Back at the shop, we hauled the 40-pound lamp in and laid it out on a desk, eager to examine our spoils. To our dismay, the lamp housing was filled with painfully pungent mud, two birds nests, a diverse and unfortunate assortment of poop, and buried deep in the stinky muck, the lamp electronics.
Undeterred, we set to work. With paper towels, simple green, chlorox, an air compressor, we painstakingly scooped out the muck and chased the antisocial smell away. Two hours later, tired and covered in bits of poo, we had the lamp cleaned out. I grabbed an old computer power cable and wired up the power lines. My friend stuck a powerful pose of readiness next to the surge protector's power switch. We took cover behind a convenient pile of crap and, hearts in our throats, hit the switch. A dim, sickly white leapt from the bulb, which hummed an off-key fluorescent tune. We glanced at our feet, underwhelmed. Moments later, we noticed a subtle shift in the room's lighting. Our shadows seemed to be shifting direction and growing longer. Although it was midnight, the room was lit up bright as day. The bulb caused instant headaches if we so much as glanced at it. Our grins grew as bright as the bulb, and we knew that our efforts had paid off. Our little girl just had to warm up, that's all.
Step 1: All Lit Up and Nowhere to Go
"No," my girlfriend said, "it's 3am and you're a crazy man. Turn that thing off and go to sleep"
She had a point. I tucked it away under my futon and collapsed in a real pile.
For the next couple days, the lamp languished there, while I had no real idea what to do with it. And then a light bulb went off in my head, or, more accurately, in front of my eyes. I saw my humble gooseneck desk lamp and I knew what I had to do. I had to make the world's dumbest desk lamp.
That evening, I walked in to my friendly local hackerspace and saw my friend the muffinator hard at work on a giant pegboard array of LEDs. "What's that for?", I asked him. "Oh," he said, "we've got an idea for a crowdsourced LED array where people add LEDs wherever they want. We're bringing it down to the Providence mini maker faire tomorrow."
"Mini maker faire, eh?" I said, mental gears revving. "How are you getting there?"
"I dunno. Train?"
"Let's drive down! I'll bring this light sculpture I'm working on"
And so it was done. I had an idea and I had a deadline. I accepted the inevitable all-nighter, picked up a caffeinated 2-liter, and got to work.
Step 2: The Design
There's a catch, though. Gooseneck lamps have a weighted base and a neck that bends away from the base. They rely on the weight to keep the lamp from tipping over and shrink the base as small as possible to keep from taking up valuable desk space. That may work for a 6-ounce bulb and head, but for a 40-pound light, I'd need hundreds of pounds in the base to make that design work, and I don't have time for this kind of nonsense. I'm a busy man with lots of dumb projects to work on.
The other approach is to offset the lamp head so that it's centered over the base. The better it's centered, the smaller the base you need to keep it stable. For safety, I could build a larger base than I need. I was sold--it was a simple design, portable and effective, and definitely buildable in a night.
Step 3: Git 'r Done
So I took a stroll to my local hardware store and checked out the tubing section, cruising for inspiration. Suddenly, I realized that I could make the entire thing with minimal welding and assembly by using plumber's pipe and screw-on couplings. I spent an hour running around the plumbing aisle, searching for various adapters and assembling my design on the floor while adolescent home depot employees peered in at me anxiously.
I ended up using 1" pipe. Here's what I got for the frame:
2x 6" male-male 1" ID pipe
1x 12" male-male 1" pipe
1x 4" male-male pipe
2x 90 degree elbows
1x 45 degree elbow
1x 1" floor flange
Step 4: Back to Base-ics
This is the one part of the design that I'm really proud of. I had to make a base for the lamp. Real desk lamps have a circular base, so I figured I'd shoot for the stars. The problem is that making a big metal circle is kinda hard, and I needed about a 2' diameter circle. If I had a slip roll, I could take bar stock and roll it into a circle, but I didn't have a slip roll on me. If I wanted to spend two hours with a bandsaw, I could rough out a circle out of sheet steel and then smooth it out, but two hours is too much time to spend with anything. Staring at the stock shelf, I saw the tubing bender and a long piece of conduit, and I saw the light.
I normally use tubing benders to put single bends into metal tubing, but what if I put a tiny bend in the tubing, and then just moved the bender a couple inches along the tubing and did it again? If I was smooth about it, I could get the tubing pretty close to a circle. I cut off a 2*PI length of tubing and gave it a shot.
Step 5: Back to Base-ics, Part II
I was on a roll, so I welded in a couple cross pieces so I'd have a place to attach the flange at the base of the lamp arm.
Step 6: A Moment of Silence for a Moment of Truth
I welded the tubing flange to the center of the lamp base, and then I was ready for the moment of truth: would the lamp be stable? I screwed all the tubing together, spun the heavy lamp head around and around, and then stood back proudly to watch the base start to topple off the table. Craaaaap!
I lunged and caught the lamp. The entire assembly was very front heavy, so I swapped out one of the tubes in the lamp 'neck' that was running to the back of the lamp with a longer tube, moving the center of gravity further back. I reassembled the base, and voila! C'etait meme parfait qu'un oiseux reveur portant un chapeau des fleurs (That's french for a long sentence filled with nonsense)
At any rate, the lamp stood up. I punched it a bit and convinced myself that it wasn't going to fall over. Now all I had to do was fix up the electrics and take it down to maker faire.