Water Cannon Lamp




Introduction: Water Cannon Lamp

About: I'm a DIY enthusiast and will try my hand at anything. My main passion is working with timber but I'll use anything to hand. I have made all sorts from bowls to tables, windows to mirrors. To make something yo…

Many years ago my dad was a fire fighter and at one time throughout his career he skippered numerous fireboats his brigade was in charge of.

Throughout working in the fire service he picked up various odds and ends of fire brigade related materials and objects, one of which was a nozzle off one of the water cannons from one of the old fire boats.

After it had been sat in the garage, forgotten about for over 20 years I decided to take it out and transform it into something useful once more.

Step 1: Materials & Equipment

Making this lamp wasn't a big job compared to some of my other projects, but I did use a fair bit of equipment to get it finished.


  1. Electric Drill (Mains Powered)
  2. Wood Turning Lathe and Variety of turning tools
  3. Abrasive Nylon Paint Removal Wheel
  4. Sandpaper Wet & Dry Various grits
  5. Copper Pipe Spring Bender
  6. Pipe Cutter
  7. Wire Wool
  8. Wire Strippers
  9. Electric screwdriver


  1. Pine Plank
  2. Ash Round
  3. Oak Block
  4. Lighting Cable
  5. UK Mains 3 Pin Plug
  6. In Line Switch
  7. 15mm Copper Pipe
  8. Metal Polish
  9. Epoxy Glue
  10. Clear Wax
  11. Bulb
  12. Brass Bulb Holder
  13. 90 Degree Copper Bend
  14. Mirror Screws

Step 2: Cleanup

This thing is made up of a solid brass nozzle and copper shaft and its a substantial piece of kit that's top heavy. When on the fireboat it was painted bright red to match the rest of the boat, but over the decades this paint had scratched off and the copper underneath oxidised and the brass tarnished.

I know many people out there like this look and would have simply left it how it was with just a bit of cleaning to remove any dirt. I however wanted to show of the copper and brass and so set about bringing the shine back.

To begin removing all the paint and dirt I used a nylon paint removal wheel fixed in the chuck of my mains electric drill, these nylon wheels are extremely effective at removing material and my drill allowed me to work along the surface of the nozzle quickly. The shape of the wheel also allowed me to get into the curves and crevices around the cannons nozzle and round the base of the shaft.

The nylon wheel will wear down as you go and the speed it deteriorates will depend on how much pressure you apply and how much material you want to remove, to strip the cannon I only used one wheel but they're inexpensive and a good option compared to a steel bristled wheel, which I initially tried and got no where with as it removed no paint. (If you like the old look however with the paint and tarnish intact the steel wheel is a good option to just clean off some of the dirt ready for waxing.)

Once I'd got the majority of the old paint and tarnish off the bright metal underneath was now shining through. To finish off the cannon I used fine grit wet & dry sandpaper along with some metal polish to finely smooth the surface of the metal and remove any areas of paint and dirt I'd missed with the wheel.

After a good 15-20 minutes of sanding I'd removed what I wanted and was happy with how the cannon now looked.

Step 3: Nozzle Finial

To turn this now glowing cannon in to a lamp I needed a base and something to plug the nozzle that I could attach light fittings to.

For the finial at the top of the lamp that holds the copper pipe in place I used an oak block and turned it down on my wood lathe.

To begin I measured the inside and outside diameter of the nozzles aperture. On my oak block I marked the centre of the piece at either end by drawing two diagonal lines from corner to corner, where they intersect is the centre. Using a compass set at half the width of the diameters I transferred the outermost diameter measurement to one end of my oak block, then the smaller inner diameter was marked on the other end of the block.

Next I mounted the oak in my lathe between two centres positioned on the centre lines I drew earlier, I adjusted my tool rest up to the block and set the lathe away spinning to check the balance. After checking it was fine I used a gouge tool to remove material from the block down to the larger outer edge of my diameter line I'd marked on one end.

