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Make Your Own Pendant Light

Some time around this past Thanksgiving, we spent a quiet day off hopping around to some of our favorite vintage stores with our friend (and holiday house guest), Julie. We did our best to show her all of the great spots near our home, and of course Salvage One was at the top of the list (one of our favorite spaces for inspiration and antique-ing; remember our door debacle?). We didn’t have anything in particular in mind to purchase, but we quickly stumbled across an incredible milk glass pendant shade for just 20 bones – and we couldn’t pass it up!

We figured that a “lamp kit” would be easy enough to find either locally or online, and we hoped to spend no more than an additional $40 or $50 to turn our new found shade into a working ceiling light. Of course this is the sort of thing that has us wishing we would’ve kept our thoughts to ourselves; in other words, we couldn’t have been more wrong. (Boo.) After local phone calls and way too much online digging, the search turned out to be a snipe hunt due to the sizing of our shade opening.  Finding all of the necessary supplies was starting to feel impossible without spending upwards of $100, and in some cases, much, much more. Frustrated and unwilling to change our original budget, we moved on to other projects, and the shade sat upstairs in storage collecting dust for months.

A couple of weeks ago, the near-completion of the music nook project reinvigorated our search, and the need for lighting came back to the forefront. Kim jumped back online, and in a lucky turn of events, she (finally!) found Snakehead Vintage, an online purveyor of affordable, high-quality electrical and lighting parts.

The parts list for our particular lamp is below (just click on the part to take you to our exact material), but keep in mind that shades will often have different base diameters, requiring different sized fitters. Ours was 6″ in diameter (that is, the opening of the shade itself), which was one of the main issues we ran into during our initial source, as it was an atypical size in relation to most of the standard mounting kits.

MATERIALS USED:
Pendant shade
6″ fitter (spray painted matte black)
Ceiling canopy (spray painted matte black)
Hardware mount kit, including strain relief grips
Light socket, keyless
Cloth electrical cord

TOOLS USED:
Wire stripper
Utility knife or scissors
Screwdriver

WHAT WE DID: If you can use a screwdriver, you can wire a lamp. It’s all pretty straightforward and with the right tools, it shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes or so. We started by cutting away the black cord cover with a utility knife, then singing the ends with a lighter to prevent further fraying. Be careful not to burn the plastic wire insulation, as this can damage the wiring and lead to a fire hazard. (Yikes!)

Next, use a wire stripper to pull about a 1/2″ section of insulation off of the black and white wires. We didn’t use the ground in this application, so we left it covered. Now just attach the wire to the screw connections on your socket and you’re ready to close up the socket with the metal cover.

The cover attaches from inside the socket with two small black screws that will pull everything safely together. the strain relief grip then threads into the metal cover and there’s a tiny set screw (see below) as an added security measure. We ended up trimming off two of the “prongs” on the strain relief, as the fit was pretty tight with the covered wire that we chose.

You can then slide the top of the strain relief down over the fitter and the upper half of your lamp is complete. Repeat these steps (minus the socket) for the ceiling-end of your fixture and you’re ready to move on to the junction box.

Our junction box was looking pretty rough when we pulled down the old light, so I hit the gap to the left of the box with a few coats of drywall mud and sanded everything smooth to ensure that our ceiling canopy would cover everything up and not look wonky from below. A couple coats of ceiling paint and we were moving forward.

Go ahead and flip off your circuit breaker at this point so you don’t get zapped. Once there’s no power flowing through your wiring, simply match up the wire colors inside the box (black to black) and fasten with wire nuts. Flip your beaker back on to make sure everything is safe and functional. The small black finger-nuts then thread onto the screws and through the ceiling canopy. Done!

In total, we spent around $40 for the supplies and $20 on the shade. Not bad for $60 and coming in on budget! We’re really happy with how the pendant turned out, and we’re excited about the possibility of creating more custom fixtures for other rooms. We definitely won’t hesitate to pick up awesome glass shades moving forward and encourage you to do the same (or maybe don’t – locals, we’re looking at you! – so we can scoop up the good vintage finds ourselves? Kidding.)

Has anyone else out there stumbled when trying to track down hard-to-find parts? Are there any other online resources that we should know about?

  • Julia@Cukoo4Design - February 4, 2014 - 7:49 AM

    Love this! Looks awesome. You guys are so good!ReplyCancel

  • caroline [the diy nurse] - February 4, 2014 - 7:51 AM

    It looks great!ReplyCancel

  • Megan - February 4, 2014 - 7:59 AM

    Love the light! My dad bought a bunch of vintage school globes at random auctions over the years and has been hoarding them. He said he’ll share with me when we remodel our kitchen. Gotta love vintage finds!ReplyCancel

  • thelady - February 4, 2014 - 8:49 AM

    I enjoy watching you guys add character and vintage details to your home. I feel like so many renovations involve removing these sort of details.ReplyCancel

  • Kim - February 4, 2014 - 8:59 AM

    Megan, that’s worth renovating your kitchen right now! :)ReplyCancel

  • Theresa - February 4, 2014 - 9:22 AM

    This is fantastic! Way to be persistent!ReplyCancel

  • kara - February 4, 2014 - 10:31 AM

    looks SO GREAT with the new paint job!

    do you guys know about Mike in Pilsen? he is a super nice guy who sells [mostly] lamps/lighting out of the basement of a big old warehouse in Pilsen. i think it’s only open on saturdays. He posts some of his stuff on craigslist – search for “mike” and “lamps” in chicago craigslist and you’ll find him. i’ve found some really cool stuff there over the years, mostly table/floor lamps, but other stuff too, and priced really reasonably. he’s also fixed dumpster-dived lamps for me. and, did i mention he’s a total sweetheart? anyways, happy hunting!ReplyCancel

  • Kim - February 4, 2014 - 10:36 AM

    Kara, awesome!! We’ll definitely have to check it out – thank you so much for the tip!ReplyCancel

  • Alexis - February 4, 2014 - 12:43 PM

    I’ve been wanting to put a new light fixture up in my apartment’s living room and in the dining nook, but I’m really terrified of doing it myself. Is it really this easy? Any tips or youtube tutorials you recommend?
    As always, I read your blog and come away inspired!ReplyCancel

  • jenn. - February 4, 2014 - 5:45 PM

    thank you, THANKYOUx50 for sharing this. we’ve had a copper shade sitting around for a year now because we couldn’t find a place to buy all the things you’ve just mentioned affordably.ReplyCancel

  • Kim - February 4, 2014 - 5:53 PM

    Jenn, yay! So happy to help! You’d think it would be much easier, right?ReplyCancel

  • Kelly G. - February 5, 2014 - 7:28 AM

    Finding pieces and parts to create a light is IMPOSSIBLE! I used to sell lighting for two different places, too (Ferguson and Shades of Light)! I’ve only found pendant kits (World Market), but their selection is very limited. The other place for parts would be westinghouse, but I haven’t really found a local carrier (and they’re pretty traditional in their canopy designs).

    All that to say, that’s for spilling on your new supplier!ReplyCancel

  • Kim - February 5, 2014 - 4:44 PM

    Kelly G, yes, we were shocked at how hard it was to find all the right pieces! We are obsessed with Snakehead Vintage now, and we especially love that it’s supporting a small business.ReplyCancel

  • SEM - February 5, 2014 - 11:05 PM

    that library nook is shaping up to be pretty much the coolest space ever. i hope to someday find a house with as much character…and find myself as creative and patient as the two of you. kudos. can’t wait to follow the progress.ReplyCancel

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