If I haven't mentioned this before, I love hardware stores. I also love making lamps. So as part of my holiday tree plan, I made the Star Light Tree Topper using only parts from my local hardware store. I'm so happy with how it turned out! (Almost as much as I love the disco gif of it turning on and off...)
Let's get to makin'...
Step 1: Supplies
- 1 3/8" x 1/16" x 14" punched flat bar zinc plated steel
- (5x) 1 1/2" phenolic candelabra sockets
- (5x) 1/8 IP x 3/4" threaded nipples
- (5x) 1/8-27 I.P.S. hexagon nut
- (5x) 1/8ips lock washers
- (5x) 5/8" or 3/4" 1/8 IP steel washers
- (1x) 2 1/2" long 1/4 / 20 bolt + nut*
- (1x) 15' transparent gold 18/2 SPT-2 cord set
- (5x) 15w tubular frosted candelabra bulbs
NOTE: My hardware store is a small mom and pop one and has a rad selection of lamp parts. If you can't find any of the above pieces at your local spot, I put links to where you can buy them online.
Optional wooden stand materials:
- 5" piece of 3/4" wood dowel
- 2" x 4" x 1" wood block
- (4x) wood screws
- wood glue
*I used a button socket cap screw.
- table mounted vice / or clamps and a strong metal work table
- metal flat stock saw*
- wire cutters
- wire strippers
- philips head screwdriver
- small flat head screwdriver
- reamer (not pictured)
- channellock pliers
- carpenter or machinist square
Optional wooden stand tools:
- hacksaw or chop saw
- drill press or hand held drill
- drill bits
- 3/4" forstner bit.
- tabletop vice
*Your hardware store should be able to cut it for you if you don't have access to a saw.
Step 2: Not So Heavy Metal
Cut your piece of punched flat bar zinc plated steel down to 12 3/4". Cut it so that you are left with 17 holes and half the distance to the next hole on each side. (like illustrated above)
Step 3: Fitting the Nipples
Use the reamer to make the holes marked in the illustrated image above big enough to fit the threaded nipples through.
Step 4: Getting Bendy
Using the vice and hammer, bend the metal bar at the places marked in the illustrated image above. Check that the bar is perpendicular to the top of the vice using a square. This will ensure that you make straight bends allowing the ends to meet up post bending.
If you don't have a vice and are going the clamp/table route, use the square to make sure the bar is perpendicular to the table edge before clamping it down. Once clamped to the table, use the hammer to hit the overhanging part of the bar until you have reached the desired angle.
For both methods, start by making the first two bends on each end, then do the two inside bends. This gets a little tricky as the shape forms, but don't be afraid to bend some angles back to access the middle, as this metal is soft enough to bend back into place with your hands.
Step 5: Getting Attached
Line up the holes of the two ends and put the bolt through. Screw on the nut and use the pliers to tighten it down.
Step 6: Straighten Up
If once tightened, the bolt is off center, place it in the vice and use a hammer or your sheer brute strength (like mine, pictured above) to straighten it out. :)
Step 7: Socket, Yeah.
Now it's time to attach the sockets to the metal armature.
- Screw the nipples into the sockets.
- Add a lock washer to each threaded nipple.
- One socket at a time, put the nipples through the middle (reamed) hole on each side of the armature.
- On the back side of the nipples, add a washer, then a nut. Tighten them in place with all the sockets' gold screws on the same side of the armature. (like final picture above)
Step 8: Playing (with) Cords
Starting at the opposite end of the cord from the plug, cut four pieces that are 6" long. Use the stripper to remove 3/4" on both wires, on both ends of each piece.
Step 9: Get Wired
Starting at the first socket to the left of the bolt, put the first 6"piece up through the hole to the right of the socket so that the smooth side of the cord (the 'hot' side) is connecting with the brass screw. The ridged side of the cord (the 'neutral' side) should lining up with the nickel screw on the backside. Twist each end to make it easier to wrap them around the socket screws.
Unscrew the brass screw, wrap the twisted 'hot' end around it and tighten the screw down securing the wire in place. Flip the piece over and repeat for the nickel screw and 'neutral' wire, using the tiny flat head screwdriver to tuck in all the wires if need be.
Put the cardboard insulator back on the socket being careful to get the ends of the cords tucked safely up under it.
Step 10: Next Socket
Flip the piece back over so the brass screws are facing up again. Put the end of that first piece of cord up the hole to the left of the second socket. Pull the smooth/hot wire across the second socket and use the wire cutters to trim that wire where it just passes the socket, like pictured in the second image above.
Repeat for the ridged/neutral wire in the back.
You're going to be daisy chaining all the wire pieces together starting with this socket to avoid the use of wire nuts. So connect the hot end of the first piece with another hot end of a new piece by twisting them together. Repeat for the neutral. Wire the second socket as you did the first, using the tiny screwdriver to get as much of the twisted wire under the screw head as possible before tightening.
Step 11: And Onwards...
Put the ends of the second piece down through the hole to the right of the second socket. (like pictured)
Put the cardboard insulator back on the second socket.
Step 12: And More...
Continue wiring up the next two sockets the same way as you did in the last step.
When you get to the last socket, you'll be using the end of the remaining cord set (with the plug) as your last "piece". Strip the ends and put them up through the hole to the right of the last socket and wire it up like the last ones. Put on the final cardboard insulator.
If you have a multi-meter, it's a good idea to check your connections before plugging it in to test the bulbs. If not, and you were very careful with making sure all hots went to other hots and neutrals to neutrals, you should be good.
Screw the bulbs in and you're star is complete!
Use zip ties to secure it to your tree, or if you plan on mounting it to a surface as I plan on doing, the next steps show you how to make a simple wooden base for the star that you can screw onto a flat surface.
Step 13: Hole in the Rod
Cut a piece of 3/4" dowel to however long you'd like to raise your star up. In my case, it was 5".
Place the dowel vertically in a small tabletop vice that's turned on it's side. This will keep in perpendicular to the drill press bed and give you a perfectly straight hole.
Pre-drill with a small drill bit, then go back in with a drill bit that is JUST a bit bigger than the bolt you chose to use. Drill down about 2".
Step 14: New Bit of a Block
Cut a 4" length of 1" x 2" wood.
Use a 3/4" forstner bit to drill a hole for the dowel in the center of the block.
Drill four smaller holes in the corners of the block for the mounting screws.
Put wood glue on the non-holey end of the dowel and press it into the hole in the block. Allow at least 2 hours to dry.
Step 15: Mount & Insert
Screw your mount to a surface and insert the bolt of the star light, plug 'er in...
And you're doneskies!
Happy Holidays y'all!