Introduction: DIY Drum Shade

About: I'm a husband and father that loves working in the garage. From sewing to welding to wrenching on engines and everything in between.

When we bought our house a few years ago, the dining room had a white ceiling fan with gold accents and tan blades. It's definitely not the most hideous ceiling fan in our house, but my wife and I have always hated it for several reasons. A) gold is not our thing. Even our wedding rings are silver in color. 2) there's no chains to switch the fan/light off and on. It's remote controlled. The previous owner had a little remote cradle screwed to the wall above the wall switch, but the plastic was discolored and it was downright hideous, so the remote found a new home in a less conspicuous place. The downfall is when you want to turn the fan on, you have to remember where you put the remote. C) My wife and I are both tall. Tall enough that we hit our heads on the lights when we walk under it. 4) My wife hates that [when it's on] there is a fan that immediately cools the hot food that was just placed on the table for dinner. 

After browsing the big box stores for a new light fixture, we figured out that we really liked the big drum style lights, but boy, they are PROUD of those things. Ranging from $150 on up, the one that we liked the most was close to $300. No thank you. I decided to build my own and I'll tell you how I did it. 

Step 1: Light Fixture

The shade is one thing, but you also need a light fixture to put the shade on. Our house was full of ugly lights, I decided to re-purpose a light that was in our master bedroom, but it was going to need a little makeover first. Sadly, I forgot to snap some pics of it before I started. It was a gold-bronze color. The arms that hold the light bulbs had a wavy curve to them and there were some curly "decorative accents" that were attached to those arms. Add the frilly frosted globes that housed the light bulbs and you can probably guess the age of the previous owners...the thing screamed "old lady". 

I started by cutting off the curly-cue accents. A coat of paint and it would have almost been decent, but the arms were spread out enough that the shade to cover them all would have needed to be 2' diameter. I didn't want anything that big, so I decided to reshape the arms. I completely disassembled the light and took the arms out to the garage, clamped them in my vise and heated the 'wavy' section until it was red hot. I had a Philips screwdriver that fit perfectly in the arms (hollow tubes that the wires go through), so I used that to pry and straighten the red hot tube. Once I could slide the screwdriver through the tube, I knew it was straight. 

I reassembled the light and painted it. I used Rustoleum 2X spray paint (~$5). I think the color was Antique Walnut. I was trying to match our new ceiling fan in the living room, but the Antique Walnut was too brown. I had some flat black spray paint that I lightly dusted over the walnut and the color came out near perfect. I was happy. 

Step 2: Building the Frame

The frame of your shade is going to be dependent on your fixture. Before I modified my fixture, I would have needed a very large shade. For this shade, I decided to use an 18" quilt hoop. This is not my original idea. I had seen this several different places online, but I did things a little differently. Most of the others I'd seen used posterboard or plexiglass to support the top and bottom hoops. An 18" quilt hoop has a circumference of over 56". Posterboard is only 28" long and plexiglass gets expensive if you start getting bigger than a 18"x24" piece. I was trying to avoid spending a fortune to make something that I could have easily paid a fortune to buy pre-made. I could have gone with smaller pieces and overlapped them, etc, but I didn't think I'd be happy with the final result. Walking around the craft store trying to find the "just right" material to fill my need, I walked past some wooden dowels. EUREKA!!! Just build it like a standard store bought lampshade. I bought two 1/4" wooden dowels @ 59¢ each and after a 50% off one item coupon for the quilt hoop, this parts bill totaled to $3.96. Grand total so far is under $10. That fits the budget. 

Before I go too much farther I want to mention, this was a trial and error creation. You may see some things in the following pics that didn't make the cut and were ultimately scrapped for other ideas. I'll add a 'What to avoid' step at the very end that talks about these things. 

I was originally going to buy two quilt hoops, but while standing in the store, I decided to just use the inner hoop for the top ring and the outer hoop for the bottom ring. This means that the outer hoop will need to be stripped of its clamping hardware and resized just a tad to match the circumference of the inner hoop.

When you remove the clamping blocks from the outer hoop, be gentle. I should have gotten a small tool to gently pry them off, but I chose the brute-force-rip-things-off-with-my-bare-hands method, which resulted in one side splitting 4" around the hoop. The staples that hold those blocks on are close to 1" long. They stayed firmly bedded in the blocks and pulled right through the side of the hoop. Doh!!! A little super glue and all is well.

Now that the blocks are gone, the outer hoop needs to be resized so the diameters are the same. Depending on what you are planning on covering your shade in, you may be able to get away leaving the hoops sized as is. I was planning on using a fabric with a pattern and knew that I'd want that pattern to be even all the way around, so my hoops had to be the same size. I stacked the outer hoop on top of the inner hoop and taped them together with painters tape. I started at one end of the outer hoop and taped every 3-4" inches. I marked where the end of the hoop needed to be cut and took the hoops back apart and cut it. I then used some tape (duct tape or aluminum tape) to join the two ends of the outer hoop together. I drilled a couple small holes on either side of the joint and used some stainless steel wire to reinforce the joint, but I don't think it was necessary. 

Time to figure out how tall you want your shade. I put a bulb in my light fixture and measured from the floor to the tip of the bulb. It was 12.5". I knew I didn't want the shade touching the ceiling and figured a 1.5"-2" gap would be good, so I decided 11" was the number. I cut the two dowels into as many 11" pieces as I could get - which was 6 pieces. 

I taped the hoops back together and marked across and numbered both hoops where I'd be attaching the dowels. This would help keep them vertical. I just eyeballed where to put the marks. They are all relatively equally spaced. I was originally going to reinforce the dowel attachments with some stainless wire, but after seeing how well the hot glue held them, I decided against using the wire. 

