Special thanks to the Mad SCientist Tubelamp author and the guys that responded with their own projects. I am posting this separately, because the "Mad Scientist" project went for the antique look and used 4 bulbs. This is an attemp to use the same modern look that the original has. It was quite a challenge, particularly in finding the right components. If you need more details, check out the Full Tubelamp DIY on my website. It has the same DIY as here but is much more detailed with tons of additional pics.
Step 1: Materials (1 of 2)
The Box - from SurplusSales.com - make sure to select the one marked "(ENC) CASE-KS12". It is a black bakelite shiny box 6-1/2" x 5" - $5
Mirrored Acrylic - 2 x 2 foot piece is $27 (enough for 12 TubeLamp tops - each top is 6-1/2" x 5" - $27
Socket Button-Head Screws - part #10495, 6-32 threadsize, 1/4" long - 11 cents apiece
Duplicolor Gold Paint - $5
Lamp Cord w/wall plug and pigtails. Or just strip a cheap extension cord. $3
Sockets - Black Plastic, from SurplusSales - only $7.50 for 10
Step 2: Materials (2 of 2)
2-part Epoxy - this is the true "permanent" epoxy which requires 30-min to dry - not the 5-min type that does not hold as well
ON/OFF Switch - Ancor 555700 - you MUST use a soft-switch or else your Toggle switch will lift the unit in the air when you try to flip it !! I tried several and all had stiff resistances except the Ancor switch - $12
Dimmer Core - this is a Phillips In-Line Dimmer. You just pop open the shell and use the core. The dimmer is 300 watts, which will handle being turned up all the way (nine 25 watt bulbs at full power = 225 watts) - $8
Knurled Chrome Guitar Knob - this one is from Has-Sound for $8
The all-important, Bulbs !!!
Let me clarify something - the Phillips 373944 has repeatedly been recommended - it oes not exist anymore, but has been replaced by the same bulb, different number - it is the Phillips 138131. I purchased at least 10 different 25W T10 bulbs, and compared them, and even called several bulb companies !! Here are the top 3 in my opinion:
Phillips 138131 - the best buy - these bulbs were used here, from Bulbs.com for just $1.79 each. BUT the filaments run a bit high in the bulb leaving about an inch at the bottom without filament. No one else will notice, but you will.
GE 90905 - the best bulb available !! It's filament is longer than all the rest, but still not as long as I was hoping for. Unfortunately it is very expensive at #3.79 a pop.
Sylvania 25T10/CL/BL/6PK - the "happy medium" and the recommended bulb - this bulb is priced reasonably at $14.40 for a 6-pack, and their fimanents are nicely centered, leaving a half-inch space at top and bottom.
NOTE: I have yet to find the Taiwan bulbs from National Aircraft, that were used in the original TubeLamp, and that are the ones used for the pics use by Willmore. They span almost the entire bulb - and believe me I have looked !! Even Willmore stopped using them according to his website (he got a bad batch).
Step 3: Colored Acrylic Mirror for the Lid (optional)
Looking at the top view of Willmore's original TubeLamp - it appears as if the mirror has a gold hue to it. It might be the reflected light from the bulbs - but I think he may actually have used Gold or Bronze acrylic mirror, which I may try on my next unit. Or as a radical twist, I may even use something "really different" like blue mirror.
Step 4: Cutting the Mirror - 1
Draw an edge, and as shown, clamp in place on a desk edge using two large C clamps and a 2x4 board. You can buy a great heavy-duty scoring razor from TapPlastics.com or if you must, use a utility knife. Score lightly several times, then score heavily several times. The goal is to get a small incision running the length of the line that you drew. It does not take much but you definitely need to score several times at a minimum and make sure to finish with some hard, deep scores. ALWAYS SCORE ALONG A STRAIGHT EDGE !!!
Step 5: Cutting the Mirror - 2
Step 6: Admire Your Work !!
Step 7: Template for Cutting Holes in the Mirror
Step 8: Prep the Mirror
Step 9: Setup Your Drill Station
You will want to drill the holes from the back (the grey side) - as you can see below if you drill directly into the mirrored side there is a lot of cleanup to do on that side. The entrance has the most damage !!
Step 10: Drill the Holes
Step 11: Ring Spacers
See the steps listed in the picture below to make nine acrylic rings, using 1/8" acrylic scrap (on new if you have no scrap).
The next pic shows how the rings will solidify the socket, mirror, and bulb when you screw down the bulb tightly. Without the rings, the socket and bulb will be loose even when screwed in tightly - the rings make them "grab" the mirror sirface and clamp it.
The last pic shows the rings after they have been glued to the sockets using Epoxy. This way - if a socket goes bad you can still dissasemble the unit completely.
IMPORTANT - you may wish to skip this step and go ahead and glue the sockets directly to the bottom of the mirror, because this step requires two hole cutter bits and extra acrylic. BUT the problem is it will be very hard to replace a socket should one go bad !! So you might want to use non-permanent glue instead of epoxy !!
Step 12: Make Room for the Dimmer
Now you have a problem - exposed metal !! Again an easy fix (see the 2nd pic below). Wrap the dimmer in electrical tape, and paint the bare metal on the two sockets with one coat of Liquid Electrical Tape (how I love that stuff !!).
Step 13: Paint the Screws Gold
Step 14: Insert the 8 Screws
4 "show screws" - these are the inner screws. They do not connect to anything other than the mirror. They are just "for show". Make these holes slightly small than the screw diameters so that they go in tight and stay in. If you accidently make the holes too big, use epoxy to secure the screws.
4 "anchor screws" - these are the outer screws. They connect to the 4 inserts in the corner of the box and they are the main supports for everything. The mirror is stiff enough so that it will not bend or bow - even though there is no supports in the center. Make the holes for these the same size as the screw diameters.
Now screw in all 8 screws to make sure all is well. Then leave the show svrews in place and remove the anchor screws so you can stil get into the box (they will be re-inserted at the end).
Step 15: Install ON/OFF Switch and Dimmer
NOTE: for the Dimmer, I used my own stock of large Chrome Receiver knobs with set screw. You can either use the Chrome Guitar Knob from the link on the Materials page - or use your own knob. However, since it is a black background, this just cries out for CHROME !!!!!
Step 16: Screw in the Bulbs !!
IMPORTANT: You may have noticed on the main pic at the beginning - that in my case some of the bulbs were just a tad crooked. I attribute that to the cheap sockets - not the acrylic rings. There is a simple fix that I have since done - just fold a small piece of paper over several times, creating small "shims", and insert them under one side, between the socket ring and the back of the mirror. Use trial and error until all bulbs are aligned perfectly - and you're DONE !!
Step 17: Wire It Up, Screw on the Lid, and Test !!
Carefully solder the wires onto the ON/Off switch and dimmer as shown in the 2nd picture. Then drill a small 1/4" hole in the back as shown, and feed in your lamp cord, and solder it into place. Optionally you can use a ribber grommet for the back hole.
Once all wiring is done - screw the top down using the four anchor screws. Now you are ready - TEST THE UNIT !!! Turn the dimmer all the way down, then flip the switch on. Now gradually turn up the dimmer and make sure the bulbs go from Off to full On . . . gradually. If the dimmer ever goes out you can fix it 99% of the time by soldering in a new Triac which costs about a buck.
Step 18: The Final Product
NOTE: the preferred dimmer setting is that of a warm, golden glow, but feel free to crank it (although at max brightness it blinds you). Don't worry about cranking it up, because 9 bulbs x 25 watts = 225 watts max, and the dimmer is a 300-watt unit.