I've seen many great Instructables on making a pipe lamp and I thought I'd make one of my own. I also googled 'pipe lamp' just to see what was out there on Google Images for a little inspiration. I liked the idea of making a pipe lamp because even though there are a ton of others out there, they're so easy to customize to your own taste and style.
I used all 1/2" plumbing pipe and fittings for my lamp, but you can use any diameter really. The larger diameter of pipe you use, the easier it is to feed the lamp wire through as well. Just something to keep in mind. Everything on the list of materials you can get from Lowes, minus the antique glass insulator (and probably the tea and vinegar haha).
There are a million different ways you can assemble your pipes, these are just the parts that I used.
-1/2" x 12" straight pipe section x1
-1/2" x 6" straight pipe section x1
-1/2" 45 degree elbow fitting x1
-1/2" 90 degree elbow fitting x1
-1/2" flange x1
-1/2" to 1" reducer coupling x1
-4 wood screws for the flange
-A water tap handle
-A vintage glass insulator (these can be had very cheap on eBay)
-Small rotary switch (got mine at Lowes)
-Some lamp wire (I had some lying around, but you can get this at any home improvement store)
-Candelabra lamp socket
-3/8" outside diameter threaded lamp rod and nuts (you can buy a small packet of assorted lengths at Lowes)
-A piece of wood (I used some scrap cedar 1x6 deck board)
-1 piece of steel wool (any type will do)
-1 or 2 cups of white vinegar and a jar
-A tea bag
-A paint brush
-Varathane clear coat
-Spray primer and paint colour of your choice (I used black)
Note: The vinegar, steel wool and tea bag are for a process to antique the wood base and are optional. You could just as easily paint or stain the wood with regular wood stain.
-Saw (to cut the wood for the base)
-Dremel with cutting wheel/disc and wood grinding bits
-Glass drilling bit (I used a 3/8" bit)
-Drill (drill press is ideal, but you could use a hand drill as well)
-Sandpaper (180 grit for the wood, 320 grit for the pipe)
-Power sander or sanding block
-Soldering iron and solder
-Heat shrink tubing
-Hot glue gun
-Epoxy or some other very strong glue
Let's get started!
Step 1: Test Assemble Pipes
It's a good idea to know what you want your lamp to look like before you buy your pipe and fittings just so you don't unnecessarily spend too much on sections that you won't end up using. I just drew a few basic sketches first and decided on a simple design that I liked.
Once you have all of the pieces, just thread them together to make sure they all fit properly and that when assembled, the lamp looks how you want it to.
Step 2: Clean and Sand Pipe
There are a few different ways you can clean your pipe sections. Do whatever works. All you need to do is get the oil off that is coating them to prevent them from rusting. I used a rag with some Varsol on it and then cleaned them with soap and water and dried them off.
Next, I used some 320 grit sandpaper and gave all of the pipe sections and fittings a light sanding and rinsed and dried them off after.
Step 3: Prime and Paint
Now that your pipes are all sanded and clean, it's time to prime and paint them.
I assembled all of the sections except the reducer coupling to paint them (I left the reducer coupling off because the pipe wouldn't stand up on the flange with the extra weight on the end).
Lay some cardboard or newspaper down and spray on a good coat of primer. Hold the can about 6 to 10" from the surface to be painted and spray in fast, sweeping motions with a bit of overlap. Don't spray it on too thick, or the primer will run. Allow at least an hour for the primer to dry before painting. I left mine overnight.
Next, using the same technique as you did with the primer, paint the pipe with whatever colour you decided on. I did two light coats of black on mine, waiting about ten minutes between coats. Allow the paint to dry and set the pipe aside for now.
Step 4: Cut and Sand Wood
Now, cut a piece of wood to a length that will allow the lamp to be mounted to it and not fall over from all of the weight on the end where the bulb will be. Take into account the extra weight of the glass insulator as well. The length of wood will vary depending on the diameter of pipe you use and the design of your lamp. another option if you don't want to use wood for the base is to make a concrete cast in an old plastic container.
After you cut your wood, sand it down with some 180 grit sandpaper. I used a power sander, but you can also use a sanding block and do it by hand.
Step 5: Mark and Drill Wood
Make a mark with a Sharpie and awl anywhere you need to drill holes for the flange mounts, the centre hole of the flange (where your lamp wire will feed through) and another hole for the switch.
Drill all of your holes and make sure everything lines up.
Step 6: Mark and Grind Out Wood on Bottom
Next, I used some masking tape to mark a path on the bottom of the wood to be cut out for a channel for the wire to sit in.
After marking the path with masking tape, I used my Dremel with a grinding bit and ground out the channel. Test fit the wiring into the channel after grinding the wood out.
Step 7: Stain, Paint and Antique Wood
Depending on the method you choose to stain your wood, it will be more or less of an involved process. My dad had antiqued a wood door that he built and it turned out fantastically. I asked him how he did it and the response was anything but what I expected. FYI He found out about this process online somewhere, but I'm not sure where. In hindsight, I would probably recommend just using regular stain as I wasn't too happy with how the tea/vinegar/steel wool process turned out in my particular project, but I made it work in the end.
First, boil some water and steep your tea bag for a long time. I let mine sit for a couple of hours. Then apply the tea to your wood with a brush and allow it to sink in and dry fully.