I then stopped the lathe and measured half way down the block length ways and drew a centre line, now starting the lathe back up I removed material on the left hand side of the line until I was down to my smaller diameter line on the other end of the block. I now had something that resembled a 'T' shape, the smaller end would slot inside the nozzle on my cannon and the larger side sit out of the top, resting on the lip between the inner and outer diameters of the nozzle.

To finish the finial I used a square and 45 degree edge chisel to form a dome shape on the larger end of the 'T' shape. Next stopping the lathe I switched out my revolving centre in the tail stock for my hole centre, a hollow centre that allows me to push a boring rod through it and drill a hole in the end of my block. I used the rod to bore a 10mm hole all the way through the block.

Next using increasing grits of sandpaper I finished the finial until it was smooth and any tear outs and tooling marks had been removed. Using clear wax and an old rag, while the lathe was still spinning I applied the wax to seal and protect the wood bringing out its grain at the same time, I applied 3 coats letting it dry for around 5-10 minutes in between each coat.

I then removed the finial from the lathe and using a 15mm Forstner bit drilled into my 10mm hole half way through the block. This allowed my 15mm copper pipe to fit snugly into the finial and hold it in place, the 10mm hole underneath stopped the pipe slipping all the way through the block but provided a route for the cable.

Step 4: Base(s)

Initially on this project I turned one small base for the lamp to sit on, however because the nozzle is made from solid brass the cannon is top heavy, combine that with the extra height I added and a small dent in the middle of the shaft causing the cannon to be slightly bent, it meant that the lamp was very precarious when it was finished and was prone to falling over.

To overcome this I turned a second larger base to sit underneath the other one giving it a larger footprint and hence more stability.

For the original small base I used a round of ash I had and marked the centre of it on both faces. I measured the diameter and thickness of the base plate on the cannon and using a compass transferred the diameter onto one face of the ash round. Using a mounting plate screwed on the other side of the ash I fixed it to the headstock of my lathe.

Again after checking the balance I used my gouge to remove material to my desired outer shape, Basically I just rounded the edges over and created a slight taper to make it a softer looking piece.

Next I turned my attention to the face of the ash where I'd drawn the diameter, I wanted the base of the cannon to sit flush with the top of my ash. So using a square end chisel I removed material inside the diameter circle cutting in to the wood to a depth the same as the thickness of the cannons base. I removed a little material at a time and kept checking until I had the depth I needed. If I'd gone too deep I could of always just refaced the ash by removing the excess material with my chisels it would have just meant a thinner base.

I then removed my base from the lathe and checked the fit on the cannons brass foot, thankfully it fitted snug first time with the top edge of the brass foot sitting flush with my top edge on the base. I could now re-attach my base to the lathe ready to finish it.

As with the finial I used increasing grit papers to remove any marks and blemishes and applied wax in the same way as before to protect the base.

Then removing the base from the lathe again I drilled two holes, one through the centre of the base using my largest 35mm Forstner bit and one 8mm through the side of the base exiting into the large 35mm one I'd just drilled. These holes were to allow the power cable through the base (The large 35mm one just allows that extra bit of manoeuvrability when running the cable as I had to bend it at a 90 degree angle up the shaft)

As I said earlier originally I only turned the one base, but due to stability issues I had to turn a second larger one.

The method was pretty much exactly the same except I didn't need to hollow out part of this base for the cannon to sit in. However due to the large diameter of this base it wouldn't fit on my bench top lathe as it was. Luckily I've a swivel head stock attachment on my lathe allowing me to rotate it so the work piece hangs off the bench, allowing me to turn larger diameter pieces.

For this base I used a large, heavy plank of pine and using a compass drew a large circle on one face. Using my band saw I then roughly cut around the circle keeping as close to the line as possible.

