How to make an industrial pipe floor lamp | How About Orange

April 10, 2014

How to make an industrial pipe floor lamp

I really have a thing for lamps. I roam thrift stores admiring them— the weirder, the better — and pause on catalog pages with cool fixtures. Today I'm happy to share a guest tutorial on how to make your own industrial-style floor lamp out of pipes. Set this baby in front of your exposed brick wall and sip a craft cocktail while you admire your handiwork. You built a lamp!

The how-to is by Matthew Lyons, self-proclaimed handyman and blogger for Here's what Matthew has to say:

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Like most red-blooded Americans, I love industrial pipe lighting. There’s a certain derelict nostalgia about lamps and chandeliers made from old metal plumbing that just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy and manly inside. Unfortunately, that feeling isn’t shared by my wallet.

I’ve been lusting after an industrial pipe floor lamp for years now but the price tags people attach to these things are utterly ridiculous. The majority of multi-bulb floor-length pipe lamps available online or in stores sell for $400 - $1,000. As a guy on a lower middle-class income with a wife and a kid to support, I just can’t justify spending that kind of money on what amounts to a few lengths of pipe, some wire and a couple vintage light bulbs.

So, considering how simple these things are, I figured I could just build my own pipe lamp for half the cost of buying one. Having never wired anything before in my life, I was a little worried how this project would turn out. Surprisingly, though, it was super-easy to make. The entire lamp can be assembled by hand like some sort of awesome adult Erector Set. As I predicted, the wiring was by far the hardest part of the entire build – but even that took less than two hours and I didn’t even set the house on fire when I plugged it in. This made my wife very happy.

Here’s how you can build one of these awesome industrial pipe lamps for your own house or apartment or office or whatever dark corner of your life begs illumination.

The Materials

When planning out my DIY industrial pipe lamp, I decided that I wanted to go with a tree-style design with three bulbs, for no other reason than I saw something similar on Etsy and thought it looked cool.

I ended up purchasing all the plumbing for this project from Home Depot. Coincidentally, I ended up buying everything else from Home Depot as well. All in all the total bill was $180 – less than half of what a similar lamp would cost in-store.

You might be able to spend even less if you search for the parts online – it just seemed easier to me to get everything in one haul so that I could start building the lamp immediately. Here’s the shopping list:

The Structure

You’re probably going to want to get these lengths of pipe at a hardware store. Unless you really like ordering heavy things online, that is.

1x 36” Long ¾” Black Metal Pipe

2x 12” Long ¾” Black Metal Pipes

4x 8” Long ¾” Black Metal Pipes

3x 6” Long ¾” Black Metal Pipes

2x 5” Long ¾” Black Metal Pipes

1x 2” Long ¾” Black Metal Pipe

6x ¾” Black Metal Pipe Close Connectors

7x ¾” Black Metal Pipe Elbows - 90°

5x ¾” Galvanized Metal Pipe Tees

1x ¾” Galvanized Metal 4-Way Pipe Splitter

3x 1”-to-3/4” Black Metal Reducing Couplers

4x ¾” Galvanized Metal Pipe Floor Flanges

1x ¾” Black Metal Pipe Nut

I wanted to go all black metal with this project but Home Depot was out of the black versions of some of the connectors I needed. So I made do by getting the silver galvanized metal versions and spray painting them black in the back yard. The spray paint I used is listed in “Other Stuff.”

The Lighting

You can get all this stuff in the Lighting section of your local hardware store. Ask an associate to cut you some lamp wire off of one of the store reels – it’s a lot cheaper than buying a standard reel of the stuff.

1x 15 foot Lamp Power Cord (16 Gauge)

4x Keyless Phenolic Light Sockets

10 Feet of Lamp Wire (16 Gauge)

1x Package Winged Wire Connectors (Min, 2x #18 Gauge – Max, 3x #12 Gauge)

3x Feit Electric Original Vintage 60w Bulbs

The Other Stuff

You’re going to need more than just plumbing and wires to build your lamp. Chances are good you probably have some of this stuff lying around in your garage or basement but if you don’t, make sure to pick some up before you start.

