Copper; that malleable, conductive, water spouting metal, is worth its weight in…copper. Hence, some might scrap it for cash, while others might find it a prohibitively expensive material to experiment with.
This quick, yet elegant project is a perfect use of relatively inexpensive copper refrigerant coil. The shadows cast and warm glow reflected off the sinuous curves of the copper tubing makes for an attractive light feature. You’ll find that this light is akin to a warm hearth, a light around which people gather.
Let there be light!
- Copper Refrigerant
- Cord Set
- Copper Pipe Cutter
- Blow Torch (Oxyacetylene or MAP Gas, for Annealing the Copper if Necessary )
- Blow Torch (Propane, for Soldering if Applicable )
- Solder (Used for Plumbing Applications )
- Flux (Used for Plumbing Applications )
- Uninsulated Solid Core Wire
- Leather Work Gloves
- Edison Type Bulb
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Step 1: To Anneal or Not to Anneal...
I found that the copper coil I used was malleable enough to be bent into the shapes I was after; however, if you wish to make tighter curves without comprimising the copper's integrity, consider annealing those tightly bent sections.
When annealing copper, don’t wear gloves as a reminder not to touch the extremely hot metal. You’ll want an oxyacetylene torch or a MAP gas torch for annealing the copper as butane and propane torches don’t get hot enough quick enough. If it's all that you have, you can use them, but expect to use a lot of gas and spend a lot of time bringing it up to temperature.
At first it will look like you’re burning the copper as it will turn black, but don’t fret, keep heating it up until it glows cherry red. Then, using a pair of pliers or vise grips, quench the copper in water to cool it down quickly. The copper will now be much more malleable and will become work hardened as you manipulate it. Be conscious of this as it can become extremely hard and then brittle.
Step 2: Shaping the Copper Coil
Don a pair of leather work gloves and cut a length of refrigerant coil that seems suitable for the lamp shade size you’re after (I used several feet ). Then comes the fun bit. Whilst wearing your leather work gloves, start to manipulate the copper coil in interesting ways, loosely weaving it together into a tangled ball of copper tubing.
Keep in mind while weaving that you’ll need to be able to somehow squeeze a light bulb into the center of the tangled mess. Use your fist as a gauge to create an opening large enough to accommodate changing a light bulb.
If you decide to use multiple length of copper coil, tie each section together temporarily with wire. This will make it easier to solder the pieces together later.
Step 3: Soldering
If you choose to solder any sections together, clean the areas you wish to solder with fine grit sandpaper, then smother them with flux. Next heat the pipes up with a blowtorch until solder freely wicks into the joints or seems by simply touching it to the pipe. If the solder doesn’t immediately melt and wick into the joints, then the pipe isn’t hot enough and requires more heat. Repeat this process for any subsequent joints.
Step 4: Wiring
Methods of attaching the cord set to the tangled ball of copper tubing will depend on the type of cord set you are using. I picked up the one I’m using from IKEA as it was relatively inexpensive (around $10 ). Similar ones can be sourced locally or online.
These cord sets all have a socketed end onto which a lampshade is sandwiched via a short, threaded section and a large nut. I chose to incorporate a loop of pipe on the top of my design with an interior diameter analogous to the outer diameter of the threaded section of the lamp set’s socketed end. That way, I can secure the copper lampshade to the socketed end of the cord set by tightening the included large nut.
If you choose to do this as well, I suggest starting with this loop and working outward from that point. This ensures a strong point of attachment for the lampshade.
Step 5: Final Assembly and Installation
When choosing a suitable light bulb, look for LED Edison style bulbs. These bulbs stay relatively cool to the touch and emit a warm glow that complements the copper very well.
Last step is to assemble the light fixture and install it. If you are choosing to hang the fixture, use ceiling hooks that are provided with or suggested to use with your cord set. Or depending on size, placing it on a table, desk, or shelf is also an attractive option. Heavy gauge bare copper wire can be used to support the weight of the fixture and maintain the aesthetic if you plan on hanging it directly from the ceiling.
Plug it in, flip the switch, and enjoy!
Step 6: Details
Participated in the
Indoor Lighting Contest