I have always been fascinated with reclaimed beam lights. I recently made one and here is the story of how I did it and hopefully will help someone else who is interested in doing this as well.
Step 1: Getting the Lumber
The first step is getting the right piece of lumber. I found a small local business who specializes in taking down old mills and reclaiming the lumber. This particular beam was in an old mill that had burnt down or partially burnt down in Philadelphia. Obviously, every piece of wood is different but I wanted to make sure that I removed enough of the charring but retained the character. I left any old hardware in the beam that was already there. After picking a length, I took a deep breath and CUT it, hoping it wasn't too short. I made the cut jagged to match the rest of the beam.
Step 2: Reducing the Beam Weight
In an attempt to reduce the weight of the beam I drilled out a channel in the top where nobody can see. This also serves to run the wires through.
Step 3: Distressing the Fresh Cut Ends
Ant time you cut into old lumber the cut stands out like a sore thumb. So I got my propane torch and added some character to the end that I cut. I also wiped some stain over the end which helped it blend better.
Step 4: Metal Straps
I wanted to have an industrial feel to it and also needed to support the weight (it was a very heavy beam!) so I made metal straps to go around the beam that I could attach chains to. I cut them with a chop saw, marked how wide the beam was on them and bent them on my vise with a large hammer.
Step 5: Angling the Straps
The straps looked a bit awkward so I added an angle to the end of each and cut it with my angle grinder using a cutoff disk.
Step 6: Adding Bolts to the Strap
I needed a large bolt for the chain to attach to so I dug around my shop and to my great surprise found two matching bolts that were vintage square heads. These can be found online but I got lucky this time. Using a micrometer I got the dimention of the bolt and then found a drill bit that was slightly larger. Using my drill press, I drilled a hole in the top of the strap on either side, using wood as a support to bear down on. If you haven't drilled into metal before its very easy - don't buy any special drill bits, get the cheap ones and use a lot of cutting oil.
I then put the straps on the beam and inserted the bolts through them.
Step 7: Adding Spacers
I realized after I put the bolt through that the chain was going to slide around unless I added a spacer. So, I measured the distance and cut a short length of tubing to fit in between the strap.
Step 8: Adding Lag Bolts to Straps
The straps need to be stabilized on the beam so I added two bolts to the top of each strap side that would go into the beam itself.
Step 9: Chains and Carabiners
To have a quick connection point on the beam I added two carabiners to each end. These are not the key-chain variety. These are steel and each one is rated to hold more then the beam weighs itself. I added them on either side of the spacers. Next, I cut my chain to attach to the carabiners and ultimately attach to the ceiling.
Step 10: Treating the Steel
I wanted to paint my straps a dark bronze so I sanded the metal with some 40 grit sand paper, primed it with self etching primer and after that dried, sprayed it with bronze spray paint.
Step 11: Wiring the Lights
As a general disclaimer I don't recommend anyone messing around with electrical who isn't trained or properly supervised. However, this is a very easy wiring job so here goes: These lamp sockets can be purchased and any hardware store. After unscrewing the top back out the two screws on either side. Cut a length of cord and strip the wire back and attach the hot wire (black) to the hot terminal (gold) and the neutral wire (white) to the neutral terminal (silver). Screw the socket back together and you have a socket ready to go. I made 6 of them for this light.
Step 12: Adding the Lights
Adding the lights can be done by looping the light wire around the beam and running the rest of the wire back to one side of the beam. All the wires have to then be stripped, twisted together via color code and then they are ready for the supply wire to be attached. The supply wire will be the wire that is run into the house wiring that supplies the light with electricity. The color code still applies, black with black and white with white. Wire caps are added after everything is connected.
Step 13: Hanging the Light
That is my story of creating a beam light. They are very simple to make and add an incredible amount of character to a space, regardless of style.
I hope this has been helpful for anyone looking to build a beam chandelier.