Once I had the circle cut out I used a screw plate to attach the pine blank onto my chuck in the headstock on my lathe. Again I checked the balance, moved the tool rest up to the edge and set the lathe away.

Using my large gouge tool I removed material around the edge until the pine was an even circle, I then rounded over the top and bottom edges to give a nice smooth profile and a more pleasing look. I could then use sandpaper to remove any tooling marks (much easier on a softwood) and apply my chosen finish, again I used clear wax like I had on the ash applied with an old tea towel and given 3 coats allowing 5-10 minutes drying in between each coat.

I then removed the base from the lathe and took off the screw plate.

Step 5: Swirly Bendy Copper Thing

This next stage of the build was by far the hardest and was where I designed and made the light fitting for the lamp.

The main body of it was made from a single piece of 15mm copper tubing and I had an idea of bending it into a kind of question mark shape with the bulb at the centre.

Unfortunately I don't own a pipe bender which would probably of made this whole process much easier and less stressful. Instead I used a log, a spring bender and a lot of brute force. The problem with bending copper pipe to any kind of angle is that as soon as you do the copper kinks at the bend and ruins the look of the pipe. The idea of the spring bender is it slides inside the pipe to the point at which you want to bend so when you start to bend the pipe the spring inside supports the pipes wall and stops the kink from forming, the spring can then be pulled out and the whole process started again.

My design however was more than a simple 100-170 degree bend that allows the spring to be easily inserted and removed but more a continuous spiral kind of shape. I started out by tying a thin rope to one end of the spring, thin enough so that it would go inside the pipe along with the spring, then loading the spring in one end of the pipe I laid it over the top of a large log and applied pressure forcing the pipe to follow the curve of the log which started forming my spirals curves, I would then move the spring further down the pipe and continue the process. However because of the circular nature of my design the spring started to get stuck in the pipe where I was bending and I couldn't retrieve it. I tried bending another piece of pipe in the same way without the spring but it kinked instantly and looked terrible so I abandoned that idea and went back to attempting the spring method.

I managed to retrieve the spring by pulling on the rope extremely hard until it surfaced, then using a fresh piece of pipe reloaded the spring and began bending round the log again, this time not bending the pipe as acutely so the spring was able to move further down the pipe.

To get my spiral shape I gradually wound the pipe round the log changing to a smaller diameter log as my spiral neared its centre. So as not to damage the pipe when it was underneath the log I used an old offcut of carpet to cushion it against the floor as my first attempt got all scratched and marked.

It took a lot of trial and error and a few hand bends without the spring to get my final shape (unfortunately one hand bend produced a kink but I was so exhausted by this point I let it slide) but in the end I had something resembling my design.

Because I couldn't get a tight 90 degree bend at the end of my spiral to hold the bulb in place I instead used a 15mm copper elbow with the solder already inside the joint. I simply placed this over the end of my spiral and using a blow torch heated the joint so the solder inside melted and joined the pipe and elbow together.

I let the whole thing cool before giving it a good clean down with some wire wool to remove any tarnish.

Step 6: Attaching Electrics

The next stage was to put my cable and bulb holder in place. To begin I fed the 3 core lighting cable through my newly formed copper spiral until it poked out the other end. Then using a sharp knife and wire strippers I exposed the copper core on each of the 3 inner wires ready to fix into my bulb holder.

To attach the bulb holder to my copper spiral I used a rounded plastic nut the same diameter as the inside of the elbow and a short piece of threaded pipe (you can get these lighting kits in DIY store, I got mine from B&Q) that screwed into both the nut and base of the holder.

I then fed the cable through the nut which I'd attached to the threaded pipe and used a two part epoxy glue to secure the nut/pipe assembly inside the end of the elbow so it wouldn't move when I screwed the holder in.

Using a small electricians flat head screwdriver I then secured each exposed wire in the cable on to the correct terminals on the bulb holder. (A tip here is to twist the exposed copper cores before inserting them into the terminals if you cores are multi strand as mine were)

I could now slowly pull the cable from the other end of the spiral to take up the slack and screw the bulb holder down onto my glued nut/pipe assembly until tight.

