Introduction: Steel Pipe Lamp/USB Charger End Table

We have a special couch that is far taller than average. I wanted a table that would easily reach the arm rest of the couch.

My girlfriend has also taken up knitting and needed a decent lamp. I keep seeing the recycled black pipe lamps and they look neat plus i have a bit of pipe leftover from removing a natural gas stove in my basement.

I figured if I'm going to the trouble why not an outlet and USB charging built right in.

Step 1: Materials

The table itself is made of 1/2 inch AC plywood and pine 1x4s. I also used 1/2 inch lathe board on the edges of the plywood to hide the ply.

The lamp is far more complex. I feel these metal pipe lamps should all be unique to the person making them. Go the a hardware store and look at all the availible parts and let your imagination go wild.

I wanted to use only metal pipe i already had. My grandpa actually had a whole box of fittings plus what I had removed from the house.

I used all 1/2 inch pipe for my build. I created an upside-down J shape for the lamp with T fitting running to an electrical box holding the light switch and USB power outlet.

To attach the pipe lamp to the table i used a fitting known as a floor flange. Floor flange isna flat circular fitting that has mounting holes designed into it.

For the wiring I used 2 different types. for the light fixture I used 12awg lamp cord connected to an outdoor lamp socket. The black Rubber exterior socket fit very nicley into a 1/2 inch by 1.5 inch bell reducer.

For the cord to the wall I bought 12/3 extension cord wire. Alternatively an applience replacement cord would also work too. I wanted something with a ground wire to keep all the metal box, lamp, and outlet all properly and safely grounded.

Step 2: Table Construction

Sorry I got ahead of myself and didn't pause to snap many photos. I used 1x4s for the legs set in an L shape.

At the top and bottom of the legs I boxed in a rectangle also using 1x4s. All the joinery uses brad nails and glue.

On the bottom and top rectangle frames I placed a plywood tops. The bottom shelf is glued to the bottom frame and held with a few brad nails.

The table top is held in place by nailing some scrap peices of 1x4 to the bottom of the table top. To get the placement of the 1x4s i used a combo square to set an equal distance from each side. For example i wanted .75 inch overlap on the sides. So I set the square to 1.5 inches, .75 for the overlap and .75 for the rectangular frame.

I used .25x.5 inch lathe board around the edges of the plywood to hide the ply layers. This gives a visual effect of using solid wood instead of plywood. The lathe edging was glued and pin nailed on.

For finish I used some fun stains. The table legs and tops are restoleum vintage blue. The rectangular frames are a grey stain to give some contrast. I think the coloring turned out quite interesting.

Step 3: Assembly of the Lamp

The lamp is built entirely of metal pipe plumbing parts. Assembly is very simple, righty tighty, lefty loosey. The hard part is finding a unique design that you like. I choose to go simple with a J shape.

There are many different fittings availible. Short peices are called nipples. There are 90 and 45 and sometimes 22.5 degree angles that are called as such. There are fittings called bushings that change the pipe size to smaller diameter. There are also bell which are cone shaped fittings that allow you to change sizes also.

There are also couplers to add nipples together and T fittings to add new legs ans such. A unique type of coupler is called a union. Unions are designed to be easily taken apart to fix something inbetween without fully taking about the plumbing. I used a union because they look neat and to help make wiring the light bulb socket easier.

Finally a fitting known as a floor flange is used to attach the lamp to the table top. The flange is a circular metal peice with pipe threads in the center and 4 mount holes around the edges.

So for my lamp I ran up from a floor flange through a nipple to a T fitting. on the horizontal leg of the T I used a short nipple to a 90 that terminates in a metal electrical box. The outdoor style electrical box I choose has built in pipe threads making it very easy to incorporate into this lamp design. Above the T I ran longer nipple up to 2 90s to make the bend of the J. At the end is a 1/2 to 1 1/2 inch bell reducer (even though were using it as an enlarger). The light socket fits snugly into the bell but i used a little epoxy anyways.

Any time there is 90s it will be very hard to run wite through. The best way is to run the wire through as you're assembling the lamp.

There are 2 different ways to do pipe assembly. The classic way is to use a big expensive pipe wrench and a heavy vise or second wrench to make the joints very very tight. This is what i did because i can.

For those who do not have such tools there is a second option. Any bigish pliers or vice grips, or channel locks along with some glue (epoxy, super glue, jb weld, or thread locker would work fine) should get joints that won't easily be taken apart.

Once fully assembled I painted the lamp. I used a flat black spray paint. I debated leaving it unpainted and having a natural patina of its various orignal colors but i had to buy 1 new fitting and it didn't blend well.


Step 4: Wiring Lamp

Wiring a pipe lamp is really no different than wiring any other lamp. Lamps are thankfully a very simple and begginers wiring project so have no fear if you're a wiring novice.

Lamps can be as simple as a 2 prong cord, wire and socket. This project is a little more complex with the USB outlet and dimmer switch but still pretty easy.

I made a simple wiring diagram on my phone so please excuse the crudness.

Normally wire nuts would be used to connect multiple wires. In this case since USB outlets are quite a bit larger than regular outlets there is not much space in the electrical box. Instead of a bunch of wire nuts i used the forward wire connection on the outlet to hook up the connections to the light switch and socket.

I did have to use a nut for the ground wires. Instead of regular twist on wire nuts i prefer a product called wagnuts. In stead of twisting wagnuts push in and do not release wires when used correctly.

To plug the whole thing in I used a DIY male end. They do make cords with built-in molded ends but this route makes it easier to run both ends of the cord through holes.

Final step is to install the outlet and and switch into the box via the screws and then put on a outlet cover. The box i choose fits perfectly with standard outlet/switch plates.

Step 5: Attach Lamp to Table

This step is as simple as the title sounds. The floor flange has 4 holes that are used to attach to the table with bolts or screws. A 5th hole gets drilled into the middle for the wire to run through.

I used bolts with large fender washer. A fender washer is an oversized washer. For example a regular washer may have a diameter of .5 inches whereas a fender washer could be 1 or 1.5 inch diameter. It allows for much more even bolting pressure on the bonding surface.

Step 6: Finished Lamp Table

So far we have used this for about a week. It's incredibly convenient to be able to charge a phone while sitting on the couch. Before the outlet was too far away to easily reach the couch.

The 120 volt outlets are also handy for fans and using the kids breathing treatment machine and im sure a million other things in the future.

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Bio: I grew up on a farm where we had to be very self sufficient and DIY. Hard work and making and fixing what we had ... More »
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