I tried my best to cover the steps I followed in creating this MCM Lamp Post Light. Once I had all the design bugs worked out and all the parts assembled, I was able to cut-out, paint, assemble, install and wire-up in 2 days. Then, I just waited for it to get dark.
Step 1: Replace the Ugly One
Ever since I moved into my really cool looking mid-century-modern house, I hated the lamp post light. It just did not go with the house. It looked like someone picked up the cheapest, ugliest one they could find, stuck it on a cutoff post, and stuck it in the ground. It was in the wrong place and was definitely the wrong style for my house.
Step 2: Out of the Mouths of Babes
We had just finished having a bunch of work done on the house, including a complete exterior paint job with new colors, and my daughter at the age of 7 made a comment one day. She said “The house looks really nice now, Daddy, but the mailbox is still crooked, and is the old, ugly color of the house.” She was so right. So the two of us sat down and did a lot of searches online, and drew lots of designs, and we made the most awesome-est mailbox post in the city. After that, the only thing that looked out of place was the lamp post light.
Step 3: The Next Year – Now Is the Time
So... next (as in the next year), it was time to replace the lamp post light. But, after putting in the most awesome-est mailbox in the city, there was no way I was going to settle for something plain and boring for a light. After hours (days) of online searches for “cool mid century lamp post lights,” I was starting to feel down. I wanted “retro modern”, not just “modern”. Unless I wanted to spend over $1000 (not a chance), there just wasn't anything. A post light at another mid-century-modern house near me gave me some ideas. I knew I wanted to move the light so it would do a better job of lighting the stairs up to the house, and I wanted to make it brighter and taller to light a larger area. It would end up in the middle of my birdhouse garden. And, of course, it had to be awesome.
It was a garage sale that pushed me to finally start the “Most Awesome-est Mid-Century-Modern Lamp Post” project. There it was. It was a big aluminum shade, with a busted light socket, and no glass from a hanging light. And, it was cheap. This I could use. So I started thinking.
Step 4: The Design
Light posts typically only come in 8 foot from the home stores, and after burying 2 feet, its too short. Getting an Aluminum or steel post longer than 8 feet was going to cost more than $100, and 4 inch PVC at 10 feet long was only $15, so I decided to go PVC. If I could find a way to mount an LED spotlight pointing up from inside the post, into the lampshade from underneath, it would give me a nice indirect glow over a large area. I just needed to find a suitable light, figure out a way to mount the spotlight in the post, and figure out a way to mount the shade over the post.
This is what I did.
The LED light I found was small enough to fit inside the 4 inch PVC pipe, it just needed to be trimmed a little. The 4 inch PVC coupling is tight, and will hold the LED light and the shade without having to use glue or PVC solvent.
I kept thinking about how to connect the post to the shade, and I came up with this idea. I cut an 18 inch long section of 4” PVC pipe so there are only 4 arms/fingers. The PVC is flexible enough to bend out, so I would need some kind of way to hold the arms so they splayed out, and the whole thing would connect to the lampshade, using the hardware that came with the lampshade.
Step 5: The PVC Disk to Hold the Arms
This part was kind of fun. And, this was the first part I actually created. I needed a 9 inch disk, so I cut 9 inches off the small 2' PVC pipe, and cut it down one side and stuck it in a a 275 degree oven. I did a little online research about softening PVC in the oven, but I still did this while my wife was away, in case this went bad. After about 3 minutes it started to soften. I flipped it over to heat the whole thing evenly, and when it was soft enough, I threw it on the floor between 2 chunks of plywood and applied pressure (OK, I stood on it) until it cooled, and I had a nice piece of flat PVC. My thought when I picked it up: “I am SO going to do this again... this is cool” I then cut it into a 9 inch circle, and cut notches in the sides to match with the arms. And then epoxied them together.
Step 6: The Parts
The whole thing cost about $45. I already had some of the paint and all the tools, so all I need to purchase were:
10' x 4” PVC, Schedule 40 DWV Pipe $15 (the post)
2' x 4” PVC Schedule 40 DWV Pipe $6 (the arms/fingers and disk part)
4” PVC Coupler $3 (ties it all together)
LED Light $8 (makes the “light” in light post)
Metal Shade $5 (from a garage sale)
PVC Epoxy $4 (to glue the arms/fingers to the PVC disk, and keeps the wind from putting the shade in the neighbor's yard)
Spray Paint $4 (so it matches the mailbox, and enhances the “most awesome-est” part of the project)
I already had: primer, leftover house paint (so it looks like it belongs to the house), electricians tape.
Step 7: The Tools
I used the following tools to assemble and install the light post:
Jigsaw/reciprocating saw: to cut the PVC pipe, to cut the disk with notches, to cut the “arms/fingers,” and to reduce the LED light housing so it fits inside to the 4 inch PVC coupler.
Drill: to drill the wire feed hole in the side of the post and the “connect the shade to the PVC Disk” hole
Sand paper: To take out the saw marks and soften the edges of the PVC arms/fingers.
Shovel: To dig the hole, and fill it back in.
Pliers and wire cutters for the wired connections.
Step 8: The Assembly
I dug a 2.5 foot deep hole, drilled a hole in the side of the PVC pipe, and pulled the wire up the post. Since I live in North Carolina, the ground is practically solid clay, so replacing the clay and watering it down makes for a nice tight post, without having to encase it in concrete. I stuck the 4” PVC coupler on the pipe, and I crimped, capped, and taped the connections to the LED light. I used a lot of electricians tape to seal the wire connections and dropped it into the post. I then stuck the arms/fingers and disk assembly into the coupler and attached the lampshade.
Step 9: The Results
For less than $100 and a little fun work, this is, in my opinion, the “Most Awesome-est Mid-Century-Modern Post Light”... at least in my neighborhood. Waiting for it to get dark was the hardest part.