Introduction: BushLight

Here we have BushLight! This garden illuminator is built of copper plumbing parts, galvanized sheet metal, and galvanized wire. It uses a candelabra socket, a nightlight bulb, and plugs into a standard 110 volt household electrical outlet.
Pictured here is an older one showing the nice patina that develops over time. The typical garden lighting systems that you might find in stores are going to be either solar types or 'low voltage systems' that use expensive electrical transformers, special wire that can be buried and use somewhat exotic and expensive bulbs. This light just plugs right in like any holiday lights! I built a set of 4 daisy-chained together that are pictured here. They have been lighting my garden nightly for 11 years now through Michigan rain and snow and no one has gotten electrocuted or shocked yet!
I decided that I needed two more lights, so I thought I'd show you how I made them. Read through all the steps and assemble the parts, materials, and tools described there. Most parts are available at HD or Lowes. The short Candelabra Socket, the 'nipple' threaded tubing and nut can be had from a good hardware store or lamp shop.

Step 1: We'll Start With the Shade.....

Download the pattern "BushLight.pdf" and print it. This file is a cleaned-up version of the one shown throughout these steps. Check the scale bars for print size accuracy. Find a piece of galvanized sheet steel. Galvanized (zinc coated) steel won't rust, it will just turn to a matt 'weathered zinc' finish. I used 26ga but 28ga is OK, just don't go too thin. A great source is old heating duct sheet metal. You could also purchase a piece of 'return air duct panning' at HD or Lowes. Cut out the paper pattern and trace around it with a broad tip marker.

Step 2: Cutting and Shaping the Shade

Cut around the circle perimeter. I used right-hand aviator snips cutting first to within 1/4" of the inside of your line then go around again and cut exactly at the inside of your line. Having less waste at the edge makes for easier and more accurate final cutting. Cut away the majority of the 'notch' then cut again to the inside of your line.

Now, carefully and slowly start forming the cone by working around the outer edge bending it with thumbs and forefingers toward the center. This is kinda hard to describe and kinda hard to do. Work at this in small steps trying to avoid making the kinks that you see here on my piece. I also found that using a piece of pipe held in a vise to be useful. Persistence will eventually get the gap to close and the cone to form.

Step 3: More Shaping

As the shade is (hopefully) taking shape, work the 'tab' to the inside of the shade. The overlapping edge will tend to distort as shown as you close the cone. Clamp the outer edge with a small clamp. I used a hemostat. With the cone clamped, work that top edge toward straight flat and make as tight an overlap as you can.

Step 4: Soldering the Seam

I used 180 grit sand paper to clean up both mating surfaces and applied soldering paste to the joint and soldered it together with rosin core solder and a 40W soldering iron. Standard soldering procedure. If this is new to you, look on the web for more soldering info and practice on some of your scraps first.

Note: What I should have done here was to solder 1/2" up from the edge, let it cool, unclamp it, set it on a table, whack lightly with a hammer take out that bad alignment I had at the top of the seam, re-clamp, and then I would have gotten a much better joint.

Step 5: Still More Shaping

So I ended up with a so-so solder joint and a few creases. How did you do? Using a ball peen hammer I tapped out some creases on a steel block and also on that pipe held in the vice. Many small taps are better than a few big ones. I then finished off the edge with a file taking care of that not perfect alignment at the bottom of the seam. Put the finished cone on a flat surface and shape until the outside edge touches all the way around.

Step 6: Making More Parts

Cut and bend 3 Shade Struts out of 12ga (3/32" dia.) galvanized wire to fit the Strut Template. Then cut a 39" length of 1/2" copper water pipe. A 1/2" to 3/4" copper reducing connector, a 1 1/4" length of 3/4" copper water pipe, and a 1/2" long 1/8" ip "nipple" lamp part with nut, complete the parts needed for the light Stem. The exploded view shows the arrangement of the parts.