Next, fill a jar with white vinegar and submerge a piece of steel wool in the vinegar. Let is sit until the steel wool completely dissolves. It took about a week in my case.
You'll be left with a disgusting grey liquid. Brush this on to your wood over the tea and allow it to dry.
You can stop at this point if you like the grey aged wood look, but I chose to put a coat of Varathane on to preserve the wood and to make the colour a bit deeper.
Allow the stain to dry fully.
After the stain dried, I decided I needed something different. It just looked like it was lacking something. I decided to paint the entire board with white trim paint and then antique it further. I simply painted a few coats of white over the stain (it really only needed one coat, but I wanted to make it appear to have been repainted several times for the antique look). Allow the paint to dry.
I then applied a crackling agent, but it only worked in a few small areas (FYI: 20 year old crackle solution that you found in your dad's basement isn't a great idea).
Since that didn't turn out, I painted another coat of white trim paint over top and allowed it to dry overnight.
Next, I used a power sander with 180 grit sandpaper and sanded the board down in a random manner until some areas of the paint were worn right through to the wood, others had solid white paint still, and everything in between. It actually turned out WAY better than I expected and I was very happy with it.
After the sanding, I put two coats of Varathane over top to seal it, but also to make it look a little more antique. The Varathane over white paint causes the paint to look slightly 'yellowed' and makes it look more weathered in my opinion.
Step 8: Prepare Switch
I found a small rotary switch that I was happy with and simply glued the end inside the bottom of the water tap handle with some very strong epoxy. Be sure to feed the switch up through the bottom of your board before glueing it to the tap handle.
If you want to paint your handle, do it before you glue it to your switch. Mine was just plain galvanized steel and I wanted it black to match the lamp. If you're painting yours, give the whole handle a light sanding with some 400 grit dry sandpaper, rinse it in water and dry it well. Then, spray a coat of primer on, allow it to dry, and spray the final coat of paint on after.
Step 9: Switch Wiring
Feed your lamp wire through your pipe and wood and then screw the flange of your pipe base down to the wood. I tied a knot in the wire at the lamp socket end to prevent the wire from slipping back out of the pipe.
Cut one of the two lamp wires (it doesn't matter which one as household electricity is AC) and run one end to one wire of the switch and the other end to the other wire of the switch, solder them together and use heat shrink tube over your connections.
Run the wiring through the channel you cut in the wood and secure it there with either silicone or hot glue, whichever you prefer. Secure the switch in place this way as well.
Step 10: Drill Glass
Most glass and tile drill bits require lubrication (water) during drilling to prevent glass dust from going everywhere and to extend the life of the drill bit itself.
Gently clamp (or hold with gloves) your glass insulator and drill it, slowly. A drill press is ideal for this. Apply a slight bit of pressure for a few seconds, then release the pressure and repeat this process until you drill all the way through the insulator. while drilling, don't forget to keep the surface and bit wet. A few drops of water every few seconds should be enough, but you can also completely submerge the insulator in a container as well if you prefer. If you do it that way, just be careful to not get your drill motor wet! This is the most common method for drilling through glass, but be sure to read the directions on the packaging that the bit came in. I used a bit of Play-Doh to build a temporary rim around the top of the insulator and put a bit of water in it so the drill bit stayed lubricated throughout the drilling.
I drilled a 3/8" hole through my insulator as this is the outside diameter of my threaded lamp rod.
Always be careful when drilling glass! Wear thick gloves and safety glasses!
If your insulator is really dirty and has a lot of caked on filth, I find Brillo pads work great for cleaning these insulators.
After you've got your hole drilled, secure a length of lamp rod to the insulator by first threading a nut right on one end of the rod, slide it through the hole in the insulator from the inside and then secure another nut to the top of the outside of the insulator. Just tighten it until it is snug...You don't want to shatter or crack your beautiful insulator!
Step 11: Wire Socket and Plug and Attach Glass Insulator
Now attach your candelabra socket base to your glass insulator and feed the wires through the hole you drilled. You can glue it in place with epoxy or hot glue if you like. I bought one that had some sort of spring loaded tabs on the sides to hold it in place.
I used my industrial strength epoxy to secure a lamp rod nut to the end of my 90 degree elbow threads (where the reducer coupling meets the elbow) to make attaching the glass insulator easier. Let the glue cure for a good 8 hours to ensure it has fully set. It will be holding a fair amount of weight. I'm sure there are many other ways to secure the insulator to the piping, but this is just the method that I used.
Solder the two socket wires to your lamp wires.
Secure the glass insulator to the 90 degree elbow by threading the lamp rod into the nut that you glued on to the elbow. I used a bit of Loctite to keep the insulator lamp rod threads tight. At the same time, screw the reducer coupling back on.
Strip a bit off of the ends of your lamp wire and attach them to your plug terminals via the terminal screws.
Step 12: Finishing Touches
I just added some stick on feet to the bottom of the base of the lamp, but this is completely optional. Add any little finishing touches you want at this point!
Step 13: Screw in a Bulb and Plug It In
You're almost done! Choose a bulb you like and screw it into your socket. Plug in the lamp and turn your rotary switch to switch it on and off.
As always, and comments, questions and constructive criticisms welcome.
I hope you enjoyed this Instructable!
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