Retro Shop Lights




Introduction: Retro Shop Lights

I needed lighting for my workshop and decided to make a set of lights that resembled the vintage pendant style lighting so common in shops and even used for lighting billboards in the early 20th century. You can find nice replicas on line and at some big box buiding supply stores but, I wanted to make my own. My problem was finding something I could use as a reflector. My wife suggested stainless steel salad bowls. I did a little research and found that 8 quart salad bowls, with a 13.5 inch top diameter and a flat base fit my needs perfectly.

Major components needed:

8 quart 13.5 inch stainless steel salad bowls with flat base

porcelain base light fixtures, with or without chain pull, your choice.

1/4 inch metal grommets, if chain pull used.

Tools needed:

drill, or drill press

appropriate size metal hole saw or step drill bit (get one that will drill up to a 1 3/8 inch hole)


Step 1: Start With the Salad Bowl

Find the size hole needed to mount the reflector to the light fixture base and drill the hole.

The porcelain based light fixture has a porcelain "nut" that screws off and on allowing access to the screw base that the light bulb is screwed into. This porcelain nut is removed to allow measuring for the size hole needed to fit the salad bowl "reflector" so it will fit between the porcelain light fixture base and the porcelain nut. Mine needed a 1 1/4" hole. Seee green lines for spacing.

I used a "low tech" way to find center (a coffee can lid fit my need but you will probably be more professional) then drilled the hole using a step drill bit.

Step 2: Drill Additional Mounting Holes and Hole for Optional Pull Chain

For ease of assembly, also drilled two holes in the flat of the salad bowl reflector that line up with the mounting screws for the light fixture base. These holes were drilled 3 3/8" apart. See the red lines in the pictures above.

Because I also chose to have a pull chain on-off switch, I had to drill another hole in the salad bowl reflector that lined up with the pull chain. Mine was drilled at 1" from center and was centered between the two holes drilled to line up with the mounting base. See the yellow line in the picture above.

If you want to use a pull chain, you will need a grommet to mount in the hole for the pull chain to pass through. This is to protect the pull chain. I made mine from 3/8" pieces of 1/4" copper tubing I inserted and crimped in place. You can also find 1/4" metal grommet kits that include the flaring tool. My home made grommet can just be seen where the chain comes through the reflector at the end of the yellow line.

Step 3: Mount the Ceramic Base to the Reflector

I then inserted the ceramic base to the reflector and screwed the ceramic nut on to hold the reflector in place. The base installed is shown above.

I ran conduit with conduit drops where I wanted lights and attached the 4 inch pans. I then connected the wiring and screwed each finished light to a 4 inch pan.

As a precaution, the reflector should be connected to earth ground. Assuming 110v service, coming from the breaker box to the junction box and romex wiring, earth ground will be the bare wire coming into the fixture alongside the black (load) and white (neutral) wires. This bare wire is usually usually connected to the green wire of a fixture and/or to the metal junction box. Ground the reflector by attaching a wire to the back side of the reflector and running it to the same point in the junction box where the bare wire is terminated.

An additional precaution is to use a string pull instead of chain when using a fixture with a pull switch.

Step 4: The Finished Product!

I made eight of these lights and mounted them at four foot intervals down two sides of the shop. 60 watt equivlent LED light bulbs completed the job.

I'm happy with the finished result. Please tell me what you think.

I'll be happy to try and answer any questions you might have,

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    4 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Looks great... Did you remember to earth the metal bowl?


    Reply 3 years ago

    Excellent question!
    I'm certainly not an electrician but we do have earth ground from the fixture back. You probaby noticed the building is all metal as well. It is also properly bonded to earth.
    The bowl is isolated by the ceramic fixture (the ceramic nut screws down into the ceramic base, between the light socket and the bowl thus isolating it). If you could help me specifically with how this can be made safer, I will add that to the instructable.


    3 years ago

    That's a great way to make them! We need more lights in our garage, this may be a good option :)


    Reply 3 years ago

    Thanks! Glad you liked it. The build was fun and simple, and the lighting exceeded my expectations in the shop.