Step 7: Assemble the Stem

Shine up the mating surfaces of both pipe pieces, connector, and nut. Check to see that the nut fits into the 1/2" end of the connector. The 'points' of the nut may need to be filed down. Flux everything. Drop the nut into the connector and then insert the 1/2" copper pipe. Insert the 3/4" copper pipe into the connector. Solder using a propane torch. Be a little heavy with the solder on the 1/2" side to allow solder flow to reach the nut. Be careful not to allow solder onto the nut threads. Thread and secure the nipple onto a candelabra lamp socket. I made 3 dimples around the perimeter with a punch and hammer. Screw the socket assembly into the lamp Stem. It should screw down tight and have about 1/8" showing. Unscrew the socket and set aside.

Step 8: Solder Shade Struts

Make a mark on the shade inside rim at a point directly opposite the seam. Set the mark at one end '1/3 Perimeter Line' on the template and roll to the other end. Make a mark. Repeat and check for even spacing. Duplicate the marks onto the outside of the shade. Sand and flux at the inside marks and the short leg of the struts. Clamp the struts to the inner shade. Transfer marks for 1/3 points around the reducing connector from the template. Maneuver the struts so that they are radially aligned and are in position by checking with the 1/3 marks on the reducing connector. Solder the struts to the shade. Tweak strut alignment to reducing connector. Solder one strut at a time to the reducing connector using a propane torch. Try to direct heat toward joint and solder the strut before the whole assembly melts.

Step 9: Drill Wire Exit Hole

Make a mark 12" up from the bottom of the stem. I then used a drill press vise to hold the stem. Center punch at the mark. Drill a 5/16" hole through just one wall. Carve hole with a knife blade to remove burrs and smooth.

Step 10: Wiring

Get a piece of black 18-2 lamp cord from HD or Lowes, etc. It will have a tough vinyl insulation jacket but still be very flexible. Pick a length that works for your installation. I got a 40 foot piece. Also pick up a black 'rubber' 2-prong plug. I started by sliding a 2" piece of shrink tubing down the lamp cord a few feet. Thread a stiff, thinnish wire down the stem from the top and fish it out through the drilled hole toward the bottom. Secure the end of the lamp cord to the wire and pull the cord through the drilled hole and out the top. Strip and tin the wire ends and then thread the 'top' one through socket and the 'bottom' one through the plug housing. Loop wires clockwise around screws and tighten down hard.

Step 11: Finishing Up

Discard the cardboard insulation tube if one came with the socket. Cut a piece of 3/4" shrink tubing (available at HD) to fit over the socket and fan with a low torch flame to shrink. Slide top plug housing down over the bottom section of the plug. Work the wire down the stem until the socket is fully screwed in. 'Untwist' the wire from the bottom. Slide the piece of shrink tubing that was put on earlier up along the wire and halfway into the exit hole. Shrink lightly with the torch. This will reinforce the insulation that is in contact with the metal stem.

Step 12: Testing & Installation

Screw in a C5, 5 watt, or C7, 7 watt, night light bulb; clear or white. I used a 7 watt clear. Plug it in! It ought to light up. Make a hole at your chosen garden location by pounding a pipe (or whatever) of a similar size to the lamp stem into the ground 10". Place the lamp stem into the hole. Pack dirt or rocks around. Do not try to pound or screw the lamp into the ground! Run the wire on top of the ground to your outlet or extension cord. Make sure that your outlet is Ground Fault Protected. Don't bury the wire. This way you will know where it is and avoid damaging it. Weaving it into ground cover plantings, covering with wood chips, stone, etc. will disguise it well enough.

Final disclaimer: Some may say that this lighting fixture, operating on 110 volt house electricity, will be dangerous compared to 'low voltage' lights. True.....especially when the light is on AND you chop into it. 110 volt outdoor lighting has always been the norm for holiday lighting and has proven, at least to me, that 'high voltage' outdoor lighting is really safe. Typical holiday lights and light strings are routinely placed out in the elements for months at a time, often connected together with regular indoor extension cords and multi-way plugs. This has been my favored method for the last 25 years, by the way. My garden lighting system, of 27 handmade lights, is hooked-up like this. Not UL approved. Not to code. Very functional, fast and flexible interconnections, and, so far, so safe. Avoid damaging the wire and give your connections basic protection from the elements by putting them under a deck, overhang, etc., and everything will be just fine. And.....make sure that your outlet is Ground Fault Protected!


Lamps and Lighting Contest 2016

Participated in the
Lamps and Lighting Contest 2016