This project will take you through all of the necessary steps to design and build your own art deco light fixture. You can follow my configuration as closely as you want or vary it to suit yourself. For example, the dimensions can be up to you as well as the shade design patterns, number of light bulbs etc. I chose redwood and aluminum as the basis of my design but you can substitute materials as you like to make it "your" design.
Although a little tedious to make because of the complexity of the aluminum shade panels, your design can be as simple as you like. You could even buy perforated metal for example and not have to cut a design at all. The great thing is that results can be spectacular and really become the center piece of the area you wish to illuminate. Mine surely did as you can see from the photos.
Please consider one thing about this design through out the project so that you will always know what part configuration goes where. The shade panels are asymmetric so you will note that as you look at the light, every panel is the reverse of the one next to it. So you make 10 panels all the same but as you assemble the light, you install a panel and then flip the next one over and install it as you work your way around the light. If you make a simpler symmetric design you will also not need to have all of the extra part configurations that are necessary.
I HOPE THAT YOU ENJOY WORKING ON THIS PROJECT AND TAKE GREAT PRIDE AND SATISFACTION WITH YOUR RESULTS.
Step 1: Bill of Materials:
Bill of material and known sources:
- (10) 6” x 8” 16 ga. 6061 aluminum shade panels (onlinemetals.com)
- (6), 3 ¼” x 9” x ¼” thick wood vertical side pieces (your choice of what type of wood you use)
- (3), 3 ¼” x 7 3/8” x 5/8” thick (choose a thicker dimension if you want) wood horiz. top pieces
- (2), 1 3/8” x 7 3/8” x 1/4” thick wood end top pieces
- (8), 1 5/8” x 9” x ¼” thick vertical corner pieces made from (4) 3 1/4" x 9" (see drawings) (Will assemble along with the 2 end top pieces to form the 2 wooden end assemblies)
- (1), 4” x 30” 16 ga. 6061 aluminum top bracket (onlinemetals.com)
- (40), 3/8” dia. X 3/8” long x 3/16 bore aluminum spacers (aluminumspacers.com)
- (58), #8-32 x 7/8” stainless steel button head cap screws (http://www.albanycountyfasteners.com/Button-Socket-Head-Screw-8-32-304-Stainless-Steel-p/12000.htm)
- (40), #8-32 stainless steel nuts (https://www.albanycountyfasteners.com/Hex-Machine-Nuts-304-Stainless-Steel-p/125000.htm)
- (40), #8 stainless steel lock washers (https://www.albanycountyfasteners.com/Lock-Washer-Split-Ring-304-Stainless-Steel-p/108000.htm)
- (10), #4 x ½” stainless steel phillips head wood screws (https://www.albanycountyfasteners.com/Wood-Screws-Phillips-Flat-Head-Stainless-Steel-4-p/3150000.htm)
- (2), clevis brackets for suspending the fixture (your choice, buy or make your own)
- (2), stainless steel wire lanyards (your choice of length, I used 18”) (msc.com)
- (4), 60 watt edison light bulbs (your choice of wattage and configuration) (lowes)
- (4), phenolic or plastic non-switching E-26 lamp sockets (your choice of color) (1000bulbs.com)
- (4) light cord strain reliefs (vintagewiresupplyco.com)
- (10) ft. 18 ga. Rayon covered twisted pair wire (ebay, any color you want)
- Electrical tape
- (2) Wire nuts (hardware store)
- (1), ceiling mounting canopy (your choice of style/color)(lowes)
- (4), wire pass through grommets; snap type plastic Heyco bushing 1/4" ID (antiquelampsupply.com)
- (1), package Avery 8 ½” x 11” label paper (officedepot.com)
- 120 and 220 grit sanding discs for an electric hand sander (hardware store)
- Wood glue
- Clear Danish oil finish and sealer (Hardware store)
- Clear lacquer or acrylic spray finish (hardware store)
Step 2: Drawings
This PDF file should contain all of the drawings and detail information you need to successfully complete this project.
Step 3: Parts Identification Reference Picture
This picture will hopefully uncomplicate what all of the parts are for.