1x Can Rustoleum Textured Black Spray Paint

Paper Towels (Lots of them)

Grease-Fighting Household Cleaner of Your Choice (I used Green Apple)

60-Grit Sandpaper

Painters Tape

Electrical Tape

Wire Cutters

A Small Philips Head Screwdriver


Click images to view larger.

Prep Work

Every good project starts with good preparation. That said, here’s something I learned the hard way – these pipes are greasier than a southern politician during an election year. They will ruin your clothes, your pets and everything else that you love. Do yourself a favor and clean them off before you start to build the lamp. Soak a few paper towels in your household cleaner and wipe down every single piece of plumbing that you purchased. Vigorously. The cleaner might take off a bit of finish but it will also ensure that your new lamp doesn’t destroy the inside of your home.

Once your pipes are clean, take your 60-grit sandpaper and sand off any parts that still have those laser-printed labels on them. When that’s finished you should go ahead and do any of the spray painting you had planned. Sand everything you plan to paint so that you get a more even coat. Stuff the openings of each component with paper towels and seal them off with painter’s tape. This will protect your threads, which will ensure that you can still screw everything together after the paint is dry.

Once everything has been prepped, painted and dried you should be ready to put this sonovagun together.

Building the Base

Please Note: These pipes will not be used for actual plumbing. Therefore, they do not need to be locked down and watertight. Every time I use the phrases “attach” or “screw on,” I mean to hand tighten the pipes together. You do not need plumber’s putty. You do not need Loctite. Unless you have exceptionally poor arm strength, you do not even need grease. Just twist on the pipes each the way nature intended. That way the lamp can be adjusted however you please and can also be easily broken down in case you move or get evicted for being too awesome.

As seen in the picture above, start by attaching two 8” pipes to opposing sides of your four-way splitter. On the end of those pipes, screw on an elbow piece. On the end of those elbow pieces, screw on your two 5” pipes. On the end of those pipes, attach two of the floor flanges. This forms the “top” two legs of your base.

For the bottom two legs, start by attaching the 2” length of pipe to the lonely end of a pipe tee. Screw that on to the bottom of your four-way splitter. Then attach the other two 8” pipes, then two elbows, then two close connectors and then the last two flanges. Voila, you’ve got a nifty base for your lamp. Finally, use a close connector to attach a pipe tee lengthwise to the top of the 4-way splitter. This will be your “Power Tee,” and you will string your power cord up through the hole here.

Your base might be a little wobbly at first. That’s fine. Just adjust the tightness of your flanges until all four “feet” are firmly planted on the ground.

Building the Lamp Arms

Grab a pipe tee. Attach a 6” length of pipe to the lonely end of said pipe tee. Then attach an elbow. Then screw in a close connector. Then attach a reducing coupler. Congratulations, you have just built a lamp arm.

Now repeat this process two more times so that you’ve got three complete arms. It’s just as easy to do as it sounds.

Wiring the Lamp

Please Note: We’re going to be wiring our lights in parallel. Doing this makes the bulbs independent, so that if one goes out the other two will continue to function. Yes, this is the opposite of how Christmas lights are wired. In order to wire your bulbs in parallel, you need to connect positive wires to positive wires and neutral wires to neutral wires so that each polarity has its own direct path to power. Trust me, this is much simpler to do than it is to understand.

Start by cutting your wires. If you’re using my build, you will need a 30” length of lamp wire, a 26” length of lamp wire and two 14” lengths of lamp wire. No, this does not add up to ten feet – but isn’t it better to be safe than sorry? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Leftover wire is good to have in the unlikely event that you mess something up.

Feed the 30” length of wire from the highest lamp arm down through the top 12” pipe so that it terminates at the second lamp arm tee. Feed the 14” lengths of lamp wire through the other pipe arms.

