Introduction: LED Kitchen Lighting Rig

Picture of LED Kitchen Lighting Rig

I remember the day well. It was during a meeting in my corporate job that I found myself looking at the ceiling lights, wondering how they were constructed and whether I could make an equivalent. The lights in my office were quite stylish in extruded aluminium, hanging from the ceiling by stainless steel wires and machined fittings.

It wasn't that the meeting was necessarily boring, but more that I was nearing the completion of building a new home. I'd already made the kitchen island and installed the bench top, and was now planning on building a feature light that was to sit above the island.

The idea for featuring the timber slats came from my wife and struck an immediate chord with me. I liken the look of it to some of the very stylish 60's timber furniture we've seen...slim, sleek and beautiful. My design features 46 slats that have a small upward slant on each end, providing a rakish finish to the lighting unit.

My number one requirement was to have no shadows on our kitchen work area. And being that the open plan kitchen/dining/lounge had a vaulted ceiling, I knew I wanted a lighting rig that hung by wires and housed small but powerful lights. Finally, I had available to me surplus flooring timber so I wanted a way to incorporate that.

I drew up some sketches and got to work building it. The completed lighting rig was a resounding success, providing brilliant usable light over our kitchen island, and drawing a lot of positive praise from visitors.

It's a one-of-a-kind design that I'm sharing with you.

Step 1: What You'll Need

Picture of What You'll Need

This lighting rig uses a base of plywood that is cut to support the timber slats. Aluminium angle is then attached to brace the top of the plywood to keep it rigid. Wire is then fixed to the aluminium angle allowing the unit to be hung from the ceiling.

For the slats I used Kwila timber that was surplus from our floor installation. You may choose an alternate timber of your choice. I planned for my slats to be 13mm wide, and 40mm apart. You'll need to draw up your plan to ensure you get your spacing correct.

To make this lighting rig you'll need the following materials:

  • Plywood (18mm) for the base
  • Timber for the slats
  • Lengths of aluminium angle
  • Timber for the extended light supports
  • Wood glue
  • Stain/polyurethane
  • Screws
  • LED lights with a square flange
  • Electrical cable
  • Ceiling cable and fixings

You'll need the following tools:

  • Tablesaw
  • Router
  • Sander/sandpaper
  • Drill press/cordless drill
  • Holesaw
  • Dropsaw

Step 2: Making Your Base

Picture of Making Your Base

Your lengths of timber will vary depending on the desired finished length of your light. I suggest you build your light to be the same length as your kitchen island.

This instructable will make a light that is 2400mm in length.

Cut a length from your 18mm plywood to give you 2400mm x 200mm. My plywood had a finished side so make sure you use as the side that the slats are installed in.

Step 3: Sanding the Edge

Picture of Sanding the Edge

Clamp the ply into a vice and sand off any saw marks and smooth the edges.

Step 4: Stain Your Way to Success

Picture of Stain Your Way to Success

The pine plywood needed something that would complement the dark kwila timber. I used a water based stain and applied three coats, lightly sanding between coats.

The final photo is of the tin of stain...a bubble appeared and I thought it looked cool...kind of an alien thing going on in there.

Ok, on to the twilight zone...

Step 5: Re-purposing the Flooring Timber

Picture of Re-purposing the Flooring Timber

There are three sizes of slats:

  • Center slats are 13mm x 40mm x 500mm
  • Small slats (that butt to the LED) are 13mm x 40mm x 202mm
  • End slats are 13mm x 52mm x 50mm

Because I was using flooring timber, I had to cut off the tongue and groove, then cut the length in two.

Pro Tip: Kwila is very splitty timber and I earned about 12 small splinters and a long stabbing graze on my palm while handling it. I spent the next few days digging them all out. Suggestion: wear suitable gloves when handling lengths of timber.

Step 6: Slats Cut to Length

Picture of Slats Cut to Length

Cut your slats to the lengths you require.

Step 7: A Rakish Slant on Life

Picture of A Rakish Slant on Life

Draw an angle you like onto one of the slats, then set up a jig so you can easily repeat this for every slat. All in all, a lot of cutting corners, so to speak.

Step 8: My Belt Got Belted

Picture of My Belt Got Belted

One of the small triangles I was cutting off flew down into the table saw and dislodged the belt from the motor. When I investigated, I found the belt was damaged, so that was the end of cutting for the day. Not so bad as I had only one more to cut.

