Wording With Purpose

Pole Lamp

Where do ideas originate? How do we decide which might be implemented and which remain imprisoned in the thought-o-sphere? In our moments together Shawn and I can generate piles of ideas. It’s probably a good thing that resources restrict us from attempting all of them.

We love plants as evidenced by the full gardens surrounding our home. And we enjoy a few indoor plants, but one corner of the living room has been accumulating a garden of its own. That prime location offers a south-facing window with streams of brilliant light until spring springs and the trees stifle the flow. If we are to continue the indoor garden a consistent light source must be added.

Take a look at Shawn’s idea of how such a light should look. She envisioned a pole lamp high above the plant table with a reflector hanging by a thread to supply the needed light. The non-functioning pulley wheel would give the lamp some architectural interest. My job was to turn this into a working reality. And the pressure mounted quickly as the pole grow lamp was the only item she placed on her birthday list.

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Here’s a view of the parts I collected. I salvaged the wheel from an ancient foot-powered sewing machine that once belonged to Shawn’s grandmother. We repurposed the cabinet years ago and the machine itself looks down from a high shelf onto the happenings in Shawn’s studio.

The wood scraps planned for the base of the lamp also have history. Part was left from the farm table I built with my daughter, Michelle, and the rest is recycled barn wood from past projects. Sometimes the art of turning ideas into reality requires knowing what to keep and what to toss. Whew! Glad I made the correct choice on these items.

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My handy Kreg Jig made joining the boards a simple task. I used the belt sander to ease the edges and remove any splinters. We agreed the lamp should be painted top to bottom with Rustoleum Hammered Black spray paint and any character in the wood such as nail holes or gouges should remain unfilled.

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The section of 4”x4” must support the weight of the 8’ pole so I secured it to the base using 5/16 x 4” lag screws. I drilled pilot holes and rotated between the lags while tightening. Think of tightening lug nuts on the car.

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Next I drilled a 1?” hole to a depth of ¼”. The 1” EMT conduit used for the pole will rest on the lip with the electrical cord passing through the ½” center hole to the backside of the base.

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I gently sanded the conduit then wiped with mineral spirits before painting.

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Assembly started with 3 straps secured to the back with 2½” wood screws. Drill pilot holes! I attempted to insert the screws without this important step and wasted considerable time removing damaged screws with pliers and elbow grease.

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Drilling through conduit can be tricky as the pipe tends to roll and the drill bit skates. Use scrap wood to make a jig to hold the pipe and a nail set to dimple the spot for drilling. This jig is adjusted for 1” pipe but with time and wing nuts I might make an adjustable jig. Some day.

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Rather than use typical screw-type connectors we chose these slightly more expensive compression connectors. I wrapped the jaws of my slip joint pliers to prevent scarring.

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After the initial assembly and mandatory test for stability I moved the lamp outside for spray painting. Thankfully the spray paint dried to the touch in 10-15 minutes and I was able to prime and paint between thunder storms.

My next step was to suspend the heavy wheel and leave the structure overnight to test the mechanical connections.

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For the end cap I used a 1” threaded iron pipe cap. My electrical cable was retro-look cloth covered wire and I wanted a suitable grommet to prevent friction cuts. I had no way to drill the ¾” hole required by the ½” grommet and considered using a PVC cap instead but hated the look.

Lowe’s had a ¾” drill bit on the shelf. With my drill press and a large pair of slip-joint pliers I had no trouble drilling in steps up to ½”. The jump from ½” to ¾” with a single bit was a challenge. Clamp the work. Wear safety glasses and proceed slowly. And don’t forget to vacuum up all the metal splinters scattered across the floor.

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I attempted to fish the cable through the pipe using gravity but found I was unable to coerce the taped end to exit the base. I pushed a section of clothesline wire up from the bottom of the pole and secured the cable to the wire with tape. As my helper pulled from one end I pushed cable into the other. Success!

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We pulled all the excess cable through the A Hole as shown in the diagram. Then the end was fished through the channel marked B and pulled through. The cable is now protected and secure. Note I made the channel B using a ½” bit before we began routing.

Black tie wraps secured the cable around the wheel and disappeared in the paint scheme.

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A three prong plug completed the electrical work. Note the long cord. I began with a 25’ section of cable leaving about 10’ of length so the lamp can be moved if necessary.

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The pole lamp installed in its location.

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A grow light bulb completes the project. Follow the Amazon link at the bottom of the page to see the model we selected.

Astute readers realize there is no power switch on this design since the lamp was part of a ceiling light fixture. I stayed with that concept and will plug the lamp into a programmable timer.

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The challenges on this project included:

  • Transporting a 10’ section of pipe in my Nissan pickup.
  • Drilling a ¾” hole through a relatively small iron cap
  • Adjusting the length of the upper arm so the weight of the pulley and light do not tip the assembly.
  • Finding an acceptable method of suspending the wheel. In the end I used a section of chain from a ceiling light kit.

Parts list

  • 1 Hampton Bay Model # AF-1032R Brushed Nickel Warehouse Pendant lamp
  • 25’ 3-conductor 18-gauge black cotton pulley cord (sundialwire.com)
  • Suitable timer
  • 4 5/16 x 4” lag screws
  • 6 #10 x2” round head wood screws
  • 1 1” black iron cap
  • 1 ½” grommet
  • 1 15A 3 prong plug
  • Miscellaneous electrical parts to rewire lamp using a socket with screw type terminals
  • 1 1” EMT Conduit 10’
  • 3 1” two-hole EMT straps
  • 2 1” EMT compression couplings
  • 1 1” 90 degree elbow
  • 1 can spray primer
  • 1 can Rustoleum Hammered Black
  • ¾” drill bit
  • 2 20” pieces of rough cut 2×4
  • 1 8” piece of 4×4
  • 10” of ceiling light chain