Learn how to make a desk lamp from a football helmet and miscellaneous light fixtures and lamp parts.
Here is a prefect example of how to MacGyver a beautiful lamp together from a bunch of broken lamps and miscellaneous parts.
Next time you have a broken lamp or light fixture, don't trash it! Salvage the working parts to FIX another light fixture, or in this case build a whole new lamp!
Even if you are not interested in building a football helmet lamp, use this Instructable to learn how to FIX lamps through simple part replacement and wiring.
Total out of pocket cost per lamp for this project was less than $10. Be a little more resourceful and it can be FREE. The most expensive part of the make was $8.00 for the lamp shade.
Step 1: Main Parts
Let's start with the main parts you will need for the project.
A couple years ago I made my first football helmet lamps. I came across some of our school's "old school" helmet decals after the decision was made to change the helmet decal design. So, I kept the decals stored until I could use them in a cool way. Actually, I even forgot I had them. When I found them a light bulb when on!
Pun intended... What would be cooler than a Football Helmet Desk Lamp? What a great way to preserve a little bit of school history with the old school "W" decal!
Lamp/Light Fixture Parts
Before you go running to the store or online to buy a lamp kit, do yourself a favor. Look around your house, basement, attic, or garage for lamps you no longer use or broken in some way. Disassemble it and reuse those parts for your project. If you have no luck in your own house, then ask friends or hit some local garage, yard, and estate sales.
I can't remember the last time I went to a garage sale and did not find at least one lamp for sale. If I see a lamp for less than $5.00 I buy it! The $1.00 desk lamps are more common than one might think. I may not need the parts right away, but I know I will sometime. The DIY stores will charge you $12-$20 for a lamp kit and you may not even need or want all the parts. Light fixture/sockets alone cost $8.00 in the DIY stores. Be patient and find stuff for cheap or FREE!
So, over the course of one summer of garage sales I collect a bunch of pieces and parts and throw into a box until needed.
Again, you might get lucky at a garage sale and find a helmet for a few bucks. Here are some other options. Ebay is a great source for cheap helmets. For my first helmet lamps I bought a few for less than $10 each. Sure they were Xtra-small, but I was not planning on wearing them. I was turning them into a beautiful home accessory.
Ask around at local schools for their dated and worn out equipment. Football helmets do have an end of life for kids sports. Even though they can be reconditioned, at some point they reach a condition that they cannot be re certified for use. Ask around and get yourself some free stuff.
This is the most costly part of the project. Truthfully, I can't believe what they charge for lamp shades. Would love to know the mark up on price for wire frame and paper/cloth. WoW!
Step 2: Additional Parts
Now depending on what you are able to salvage and the style of lamp you design you might need to purchase a couple inexpensive parts.
Most lamps have some type of metal tube where the wiring is usually fed through to the light socket. Depending on your desired design you may have to really hunt a long time for the exact length of tube you desire. The problem is that many of the lamp rods I have salvaged are only threaded at the ends. For this project I need 4" rods and my salvage box contains 6" or longer, all of which are only threaded at ends. So, cutting down a 6" rod to 4" will leave me with one non threaded end.
So, off to a DIY store where I can purchase a 3/8 x 30" fully threaded lamp pipe/rod for $5. That is only 16 cents per inch! For this project I need to cut a 4" inch tube costing me 64 cents! CHEAP!
Lamp Pipe/Rod Collar
You never see the threaded pipe as it is hidden inside some type of decorative tube or lamp housing. So to hide this threaded tube we will need some 1/2" cpvc hot/cold water tube. With an outside diameter of 1/2 inch, the inside diameter is just a hair over 3/8" allowing for a nice fit over the threaded rod. I was able to find a 5 foot section for about $2.50. That is only about 4 cents per inch! I need only 3 inches, so there goes another 12 cents for this project.
Step 3: Tools
Minimal tools are need for this project.
Of course we will need some basic electrician tools.
- wire cutters and strippers.
- Rotary tool with cutting wheel or hack saw to cut the 3/8 inch brass lamp rod
- Fine tooth hack saw to cut cpvc tube collars/sleeves
Drill and Bits
- 1/8" bit
- 3/8" bit
Level and Marking Pen
Step 4: Helmet Pad Removal
Our first step will be to remove padding from the helmet.
Chances are your helmet will not be the same as mine. As a matter of fact, I have now built 6 helmet lamps and every one had a different padding system.
Inspect helmet to see how padding is fastened inside the helmet. I have seen many different fastening systems using snaps, plastic plug fasteners, and Velcro. Whatever system your helmet has, you should be able to easily remove the pad where you need to drill hole for lighting fixture and electrical cord.
Step 5: Mark for Drilling
The most challenging part of this project is proper placement of hole for electrical parts.
First be sure you are working on a level surface as you want your hole to be centered and plumb.
This is the technique I used, if someone has a different technique please share.
