Lighting Whimsies from Another’s Junk

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By Brian D. Coleman

Iron fencing. (Photo: Dan Mayers)

Iron fencing. (Photo: Dan Mayers)

IRON FENCING When Roy Morton was scouting in the English countryside for his Birmingham business, Architectural Heritage, he couldn’t pass up a section of crusty iron fencing. Not sure what to do with it, he scribbled on a paper napkin and soon had a sketch of an engaging table lamp that highlighted the finely wrought iron details.

A Quick Remake
1. Create a base
He had a base cut from Carrara marble, large enough to support the weight of the finished lamp (and not topple over). The marble was etched with a quick acid wash to simulate age, better complementing the old iron.

2. Marry the pieces
The iron patina was preserved with a clear matte finish, sprayed. A hole drilled in the center of the marble base holds the vertical support from the iron fence piece, secured with screws and brackets on either end. The inexpensive, common porcelain socket was wired to the top, the electrical wire run down the back; the online switch is on the cord. The simple linen shade doesn’t compete, and certainly looks classic.

Brass trivet (Photo: Dan Mayers)

Brass trivet (Photo: Dan Mayers)

BRASS TRIVET Remember those triangular brass trivets your mother used to protect the tabletop from hot casseroles? Architect Michael Haverland was browsing in an antiques shop and came across a box of them. He bought the whole lot, even though he wasn’t sure how they’d be used. At the time, he was looking for wall sconces to light a narrow hallway in his East Hampton home. Eureka: the trivets, projecting very little, would screen the bulbs and add a retro touch.

Using Ordinary Objects
1. Simple parts
The design is straightforward. Each trivet, re-imagined as a shade or screen, was hung on a ½" brass dowel anchored to blocking (or a stud) in the wall, allowing the trivet and its support to remain independent of the light source.

2. Add light
A square electrical box, easy to cover with a plate and narrower than the trivet, was set in the wall. (A licensed electrician will be sure to size the box according to local code.) A standard light socket on a backing plate completed the sconce. Now there’s a pleasing interplay of light and shadow in the hall.

Glass Insulator (Photo: Dan Mayers)

Glass Insulator (Photo: Dan Mayers)

GLASS INSULATOR Del Moody has a background in electrical engineering, and his wife, Connie, haunts salvage yards and thrift stores. Together, as Swan Mountain Antiques, they started fashioning unique lamps from vintage glass telephone insulators. Del lets his imagination run free, with bases made from everything from salvaged bowling-alley flooring to old barn wood, even antique smudge pots.

Industrial Chic
1. The base
Leaving the patina, Del cuts and planes the wood base, then preps it by pre-drilling holes for wiring and mounting a flange to hold the arms of galvanized steel pipe nipples. The base is finished with a light sanding and sealed with satin polyurethane.

2. The glass
The glass insulators are then wired: a hole is carefully drilled in the top with a drill press, using a diamond bit with a water pump and a steady hand.

3. The armature
Del lays out segments of black iron or galvanized pipe nipples in various lengths, plus elbows, Ts, and angles, to create interesting shapes for lamps with one, two, three, or more insulators. Sometimes he incorporates other salvage such as valves, knobs, or gauges into the design. Once the form is set, he threads the pieces onto the lamp wire, adding splices as needed to service the arms. Each pre-drilled insulator is threaded and a small base socket attached to the end. Parts are tightened into place, an inline switch is installed near the base, and the insulator lamp begins to glow.