Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How to Build a Lamp


How to Build a Stovepipe Lamp
Assemble the pieces of pipe in a candy cane, with the bulb secured at the top; weight the base solidly.

For a bold accent to any room, follow these easy instructions to make this sleek, well-designed reading lamp. The "candy cane" portion is created from sections of stovepipe -- all you add is wiring.

Tools:

  • measuring rule
  • pencil
  • handsaw or saber saw
  • fine-toothed flat file
  • power drill
  • caulking gun
  • scissors
  • screwdriver
  • wire cutters
  • wire stripper

Materials:

  • 6-inch straight and elbow stovepipe sections
  • scrap 3/4-inch plywood
  • construction adhesive
  • bricks or lead weights
  • heavy felt
  • white glue
  • porcelain lamp socket with screws
  • newspaper
  • masking tape
  • matte black or matte white spray paint for metal
  • lightweight lamp cord
  • lamp turn switch
  • quick-clamp plug
  • spray metal primer and high-gloss spray enamel
  • 40-, 75-, or 100-watt light bulb

Time: about 2 to 4 hours

When making a stovepipe lamp, you can assemble pieces of pipe in any shape you like. This candy-cane-shaped lamp is 6 inches in diameter and 54 inches high, and is designed for reading or bedside use. You can paint it shiny red or any color you like. For a 54-inch-high candy cane, you'll need two 24-inch sections of straight pipe and two 90-degree elbow sections, plus 12 feet of lightweight lamp cord.

To make the lamp base and the bulb base, cut two discs of scrap 3/4-inch plywood, exactly the same diameter as the stovepipe. Measure the exact diameter of the uncrimped end of one straight section, and the crimped end of one elbow section. Set these sections on a piece of plywood and draw around them; adjust to the measured diameter.

Carefully cut out the two discs with a handsaw or a saber saw. Cut exactly on the traced lines; the discs must fit firmly inside the pieces of stovepipe. Smooth the edges of the discs with a fine-toothed flat file to get a snug fit inside the stovepipe sections.

To make the lamp base, use an electric drill to drill a hole about 12 inches up from the uncrimped end of the straight bottom pipe to accommodate the lamp switch; drill the hole just large enough to accept the shank of your switch. On the other side of the pipe section, about 1 1/4 inches up from the uncrimped bottom of the piece of pipe, drill another hole just large enough to accommodate the lamp cord.

With a caulking gun, apply a bead of construction adhesive all around the cut edge of the plywood base disc. Carefully set the disc into the uncrimped end of the pipe, and adjust it from both ends of the pipe so that it's firmly wedged into the pipe, level and flush with the bottom pipe edge. To finish the outside of the lamp base, trace the section of stovepipe onto a piece of heavy felt, and cut a circle of felt to back the plywood disc. Apply the felt to the outside face of the disc with white glue, and smooth the felt to make a level base. Let the glue and the construction adhesive dry completely, as directed by the manufacturer.

When the base is dry, weight it with bricks or lead weights -- use about 5 pounds of weights to keep the lamp stable. Attach the weights to the plywood base inside the pipe with construction adhesive; make sure you don't block the switch hole or the cord hole.

Slice one edge off the top disc; then screw the porcelain socket to it and attach the wires of the lamp cord.

To make the top of the lamp, cut a narrow slice off one side of the other plywood disc, to leave room for the wires to enter the body of the lamp. Attach a porcelain lamp socket to the center of the disc, screwing it firmly in. Then apply a bead of construction adhesive to the cut edge of the disc, except for the sliced-off edge, and set the disc into the crimped end of one elbow section of pipe, socket side out. Make sure the disc is firmly anchored and set straight into the end of the pipe; the bulb will project straight out from the socket into the second elbow section, as illustrated above.

Let the construction adhesive dry, as directed by the manufacturer. When the adhesive is dry, paint the inside of the lamp's bulb end. For a focused bedside light, use matte black spray paint; for more diffused light, use matte white. Set the second elbow section into place over the crimped end of the first one, so that the socket assembly is roughly in the middle of the two curved pieces of pipe, with the bulb socket facing out. Adjust the pieces of pipe to the angle desired, and push them firmly together.

Spread newspaper to protect your work area, and cover the socket opening in the elbow assembly with masking tape. Spray the inside of the assembled curved section with matte black or matte white paint, as desired. Cover the plywood disc and the entire inside surface of the pipe. Let the paint dry completely, as directed by the manufacturer; if necessary, spray again for complete coverage and let the paint dry.

When the paint is completely dry on the elbow sections, remove the masking tape from the socket. Screw a light bulb into the socket and note where the bulb lies inside the curved stovepipe sections; then remove it. Across the top of the stovepipe, above the light bulb location, drill three 3/8-inch holes to dissipate the heat of the bulb.

To assemble the lamp, thread the end of a 12-foot piece of lightweight lamp cord through the cord hole drilled in the bottom straight section, just above the plywood base. Leaving about 8 to 9 feet of cord outside the pipe, tie a loose knot in the cord to anchor it against the drilled hole. The remaining 3 to 4 feet of cord, inside the lamp, will be used to wire the lamp.

Bring the wire up the base piece of stovepipe and across to the drilled switch hole. At the point where the cord passes the switch hole, carefully separate the two insulated wires of the cord for a few inches. Cut one of these wires, and use a wire stripper to remove about 1/2 inch of insulation from the two cut ends; do not cut both wires. Connect the cut ends to the two screw terminals on the lamp switch. Insert the switch into the hole in the stovepipe and secure it with the lock ring provided.

When the switch has been wired in, complete the assembly of the lamp. Set the other straight piece of pipe onto the base piece, uncrimped end down, and push it firmly to join the two pieces securely. Pull the loose end of the wire up through the pipe.

Carefully separate the two insulated wires of the cord for about 6 inches at the loose end. Set the assembled curve of the candy cane onto the straight lamp base, pulling the separated ends of the cord up past the plywood disc through the cut-out area. With a wire stripper, remove about 1/2 inch of insulation from each wire, and connect the stripped ends to the screw terminals of the porcelain socket.

Firmly push the curved part of the lamp onto the straight part, so that the light opening and the switch are on the same side. To complete the lamp assembly, attach a quick-clamp plug to the free end of the lamp cord, as directed by the manufacturer.

Finish the lamp with spray metal primer and then high-gloss spray enamel. Before painting, cover your work surface with newspaper; cover the lamp cord and the switch with masking tape and newspaper. Cover the bulb opening with masking tape, and put a piece of tape over the vent holes on the inside of the top piece of pipe. Apply a light coat of primer and let it dry completely. Apply two or three coats of high-gloss spray enamel, following the manufacturer's instructions, to obtain a smooth finish. Let the paint dry completely; then carefully remove all tape and paper, and screw in a 40-, 75-, or 100-watt light bulb. Let the reading begin!

If you don't need a whole new lamp, but would like to revitalize one you already have, visit the next page for instructions on covering a lamp shade.

For more information on lighting and electricity, see:

  • How to Do Home Electrical Repairs: Whether the lights are out, the appliances won't come on, or a switch won't work, use this site to learn how to make simple home electrical repairs.
  • How Light Bulbs Work: Sure, it lights up when you connect it to a lamp or light fixture, but what goes on inside a light bulb? Find out here!
  • How Electricity Works: Learn how this mysterious force creates power for everything from toasters to Times Square.

More to Explore