House projects always seem to take longer than I think they will. My goal last year was to finish redoing the study, but alas…we are still working on a few odds and ends, and waiting to hear back from a couple of small businesses for uncommon items.
Steampunk home décor is not that popular so it takes time to find what we need. So many of the “tiny little projects” can add up to take quite a bit of time—especially when you’ve never done it before. Some of the projects that we thought would take a weekend or two turned out to be every-weekend-for-a-month projects. Sometimes Plan A doesn’t work so we have to go with Plan B. All of that takes time (and rest to recuperate!). Stay tuned, though. I plan to publish a post on the study next month (assuming everything goes smoothly)!
A couple of weekends ago, we finished one of our quickest and easiest projects—turning an old fire extinguisher into a lamp.
When we made a trip to Roundtop last spring, we found this old fire extinguisher that had turned a beautiful patina over the years. Rather than have a random fire extinguisher sitting around, we thought we’d turn it into a lamp.
Summary of How It Works
A threaded hollow rod goes through the top of the extinguisher into the body cavity. The electrical cord goes through the rod and out the top and bottom of the extinguisher. The black decorative pipe sits on top of the extinguisher over the threaded rod and the lamp socket screws into the rod. The light bulb screws into the lamp socket and the plug at the end of the cord inserts into an electrical outlet, bringing light into a darkened room. 😀
- Vintage fire extinguisher
- Black steel pipe nipple to your desired length (we used ¾ inch x 3 inch)
- Step drill bit
- Threaded hollow rod that electrical wire can fit through (length depends on how high you want the bulb to come. Ours ended up being about 7 inches)
- Tape measure
- Flat screwdriver
- Electrical cord and plug end (sometimes you can buy these together)
- Masking tape to mark drill bit so you know how deep to drill
- Lamp socket
- Wire stripper
- Jam nuts
- Metal cutoff wheel*
- Light bulb
- Pliers (if you bought the electrical cord and plug separately)
*Metal cutoff wheel is only needed if you need to cut the threaded rod to length
Connect the Electrical Cord and Plug Together
We wanted a more vintage electrical cord, so we bought the cord and the plug separately. If you bought the cord and plug together, you can skip to the next section.
- Remove the interior plug from the plug cover.
- Pull electrical cord through the plug cover to make sure it fits and then remove.
- Strip the end of the electrical cord so the wire shows.
- Twist the group of wires together so that they come to a point.
- Push wire through plug case.
Note: If you’re using a polarized plug (one fat blade and one skinny blade), connect the white wire to the silver screw and the black wire to the brass screw.
- Push the plug cover back over the plug.
Drill Hole in Extinguisher for Rod
We drilled a hole in the top of the extinguisher so that the electrical wiring can reach the light bulb.
- Remove the extinguisher top.
- Find the center of the extinguisher top.
- Using the step drill bit, drill a hole through the top large enough to let the metal rod through.
Note: Drill slowly until it’s seated in the lid. Once seated, you can drill faster. We marked the drill bit with tape so we know how deep to drill. This ensures the hole is the correct size.
- Turn the extinguisher over and repeat drilling through the same hole so that the hole is a consistent width on the top and bottom of the lid.
Test the Fit of Lighting Structure Pieces
Before cutting the threaded rod, we made sure our materials fit together and would look the way we intended.
You will test fit for the following requirements:
- The rod goes through the extinguisher top smoothly
- The pipe fits over the rod
- The lamp socket screws into the rod
- The rod comes just to the top of the pipe (or is longer than the pipe if you’re cutting it)
- The bulb screws in the lamp socket
- Screw the jam nuts onto the threaded rod.
- Insert the rod through the bottom of the fire extinguisher lid.
- Test fit the rod, pipe, lamp socket, and light bulb using the criteria in the list above and adjust the jam nuts accordingly.
- Tape the bottom part of the rod where you intend to cut.
Note: Allow enough room to tighten the jam nuts.
- Remove the rod from the lid.
Assemble the Lighting Structure
- Cut the threaded rod where you marked with tape (if you bought a longer rod than what you need).
Important: The nuts must be screwed on the rod before you cut the rod so you can unscrew them and fix any damage to the threads caused by cutting the rod.
- Soften sharp edges on the cut end of the rod with the flat side of the cutoff bit.
- Insert the shortened rod back through the extinguisher lid, stopping at your desired length based on your test fit.
- Screw two jam nuts on the top of the extinguisher lid.
This helps lock the top in place on the rod.
- Place the black pipe nipple over the rod.
- Dissassemble the lamp socket.
- Place the threaded ring from the lamp socket over the black pipe.
The threaded ring falls to the top of the extinguisher lid.
- Screw the base of the lamp socket into the rod.
Drill a Hole in Extinguisher Body for Cord
You have a couple of options on where you can drill the hole in the extinguisher. We need a hole to get the electrical cord from the threaded rod in the top to the outside of the extinguisher so we can plug it into an electrical outlet.
- Drill a hole in the bottom and use an existing hole on the side of the extinguisher.
- Drill a hole in the tank part of the extinguisher on the side or back.
I chose the first option because I didn’t want to add any more visible holes. This will allow me more options in the future (if I ever want to make the back the front, or want to change the side the cord comes out).
- Drill a hole in the bottom of the extinguisher large enough to allow the electrical cord to flow through.
- Insert the cord through the side hole and then through the bottom hole.
- Feed the electrical cord through body of the fire extinguisher and through the rod, up through the lamp socket base.
Wire the Socket
These instructions are for a standard E26 light socket. Instructions may differ for other types of sockets.
Caution: Do not plug into an electrical outlet until you have finalized your wiring. If it doesn’t work the first time and you need to redo the wiring, unplug from the electrical outlet before removing the lamp socket cover.
- Connect the black wire to the brass screw and white wire to the silver screw in lamp socket.
- Unscrew terminal screw from lamp socket.
- Twist the wires and bend them like a hook.
- Wrap the wires around the terminal screw of lamp socket.
- Tighten the terminal screw.
- Push the lamp socket cover over the lamp socket base.
- Connect the base of the socket to the socket cover using the threaded ring.
- Screw the light bulb in.
- Plug into an electrical outlet.
Let there be light!
I imagine the general concept is the same no matter the type of object you want to turn into a lamp so if you don’t have a fire extinguisher maybe you could try some other object.
What do you think? Is this something you would try? Let me know in the comments section below.
Stay tuned for the study reveal coming soon!