A bright idea





I have had this vase just about as long as I can remember. Maybe one of my parents remembers me buying it. I think it was allowance money spent at Pier One? Maybe one of those oddball catalogs full of dragon sculptures and hippy clothes and crystals and wall-hangings that I used to pore over.

At any rate, this thing is responsible for my lifelong obsession with the ocher yellow color I painted my living room. Good news: the color was a perfect match. Bad news: the color was a perfect match and now this lamp blends into the wall like it’s wearing camouflage.

I decided that the easy answer (given the unconscionable price of new lamps) was to move the yellow lamp into our blue bedroom and switch it with the black candlestick lamp on my nightstand. The only problem: while this lamp lights up just fine, my middle-school attempt to convert it from bouquet-holder to torch-bearer was falling apart and the whole works had gone wonky. I had drilled a hole in the vase (and even found a little plastic dingus to stuff in there to keep the cord from getting cut by the jagged potmetal of the vase body) and threaded the cord through a metal tube that acted as the neck of the lamp. To keep everything in place I filled the body with expanding construction foam. A strange choice, perhaps, but it worked dandy for more than ten years. However, after half a dozen moves and lot of abuse the expanding foam had come loose and been smooshed down so the “neck tube” rattled about and sat sideways. Also the shade had gotten lost somewhere along the way.

After a little internet research to see how the pros make vases into lamps I ran around to a few hardware stores. The solution this time was a little more sophisticated than expanding foam: I was going to use tension to hold everything in place. A threaded rod passed through the neck of the vase with a bracket on the bottom end, inside the vase, snuggled up against the vase’s shoulders. On the top side I planned to use a decorative curtain rod end as a poor man’s vase cap (since I didn’t want to order a single $3.00 part online and they didn’t carry this part in the local hardware stores). On top of that a simple hex nut was going to create tension: when I tightened the nut the whole works should come together since the twisting action would bring the nut down on the vase cap and the bracket inside the vase up towards the mouth.


Most of my materials.



I began to question my slippery grasp of physics after an hour of tightening, dismantling, reassembling, and tightening again. The damn thing just wouldn’t tighten! No matter how many turns I gave the nut it just kept working down the rod until it got stuck. But everything was still loose inside the vase. It took me that whole hour to realize that the problem was not in my design: it was one of my parts. The curtain rod end had a shank on it and that shank protruded down into the very shallow neck of the vase and was hitting the bracket. So when I got the nut tight the contraption was still loose because the length of the vase cap shank was preventing the bracket from reaching the shoulders of the vase.


After that epiphany I tossed the vase cap and grabbed the first round piece of metal I found: a canning jar lid. It fit perfectly on the mouth of the vase. I drilled a hole in it, threaded all my bits and pieces back on the wire (for what felt like the dozenth time) and tightened down the nut. Aha! Just to be sure, I shook the snot out of it. It didn’t budge.

I added some new shades and voilà!


The living room lamp now lives on my nightstand.


And my nightstand lamp now lives in the living room.


And here’s the mess I made. Yes, the fruit snacks were an essential tool in completing this project.

— Amanda


One thought on “A bright idea

  1. Isn't figuring out lighting just so much fun? I did an entry on having to make lights for our house [http://oddliving.blogspot.com/], if you want to take a peek. Not as detailed as yours (of course).The washers and nuts came from talking over the idea w/ a gal who worked at the big hardware store in town; the men were kind of useless in figuring out supplies or envisioning my description.Love the pics, especially the diagram which really helped me understand what you were describing– I'm very visual, and was having a hard time figuring it out until I saw the diagram.


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