The Alva Dimmable Chamber Lamp

Introduction: The Alva Dimmable Chamber Lamp

Inspiration can be found in a pile of junk. Sometimes, you can put it together with a good imagination and invent something.
-Thomas Alva Edison

 This is an easy to make dimmable lamp that I put together using what I had laying around.  I did have to buy the "Edison" bulbs, which look like old style bulbs.  They were about $8 each.  The electrical is simple and done like any other basic incandescent household lamp would be set up. 

*Disclaimer:   This lamp uses regular household voltage.  If you do it wrong,  you might get hurt,  burn yours and your neighbors houses down,  or kill yourself.   It takes a fraction of the electricity that this lamp uses to get electrocuted,  or shocked bad enough to wet yourself. (Definately embarassing)  Use proper electrical procedures and safety. 

Ready? Go!

Step 1: Gather the Goods

The box I used was a cheap old jewelry type box that I have no clue where it came from.  Its not strong,  or of great quality,  but it had the look i was going for and the top opens, which made things a bit easyer.  It had the tarnished brass trim as a bonus.   You can make and stain your own box if you like, or check garage sales or thrift stores. 

*2 standard size sockets (or as many as you want, depending in your box)
*On/Off toggle switch
*wire nuts
*cord with grounded plug end (3 wire) (got mine from an old computer)
*a piece of wire to attach an eyelet to  (the eyelet must fit around the toggle switch threaded shaft) 
*2 pieces of bare copper wire about 2 feet each  (actually took me about 5 tries)
*a knob for the dimmer

**Make sure all electrical components are rated for the voltages and currents you will be using.  In my case,  its 120volts, 15amps.

Step 2: Prepare the Box

      Measure the sockets, toggle switch shaft, dimmer knob shaft, and power cord diameters.  Tape off all areas to be drilled with masking tape to prevent damage to the wood surface.  Mark locations to be drilled and go to town, stopping periodicly to check if you still have all your fingers. 
*The holes for the sockets and the power cord are made almost too small,  so the sockets and cord would fit really tight.*

Step 3: Install the Goods

    Install the sockets,  making sure thay are a really tight fit.  If they turn out to be  loose, you could use an epoxy,  but take heat into account when you buy it.  Next install the toggle switch.   What I failed to do at first is install the short piece of wire with the eyelet between the switch and the box.  This is the ground wire for the switch.  
    Now install the dimmer switch.  Depending  on the size of your box and your switch location,  you may have to modify the dimmer housing a bit.  Thats what I had to do. (and thats what we do here anyway, right?)  So in my case I had to remove the metal from the top and bottom with snips/shears.
     Last but not least,  I cut the non-needed end of the power cord off,  and cut off about 8 inches of sheething.  The plug needs to be a really tight fit otherwise you will need to secure  it on the inside somehow.  Ain't nobody got time for that!

Step 4: Connect the Wires

Please re-read my diclaimer before proceeding. 
This is how I wired mine.  

     I attached the black wire from the power cord to the hot/line/positive terminal of the toggle switch.  Then one black wire from the dimmer,  to the other terminal on the toggle switch.  I had to use a piece of wire as an extension to reach.  Dont laugh,  you might too!  Next, the other black wire on the dimmer to the black wire on the first socket,  then the white wire on that socket to the black on the next socket.  Now, attach the white wire on the second socket to the white wire on the power cord.   If you paid attention,  you'll notice you made a loop.  Last, attach the green ground wires from the power cord, toggle, and dimmer together.

***WARNING:   When you plug this in,  the terminals on the toggle switch will be live and exposed.    If you touch them, it will be bad news.   I strongly suggest taping or shrink wrapping them. 

Step 5: Trimmings

     I re-installed the trim that came with the box (after some slights modification).   Now,  take the length of copper wire and make a coil by wrapping it around something with the desired thickness. Next bend it in various ways to achieve the look your going for.   It took me about 5 tries to get 2 that are almost the same.   Then, drill a hole slightly smaller than the diameter of the wire so it fits really tight.  It took a bit of tweeking to get it to sit how i wanted it to. 
     Finally,  add the dimmer knob.  I had a knob that had a set screw and abrass insert.  With pliers,  I persuaded the plastic off,  which left the insert.

Step 6: Admire

          I hope that you enjoyed this instructable, and that it serves to show that with imagination, patience, and pile of junk, you can create something cool, and usefull.  Please vote for this instructable in the " Lamps and Lighting Contest"!! 

Lamps & Lighting Contest

Participated in the
Lamps & Lighting Contest

Be the First to Share


    • Mason Jar Speed Challenge

      Mason Jar Speed Challenge
    • Bikes Challenge

      Bikes Challenge
    • Remix Contest

      Remix Contest

    4 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I made something similar but used a normal two prong extension cord without the grounding wire. When I hooked up my bulbs/switches I just cut the ground wire from the dimmer because there was nothing to attach it to. If I were to add a toggle switch in the mix, would it be necessary/wise to use a cord with a grounding wire?


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Safty First, thats what I rarely say! I prefer to always use a ground whenever possible. That way, if there ever is a short, the current should go to the ground and pop the fuse/breaker. (If there's no ground, you could become the ground, or your soon to be flaming lamp could be). It will work just fine without one though. I would love to see a picture of it.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    This is one I made. It's single bulb with no ground wire. I am working on some more, trying to figure out the best kind of dimmer switch, I need one with a longer shaft for the knob.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    That's a real nice one. I love the box you chose. I haven't seen any household dimmers with longer shafts. There is an option that uses a low voltage potentiometer (they come in many shaft lengths)but you need to make a circuit that uses a low voltage to control a high voltage.