If you are as much of a fan of nature as I am, then you already understand that incorporating natural wood into your home can go a long way to reducing the stress and anxiety of feeling trapped indoors. Especially if you live in a big city! Recycling fallen or chopped up tree branches is an excellent way to fill your home on a tight budget. And if you've already filled your walls with more-traditional tree branch wall art and are looking for more ideas, then I present to you - the Tree Branch Lamp!
- (1) Branch
- (1) Bag of Quickrete 5000
- (1) 5 Gallon Nursery Pot
- Felt Pads
- Liquid Tape
- Super Glue
- Wire Staples
- Lamp Wire (At least 10 feet)
- (1) Bulb Socket
- (1) Electrical Plug
- (1) Inline Switch
- Box Cutter
- Soldering Iron with Solder
- Phillips Head Screwdriver
- Flat Head Screwdriver
- Wire Strippers
Step 1: Get Yourself a Branch
I found this beautiful specimen in my yard. Though I'm not sure if it matters, it has had almost a full year to dry out. The utility of your lamp will depend entirely on the branch that you pick, so if you want something that will sit on a table and light your work, scale your branch down accordingly.
Step 2: Get Yourself a Nursery Pot
For my tree lamp, I used a 5 gallon nursery pot. I have a lot of these in my yard because I plant a lot of trees, but I can imagine that this isn't exactly a "normal" scenario. If you don't have one then you can certainly get one from your local nursery. I'm not sure if hardware stores supply them, but I wouldn't be surprised if they did. If you're making a lamp that's much smaller, then get a 1 gallon nursery pot.
Step 3: Make the Base for the Lamp
Follow the instructions on the concrete and mix up a really thick batch. Then shovel it into the nursery pot. I only filled my 5 gallon pot with about 6 inches of concrete (you only need enough to weigh the bucket down and keep the branch from tipping over). Take your branch and push it into the concrete, making sure to align it in the center. Your concrete mix should be thick enough to hold the branch in place. Use your hands to compact the concrete as much as possible, then wait for it to dry.
Step 4: Remove the Branch From the Pot
To remove the branch from the pot, cut the pot away with a box cutter. First, cut the top ring away from the body of the pot, and then make as many cuts down the sides as you need to fold them out completely. If the concrete that was previously covered still looks damp, then let it dry some more. A uniform, light-gray color will signify that the concrete has cured. You can then lift the branch away from the pot and remove the ring.
Step 5: Glue Felt to the Bottom
I glued some felt pads to the bottom of my lamp to keep the concrete from scratching my wood floors. The felt has a sticky backing that's supposed to adhere it to objects, but this wasn't working well with the concrete so I went heavy-duty and used super glue. The super glue worked and the lamp slides nicely. Clearly, I could have spaced the felt pads in a more uniform manner, but since no one will ever see the bottom I just eyeballed the placement.
Step 6: A Word of Caution
There are many ways you can connect the bulb socket to the lamp wire and this way is probably the hardest. Because my lamp is so low to the ground, it does not need a lampshade, and so for artistic reasons alone I thought it would look best if my lamp wire connected directly to the bulb. I'm about to show you how to do this with a soldering iron. If you do not own a soldering iron, or are uncomfortable using one, then I encourage you to buy a bulb socket with a female electrical plug insert from a hardware store. Plug an extension cord into one of those, spray paint it black and skip all of the following steps. I doubly encourage this if you are going to be making some sort of DIY lampshade for your lamp, therefore concealing how you've attached the bulb socket to the wire.
TLDR: If you're going to be using a DIY lampshade, get one of these:
And one of these:
Otherwise, follow my lead.
Step 7: Separate the Ends of Your Lamp Wire
With your box cutter, separate your lamp wire by cutting the rubber between the strands. Do this for both ends of your lamp wire.
Step 8: Strip the Ends
With your wire strippers, strip both ends of the lamp wire. If you're unsure of the gauge, start with the biggest gauge on your wire strippers and work your way down.
Step 9: Remove the Lining From the Socket
Use a flat head screw driver to peel the gray lining from the bulb socket. This will expose the two copper contacts that you will be soldering the lamp wire to. There is one on the side and one at the tip.
Step 10: Insert the Wire Into the Gaps
For both of the contacts, there will be a gap between the copper and the plastic. Slide the copper frays of the lamp wire into these gaps to hold the wires into place. Note - You don't need to do this, but it makes it easier to solder if you don't have to hold the wire into place.
Step 11: Solder the Lamp Wire to the Bulb Socket
Clamp the bulb socket gently to the table and solder the wires to the copper contacts on the bulb socket. Unfortunately, I could not hold the solder, the iron and the camera at the same time and so the solder is absent from the picture. If you are new to soldering, don't worry because it's pretty easy. With the iron plugged in and hot, hold the tip of the iron, the solder and the wire together against the contact until the solder melts. Physically, it will weld the wire to the copper contact on the bulb socket.
Step 12: Cover the Contacts With Liquid Tape
Use liquid tape to cover the copper contacts completely. Liquid tape is basically liquid electrical tape. When it solidifies it will look and feel like rubber. It's pretty awesome. Just make sure you remove the ugly barcode from the bulb socket first...oops.
Step 13: Install an Electrical Plug
Once the liquid tape has dried, install an electrical plug at the other end of your lamp wire. You should have already stripped the ends in a previous step, so now all you need is to bend them clockwise. Open up the electrical plug by removing the screw in the case and hook the wires over the two contact screws in the electrical plug. Once you've done this, tighten them down and close the plug case back up.
Step 14: Install an Inline Switch
Remove the two screws from the inline switch to open it up. Locate where you want the switch to go on your line (mine's near the plug) and make a two inch separation in the lamp wire with your box cutter. On an electrical outlet, the smaller of the two prongs (right side) is always "hot" - meaning it has a voltage. As a precaution, I like to break the wire strand that plugs into this contact when I install inline switches. This way, the live wire ends at the switch when the circuit is open.
Locate the bigger of the two contacts on the electrical plug and follow its corresponding strand of wire to the inline switch. Place that strand in the bypass groove. Then cut the other wire (the always "hot" one) and strip the ends. Bend the copper frays clockwise, hook them over the contact screws and tighten them down. Replace the plastic cover and screw it tight.
Step 15: Screw in a Bulb and Test It Out!
I used a small spherical bulb for my lamp, but consider using vintage light bulbs as well (the ones with the cool filaments!). As I said before, my lamp is low to the ground so I find that it does not need a lampshade. If yours sits on a table, however, then your next step might be to find a cool lampshade tutorial to finish things off. Hopefully you've made it this far and have brightened up your home space with a bit of natural cheer. Thanks for reading my tree branch lamp tutorial, and if you like it then please vote for it in the lamps and lighting competition!