Now, from the bottom, string your power cord through the side of your power tee, out the top of the tee and up through the 36” pipe so that it terminates at the first lamp arm tee.

String the 26” length of wire from the first lamp arm tee up through the bottom 12” tube to the second lamp arm tee. Now you should have two “junctions” of three different wires at your first and second lamp arm tees, respectively.

Pull the POSITIVE and NEUTRAL strands of each wire apart. In general, the ribbed strand of your wire is the NEUTRAL strand but you should check your packaging to make sure. Remember which strand is which, because it’s important.

Using your wire cutter, strip off about a quarter inch of insulation from each strand to expose a nice workable bit of bare wire.

At the first lamp tee, twist the exposed NEUTRAL ends of the power cord, the first lamp wire and the 26” connecting wire together. Then attach a winged connector and screw it on until it won’t go any further. It’s normal for your three wires to twist together during this process. Give the coupling a light tug to make sure everything is securely fastened together.

Repeat this coupling process for the POSITIVE ends of the power cord, first lamp wire and connecting wire.

Stuff your couplings into the first lamp tee. It will be a tight fit, so finagle them until you get both of those chunky wing nuts in there. Then attach the 36” pipe to the bottom of the lamp tee and the bottom 12” pipe to the top of the lamp tee.

At the second lamp tee, repeat the coupling process for the NEUTRAL strands the third lamp wire, second lamp wire and connecting wire. Find the ribbed strands, twist the bare ends together and screw on a winged connecter until it will go no further.

Repeat the coupling process again for the POSITIVE strands of the third lamp wire, second lamp wire and connecting wire.

Stuff your second set of connectors into the second lamp tee. Then attach the bottom 12” tube to the bottom of the lamp tee and the top 12” pipe to the top of the lamp tee.

Attach the third lamp tee to the top 12” pipe and screw on the nut cap on top of the tee. Voila! You’ve now got a fully wired lamp structure – except for the light sockets, of course.

The Light Sockets

Now that your lamp is fully wired, you just need to attach your light sockets to the strands of wire sticking out of each lamp arm.

Your light sockets should have silver and bronze-colored terminals on the bottom. The silver terminal is for the NEUTRAL strand of wire and the bronze terminal is for the POSITIVE strand of wire.

Start with the first lamp arm. Unscrew the silver screw on the socket until it’s just barely attached. Then feed the NEUTRAL strand up through that little safety arm ring thing at the bottom of the light socket and to the silver terminal.

Depending on what type of socket you have, you’ve got two choices here. If your socket has a gap under each terminal, you can shove the wire into that and then tighten the screw to mash the terminal plate down onto the wire. If you don’t have a “hole” to stick the wire, you can just place your wire on top of the terminal and then tighten the screw on top of it to hold the connection that way. Just make sure that as much of the wire is touching the terminal as possible when you do this, otherwise your lights may flicker.

When that’s done, repeat this process for the bronze terminal and POSITIVE strand of wire.

Congratulations, your socket is now wired! Now all you need to do is wrap electrical tape around the bottom of the socket to keep the connection secure and any exposed wire insulated against the metal of the lamp arm.

Then place the socket in the lamp arm and fasten it into place by using Loctite super glue to attach the socket to the metal and then wrapping electrical tape around the socket and the top of the metal coupler.

I know what you’re thinking and no, this isn’t the prettiest way to execute the assembly. Since I can’t afford to have custom parts made, though, it’s the best I could come up with and it looks pretty neat with the raw black pipe – plus it’s very safe. You can always cover the tape job up with a piece of PVC pipe that’s been spray painted to match the rest of your lamp, but I decided to go with the rough and rugged look here.

The Final Stretch

Now that your lamp is completely wired, socketed and secured, all that’s left to do is to attach the lamp structure to the base and then screw in some light bulbs and give that bad boy some juice. If you followed my directions, it should light up instantly.

