Introduction: Dining Room Light - When You Can't Afford It, MAKE IT!

About: I'm an engineer but I prefer to consider myself a doitneer. My style of making is more of a seat-of-your-pants approach. Get it done, then figure out how you could improve it next time - but there usually is…

After I completed the Garage door table, my wife and I wanted to shed some light on it.  The fixture we had was something I had installed when I built our dining room addition several years ago.  It needed replaced with a more "interesting" look - one that would match the table.  The light we liked was a little too expensive, especially for how simple it was, so I got the task of making one!  As it turns out, the look is pretty much the same (only better) at about a quarter the cost!

I came up with a light similar to the one we liked, but would be more custom and would match our decorating style a little better.  It would have 5 pendant lights and each would be a different length to create a random staggered pattern.  Move on to the next steps see how I created it!

Step 1: Finding the Right Base

Originally I was just going to buy a 2 x 6 and use that as the base plate, but I wanted to re-use something thus saving a little more money and be a little more green.

Last year I had tore down part of our kids' old wooden play set as it wasn't very safe anymore, and waddaya know, there in our storage shed was the lumber I salvaged!  In amongst that lumber was a 5/4" board the swings had hung from! This worked out perfectly since it was thick enough to hide the wiring, but thinner than a regular 2x4.  Now all I had to do was make it into a light fixture!

Step 2: Shaping, Cleaning, Flaming, Staining and Sealing

To begin the transformation of an old swing set board to a light fixture I had to clean it up.  This meant I had to remove the old rusted hardware, cut it down to length, rout out a channel down the center of the backside, shape the saw-cut edges, texture it, stain it, and finally seal it.  
  • I cut the board down to 48" making sure to keep the holes from the monkey bars symmetrical (just because I'm that way).
  • I routed out the channel using my router table fence set to just under half the width of the board and cut one side, flipped the board and cut the other side.  I then moved the fence in, and repeated the process until the channel was about 1-1/2" wide.
  • I shaped the sharp edges with my trusty Harbor Freight belt sander. I also used my wood rasp to remove any other splinters or rough places.
  • To texture the wood, I "flamed" it.  Flaming the wood means to take a torch to it, get it nice and charred, then scrub off the charred wood fibers to deepen the wood grain.  I used this method on my table legs.  
  • Stained it.
  • Clear coated it.

Step 3: Pipe Caps and Black Pipe

Just drilling a hole and routing the cords through the board would have been OK, but it would have been a little plain.  I like the industrial look of black pipe, so I bought 5 each of 1/2" Close Black Pipe Nipples and 1/2" Black Pipe Caps.  These allowed me to have a decorative transition of the cords from the board.  In order to drill 1/4" holes through the caps, I sprayed a bit of WD-40 into each cap to act as a cutting oil, then used a larger drill bit to make a "center drill".  Then I completed the hole with my 1/4" drill bit.  

Once they were all assembled and rough edges removed, I screwed the caps onto the nipples and then drilled 9/16" holes through the board into the channel so I could screw them in and run the wire through them.

Step 4: Wiring It Up

Thanks to Ikea, I found the perfect light cord set.  (They were black instead of white like the link shows)  

I cut the outlet plugs off each cord and threaded one cord through each cap.  Once I got them set to the length I liked, I wrapped the cord with electrical tape so they would have a little extra protection against wear on the pipe caps.  I wrapped them at a taper so the tape would actually come through the hole in the cap and provide a stop as the layers got thicker.  Once all the cords were through, I taped them together neatly to keep everything clean and organized in the groove before hanging it.

Step 5: Install It

Our rafters are 24" on center, so I pre-drilled the holes at that distance apart.  The nice thing about making your own light is that you are not stuck with a centered mount or whatever it would be from the factory.  I wanted the light to be positioned directly over our table and since our table is not in the center of our dining room, I was able to hang it more towards one side of the dining room to accommodate that position.

Disclaimer - I am not giving specific directions on how to wire your light.  Please make sure the breaker is shut off and make sure you know what you are doing before attempting to work with electricity.

Once I was ready to hang it, I attached all the wires to the supply wires with red wire nuts.  Since the wires were 16 or 18 gauge, I could easily tie all 5 wires plus the 12 gauge supply wire together in one nut.  (total 2 wire nuts - 1 for hot and 1 for neutral).  I had my wife help hold the whole light fixture up - bless her heart and strong arms- so I could wire it and the screw it to our rafters in the ceiling.  

Note - Unfortunately I got too busy wiring and hanging the light to take pictures, but it was pretty straight forward.

Step 6: Plug the Holes!

The screw holes were unsightly so I had to find a way to plug them.  I wanted a distressed look and wanted something that could easily be removed in case we wanted to take our light down.  I found some old rusty bolts in my collection of junk that were the proper diameter, all I need to do was cut their length down a bit.  They also needed to be cleaned up as I didn't want them to look too dirty and rusty, so a soak in some white vinegar for a couple days help loosen the rust enough to rub some of it off but wouldn't completely restore the original metal.

Since the board was so weathered, my holes were a little sloppy and some of the bolts wouldn't stay snug in them.  I simply wrapped them with teflon tape and made up the difference.  They fit right in and finished the look quite nicely. 

Step 7: All Finished!

We found some large 5" clear glass globe-style bulbs that made the look complete.  

As luck would have it, I could also use the globes from our old light in case we ever wanted to change the look to a more contemporary one.  For now we will go with the minimalist industrial look.  It matches our table nicely!

Thanks for looking and please vote for me!

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