Step 4: Design and Cut Your Shade Pattern
The aluminum shade panels can have any pattern you want that will allow the desired amount of light through and be artistically pleasing to you. You can make the pattern complex or simple depending mostly on how comfortable you are with cutting and or drilling the pattern (Remember that the design must be cut from the outside edges in unless you use a table type jig saw and can start with a "key" hole.). I am no miracle worker but was able to cut all of my patterns on a small band saw and drill the holes with a small drill press with.pretty pleasing results. It just took patience and taking my time to concentrate while I was cutting. No special skills or magic were needed. I have included a PDF of my design which contains all of the darwings you will need if you wish to build my design. If you want to get your technology itch scratched, you could use a water jet cutter or similar automated process but I think that the home made look adds character.
As to doing the actual design, I found it very easy to use PowerPoint to do the drawing. Once the drawing was complete, I simply printed the "to scale" drawing onto Avery 8 1/2" x 11" label paper to use as a cutting pattern. I just trimmed the unprinted edges, peeled off the protective backing and stuck the pattern to the 6" x 8" aluminum blanks. Once you have completed the cutting and drilling, you can use "Goof Off" or other adhesive remover to easily remove the remaining label material.
For efficiency's sake you can stack several blanks together and cut/drill them at the same time by taping the edges together so that they do not shift relative to one another when cutting. Just be careful that they do not shift.
When ever you saw cut any of the parts for this project, be sure to file these edges to give it a nice finished look.
After the panel has been cut and cleaned, use an orbital sander with 120 grit sand paper to "finish" it on both sides. This step will transform a kind of rough looking piece into a very respectable looking piece.
To keep that nice new sanded finish, you can spray the shade panels with a clear lacquer or acrylic that will prevent finger prints from marking the panels. This will also make it easy to keep clean.
Step 5: Design and Cut the Aluminum Top Bracket
This 4" x 30" piece ties all of the top cross pieces together and provides a place to mount the light bulb sockets. It like the shade panels has an artistic design to it to give this area an interesting and attractive appearance as well. You can use my design or design your own.
The piece is easy to make because the design involves mostly drilling (refer to drawing). The shape along the edges was cut on the band saw. When ever you saw cut any of the parts for this project, be sure to file these edges to give it a nice finished look.
I unfortunately did not document the cutting of this part with photo's but like I said, it is easy to make.
The 4 large 1 3/8" holes were cut with a hole saw.
Step 6: Making the Wood Vertical End Pieces and Assemblies
The wood pieces and dimensions I have in the bill of material work for 6" x 8" aluminum shade panels and the 4" x 30" aluminum top bracket. Should you decide to use larger or smaller shade panels, you will need to adjust the dimensions of the other pieces. See the attached PDF file for detailed drawings of my design.
The end pieces are made by using a 3 1/4" x 9" x 1/4" thick piece of wood and drilling the hole pattern down the center of the part per the drawing. You will also need to drill the mounting holes along each vertical edge. You can then cut the part in half by cutting through the center of the board and thus through the center of the holes to create 2 parts. You then bevel the edge that has the half holes at a 45 degree angle on a joiner or other appropriate method.
Simply use the drawings to measure, cut and drill each of the 4 required configurations in the quantities listed on the drawings. You should end up with 8 total pieces.
Next cut the 2 end top pieces from 5/8" thick wood being careful to size the recess (rabbit) cut outs where the other parts will be fitted in and glued.
Assemble the 4 end pieces and 1 end top piece by first gluing the beveled end pieces together first and then glue these to the top end piece. It is important to remember that each end assembly is different (mirror image). See the pictures of the end and side views of the assembled light to see the differences.
Use 120 and 220 grit sand paper to finish the wood after the end assemblies glue has dried.
I like to use a clear oil base finish and sealer such as a Danish oil finish and sealer.
Step 7: Making the Vertical Side Pieces
There are (6) wood vertical side pieces made from 3 1/4" wide by 9" tall by 1/4" thick in 2 configurations of 3 each (refer to the drawings).
Drill the (7) 1/2" holes, (3) 11/64" top holes and (4) 11/64" side holes in each one per the drawings.
Sand with 120 and 220 grit sand paper and finish with a Danish oil and sealer after assembling to the top wood cross pieces later.
Step 8: Making the Top Cross Pieces and Assemblies
The top cross pieces are made from (3) 3 1/4" wide by 7 1/4" long by 5/8" thick wood and will be used as the structures that the vertical side pieces attach to.
There are 2 configurations of top cross pieces (refer to drawings and reference photo) with 2 pieces needed for the clevis mounting and 1 piece for the center.
Drill the (3) 9/64" holes in both ends of all 3 pieces, and drill a mounting hole in the center of 2 of the boards for mounting the clevises.