I used hot glue to attach all the dowels to one hoop first and then added the second hoop. Try to keep the dowels as vertical (perpendicular to the hoop) as possible.

Once the shade frame is complete you need to decide how your shade will attach to your light, before you cover the shade. I'll talk about a method that I abandoned at the end, but I ultimately just used 3 loops of heavy weight fishing string tied to the bottom hoop, that slide over the top of the light fixture arms. This was a test fit, shorten one loop, lengthen another, test fit again, adjust some more, test fit again type of procedure to make sure that the shade would be level. The string I used is very thick. I think I could possibly catch a shark or blue whale with it. Since it was so thick it was not very flexible, which made it hard to tie especially working over your head. I'd recommend using a much thinner line, I just had this stuff on hand so I used it. I also had to make sure that once everything was tied, that I could still slide the loops off of the fixture. 

Step 3: Covering the Frame

To cover the frame, we went with some upholstery cloth. It is sold by the yard in 54" widths. I needed at least 57" to wrap all the way around the frame. If you go with a pattern, pick one that will be easy to match up on a seam, or a pattern that you won't notice a seam (vertical stripes?). Since my shade is 11" tall, I knew I could get by with 1 yard of fabric and still have the pattern oriented how we wanted it. With a 40% off coupon, this came to $12.92. Grand total  for the project is right at $20. 

Once home, I cut the fabric in half. I laid the pieces right sides together and matched up the pattern as best as I could and pinned them together. I marked where I wanted my seam so that when I unfolded the halves, the pattern would be mirrored on each side of the seam.

I stitched the two pieces together and then pressed the seam flat. Press the seam from the backside of the fabric first and then press the pattern side. This will give you a nice flat seam. I had about 1" of fabric on each side of the seam. I knew that you'd be able to see a wide dark stripe when the light shines through the fabric, so I marked and cut a 1/4" allowance on each side of the seam, and then pressed the seam flat again. 

I now had 106" of fabric length, but I only needed ~57". Since the pattern matched pretty well at the seam, I wasn't too concerned with that seam being on the more visible side of the shade. I decided to wrap the frame, beginning in the middle of my fabric at the seam. I put the seam at a dowel to keep the number of "vertical shadows" minimal. I wrapped half way around the frame, ensuring that the pattern was running true with the top/bottom edge of the frame and temporarily fastened the fabric to the hoops with paper clips. Once I got about half way around I went back to the seam and started wrapping the opposite direction. I cut the ends so they would overlap 3-4". I eventually only used ~1" overlap at one of the dowels. 

I decided to mock it up to see the light pattern and light output. It was definitely darker than the ceiling fan lights were, but it was kind of cozy too. 

At this point, I experimented with using posterboard inside the fabric to "reflect" more light. It looked terrible because of the overlapped pieces of posterboard. I also changed my mounting/hanging method because I couldn't get my original idea to hang level.

Once all the nitty-gritty details were worked out, I cut the fabric ends to their final length, pressed a nice crease in both ends of the fabric and started gluing the fabric to the frame. I again started at the sewn seam and worked my way out. I also just glued to one hoop all the way around so I could pull the fabric taut as I glued to the opposite hoop. I didn't have enough hands to take pics during this part.

WORD of advise: if you use hot glue (especially the low temp stuff), avoid putting glue on the wide face of the hoop. This stuff starts to cool and harden immediately, so if you work too slow, you'll get lumps which can be seen in contrast of the wide face. If you use glue on the narrow face, you don't notice the lumps in the fabric on the thin edge, AND it'll allow you to tuck the ends between the fabric and the hoop on the inside of the shade. 

The excess fabric on the top and bottom were marked and cut about 1/4" wider than the hoops. I glued to the wide face on the inside of the hoops and used an old credit card to tuck the end between the fabric and hoop, trimming around the dowels and hanging "apparatus" as needed. 

Step 4: Finishing Up

I was used the brightness of four 13W CFL bulbs in the ceiling fan. This light only uses 3 bulbs, plus we are 'shading' that light as well, so it was a bit darker than I was hoping it'd be. I bought some 23W CFL bulbs and it improves things drastically. It cost me another $20, but I'm very happy with how this turned out. It's also kind of thrilling that I'll be able to walk anywhere in my house without having to worry about gashing my head open on a light globe that hangs too low. 

I had originally planned on using some frosted plexi-glass on the bottom. I can buy a longer lamp nipple that will thread into the bottom of the light fixture. The plexi-glass would be cut to fit just inside the bottom hoop, and have a hole in it to slide over the lamp nipple.  I could use a nut on the top side as a depth stop and the existing fennial to hold the plexi-glass to the fixture. The painted fixture and the clear fishing line don't look as bad as I imagined. And you can't really see them unless you're sitting at the table and looking up (which is very rare). 

Step 5: What to Avoid and Ideas That Didn't Work

-Unless you don't mind the shadows caused by overlapping fabric, avoid piecing together mutliple pieces of posterboard, paper, plastic, fabric, etc when wrapping your frame.

-My original idea for mounting/hanging the shade was exactly like something you'd see on a standard table lamp. I tried to recreate it by drilling some holes in a washer and using a couple wire coat hangers that had been straightened as the supports. I tried to make the supports exactly the same length, but they were all just a tad different in length. Also, the holes I drilled in the washer were just a hair too big, which allowed the supports to wiggle in the holes. Because of these two things, I was not able to get the shade to hang level.

I think this method could be used if you could make the supports identical (and maybe incorporate one more support) and then weld, braze, or solder the supports to the washer for a firm connection. I tried using hot glue @ the washer, but it wasn't up to the task. I almost tried soldering them together, but I didn't want to risk accidentally catching the hoops on fire. That's probably why most lamp shades are wire framed, not wood framed. 

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