Congratulations! You have just constructed your own piece of designer furniture for a fraction of what it would cost at the store. You will have to plug the lamp in manually to turn it on, but if you’re feeling enterprising then you can splice in a power switch using this tutorial from DIY Network. And now that you’re on a roll, feel free to experiment with new pipe lamps for your tabletop, your desk or to hang from your ceiling. With a little creativity and some basic electrical know-how, there’s no limit to what you can build.

Enjoy, you hip lighting monster you.

Matthew Lyons is a blogger for An Oregon native, he now lives in Eastern Texas with his wife and son. He enjoys playing guitar and the smell of fresh-cut cedar.

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Update: Jessica here: Be sure to read the comments for some extra tips, including solutions that eliminate the electrical tape!


Seth said...

Wait wait wait. The socket is held in place with tape??? GHETTO!! (and a fire/shock hazard)

Grandma G said...

Gonna make yourself one of those, Jess?


Anonymous said...

Master thesis of DIY god:))

Megumi said...

I was wondering how he put the socket from the beginning, and I found it out he used some tape! I like the very last 2 sentences about this guy!

Jessica Jones said...

Me too!

Mum, no plans to make one just yet since I don't have a place for it right now. Maybe for my future industrial loft downtown. :)

Heidi said...

Great tutorial! I think I might adapt this to make a ceiling light in the perfect size for an odd room.

Windsor Grace said...

Lamps and pens. I can't get enough of them

onel said...

Beautiful! It feels like having the street lamp posts inside :)

Anonymous said...

Tape to hold the lamps, that's very unsafe and will most probably loosen itself after a while from the heat. Get some proper plastic/ceramic sockets for that.

Unknown said...

This is so smart! Thank you for posting this really interesting idea, gotta try it one of these days. -Patrick Tan

HOMEmade MAKEOVERS said...

Everything, but the tape looks great. Nice tutorial :-)

Amy said...

Haven't decided whether I'll make this yet but it was a joy to read! Great writing.

joy said...

That is so cute, I would of never thought of that. I am definitely making me one or maybe a few! Lol

MikeEy said...

I stopped counting the amount of electrical code infractions ... Electricians are a skilled trade not wizards that make magic. If you're going to follow this tutorial and make this lamp yourself please make sure your family is not around so you only kill yourself (either by shock or the inevitable house fire)

Unknown said...

Very Nice Idea on your lamp. Also to the electrician who is bitching on how unsafe this is how about man up and give they guy some support and info on how he could do it much safer.

Anonymous said...

Please don't build them. This lamp is dangerous.

Don said...

Regarding those commenting about the electrical tape on the lamp connections-yeah, it's a little unsafe, but not heinously so.

And, since I AM an electrician, I'll provide a proper way to do it.

First, a lot will depend on the termination points of the lampholder. A lot of them will just have a pigtail or a proper, covered screw-in connection point-honestly, I'm a little shocked she was able to find ones with just exposed terminals. And, with those, marettes or screw-on terminations are perfectly acceptable as long as the lamp remains out of contact with the pipe-in this instance, electrical tape is perfectly acceptable, both in practice and in code. (Take off the nearest socket-you'll probably see tape covering the connections for the same reason.)

Now, working with this style, the way I'd personally go is heat-shrink tubing. It's secure, easy to use and matches the insulating values of most household-grade equipment wire.

Jessica Jones said...

Everyone, thanks for your comments. Don in particular for adding your expertise! I'll add a note to the post directing folks to find more info in the comments.

Unknown said...

Hi there, I just completed this lamp. It looks great but when I plugged it in it blew a fuse. I tried again and I think it fried the fuse because it will no longer go back on and we must have an electrician come to figure out what happened in our home. Any thoughts on why it might have happened????

Jessica Jones said...

Hi Laura,
I have no electrical knowledge, so I'm afraid I can't help. Maybe another commenter can weigh in. Sounds like your best bet, though, is to get a professional!

Anonymous said...

To Laura Campbell, it is very likely that the terminals of the sockets are touching the metal piping somehow and causing a short, thereby blowing the fuse.