These parts are so simple that I am only showing one in its assembled state.
Next take the wood vertical side pieces and glue/screw them to the top cross pieces (be sure to use the correct side piece configurations with the related cross piece configurations. There should be a different side piece configuration on either end of the top cross piece). I used glue and screws to make these joints strong and to dress them up a little. Use a No.8 - 32 tap to thread the holes first. If you do not want to go to this trouble or think the screws detract of a cleaner design, then you can use just glue. But if you only use glue, be sure to NOT put the oil finish/sealer on first since wood glue is water based on needs to be absorbed into clean dry bare wood.
Sand with 120 and 220 grit sand paper and finish with a Danish oil and sealer.
Step 9: Light Assembly
Start by assembling the aluminum shade pieces to the 3 vertical side piece/top cross piece assemblies. The shade attaches to the outside of the assembly with a screw, spacer, lock washer and hex nut. Work your way "around" the light by attaching the next assembly and then the next shade and the end assemblies until you are complete.
Next place the top aluminum bracket into the underside of the light cross pieces and center it in both directions. You can then mark the mounting hole locations with a pencil and then remove the bracket and pre-drill little starter holes. Next reinstall the bracket and use the (1) #4 x 1/2" phillips head screws to attach the bracket.
Now you can mount your clevises and install the lanyards.
I designed and made my own clevises from aluminum but I have a small mill to make them on. You can buy commercially available clevises or make a simple one yourself. If you go to the internet or Ebay and search clevises you should find what you want.
Step 10: Making and Assembling the Electrical Pieces
This section should be straight forward for those who have a little experience wiring things. If you don't have any experience, just follow the steps.
First, purchase a ceiling canopy that will dress up (cover up) where the wires go into the electrical box mounted in your ceiling. You will need to drill (4) 3/8" holes for the 4 twisted pair wires to pass through. Drill the holes every 90 degrees about the center of the canopy. Then insert (4) plastic pass through grommets to protect the wires from the sharp edges of the drilled holes.
Depending on the distance that you want the light to hang down from the ceiling (I used 18" long lanyards and that placed the light at just the right height above the dining room table) you must determine the length of the wires that will go from each light socket to the ceiling canopy. With an 18" lanyard I used 26" wires for the two inner lights and 30" wires for the outer two lights. This gives a pleasant amount of extra wire so that it is not taut but instead drapes naturally.
Now, for the wiring. Disassemble the light sockets you bought into their basic components. Next install the light socket housings and collars into the (4) 1 3/8" dia. holes in the aluminum to bracket. Next strip about 5/8" of insulation off each wire at both ends and trim away the excess rayon cloth covering. Next install the strain relief nut over the wires at one end, then the strain relief itself and finally the light socket end piece. Connect the two wires to the two screw posts on the actual metal socket and thread the strain relief into the light socket end piece and screw the strain relief nut onto the strain relief. Now you can thread the assembled wired sockets into the housings you installed in the aluminum top bracket.
Once you have all of the sockets wired and installed, take the four twisted pairs and bring them together so that they can be joined into 2 leads (one white and one black). First fish the 4 twisted pairs through the 4 holes in the canopy. Then untwist each pair back about 2 to 3 inches and bring all four white wires together and twist the bare copper leads into a one and repeat this for the black wires. Next take some electrical tape and wrap an inch of the insulated bundle below the bare wire for each bundle.
Next install ceiling hooks with the same spacing as the clevises centered about the middle of the electrical box in your ceiling ( I custom made my ceiling hooks to compliment the light clevises because again, I have a small mill to do it with. All you need is to buy a decorative hooks that compliments your clevises. You can now hang the light with the lanyards. This has the side benefit of allowing you to finish making your electrical connections and installing the canopy hands free. Connect the bundle of 4 white wires to the white wire in your ceiling with a wire nut and repeat this with the black wires. Carefully push the wires up into the electrical box and attach the canopy.
Note: After a viewer noted in a comment to me that I had not attached a ground wire, I researched it and am adding the following step. Connect a ground wire (can be solid, stranded or braided 12 ga. copper wire and be insulated or bare) with a screw to the aluminum top bracket and feed the wire through one of the holes in the canopy to the ground lug of your electrical box in the ceiling).
Step 11: The End!!
Ta-dah!!! Congratulations, you now have the coolest light in the neighborhood.