By the way, in one of the previous steps you'll note I had my respirator on. Looking down at the floor and my pants, I'm glad I did. Always wear your mask.

Step 9: Sanding the Edges

Picture of Sanding the Edges

You could do this step with sand paper and block, but I opted for my belt grinder for a speedy job.

Step 10: Stain: Part 2

Picture of Stain: Part 2

Each slat gets a coat of stain...this protects the timber and makes it easier to clean in future. It also gives it a nice luster and darkens the timber. Lovely.

Step 11: Preparing to Cut Slots Into Plywood

Picture of Preparing to Cut Slots Into Plywood

I needed to cut accurate slots into the plywood, so I made up a jig to repeat each cut. This allowed me to make 13mm cuts spaced 40mm apart.

I'm not going to step through making this jig...just have a good look at the photos and make one up to your specification. Eagle-eyed viewers may notice that the jig has a deeper piece of timber that locks into any of the fresh cuts to keep it aligned. Clever.

Step 12: Cut Your Slots

Picture of Cut Your Slots

Clamp the ply then using the jig carefully cut slots about 5mm deep. Move your jig along slotting the deeper end into one of the fresh slots. Continue cutting until you're done then sand off any raggedy edges.

I've have not cut the slots where the LED's are to be fitted until I can properly mark them up for hole cutting. However, see my footnote in Step 15.

Step 13: Cut Your Extended LED Holder

Picture of Cut Your Extended LED Holder

These timber blocks are glued to the ply and act to lower the LED light fitting which adds quite a nice feature to the overall rig.

The flanges of my LED lights measure 92mm across so I cut square blocks 95mm x 95mm...and 18mm thick. Sand the edges.

Find the center of the square by marking both diagonals.

Step 14: Holey Moley!

Picture of Holey Moley!

Using a hole saw, cut out the hole. Then stain the edges of the timber...I wasn't too fussy staining the top as the flange will cover most of it.

Step 15: Placing the Holes in Your Plywood

Picture of Placing the Holes in Your Plywood

Now you have the LED holder, place it where you plan to install your LED's. Mark up where the remaining slat slots should go. I used tape to guide me as I couldn't see the pencil mark through the router.

Footnote: In hindsight cut all of the slots at the same time from edge to edge. The LED light will happily straddle any cuts and they won't be seen.

Step 16: Glue in the Slats

Picture of Glue in the Slats

Clamp the plywood to the table, then place one of the slats so it is centered. Clamp an aluminium angle so it touches this slat. You now have an edge to butt each slat to when positioning all remaining slats.

Step 17: Holey Moley! Part 2

Picture of Holey Moley!  Part 2

Find the center for each LED and cut a hole. Then glue and place the extended LED holder.

Step 18: Placing Your Remaining (short) Slats

Picture of Placing Your Remaining (short) Slats

You need short slats to butt against the timber LED holder. Mark these to the correct length, then cut a 45 degree portion off the LED end of the slat so that this cut matches the 18mm height of the extended LED holder. Glue each slat in place.

Step 19: Making Your End Slats

Picture of Making Your End Slats

Mark the height you need for your end slats. These will be glued and nailed to the end of the plywood, so make a little higher to cover the ply and line up with the other slats.

Mark and cut the same rake angle as the other slats.

Step 20: Test Fitting the Ends

Picture of Test Fitting the Ends

Place the ends and ensure they fit correctly. Stain or polyurethane them as with the rest of the slats.

Step 21: Drill Mounting Holes

Picture of Drill Mounting Holes

Mark the end slat so a hole may be drilled 50mm in from each side of the plywood, and centered - 9mm up from the bottom. Drill these holes into the slat, sanding the rear to remove wood burrs. Place the slat back in place and drill pilot holes into the ply using the slat holes as a guide.

Along with glue, I've chosen rose head nails to fix the end slat in place.

Step 22: Glue and Nail

Picture of Glue and Nail

Run a bead of glue along the ply and then carefully hammer home the nails.

The slat phase of your build is now done.

Step 23: Fix Your Aluminium Braces

Picture of Fix Your Aluminium Braces

Apply an etch to the aluminium so the paint will adhere. Apply your top coat at this point (I was in a hurry so ended up top coating the aluminium after it was installed).

Fix the aluminium in place as shown.

Step 24: Install the Light Fittings

Picture of Install the Light Fittings

My lights came with removable base plate which made it a lot easier to install.

