When the Science Centre put out a call for eccentric light fixtures that would fit into Rowland Emett’s whimsical and dreamy workshop this holiday season, we quickly put together a DIY pipe lamp! Roland Emett was known for his fantastical kinetic sculptures. And if you ever saw Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, you’re familiar with his wacky creations.
We’ve been wanting to make something else out of a wooden handscrew ever since we made this crochet plant hanger. I was thrilled to find a pair of Jorgensen wood clamps at a garage sale this past summer (we also picked up the weaving shuttle, but that’s another post)!
We couldn’t figure out how to get the screw arms apart to remove the rust. So we left the rusty gold as-is with just a wipe.
Black Iron Pipe
We had extra black cast iron pipe fittings left over from this industrial pipe shelf, tin can crafts and Hub’s pipe table for the mancave. However, integral to this project is a 1/2″ black iron cross which is impossible to find in Canada, but available in the US at Home Depot. The one below has an extra hole in the back but it works in a pinch. And we’ll just cover the hole in with something interesting, like a water faucet handle, to add to the steampunk effect.
You will need the following:
- 1 – 12″ wood handscrew clamp (I used a vintage Jorgensen)
1/2″ black pipe components:
- 6 – 1″ close nipple connectors
- 1- 3″ pipe
- 1 – 1/2″ male hex head pipe connector fitting (not a solid one; must be able to screw in a nipple to attach socket)
- 4 – tees and 4 elbows
- 1 – 4-way cross
- 1 – strain relief
- 1 – nipple
- 1 – black socket with chain pull (or this one comes with a strain relief but isn’t black)
- 1 – black cord with plug
- 1 – Edison bulb
DIY Pipe Lamp Base
First build all the pipe components out of 1/2″ black pipe for the bottom and bulb holder as you see here. Do it loosely at first. And when you’re finally happy with it, tighten up all the connections.
DIY Pipe Lamp Bulb Holder
Here’s how the top part should look. From the bottom, there’s a strain relief for the cord. Then the 1/2″ cross and finally a hex nut which has an internal thread at the top that the socket can screw into.
Then clamp the base and top assemblies into the wooden handscrew and tighten – as you see below. It’s helpful to have a second pair of hands to do this; one person can hold the pipe while the other can screw adjust the handles to hold the black iron pipe snug.
This is how it should look before wiring.
Now take apart the components for the top section to prepare for wiring (you can leave it in the clamp while you do the wiring). First, run the wiring through the strain relief.
After pulling it through, run the wire up through the cross, then screw the strain relief back on under the cross.
Pass the wire through the hex nut and screw that back on. As you turn it, hold the wire taut so you’re not twisting it.
Lastly, run the cord through the socket.
But before connected the wires and closing the socket up again, split the cord down the middle about 4″. Use a wire stripper to remove the plastic and expose the copper wire (twist them). Then tie this pretzel-like shape called and underwriters knot:
The underwriter’s knot acts as a strain relieve. And it will also prevent the wires attached to the socket from coming loose if the cord is accidentally pulled. You can see a step-by-step on how to tie an underwriter’s knot here.
Attach each wire to a screw in a clockwise direction and tighten to hold the wire firmly. Insert into the socket and re-attach the socket cover.
Direct the lamp cord to hang in back of the handscrew so you can plug it in.
Let There Be Light
Now, you can screw in your lightbulb. I like the look of an Edison bulb for this fixture, but there are lots of cool options out there!
Our submission was accepted and we can’t wait to see it on display at the Ontario Science Centre with the Emett’s machines this holiday! If you’re local, the Emett’s exhibit is on display from December 16 until January 8th. More info about Emett’s Dream Machines exhibit here. By the way, you and your family can also visit Emett’s Whimsical workshop where you can help assemble a fantastical new dream machine prototype for Emett’s collection!
We loved making this black iron pipe light fixture so we’re eager to do something with the other wood clamp now. Especially since this one is going to be on loan until after the holidays!
Speaking of the holidays, if you crochet, or know someone who does, our Crochet Phone Covers book is hot off the press! And in breaking news, it’s available on Amazon as a Kindle eBook and in hard copy too!
Order Crochet Phone Covers for a crochet lover on your Christmas list!
Pin DIY Pipe Lamp
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FAQs About Pipe Lamps
How do you make a pipe lamp?
- Purchase same size black pipe components (i.e. 1/2″)
- Assemble back and top separately
- Clamp respective parts into Jorgensen wood clamp
- Insert edison bulb and enjoy!
What pipe is best for wiring?
To make an industrial pipe lamp, any pipe that can be screwed together with threads or securely glued will work. Just make sure that all elements and connectors are the same size. Industrial black iron pipe comes in all shapes and sizes so can be adapted to many designs.