Introduction: 4 Easy Steps to Creating a Unique Wine Bottle Lamp

About: It's said that to perfect a skill takes about 10,000 hours of work and study. If that's the case I've got around 9,000 hours to go. But, like they say, it's not the destination but the journey.
Making a table lamp from a wine (or any type of) bottle seems to be a very popular craft project. However, while the lamps I saw online were OK, I always considered them little more than a novelty item.  That's when I decided to take a crack at designing one myself. And, after I made my first wine bottle lamp, friends and family began asking me to make lamps for them or to give as gifts. For that reason, I decided to create this instructable and share my four easy steps on how to make a wine bottle lamp that will be as distinctive and unique as the person who creates it.

Step 1: Materials List

These are the BASIC items needed to make your lamp:

- A wine bottle (or another type of bottle of your choosing)
- A bottle lamp kit (e.g. Westinghouse makes one that sells for around $6.00)
- A harp to mount the lampshade (depending on the size you choose the cost is $2.50 to $4.50)
- A lampshade (prices vary by size and style but expect to pay $10-$15 for an 8"-9" tall shade
- Wood for a decorative base (make your own custom base or buy one readymade at a craft store like Hobby Lobby)
- Wood glue (if base is made up of multiple wood layers)
- Sandpaper (if making your own base)
- A roll of black electrical tape
- A tube of construction adhesive to cement the bottle to the base
- Stain & a finish (oil, polyurethene) or paint for the base
- An engraved metal plaque to commemorate a significant event or sentiment is also highly recommended

Tools needed:

- Table saw (if making your own base)
- Clamps (when gluing base pieces) are optional
- Power drill with a 3/8" drill bit
- A glass & tile or masonry drill bit
- Pliers and utility knife
- Metal Coat Hanger (to help fish the power cord through the base and bottle)

Step 2: First - Design the Lamp Base

In my opinion, a creative and well crafted lamp base is the cornerstone of your project and can be a defining element in making your lamp unique.

The base for the lamp can be as elegant or simple as you like. If you don't have access to a table saw you can still make a very nice lamp by purchasing a readymade base from a craft supply store like Hobby Lobby or Michaels. Your creative options will be more limited by going this route but a store bought base can still look great if proper care is taken when finishing the wood.

These are your decisions when designing your base:

1) What type of wood to use. Hardwoods like Oak accept stain more easily and have interesting grain patterns. Pine is what you will most likely find in a readymade base. It should be sealed prior to staining to get the best results. Alternately, pine could be painted any color you like, perhaps to match or compliment the wine bottle label or the color scheme of the room the lamp will be in.

This link provides information on which types of wood benefit from sealing prior to staining:

2) The dimensions and shape of the base. Do you want a lower profile (one layer) base or do you want to make the base taller by gluing several pieces of wood together? Do you want it to be square or rectangular? Do you want to bevel the edges on the table saw? Alternately, if you (or a friend) has a router you can choose any edge detail you desire. If none of these tools are at your disposal you can round the edges of the base very nicely with just some careful and deliberate sanding.

The photos in this Instructable are examples of two different base designs. Each base consists of two layers of 3/4" thick oak hardwood glued together. Dimensions given are for the bottom layer of the base only. The upper layer can be sized according to taste.

Base #1: Is a staggered,
4 1/2" square base with beveled edges 

Base # 2: Is a staggered, 5 1/4" x 4 1/2" rectangular base with beveled edges and a 45 degree diagonal face to facilitate mounting an engraved plaque.

Step 3: Second - Build the Base (Cut, Drill, Sand, Glue, Stain & Finish)

Steps in building your base:

1) Cut each layer of your base to the proper size per your design. As shown in the previous step, I used 3/4" thick wood and made my bases two layers thick (1 1/2" inches). I staggered the size from layer to layer and cut accent bevels into the layers to add an interesting design detail to the finished base. Ultimately, the creative decisions are all yours. Copy my samples or design your own unique base.

