More From Plowing with Pigs
Homemade Light Fixture
One of the final steps in our ongoing kitchen renovation was to fill the (electrical) box left by a ceiling fan, which we had moved because its blades were hitting a cabinet door when it was open. At an antique store, we stumbled upon an old milk can funnel that had a charming rust veneer over galvanized steel. It struck us as a perfect lampshade, so, after parting with $6 for it, the project of turning it into a light fixture for a rustic kitchen began to take shape.
The vintage milk can funnel is made from tin-plated mild-steel, which is easy to modify as needed. I chose a gray powder-coated, adjustable lamp head for the bulb base. This base has a 1/2 inch NPT thread at the end opposite the bulb socket. I used the supplied locknut to support a large galvanized fender washer I found in my parts box. The washer keeps the funnel in place and helps keep its soft perforated steel from deforming under the funnel’s weight.
I threaded the end of the lamp head directly into a 1/2 inch galvanized pipe coupling. I used tin snips to open the end of the funnel enough to make room. My snipping was sufficiently close that I didn’t need a fender washer directly beneath the coupling. Tightening up the coupling holds the funnel securely in place. To the other end of the coupling, I attached a 12-inch-long piece of 1/2 inch galvanized pipe, threaded on both ends (a 12-inch nipple). The end opposite the funnel threads into the lamp base that goes with the lamp head I used inside the funnel. That base is screwed to the ceiling box.
Since we wanted this light to be operable separately from the wall-switched main kitchen light, as was the case with the old fan, I left that side circuit wired hot and installed a pull-chain switch inside the lamp base.
Since the lamp base is quite angular and modern looking, we decided to cover it with a canopy. We couldn’t find any canopies at the local electrical supply place that suited perfectly, so we just bought an inexpensive one and modified it. First, I used a large twist bit in my drill and did some filing to open up the hole in the center to accommodate the 1/2 inch galvanized pipe. Second, I drilled and filed out a hole to allow the pull switch to see the light of day. I noticed that the canopy required a couple of screws to be threaded into the fixture to which it was designed to be attached. To work around this problem, I drilled and tapped the lamp mounting base for screws that would fasten the canopy in place. Those screws are beneath the two acorn nuts.
As with any electrical work, don’t take on more than you are knowledgeable enough to handle. Simple wiring and lamp installation is fairly easy if you understand the fundamentals and have excellent resources at hand. Study the appropriate sections in home improvement books and online to ensure that your work is up to code and most importantly, safe. Our homemade milk can funnel light serves its purpose wonderfully and it fit our newly rustic kitchen perfectly. If you prefer a more uniform look, you could paint all the components in the same color; be sure to let the paint cure thoroughly before assembling.
Reprinted with permission from Plowing with Pigs: And Other Creative, Low-Budget Homesteading Solutions by Oscar H. Will III and Karen K. Will and published by New Society Publishers, 2013.