With your light unit placed the correct way up, install the light fittings and bend down the spring clips to hold them in place.

Step 25: Top Coat

Picture of Top Coat

Back when I was a kid, this colour was all the rage, along with bowl cuts and flared pants. My personal nightmare were brown corduroy pants that never wore out. Since that day, I have determined to NEVER were pants that colour again...however, for this project chocolate brown is the perfect colour to blend with the kwila slats. This color helps to minimize the visual impact of the bracing.

Doesn't paint look great when it's being mixed?

Step 26: Installing the Electrical

Picture of Installing the Electrical

I'm deliberately not showing how the electrical cabling is installed...this should be done by a qualified electrician. Plus your wiring requirements may differ depending on the light fittings you choose and local power requirements.

Keep the wiring as tidy as you can.

Step 27: Fit the Wire Holders

Picture of Fit the Wire Holders

This light unit will be suspended by four wires. Mount these on the rig as shown.'re done! Give the unit a wipe down and it's ready to hang.

Make sure you attach the wire guides into firm ceiling don't want this unit to unexpectedly come down on you just as you're carving your famous lamb roast!

Step 28: Final Thoughts

Picture of Final Thoughts

I love the clean Mid-century modern look of this light...the tapered timber slats provide a stylish edge to the kitchen. And the color tone 'cool white' I chose for the LED's provide beautiful crisp light to the work area.

I hope you enjoyed this instructable.

Please check out my other instructable Forging a Knife from Chain

I have knives available for sale from time to time - please check out


charlessenf-gm (author)2016-10-01

I saw something similar, albeit using fluorescent fixtures, that used hollow tubes (as used in table lamps, etc) to mount/support the fixture while concealing the power leads. I had noticed your approach and had been thinking i could use the four wires as you did - but use them to conduct 12VDC to power the lamps to eliminate the power lead off to the side.

I suspect you were wiring to an existing electrical box that was not optimally-located. But, if you can get in the attic or whatever is above the kitchen well, another project!

Akin Yildiz (author)2016-09-25

great design, voted.!!

Dawsie (author)2016-09-24

loved the instructable it's come at just the right time as I am looking into remodelling my kitchen with the help of Dad and he wants something hanging from the ceiling with pots and pans my nightmare so I told him I would met him half way :-) and something like this will fit the bill I loved your design but will use it as inspiration to design something more fitting for my self and Dad :-)

I have defiantly voted for you in the projects listed as you have done a beautefull job of your hanging lights. Loved the finished results and loved the fact that you were using all recycled items from the build of the rest of your home :-)

Minnear Knives (author)Dawsie2016-09-24

Thanks for your comment and vote...that means a lot to me. Life is often full of meeting-in-the-middle. How brilliant your Dad is going to help you out...please do send through a photo of your finished result.

Dawsie (author)Minnear Knives2016-09-25

you deserve the vote you have done a wonderful job of the light fitting and the instructables. Dad and I share a lot when it comes to hands on woodwork or anything constructive always been like that since I was a kid going to work with him on weekends working on the large Diesel engines :)

We have spent the past few years collect old wood from construction sites so that we can give it all a new life. Along with lots of old pallets this is what 90% of the kitchen will be made from :-) the other 10 is the new sink and faucets fittings will be along with the new stove top.

Good luck with the competition I did not even notice until I went to your website that you from NZ I'm just across the water in Queensland.

charlessenf-gm (author)2016-09-24

PS: Love the way you keep the sharps from short people!

Yes, keeps them away from children.

charlessenf-gm (author)2016-09-24

Most stylish! Well-crafted. I download very few Instructables, but this one made the cut - and got the wife's attention and admiration. I have the- idea of using the support rods to conduct the 12VDC to the lamps to play with instead of a separate box - but, then, we all seem to find 'improvements' to an idea another had first!

As we are remodeling a kitchen at present, it will be a while before I can post the results of your inspiration combined with our specific needs. Hope I will not forget.

Thanks again.

Thanks for your comments. I'm keen to see what you build..definitely send through photo's when you're done.

Tonybp (author)2016-09-24

That's a great job man. If I were to do something like that, I would put a curve into it, as my counter is curved.

Minnear Knives (author)Tonybp2016-09-24

A curving light fixture would look fantastic!

mcconnell2464 (author)2016-09-20

Where did you buy the lights from?

