it. However, around it you do want adults with an ample amount of cash in hand ready to buy it from you! Then you can make a better one for yourself.

Very impressed. This would make a great kit. Move aside, IKEA.

scoyne891 year ago

Well done and well thought out plans, thanks for sharing

Wow!!!!!!!!

is there an Instructable for that room the light is in on the very first picture? :D

canida1 year ago

Looks great! Let's swap in black lights for the next party.

mikeasaurus (author)  canida1 year ago

It's happening!

rgl11001 year ago

This is a great project. I love the design. I think a great addition to it would be a "touch" on/off switch rather than the remote. You see this type of switch often on china cabinets and display cases. Either way, great job and thanks for the posting.

mikeasaurus (author)  rgl11001 year ago

Good idea, maybe on the next one.

mmaxvill1 year ago

Very cool. How well does the wood box hold up to the heat from the ballasts?

mikeasaurus (author)  mmaxvill1 year ago

There's enough of an air cavity in the box so heat gain isn't an issue.

Eldalote1 year ago

This is epic!

There is usually written on the ballast, Mount Tubes within 4" of grounded (PE) Metal Reflector. Mostly on the older Magnetic ballast. I've grounded many intermittent fixtures with great success. If you insert into the circuit it will amaze you how you'll scream! Bulb socket to ground is HV, Low Current, at 400 Hz or so. You'll live. Majjuss is entirely correct on all points. Make a great Baby Gate though.

Zapp

majjuss1 year ago

Hi ,

I really love the design of your lamp! The design is awesome and I would love to build one if I find the space for it. However, I'm concerned about your safety and the safety of everyone building it from your instructable. So, please don't take this the wrong way, I'm trying to be a friend and give a good advice here.

Looking at your wiring, I don't see the PE-wire (protective earth) anywhere. I would recommend connecting all exposed metal pieces to the protective earth. You also have connected the tubes and elbows with tape in between, which does not ensure an electrical connection between them. Thus, you would need to connect each piece seperately to the PE wire or ensure a good electrical connection between the tube pieces.

In your current setup, if one of the wires that run through the tubes has a faulty insulation and touches the metal tube, the person touching the tube could get an electric shock. If the safety ground is connected, the current flows through the path with the least resistance (through the PE and not the person), keeping the metal pieces at ground potential and the person safe. Also, the Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (if one is installed) can trip before a person even touches the tube and shuts off the current. This does only work if all exposed conducting surfaces are connected to PE with a sufficiently low resistance.

Again, thank you for this great instructable!

cturnr1 year ago

you should use less jpg when saving a photo of txt. PNG files work much better.

demudd1 year ago

Great Lamp! Great instructable! Do they have ballast that handle 2, 3 or 4 bulbs?

Pick up (new or used) a four light shop light and you have all the hardware and electronics you need.

randofo1 year ago

This came out amazingly. Nice job Mike.

mikeasaurus (author)  randofo1 year ago

Thanks pal

spunk1 year ago

Really cool look! It reminds me of some sort of teleportation device / dimension gate :)

mikeasaurus (author)  spunk1 year ago

Oh, there's a switch on the back that turns it into one. Did I not mention that in the last step?

clyman11 year ago
Really well done. A perfect mix off art, practicality, and 'making stuff'.
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