Introduction: Modern Brushed-Aluminum-Look Tower Lamp (Basic Tools)
One of the most beautiful things that we can make ourselves is some sort of lighting. So I designed this lamp in a way that the most advanced tools that we will need are a drill and a jigsaw. This way more people will be able to make it following this instructable!
The core of this project is only one 50cm (20in) length rectangular PVC ventilation duct. After making this project, I can tell that you will be surprised (if you never worked with PVC) by how easily you can cut and sand this type of plastic.
When I was sketching the design of the lamp, I wanted something very modern looking, maybe even a little bit alien-ish. So if you place the lamp near the wall it makes a cool effect like a shooting beam of light like you see in the third photo. You can also incorporate the lamp with some sort of wall decorations as you see in the fourth photo. It really makes a unique look!
The biggest part of the light rays bounces from the ceiling and gives a soft and cozy feel and it looks awesome! (the complete opposite can be said about the molding job in the photo lol)
So, let’s make it?!
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- 12V drill https://amzn.to/2U5QQmL or
- 20V drill https://amzn.to/2MY3GRt
- Jigsaw https://amzn.to/2rg4uXx
- Jigsaw blades T101AO (82mm length) https://amzn.to/3p93d3I
- Speed square https://amzn.to/2Ee6lDh
- Cutting pliers https://amzn.to/3qTLNWC
- Hot-glue gun https://amzn.to/3AQjUmC
- Small files https://amzn.to/3viFbUG
- Awl https://amzn.to/2Z3bivO
Main Components & Materials:
- Rectangular PVC ventilation duct (local hardware store)
- LED Bulb 2700K A15 E26/E27 (local hardware store) or https://amzn.to/3lMzxHb
- Ceramic E26/E27 bulb socket (local hardware store)
- Power cable with switch (local hardware store)
- Concrete bag (local hardware store)
- 30-minute epoxy (local hardware store)
- RAL9006 color spray paint (local hardware store)
- Double-sided tape, packing tape, painters’ tape, 60-80grit and 400-600grit sandpapers, 5mm drill bit for wood
Step 1: PVC Duct to 90°
So first, we need a rectangular 110x55mm (4 ²¹/₆₄ x 2 ¹¹/₆₄ in) PVC ventilation duct of 50cm (~20in). It has a resistible temperature of 60C/140F, which will be plenty enough for this project.
We start with making it square as there are a lot of chances that it won't be. Mine was out of square a lot so I just cut the whole end with a jigsaw and sanded flush. Few important things to note:
- First, make sure the jigsaw blade you are using fits inside when it fully extends. I used a T101AO type blade whose total length is 82mm (3 ¹⁵/₆₄ in).
- Second - cut on Low to Medium jigsaw speed. PVC is a soft material it cuts very easily. High speeds can overheat the blade and plastic will start to gum up.
- Third, add painter's tape to the base of the jigsaw to make it softer and to avoid scratching the surface.
Another thing to note, when sanding, keep near a damp sponge to clean the sanding block from the plastic. My sanding block is just a scrap piece of plywood with glued 80grit sandpaper.
You can use your nail to clean the edges, it works great because plastic is soft.
Step 2: Cutting to Length
Next, we need to cut the duct to the size of 35.5cm (14in). Just like before, mark the lines, drill a hole and start cutting and then sanding to make it stand straight. DO NOT throw away the cut-off piece, because we will need it.
Step 3: Electronics
Before the next step, let's go over the electronics. We need a small A15 shape (width: 45mm = 1 ⁴⁹/₆₄ in) E26/E27 bulb, ceramic holder for it, and cable with a switch. No soldering, no wire stripping, or crimping. You will just need to screw two wires to the holder contacts with a screwdriver. The Neutral wire goes to the connector that is connected to the thread and Live to the connector that is connected to the tip at the bottom.
And like always, remember this is high AC voltage and if you have absolutely no clue what are you doing, please don't mess with it, because it can lead to a fatal injury.
Step 4: The Mold
You clearly saw in the preview that the light is slim and tall. That makes it very easy to fall. To make it stable we need something heavy at the bottom. Like a slab of concrete? That would work very well.
So to make it (if you didn't throw away that cut-off piece) we need to make a mold. The height of the mold should be around 50mm (2in) and we want to fill the concrete to 35-45mm (1 ³/₈ - 1 ⁴⁹/₆₄ in) height. You will end up with another cut-off piece, again don't throw it away.
So at this point firmly secure the wires to the socket, use double-sided, packing tape and some hot glue to fix everything in place. The reason that I am placing the socket to the side is because of the front cut-out design. When looking from the front the bulb must be on the right side.
Step 5: Filling It Up!
The concrete can be messy, especially the dust when you pour it into the mixing bucket. I suggest looking at your local store for low dust concrete that is made for smaller decorative projects.
Read the ratios on the bag if you are not sure how much water to add. I usually just eye-ball it by adding little by little more water and mixing in between until I get to the right state. Just make sure you don't add too much water, and just pour it like liquid into the mold, it will heavily reduce its strength.
When we are done adding it to the mold, cover it with a bag that it won't dry too fast while curing. It will take 2-3 days until we can take it out of the mold.
Step 6: Shaping the PVC Duct
While concrete is curing we have plenty of time to work on the duct. You looking at the first three pictures and probably saying what a hell is this. That was what I thought my final design template will be. But there was a huge problem. PVC is very soft plastic and bigger drill bits instantly digs deep into it making a very rough hole. So I change it to the design that you see in picture 5. I never thought drilling would be that hard and cutting with a jigsaw so easy. And I honestly like the angled line's design way better, but that is a personal preference.