Anonymous said...

Hi. Instead of using black tape you could also buy 3x fully threaded 1'' diamater nipples to thread into the 1'' to 3/4'' reducing couplings. The idea is the 1'' threaded nipples would act as a 'cup' to hold the light bulb sockets. and if you want to 'secure' it you can drill 2x small holes in between the threads of the threaded nipple and push in an ever so small bolt w/ a nut on the inside of the nipple. this way two bolts(tiny bolts) compress and 'hold' the socket into place.

this sounds difficult, but its not and its much nicer than the tape and using PVC pipe like he suggested(plastic). This allows you to stick with the black steel, or galvanized metal. Whatever material you are using.

Awesome post by the way man. I really enjoyed this DIY build and I made one for my dad with your schematic. He was blown away by the authenticity, coolness and creativeness. Good work dude.

Hamish said...

I just love the look of that lamp - and I think that it's well within my own design/build capabilities.

Some old fashioned Edison filament bulbs would set it off perfectly - although they might cost more than the lamp itself!

Just one question, shouldn't a 3 core earthed cable be used? The lamp body is metal and it looks like the bulb holders, albeit covered with tape, are metal also.

I would have thought that, as a minimum, there should be an earth connection at each bulb holder.

I'm UK based - so I'm working from UK standards - but earthing non-powered metal items of an electrical installation seems like a smart move wherever you live. Interested to hear other input and opinions.

Seems reasonable to assume electrical continuity through the various pipes and connectors (and it's easy enough to check for that of course).

Earthing aside, I really fancy having a crack at one of those. I think I might start with a table lamp and "work my way up".

tom_pryke said...

Could anyone please point me towards where to find these materials in the UK? I can't seem to find anything similar in the usual hardware retailers...

Anonymous said...

You just short circuited it. The thing is find where the problem is.

Jan said...

This is perfect as coat rack. Hang all of your items on it. :)

Anonymous said...

Iv'e started to make one, but had to order one part that was not stocked at any local hardware stores. The 3/4" Cross isn't available here.
The few modifications I will be making are...
I don't understand the point of putting wire nuts at the Tees so I just ran the wires from the upper light to the middle, in a loop that continues to the bottom light, then the wire to the plug goes from the bottom light out the tee at the legs.
There will be no connections in the pipes themselves, just at the sockets.
The next will be to mount the sockets, and I haven't figured that out yet. The keyless ones I got from home depot were too expensive for the crap sockets. I will be returning them for better metal sockets, and will probably drill and tap a cap on the end and actually mount the sockets securely.
I am probably going to paint the white base of some LED's too. I couldn't justify the old Style Lamps, especially since I have converted to LED's in most of the house. 180 watts will me more than the rest of the house uses with everything on.
I wanna get some felt pads for the feet too.

Anonymous said...

Its done and up and running.
I did Brass Lamp Sockets mounted to much more solid adapters. I used the 3/4" to 1/4" adapters in black iron then a 1/4" NPT to 1/8" Straight Pipe in Brass to a lamp thread sleeve from Lowes. Its much more secure. I will eventually pull out the lamp cord and reinstall it with another 3/4" to 1/4" adapter with the inside threads drilled out, and tie a knot in the cord inside the pipe. That will prevent chafing when the lamp is moved around.
I also bought three burlap lampshades from Wal-Mart to finish it off. They mount below the bulb with their own frame and are around $8 each.

I found some 3/4" pipe nesting tables at the furniture store made from a bunch of Nipples, Elbows and Tees.
The tops were held on with some welded brackets on each side, and there were thread in feet on the bottom with felt pads. Prolly gonna make some of those as the winter goes on.

Unknown said...

This is such an interesting lamp, and I love how modern it looks! My husband and I are thinking about doing something like this, and being our own electricians, and it sounds like it would be fun. Hopefully, with following all of your instructions, we'll be able to keep ourselves from getting shocked. It looks like such a fun project, and I'm so excited to try it!

Sara Welsh |

Jaid said...