2) Sand as needed prior to staining and glue up. Prepackaged wood sold at home centers or readymade bases generally don't need a lot of sanding. Still it's a good idea to have a few different sandpaper grits available (150 and 220) as you will need to remove any saw marks and break (soften) the base edges ever so slightly (220 or higher grit only).

These photos show the steps involved when creating a custom base for a wine bottle lamp:

Photos 1-4: Setting the table saw blade at a 45 degree angle not only creates an angled face to mount an engraved plaque but can also be used to create bevels that make the shape of the base much more interesting

Photo 5: Drill a hole centered in the base to pass the power cord through using a 3/8" drill bit. Do the top layer first, using a piece of scrap wood below to prevent chip out. Next clamp the lower base to the upper base, again using a piece of scrap to prevent chip out, and finish drilling the hole through the lower base.

Photo 6: Clamp the lower base and a piece of scrap wood to the workbench and, using a 3/8" bit, drill a hole (1/2 the diameter of the bit) through the rear of the base to route the power cord through.

Photo 7: This is the underside of the base bottom showing where and how the power cord will be routed exiting at rear of base (due to human error it is not perfectly centered but is functionable).

Photo 8-10: Stain, glue and apply finish to base pieces. Avoid applying stain to areas that will receive glue if possible. Apply glue to both surfaces and clamp together until the glue cures (30 minutes to an hour). After staining, apply a finish to the base. I like the Watco brand which is an Oil finish. Watco finishes also can be purchased in many common stain colors. Using this type of finish allows you to save time by combining two steps in one. Polyurethene is another excellent choice when finishing stained wood and provides a hard surface with varying degrees of glossiness depending on the type used.

Step 4: Third - Prepare the Wine Bottle

First and foremost: drink the wine! (proceed to step 1 only when completely sober)

1) Drill a hole in the indented BOTTOM of the wine bottle using a drill bit of your choosing.

Why drill through the underside of the bottle instead of the back? First and formost there is much less chance of the bottle cracking and being ruined. Secondly, it will be much easier to route the power cord through the bottle. Finally, having the power cord exit from the base just looks better.

A glass and tile bit will make a perfect, although somewhat small, hole. The bit is also rather pricey. A masonry bit will work almost as well. The hole is generally larger as glass chips often break off as the bit penetrates the bottle (not a big deal since no one will see it anyway). This larger hole actually makes fishing the power cord through the bottle easier.

The pictures below show the process:

Photo #1: Wrap the bottle in a towel and secure it to your work surface (clamps are a big help). Just trying to hold it steady when drilling could be dangerous. You may need to be a little creative deciding what works best for your situation. It might be easier to secure the bottle horizontally if you can't figure out a way to do it vertically.  As shown in the picture the neck of the bottle is passing through a hole in the work surface and is secured with two clamps.

Photo #2: Put water in the indented bottle bottom to keep the drill bit cool and trap the glass dust while drilling. If mounting the bottle horizontally, wear a mask to avoid inhaling the dust produced while drilling and drill more slowly, giving the drill bit a rest every few minutes.

Photo #3: A partially drilled hole.

Photo #4: A finished hole using a masonry drill bit.

Photo #5: A finished hole using a glass / tile drill bit.

2) Finally, rinse the bottle thoroughly to remove any wine and glass residue from the interior.

IMPORTANT-be sure to protect the label so it isn't damaged! You can wrap the bottle in Saran Wrap and seal completely with masking tape at the top and bottom when rinsing.

Step 5: Fourth - Putting It All Together or "Assembly Made Easy"

By now you've got a beautiful wood base and a wine bottle that is ready for the lamp kit. Assembly is relatively easy. Just be sure to follow a few tips I discovered while making several of these lamps.

Note: My tips will differ slightly from the instructions that come with the lamp kit and will eliminate unneccessary steps while changing the assembly sequence slightly.

