Custom Table Lamps
I just finished customizing a pair table lamps for our bedside tables:
Right after we closed on Miss Sadie, I realized I would need to employ the use of table lamps in some of the larger rooms to have adequate lighting, and learned PDQ that nice looking lamps are ridiculously expensive. Most of my lamp needs were met by buying vintage lamps found on ebay, which had the desired look for the period of the house, but needed to be rewired, making them much cheaper.
But for our bedside table lamps, I really wanted lamps that included a receptacle to charge our phones at night. The options for stick lamps with phone charging bases are vast and cheap, but since you never know what port your phone will require in a year or two, I went with a pair that included a simple plug receptacle. They aren’t apt to change every plug on everything in the U.S… at least within a year.. and without a good safety related reason, rather than one of big phone proprietorship.
So these are the two gray Room Essentials stick desk lamps I bought from Target. Very simple, reliable and cheap. And I love the pull chain with the metal ball at the end… it really is the little things. 🙂
But I wanted something more sophisticated than a table lamp on a pole, Otherwise, I might feel like I was living in a college dormitory,
After moving in, I found a couple of Asian artist-signed prints in the workshop attic, steering me towards a koi theme, so the mad search began for matching ceramic vases with just the right look. I found a pair of vintage Royal Copley goldfish ceramic vases on Ebay ($20 for the pair, SCORE! :D)
Here’s the pinterest information on the vases I used, but you could recreate this project with vases that fit your preference. All that you really need to be sure of is:
- If you are using the vase cap I have listed below, make sure the top opening outside dimension of your vase is around 4″ but less than 4-1/4″ in diameter;
- The vase is flat/stable enough to balance on the lamp base and not so heavy or bulky that the lamp base can’t support it;
- You can drill through the bottom with a masonry bit to run the lamp pole and cord through;
- The width and height of the vase will work with your stick lamp. My lamps had the convenience receptacle on the side of the base, but I wanted to stay within the diameter of the inset circle of the base.
I knew I would also need a cap to close the top of the vase on the lamp (find in materials list below), but wanted to add another piece to finish it out. I found my solution in these cut-out alloy incense lids, designed in simple lines with an Chinese artisan look to them that seemed fluid enough to simulate “water” to me. Against the blue walls of my bedroom, I could really see these goldfish swimming around happily. 🙂
If you would like to recreate these lamps, you will need the following materials:
Room Essentials - Gray Stick Desk Lamp
Asian Style Ceramic Vase with Top Opening Measurement of 4" Diameter
Cut-Out Alloy Incense Burner Lid - Black
4 1/4" Vase Cap, Unfinished Brass
Tools and Working Materials:
Stanley All-in-One Screwdriver
Stanley Tools 3-Piece Basic Plier Set
Black & Decker 5.2-Amp Drill/Driver, 3/8-Inch
High-Speed Steel Reduced-Shank Drill Bit, 5/8"
Irwin Tools Masonry Drill Bit, 5/8" x 6"
E6000 Craft Adhesive Mini (4 Pack)
I began by taking my lamp base apart from the pole, starting at the base. The bottom felt circle under the Room Essentials – Gray Stick Desk Lamp came right off with a little prying, then below that, a plastic disc cover was held in by three screws which easily come out. The wires were crimped together inside a plastic cover, but that was easily un-crimped (then re-crimped later) with a pair of needle-nose pliers. I removed the two wires connecting the power cord to the rest of the wiring, then kept the other two wire-sets together (take photos if it helps to remember). The nut, holding the base against the pole was removed with a pair of pliers.
I made sure to keep all the parts I was disassembling in a ziplock bag and took photos at various intervals of the process to know exactly how everything looked before I took it apart, and should look again later, when I put it back together.
The lamp pole was fabricated with the flared “ends” as one piece, so all holes to be drilled would need to be 5/8″ in diameter, for those flared ends to pass through.
I started drilling the bottom of the vases with my Irwin Tools Masonry Drill Bit, 5/8″ x 6″. Because drilling ceramic can heat it up to the point of cracking and breaking, I sat my vase top down into the bowl of my kitchen sink on top of a dish towel for slight cushioning. I ran a trickle of cool water from the faucet onto the base of where I would be drilling to keep it lubricated and cool. Be sure to run the water as a trickle, not wide open and please be certain that your drill motor isn’t getting in the water. The only parts of this project you want getting wet, are the surface of the vase where you are drilling your hole and the drill bit end.
A good tip for masonry drilling is to not run the drill wide open and not so slow that nothing is happening. A nice medium low speed will work best, and don’t press your weight and might against the drill, just let the bit do it’s job. As you get to the bottom or inside layer of your masonry hole, be ready to pull back lightly, so you don’t fall through the hole with your bit and drill, like a doomed space cadet tripping into a black hole. 🙂 Also, you don’t want to be so out of control, that you somehow drill into your sink bowl. :-O If you are unfamiliar enough with drilling that this might be a concern, go outside and do this in the grass with a water hose trickling over your vase.
You will also need to drill a 5/8″ diameter hole in your incense burner lid, but you don’t want to do that with the masonry bit, use the Irwin Tools Masonry Drill Bit, 5/8″ x 6″ for that part. First unscrew the top lid handle from the lid, then find your center point in the lid where you will drill out your hole. Set the lid onto a thick piece of junk wood or work surface that can take an oopsie drill hole, should you make one.
When you have completed your drilling, it’s time to put everything back together, and having a second person there to lend their hands during this process will be crucial. You don’t want to get this far to just have the vase crash to the floor because you couldn’t hold it all together and tighten everything up.
Have someone sit in a chair and hold the lamp, shade side down. Standing over them, feed onto the pole:
- the drilled out incense burn
- er lid, dome side towards the shade;
- the vase cap, dome side towards the shade;
- the big washer, as it will return to be on the inside of the vase;
- the vase, with the opening towards the shade. Feeding the cord then the pole through the smaller end of the vase, can be a little tricky, so be patient and careful. Use a pair of needle-nose pliers to help feed the cord through the hole if necessary.
- Finally feed the cord and pole through the lamp base, good side towards the shade.
- Rewire (twist the wires together) the power cord to both sets in the base, then add the crimps you removed back to cover each set, then recrimp by squeezing them with the crimping edge (not the cutting edge) of your needle-nose pliers.
- Thread and tighten your nut onto the pole until everything is secure.
- Return your plastic disc cover, lining the holes with the ones in the base, screw back in.
- Cover with the felt you removed.
- Get all features turned and set where you want them, then dot the underside base of your vase with a tube of E6000 Craft Adhesive Mini (4 Pack), making sure it is contained under the vase and not showing. Fix your vase cover where you want it and dot the underside with E6000, to the hidden rim of the vase and repeat this process with the incense cover onto the vase cover.
- Enjoy your custom lamp! And please post photos of your lamps in the comments so I can see your work! 🙂
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