- Check that your work surface is level
- Mark the center point of your level
- Place helmet on level surface
- Place level on top of helmet at center line.
- Adjust level on top of helmet until level is balanced and bubble shows level at center line of helmet.
- Mark this point on your helmet.
Step 6: Drill Hole
Now use your drill and two bits to drill your hole for electrical.
- Use 1/8" bit to drill a pilot hole to start.
- Use 3/8" bit to drill out the smaller hole. After you have gone through with this bit work the bit in and out along the edges of the hole to enlarge just a hair.
Since the lamp rod/pipe has a 3/8" diameter, we need to make that hole just a hair bigger with the drill so the rod fits through with a snug fit.
Step 7: Cut Pipe and Tube
Now we need to cut the brass threaded pipe and cpvc water tube.
- Use a rotary tool with cutting disc or hack saw to cut the brass threaded pipe to 4 inch length.
- Use hack saw or other fine tool saw to cut the cpvc water tube to 3 inch length.
Based on the proportions of the helmet and the lamp shade I chose to use, the above lengths work great. Your design might call for different lengths depending on the lamp shade you use.
Step 8: Paint CPVC Tube/Sleeves
We want to make this look nice! So, I painted the cpvc tube with a paint close to the helmet color. Let dry while you continue to work on the helmet.
As you will notice I have multiple cpvc tubes cut ready for paint. I am actually making multiple helmet lamps to give away and donate for fundraisers. My own little lamp factory in the works!
Step 9: Disassemble Salvaged Light Fixture
Now let's prepare the light fixture for installation.
- Pull apart socket shell from socket cap.
- Pull socket out of paper socket insulation
- Identify the brass colored screw and silver screw for wiring later.
Step 10: Install Brass Threaded Pipe/Rod
Let's install the threaded rod for electrical.
From your salvaged lamp parts box...
- Thread a nut and lock washer onto the 4" thread rod.
- Insert rod from inside helmet.
- Pull through to the top.
Step 11: Install Wire Part 1
- From your box of salvaged lamp parts get a lamp cord.
- Insert cord from inside of helmet through threaded rod tube.
- Pull through top and temporarily tie off.
Step 12: Install Wire Part 2 With Pad
Now let's secure and hide the lamp cord.
- Lay lamp cord along shell of helmet.
- Reinstall helmet padding that was removed earlier when prepping helmet for drilling.
- Secure pad to helmet using whatever system was in place with your helmet.
- Continue to string cord to outside of helmet through padding.
Step 13: Padding Fastened
On my helmet I check that the plugs and fasteners have padding secured.
Step 14: Cut - Strip - Identify Wires
Since this was a salvaged cord, we want to cut the working ends to get to some newer clean wire to work with.
- Cut the wire separate the two wires.
- NOTE: When you separate wires, the insulation is different on the two wires. One will be ribbed and the other smooth. For later you will need to know that Ribbed = Neutral wire and Smooth = Hot wire.
- Strip about 1/2 of insulation from each wire.
- Twist the wires ends with your fingers.
Step 15: Install CPVC Sleeve
Remember those cpvc sleeves you painted? You will need one of those now.
Slide one of the sleeves over wire and brass threaded rod. Hide that rod and make it look pretty.
Step 16: Install Light Fixture Socket
Let's connect the wire to the light socket fixture.
- Slide socket cap over wire and screw onto brass threaded rod.
- Slide cap insulation on as well and tie underwriters knot in cord.
- Fasten Smooth HOT wire onto brass colored socket screw.
- Fasten Ribbed NEUTRAL wire onto silver colored socket screw.
- Reinstall paper insulation over socket.
- Reinstall socket shell
As recommended by a view I have added a link to the underwriters knot. Image to be updated.
Step 17: Connect Socket
Connect the socket shell to the socket cap! Push firmly together.
This is one of the most common socket assemblies I have salvaged. You might have a different style.
Step 18: Decals
If you have decals to install, this would be a good time to apply those.
Yes these are different decals... Old school design and new design.
Step 19: Lamp Shade
Here is a link to the lamp shade I use. About $8.00. I was able to find these in stock at the store rather than purchasing online. Perfect size and easy to use with salvaged parts without having to use a lamp shade harp.
- Install Lamp Shade
- Install Light Bulb
Even the light bulb was free. About 10 years ago the government was giving out FREE CFL light bulbs to help save energy and persuade the U.S. citizens to convert from incandescent bulbs. Well, that failed! Probably because they did not take into consideration the need for mercury recycle centers. Yes, these bulbs contain mercury!
Good thing we have LED today right?
Step 20: Plug It In
Plug it in and switch it on!
Step 21: Light Up Your Life!
There you have it folks.
A simple Home Improvement project where you can FIX lamps with salvaged and super cheap parts.
Now get out to your local garage sales and get you some lamps and helmets and make one for yourself.
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