Here is the proper sequence to complete your lamp (pictures are included at every step as a visual aid):

Glue the bottle to the wood base.
  • Position the bottle on the base and use a pencil to mark its location (hide the marks by tipping the bottle slightly to allow the pencil marks to be placed under the outside edges of the bottle).
  • Hold the bottle upside down between your legs and apply a high quality construction adhesive (I use the Locktite brand) to the bottom of the bottle being careful not to get it too close to the outside edge.
  • Carefully press the bottle in place on the base over the pencil marks. Adjust as necessary for proper positioning and set aside to dry (approximately 24 hours).
Installing the light kit:

These two tips are not part of the normal light kit instructions:
  • Wrap the portion of the power cord that will pass through the bottle in black electrical tape. This will make it much less noticable if the cord is white (if it's brown, you can skip this step).
  • Fish the power cord through the bottle from the underside of the base. This is where a piece of coat hanger comes in handy. After cutting apart the coat hanger with a wire cutter, tape the end of the power cord to the wire and fish it through to the top of the wine bottle (alternately, you can pass the coat hanger through the bottle first, fasten the power cord to the hanger and then pull it through the bottle).
Kit deviation #1: The instructions will tell you assemble the bottle adapter and put it in the bottle as a first step. DON'T DO THIS. It's a lot easier to fish the wire through the neck of bottle first. Then pass the wire through the assembled adapter and, with the bottle set on a level surface, use a pair of pliers to push the adapter into the bottle. Just make sure the 1/4" nipple of the adapter assembly is facing up.
  • Note: More often than not the adapters in the lamp kit will not fit the bottle without some modification. As seen in the photos, one of the two adapters used for this instructable has been trimmed with a utility knife to make it fit the bottle properly. Not a big deal but a bit of a pain. The adapter doesn't need to be super tight but the fit should be relatively snug.
  • Next slide the adapter cap and then the harp bottom (if you are using one) over the nipple sticking out of the adapter.
  • Fish the wire through the socket cap and then thread the socket cap to the adapter and tighten.
Kit deviation #2: The instructions will tell you to tie the wires in a underwriter's knot. I NEVER BOTHER.  It's unnecessary, makes the assembly more difficult and is a waste of time (in my opinion) unless you plan on carrying the lamp by the power cord!
  • Connect the wires to the socket assembly (the neutral, ribbed wire connects to silver screw and the smooth wire connects to the brass screw, per the instructions). Be sure to tighten the screws securely.
  • Place the socket shell over the socket assembly and snap into place by rocking back and forth per the instructions. Note: This can be a little difficult. Use a short range of motion and listen for a couple of clicking sounds as the shell snaps into place. A visual check will confirm the shell is locked on properly.
  • Put in a light bulb and test the lamp to be sure it is working properly. Note: The lamp kit doesn't list the maximum wattage bulb to use. I seem to remember the old packaging calling for a 60 watt bulb so this is what I would suggest. However, more information may be available on the Westinghouse website.
Choosing a lampshade:

The style and color of lampshade you choose is a personal decision and, believe me, there a lot to choose from. Target, Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond are just a few of the many stores that sell lampshades in a variety of shapes and sizes. I often pick a lampshade in a color that matches or compliments a color in the wine bottle label but I've also been very happy using a lampshade in a color similar to the wine bottle glass (which is most often a shade of green).

Note: Lampshades come in two styles. Those that require a harp and those that don't. Shades that don't need a harp sit on and are supported by the lamp socket. If you've added a harp assembly to your lamp, rest assured that using a harp free shade is also possible. Simply remove the harp - the harp support (which is permanently attached) will not interfere with the new shade.

Step 6: Remember - the Sentiment the Lamp Conveys Is What Makes It Special

The photos of the lamps presented in this instructable illustrate two approaches to designing an interesting and unique wine bottle lamp. I like them both but will always prefer a lamp that is personalized to commemorate a special occassion, personal accomplishment or anything noteworthy in someones life. It may be a birthday, anniversary, engagement or, as shown in this instructable, the celebration of a special friendship (the name of the winery on the bottle was also the same as the friends who were given the lamp as a gift) .

The next time you share a bottle of wine with someone special or celebrate a milestone in your life, consider saving the bottle, creating a lamp and making a memory that will last a lifetime.
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