When printing the template make sure to select the "Actual size" option (I am using Adobe Acrobat DC) and measure if it is actually 254mm or exactly 10in when printed. Then we need to cut off by the sidelines and cut out the top shape. We need to glue it to the back, mark the line, cut it with a jigsaw, and sand it until it looks good. It actually looks great, again PVC is really easy to shape!
Step 7: Holes
Again, please don't mind the old template in use. What we need to do here is to glue the one I provided in the middle with double side tape and punch center holes at the sides with an awl.
Before the next step, we should brush the outside of the plastic with 400grit paper. And by brushing I mean just sand in one straight direction. With no cut-outs and even surfaces, it is very easy to do most of the sanding that we will need to do. This will make the paint stick way better and will give a slightly brushed look.
To drill holes use a 5mm drill bit that is designed for wood. Those will have a tip in the middle to prevent the drill bit from wandering from the center point. Don't drill too fast and don't apply too much pressure.
I suggest first do some test drills on the sides of the leftover piece. You can also test how it will look with the paint applied on one side.
Step 8: Connecting the Holes
This step is obvious what we need to do. Just connect the lines with a pencil and start cutting. Ideally, you want to find something to insert inside that would act as a support while cutting. It is possible to cut without, but you almost can't see the cutline because of vibrations. And we need as much precision here as we can have.
Make sure you don't cut too much because we won't be able to fix that. Cut along the line leaving it visible. When the inside piece falls off then you can make shaving cuts to trim more. Be very careful and patient and again try not to shave too much. On one spot I went too far and it will be hard to hide it. Again patience is key here.
Step 9: SANDING
And now the part that we love so much - SANDING! I am joking, we all hate sanding, but it will make all the difference. The more effort you will put in the better it will look. Take one flat and one round file and start shaping. The results before and after, show a big difference. If you are not staring dead-close it looks like CNC milled part! The more patience you have the better it will look, it is as simple as that.
As we were maneuvering the part so much when cutting, we should re-brush the most visible and damaged parts.
Then wash it with water, dry up the part and check if it looks good.
Step 10: Out of the MOLD
To take the part out of the mold the easiest way is just to cut the PVC piece in half with cutting pliers. I immediately tried to check if it fits inside the lamp PVC part and it was a very tight fit and concrete wasn't cured to handle this step so I left with some chipped corners. This doesn't really matter because we will never look inside the lamp. So what we need to do is to sand sides and especially corners to make it fit better.
I left the concrete to cure out of the mold for one more day and then hot-glued the cables to it. To prevent concrete from dusting we can mix some 30-minute epoxy and cover only the top (sides will be glued with the same epoxy to the PVC housing).
Step 11: PAINTING
Cover the holes that you don't want to get painted and apply some RAL9006 color paint from a spray can. I suggest 3-4 thin coats and brushing the surface with folded A4 paper in between coats just to remove some minor imperfections.
Ideally, you want to cut the back opening for the wire before painting, but I did that in between the coats. However, realistically it doesn't even matter when because you can get excellent results even after painting.
If you want to intensify the brushed look even more you can brush the final painted surface very lightly with the dishwashing sponge's rougher side.
Step 12: Finishing the Lamp
To finish the lamp, we need to cut a bottom piece from the second cut-off piece that I again said to not throw away. Sand the side that will be glued to the concrete base. We already covered the socket contacts with hot glue, but this will be another layer of safety just in case.
And then the same with the inside bottom of the lamp housing. Make sure to sand it well with like 60-80 grit sandpaper until we get a very rough surface. The inside of the PVC ducts is very smooth and without sanding epoxy won't bond.
We need to mix some 30-minute epoxy and add it around the sanded walls. Then push on the cover and place the light on one side and start gluing the bottom. Just add epoxy on both surfaces, place the bottom cover, tilt the lamp at its original position and slide the cover down more. Leave it to cure ant that is it, we made it!
And YES, you can take out the bulb very easily if you have small to medium-sized hands. And if you have big ones, I guess you will need to ask a kid to change the bulb, hehe.
I hope you liked the project and the written instructions. Till next time!
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1 year ago
What a great project - I might just have to steal it and modify it slightly for woodshop! The concrete base is a brilliant touch.
1 year ago on Step 1
I am unable to locate a supplier of the rigid rectangular PVC in the US.
Reply 1 year ago
You could probably use round pipe.
That would make the side cuts easy, just run through a circular saw.
Raingo downspouts are 2 inch square. You could stick a length of 12 volt LED tape inside there. That would be OK for a table lamp.
Reply 1 year ago
I haven't looked for it yet, but if you can't find the air duct, try rectangular plastic down spouting. I don't know if it is PVC or ABS, but smaller LEDs won't produce much heat if that matters.
Reply 1 year ago
Plastic downspouts are corrugated to look like painted aluminum downspouts.
Reply 1 year ago
what about a railing post:
Reply 1 year ago
Those are very common in the EU and UK. But if you can't find them at all your local hardware stores near air ventilation ducting then I doubt they are used in the US. I bet you could find them on eBay, but the prices can be very inflated with shipping from abroad. For reference, I bought ~20in lentght duct for ~$2.
1 year ago
I love the minimal look! Having just finished costruction I think I have an exact same pipe somwhere in the attic. :D
Reply 1 year ago
1 year ago
Love the simplicity of the design! Great tips along the way too :D
Reply 1 year ago
I sketched multiple different designs along the way, but yes the minimalistic ones looked the best. Especially this one.