Introduction: Mid-Century Modern Yard Lamp

This project shows how I created an oversized outdoor lamp for my back yard using low voltage landscape lighting and inexpensive parts. It was inspired by some of the venues in Berlin like Sisyphos but adapted to the mid-century modern stylings of this 50's home.

Step 1: Positioning the Lamp

The first step is to decide where to locate this lamp. That is primarily a matter of preference and opportunity and I did not take pictures of this process. For my purposes, I used a post hole digger to dig a hole about 32 inches into the ground, placed in some pea gravel at the bottom of the hole then put an 8 foot 4x4" pole in it. Using a level and scrap sticks to stabilize it, I made sure it was vertical. After that, adding a bag of cement and mixing per bag instructions with water in the hole made it solid. There are many much better tutorials on setting a fence post out there, but these are the basic steps. You may wish to add your lamp to an existing piece of hardware like a fence instead of starting from scratch.

Step 2: Cut and Weld the Frame

Decide what shape of lamp you want. This is a matter of preference. I have a mid-century modern home and that era of lamp appeals to me. I went with a shape that optimizes the 10ft (120 inch) pieces of rebar that I had. After sketching some lamp designs up, I decided on a flat box shape that's 40 inches across each side and 20 inches tall. I used a cutting wheel to cut the rebar to consistent lengths.

Before welding, there were 8 pieces of 40 inch rebar and 4 pieces of 20 inch rebar for the corners. The two diagonal pieces were cut later but doing math, they should be sqrt(40^2 + 40^2) which is 56.57 inches. Lay the pieces out on flat ground with bricks or scrap material and make sure they're square and level with each other. If you have a welding magnet to hold the corner pieces square while you weld, put those in place and measure diagonally across the square to verify the shape is consistent.

Using a cheap flux core welder (or better if you have it), weld the corners together. Keep in mind that if you get the sides of a weld unevenly heated, the rebar will start to bend as it cools down at the joint. It's best to tack around each weld before coming back to fill it in more securely. There are better introductions to welding than this, so I won't dwell too much on welding technique. I used a small corner magnet along with a small level to attach the vertical rods.

After welding together the initial box, I welded on the diagonal rods across the top. Be sure to verify that everything is square before getting too far into it.

After cleaning the welds with a grinder and wire brush, I put a coat of spray paint on most of it. Be sure to cover the welded joints completely as they tend to rust more. One mistake I made was painting over where the X crosses in the middle. Leave that unpainted as that's where the frame will be welded to the rest of the lamp later.

Step 3: The Light Source

I chose 4 10w LED lamps that work with my 12v 120w landscape lighting power supply. Since I wanted light in all directions, I zip tied all 4 lamps to each other so light would project outward from the center. I bundled all of the wires together for all 4 lamps into a single 2-wire feed that was about 1 foot long. This will make it much easier to wire up after it's on the top of a pole.

I've attached them to 3/4in threaded plumbing pipe. This adds flexibility if I ever change my mind about the lamp dimensions. The flanges on top and bottom are easy to attach by just screwing them in. Later, I will weld the top flange to the X of the frame where the cross bars meet in the middle.

Always first test your electronics while they're on the bench and not while you're up on a ladder.

Step 4: Test Fitting

Here, I did a test fitting, connecting the light fixture with zip ties to verify positioning. Having the lights zip-tied to the pole in the middle means I can adjust how high they are later without too much effort.

Step 5: Weld the Top Flange to the Frame

I did not capture images of this step, but after test fitting the center light pole, the top flange needs to be welded to the X of the frame. This involves cutting out a tiny section of rebar so that all pieces of the X lay flat. I kept one cross bar solid and took a piece out of the other so it layed flat across the flange. You can see this in the final pictures of the top. I rested the flange on a scrap piece of 4x4 wood and made sure everything else was level. Be careful not to get too much slag down in the threads of this flange otherwise the pipe will have trouble screwing back into it.

After cleaning up the weld, spray paint it before final assembly of the light fixtures. After that, it's ready to skin.

Step 6: Wrap the Lampshade

I looked all around for a good semi-opaque material and settled on fence weave, a product used to block the view through chain link fence. It's rugged outdoor material that should last a few years. I used a cross weave back and forth, with several re-tensioning and spacing passes until it looked right. My hands were cramping by the end of this process.

Step 7: Mount the Light on Top of a Pole

The final step is to screw the lamp down onto the top of a pole. My flanges had 3 screw holes that made this fairly easy. I used decking screws but any weather resistant screws would work. The end of the pole was uneven and I used large wide washers to get it level. You'll need to wire it up to a landscape lighting power supply and run the power lines safely around to it. Your power supply will need to have enough capacity for the number of lights you have on it. Mine ha a light sensor that turns them on when it gets dark.

Total cost for this project excluding tools is around $100 for the lamp and another $50-75 for power supply and wiring. Other tools include a post hole digger, cheap welder and safety gear amount to around $200.