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.
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.
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?
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!
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.”
- Want that patina for your metal works? Check out Modern Masters Rust Activator. The link is to the 4 ounce size, but it is offered in other sizes.
- Or, for adding iron and rust effects to your projects, check out the Modern Masters Metal Effects Iron Paint and Rust Activator kit.
There is also a huge array of reproduction trouble lights and trouble light chandeliers on Etsy. Here is a small sampling.
Affiliate links used.
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