The other end of the cable sticking out of the copper pipe was then fed through the hole in my oak finial, through the brass nozzle, down the shaft of the cannon and fed through the small base so the cable now protruded through the 8mm hole I drilled in the side of the base earlier.

The next stage was now to assemble all the components so I could cut the cable to length

Step 7: Assembly

Before I could fininsh the electrics with a switch and plug I first needed to assemble all the parts so I could determine cable length.

Firstly I pushed the end of my spiral into the hole on my oak finial, as I'd drilled this hole to fit snug I had no need to glue the pipe in place as it fit very securely without.

Once that was in place I next had to glue the lamp head if you like to my solid brass cannon nozzle. Because I was fixing oak onto brass I again opted for a two part epoxy glue as it works across materials. I mixed up the glue and ran a bead round the lower half of my oak and the top rim of the nozzle, I then pushed the finial inside the nozzle to hold it in place and kept it held there for 5-10 minutes until my epoxy set.

To give this part extra strength (Its top heavy) I cut a 'C' shaped piece of plywood that fit inside the nozzle on the underneath of the oak finial. This piece fit around the cable and pushed up inside the nozzle allowing me to get two screws through the 'C' shape and into the base of the oak clamping it tight against the taper of the brass nozzle.

I could now screw the nozzle back on to the copper shaft and screw the shaft base to my wooden ash base using brass capped mirror screws. I didn't have to use mirror screws but the little caps matched the rest of the lamp and hid the otherwise ugly steel screw heads.

I could now pull on the loose end of cable to get rid of all the slack hidden inside the cannon and cut it to my desired length.

Step 8: Final Electrics

Although my bulb holder already had a switch incorporated into it I decided to also put an inline switch on for ease of use. These are pretty simple to fit its just a case of cutting the cable where you want the switch to go and using a knife and wire strippers expose the cores of both ends of the cable where you cut through.

Expose the copper cores again as for the bulb holder and using the flat head screwdriver secure the ends to the correct terminals inside the switch. Most switches, plugs and other simple electronic devices these days have little wiring diagrams inside if you're not sure which wire goes where but its straightforward enough.

Once the switch was inline the last thing to fit was the 3 pin plug. Follow the exact same routine as before to expose the copper cores of the cable and secure each one to the correct terminal inside the plug.

Screw it all back together and we're almost done.

Step 9: Finishing Touches

To protect the metal and stop it from all tarnishing again I gave it all a rub over with wire wool before applying a coat of clear furniture wax. This will stop the air coming into contact with the metals surface and oxidising it and can be re-applied as necessary.

The last thing was to fit a bulb, I toyed with a few different ideas for the bulb, old antique style ones, attaching a standard bulb with a small star shaped lantern, coloured bulbs, but in the end I chose something called a Sun Bulb. This was a large 150mm bulb made up of crushed coloured glass (pale yellow in my case) to form a mini sun. It emits a bright white light and the shape of it fit perfectly inside the curve of my copper spiral.

All that was left to do was position the lamp in my dining room and switch it on.

(Obviously after I'd done this the first time I realised the stability issues and went back and made the second larger base)

But it worked and looks amazing in my dining room. The only thing I'd really change is probably the white lighting cable as it looks a bit to new and modern compared to the old cannon. In the future I'll probably replace it with some more in keeping fibre covered cable and maybe try and find an old switch.

Unfortunately as with most of my projects I try and document I get caught up in the building of it and forget to take photos of the stages as the project progresses. so in this instructable there are a few images of the assembly stages missing, hopefully it doesn't detract too much. That's for this project hopefully you've enjoyed reading through and like the finished lamp let me know what you think, cheers guys!

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    5 years ago

    This looks very cool! Awesome lamp!