Rustic Greenhouse Lights from a Mad Scientist

I’ve always thought of my brother, Dan, as a bit of a “mad scientist.”  He likes to experiment, making his own furniture, cabinetry, light fixtures.  Add this to an engineering background and a strong artistic streak and, as you can imagine, he builds some pretty cool things.

This past Christmas, my husband, Chris, and I were the lucky recipients of his latest experiment:  Two rustic hanging lights for our new Sunglo greenhouse, complete with Edison-style bulbs, a custom patina on the wire bulb cages, and vintage-inspired cords and plugs.

Just right - rustic hanging lights for our greenhouse
Just right – rustic hanging lights for our greenhouse

I had wanted to find overhead lighting for our greenhouse that was simple and industrial yet with some vintage charm.  And these lights are exactly that.

A Little Q&A

I thought it would be fun to find out how Dan got his inspiration for these lamps and hear about his process, so I sat down with him for a little Q&A.

H:  Dan, these lights are so unique.  How did you come up with the design?

D:  While flipping through the latest Rejuvenation catalog, I came across a pendant light called “Wiley.”  The design was based on the classic old trouble lights.  It looked simple enough to make myself, so I figured I’d give it a try.

H:  Yes, as soon as Chris saw them he said they look like old-fashioned trouble lights.  In fact, the lights you made are portable so we actually can use them as trouble lights if we want to.

D:  Yeah, sure.

H:  So anyway, you just thought heck, I’ll build some lights.  But how did you find parts?

D:  There are lots of sources for reproduction lamp parts.  So I bought the metal bulb cages and cloth-covered wiring online.  The wood handles came from a ship’s wheel I bought years earlier and never used.

Vintage lighting -reproduction trouble light
The wooden lamp handle, cloth-wrapped cord and vintage-look plug.

H:  Oh no, I remember that wheel.  You took it apart?

D: Well, the wheel was a reproduction and not worth a whole lot, so I didn’t lose any sleep over cutting the handles off.  The wheel had eight handles. The rest of the parts (sockets, threaded rods, etc.) I got at my local hardware store.

H:  There is a very cool corroded-looking, rusty patina on the wire cage.  How did you do that?

Vintage lighting - reproduction patina
The rustic patina on the lamp cage

D:  The bulb cages were steel with a brass-looking anodized coating. I wanted something a little more rustic than brass, so I sanded off the coating, a rather tedious task, and then sprayed the bare metal with a rust activator and let it sit overnight.

H:  What substance did you use for that?

D:  I used Modern Masters Rust Activator designed for their Metal Effects line of paints.

H:  Was this one of those rare projects where everything went as planned, or was there a stumbling block?

D:  The hardest part was drilling straight through the wood handles. I drilled in from each end of the handle as straight as I could and hoped the holes would meet somewhere in the middle. Finding the exact centerline of the handle was difficult, and I had one handle split on me while I was drilling, but fortunately I had extras. That whole process would have been much easier if I had a drill press, but I think the end result looked pretty good.

H:  Oh, I would have to agree with you there!

Vintage lighting - reproduction trouble lights
A pair of reproduction trouble lights.

Don’t Try This at Home, Kids

Now keep in mind that lamp building is a tricky business best left to professionals, so this post is not a tutorial.  As they say, “don’t try this at home.”


Sources:

There is also a huge array of reproduction trouble lights and trouble light chandeliers on Etsy.  Here is a small sampling.

lights chandelier 1lights one lightlight one light2

 

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10 thoughts on “Rustic Greenhouse Lights from a Mad Scientist”

    1. Thanks Joanie, I’m pretty eager to get started on some other greenhouse projects. I’m sure I’ll be really inspired after the Flower and Garden show!

  1. I love, love these lights! They do remind me of trouble lights but double the love trouble! lol! Thanks for sharing them with SYC.
    hugs,
    Jann

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