Hi, I found them online from a local wholesaler. You should be able to find a similar product in your local Ebay or equivalent.

appsman (author)Minnear Knives2016-09-22

The most helpful reply would be to just provide the model/part number. Here's a link I got after zooming in on one of the photos:

brookefox (author)appsman2016-09-23

Thanks for that. I'll try to find one here in the US.

Minnear Knives (author)appsman2016-09-22

I agree, your reply was much more helpful than mine. Apologies mcconnell2464.

cltcgroome (author)2016-09-22

I agree with the other comments, Excellent work!

The thought did occur to me that you attached aluminum brackets to the top side of the fixture. They would have served an excellent secondary role as heat sinks for an additional strip of led's aimed straight up to give you a diffused uplight from the ceiling. All your wiring is already there. One extra ballast and depending on your switching you could choose three different lighting choices with the one fixture. What do you think?

I love this idea and may attach an LED strip to see how it looks. Currently I have one incoming power feed so won't be able to switch off the main lights and leave only the strip lights on unless I have a local switch control on the light unit itself. Great thinking cltcgroome!

From your instructable even though you avoided talking about the wiring, you did show a picture of the wired lights and they appear to be daisy chained from the incoming power source. You could insert the LED strip power source first in that chain. Then before that a three position switch (strip, down LED's, both) and in the spirit of instructables add in a remote control. ;-)
If that type of electronic wizardry is not in your wheelhouse a note here on instructables with a request for suggestions will pull in a giant pile of help for you.
Your wood work was very nice and I like the look of the fixture. My guess is you and I would not be the only ones who would really like those additions.
Note on the LED's for the uplight. I was looking at your pic and the color of the ceiling I think would work well with warm colored led's. All together the led strip, thermal adhesive, power block, switch will be less than a $50 addition and make an awesome followup instructable.

sdwilliams58 (author)2016-09-23

Outstanding step by step instructable. Thanks for all the effort that went into your prep work to show us this project. The end result really shows your hard work. Thanks

ClenseYourPallet (author)2016-09-19

That is incredible. Extremely well documented instructable. Turned out beautiful

Thanks Pallet, I appreciate your comment.

radmans (author)2016-09-19

this is beautiful. that is all.

Minnear Knives (author)radmans2016-09-22

Fantastic, thanks radmans.

acheide (author)2016-09-19

Very nice looking lighting. Thanks.

Minnear Knives (author)acheide2016-09-22

Thanks acheide.

HollyMann (author)2016-09-20

This looks your style! :)

Minnear Knives (author)HollyMann2016-09-22

Thanks HollyMann.

seamster (author)2016-09-21

Gorgeous work on this light rig. And your documentation is stellar too.

Fantastic work, all around! :)

Minnear Knives (author)seamster2016-09-22

Thanks for your comment seamster.

villager (author)2016-09-22

Awesome work BTW. I'm impressed and as Yoda would say. Try you must. You as in I, as in me. Aarg. Very detailed ible too. A must read.

Minnear Knives (author)villager2016-09-22

:-) Thanks for your comment.

sharpstick (author)2016-09-22

Very nice. I plan to make something like this. What is the beam angle of the lights? Some of them are pretty narrow spots. Mounted that closely, it should be fine for the island area. They probably won't light up the counters very well though. You can get dimmable downlights too. That way you can get overpowered ones for when you really need it for cooking prep, but turn them down when just hanging around with tapas and wine. Color is also a consideration. I prefer "cool white" for task lighting, but some prefer "warm white".

One change I want is to install the lights higher up in the fixture shining down through thin slats so the shine straight down, but doesn't make glare at an angle.

Beam angle is 60 degrees. The configuration I've built has a beautiful, even spread of light. You're correct, they light up the island only and the light doesn't reach the counters.

I agree, adding a dimmer (which these lights are compatible with) would give nice mood lighting, where are my tapas...

cltcgroome (author)2016-09-22

P.S. Love the knife rack above your stove. Easy access and if you have children gives you controlled access. Nice.

Thanks for your comment. Knife racks have a few benefits: They keep knives separate (rather than knocking against each other in a draw, which could blunt edges and cause cuts if picked up hastily); they allow damp knives to dry properly (important for high carbon knives); they allow you to instantly reach for the knife you want; they tell you when a knife is missing; finally and most importantly they allow you to display your beautiful knives!

brookefox (author)cltcgroome2016-09-22

Nice for the reason you mentioned, but in our house the knives sometimes are dislodged, and from that height would fall dangerously.

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