May 3, 2013

Bright Ideas: How To Make a Pendant Light

We've got another lamp update we're excited to share the results from today — this go round, we replaced the hanging fixture in our upstairs hallway with an industrial pendant light I made. Our passion for antiquing, updating and my electrical know-how came into play for this particular update...

First thing's first — we've had this beautiful and modern hanging chandelier style fixture in a brushed nickel finish in the upstairs hallway since we moved in. It's been functional, but we found ourselves rarely using it since it required fluorescent style bulbs (this gave off a much brighter and unflattering glow than we liked) and if we're being completely honest, the modern fixture just wasn't the best representation of our style or the house. You know us, we're much more all about an industrial vintage type vibe.

This is where getting creative and a little patience came into play...

We swapped out the pendant light in our upstairs hallway with an updated industrial pendant I put together with a light kit and an enameled industrial shade we'd picked up at a roadside sale almost 1 year ago:

What's great about using a pendant light kit (like this) is how you can make a lamp out of almost anything you can drill a hole into. You can find kits in the pendant light section of your local hardware store, like we did, or find them online.

Just make sure whatever material you plan to use for the pendant shade isn't flammable since we're talking about electricity here!

You might recall, we had a vintage industrial porcelain and enamel green shade we'd picked up at a roadside sale nearly a year ago to the day:

It's funny to us how we let some things we find sit around for so long with the best of project intentions and then all of a sudden one weekend the inspiration and drive to get it done will strike (that's where the patience part of this update came into play)!

For the bulb, we loved the look and feel of the vintage style filament Edison bulb we updated our bedside table lamp with so much we picked up another longer version (like this) to use for the hallway pendant — these can also be found at most hardware stores or online.

For this project, all we needed was the pendant fitter kit, our shade, the bulb, a pair of wire cutters and a couple of good screwdrivers:

Here's what the pendant kit looks like straight out of the packaging:

To create the new light, it was as simple as unscrewing the joining socket from the base of the pendant kit, fitting our shade onto the socket and then re-screwing the joining piece back on over the shade to hold it in place:


Pretty neat, right? We waited to screw in the bulb in until the final step to make sure we didn't break it anywhere along the way.

Next up, customizing the length of the cord to our liking:

We'd measured how long from the ceiling we'd need the cord to be in order for it still hang well above the heads of through-traffic (even the tall ones like my dad and Brandon), but still feel low enough to give off that industrial pendant vibe.

Once we had the right cord length, I unscrewed the small joining piece holding the cord in place at the cap and slid the cap down the cord, screwing that little piece back in place to hold it at the new length.

Then I snipped the excess cord at the back with some wire cutters:

Then gently sliced open the outer cord wrapping to expose the two main wires inside:

Then stripped about 3/4 of an inch off the outer wrapping of those to really expose the copper wiring: 

Then I unscrewed the metal frame from the center of the pendant cap that I'd use to help anchor this new light into the ceiling:

Now we're ready to hang this baby!

To swap out the pendant, I first needed to uninstall the current fixture. It's always a good practice to make sure all electricity is off when working on electrical projects — I even go so far as to turn off the breaker for updates like these.

This is also the type of job that required strict supervision — can you spot my supervisor below?

Once up on the ladder and equipped with a couple screwdrivers, I was able to gently unscrew the cap holding the fixture in place and loosen the wires connecting up into the ceiling (along with the older anchoring frame):

Then we were ready to swap in the new pendant light we'd made by connecting those same wires on the new light up into the ceiling and gently screwing the cap back in place to cover that big hole we now know is in the ceiling.

First I just needed to screw on that newer of the two anchor plates:

Almost there:

After we got it in and hanging straight, it was time to test our new light! I screwed in the Edison bulb, turned the breakers back on and asked Mary to do the honors of flipping the switch:


And that there is the smile of success on my face:

Here's how it's looking nowadays in the upstairs hallway in all of its industrial vintage glory:

We love turning the new lamp on now — before it had a bit of a stark and sterile vibe with the fluorescent bulbs but now it emanates such a warm and inviting glow. We've been turning it on as the only light upstairs while we  hang out in the evenings downstairs and just love the warmer feel to it.

What weekend projects to you have on tap for this weekend?

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  1. Love the new "old" lamp, but I think I would have to do something with that ugly track lighting strip in that little hall. Those things are so ugly. Sorry, hope you didn't like it! lol

  2. Great details on the project...I am ordering a light kit today ! Hope mine turns out as nice as yours did.

  3. Your tutorial and pictures are top notch!
    Thank you so much for sharing, denni

  4. Your project had danger written all over it. Your slippers, foot on top step of ladder, your dog, all right next to the stairs. Yikes! Glad you made it out alive!

  5. Osha would've shut you down. Last rung on a ladder next to an open stairwell. Good thing you libs have oshammycare now, you'll need it.....

  6. Wasn't any of osha's business nor is it non am a or any body's else business what people do in the privacy of their own home. I think 8th was a helpful tutorial. Others can get over themselves thinking they know more than someone else. Geez get a life.

  7. Can you use a wine bottle instead of a shade? I want to cut the bottom of a wine bottle and place it over a pendant light will screw off so i can fit the narrow mouth of the wine bottle over it?

    1. You could certainly try that and it sounds like a neat idea! Let us know if you are successful!

  8. I'm sorry to see so many trollish comments! I really appreciate your tutorial—it's just what I was searching for and your new light is lovely.

  9. Love it! I just did the same thing this weekend only using a wire waste basket. The basket is made up of different sized circles which I thought would cast circles on the wall but that didn't happen. Instead there is a neat starburst pattern on the ceiling! Now I want to make more pendant lights.

  10. thanks for the simple step by step details and where to find the pendant kit!!!

  11. Nice post! Thanks for sharing it :)

  12. Great tutorial! I'm looking to do something similar with an antique copper colander. I can't wait to see how the light spills through the holes.

  13. After spending hours looking at pendant lights and chandeliers . . . they're all beginning to look alike and very expensive for a back hall and stairwell. So I decided to bing it how to make one and I came upon your tutorial -- it was very clear and appreciated. Now if I could just find one for make a 3-light fixture . . .

  14. Nothing "troll-ish" about the safety comments. If you're going to publish a "tutorial," showing people the safe way might be a good idea. This project was neat, but the unsafe manner in which it was accomplished was really bad.

    1. Thank you for checking in and for taking a look!

  15. Just curious, as I am getting ready to build my own wall lamps out of plumbing parts, did you use a ground wire? I only see the hot and neutral wires in the instruction. Is insulation necessary?

    Thanks. Nice job on the update.

    1. Catherine we live in a 100 year old house and some of it still contains knob and tube wiring which is ungrounded. This was one of those areas although a ground wire was provided and could be used on the lighting bracket shown in the photos. Good luck with your project and thanks for checking in!

  16. Where did you get the pendant light kit?

  17. Are you sure you don't need a junction box in the ceiling?


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