I just built this floor lamp. First of all, good instructions on the wiring. I made some design mods that saved pieces and made it look cleaner. Also, forget the tape (hazardous, as others have noted)...instead, I used 3/4" to 1/2" bushings to accommodate a perfect, screw-in, adjustable tilt, metal light socket attachment that i found at Lowe's for under $3. I'd attach pics to show you, but I'm not tech savvy enough to figure out how...

Jessica Jones said...

Jaid, terrific. If you ever feel like taking a photo or two, you can email them to me and I can upload them and place a link to them in the post. Or I can make them into a cheat sheet with captions, and link to that. howaboutorange [at}

Jessica Jones said...

Just got an email from reader Pam, who sent this helpful information:

"Hi! I just finished making your lamp and I love it!
Following the advice of one of your comments I looked around Home Depot and found these lights that have 1/2" thread. I used a reducing bushing at the elbow taking it from 3/4" to 1/2" and then the fixture just screwed right in. Cost? $2.17 for each light. The fixtures are adjustable.

Here is a pic to show what I did.Obviously not the best picture but hopefully it will convey the concept.
Thanks so much for the idea! I had a lot of fun constructing it."

Unknown said...

This is an AWESOME tutorial, thanks for taking the time to put it together! My wife loved the design and it complimented our boys room perfectly. We are close to finished with our lamp and will send you some pictures when it is completed!



Jessica Jones said...

Here are some pictures from Kenneth, who added burlap shades from Walmart, 3/4" to 1/4" adapters and brass sockets.

Closeup photo and full length photo

Unknown said...

you can get a 3/4 x 1/8 inch npt bushing about anywhere online for the socket and get rid of the tape. For instance:

Anonymous said...

Hola, it is much easier and safer to wire the lights when they are completely assembled . You can snake the wire through to the lower portion of the light, make all of the connections and then push it back into the pipe. You can also use snap in sockets inside a 1 1/4 x 3/4 reducer. The shallow snap in sockets have two clips that snap into the first threads of the reducers; no need for tape or a possible short.

Oh and to snake the wire; get a long piece of heavy string, attach a small piece of toilette paper to end the get your handy dandy shop vac and suck the string through your lamp, pull the wires and you are good. It works well as long as you don't have more than two 90s and they are spaced apart by about 10-12 inches. You can rub some dish soap on your wire to make them pull a little easier.

Unknown said...

Wow great job.This helps me to make tree lamp at home.

Is it Compulsory to plug-in same voltage or size of bulbs on tree. If "YES", then OK. But, If "NOT". Then how it is possible to plug-in all type of Edison Light Bulbs on same lamp tree.

Anonymous said...

It is metal and therefore has to be earthed, you should use lampholders with a 1/8 BSP thread and use pipe reducers to suit then theres no problem of anything shorting out and connect the earth wire to the earth terminal on the lampholder then everything is safe

Gritdimple said...

Thank you for your expertise and sharing

Unknown said...

I can't afford metal pipe. Is it safe use PVC pipe instead?

Unknown said...

For the sockets, I used a 3/4" to 1 1/4" bushing then a 1 1/4" threaded pipe, the shortest they had. I then wrapped friction tape around the socket, and pushed it into the threaded stub. Stays in place and the socket is hidden. Also I used heat shrink over the wiring connections first.

Anonymous said...

Yes you will need a 3 core earthed cable. Anything metal including cord connected fixtures should be earthed per the "British Standard" and the American code, "National Electrical code".
Also follow the post above you from Anonymous about how to properly connect the lighting sockets to the stand as this is the also a requirement as the wires will eventually twist with frequent bulb change.
I will also be labeled as Anonymous for the time being.

Unknown said...

Mikey, AKA "Mr. Smartie Pants" really should have specified what exactly he feels is wrong with this, instead of trying to be a smart ass. For one, I will bet at least $1,000 that he's full of shit if he thinks that "number of violations" is above 2. That said, he's not as bright as he'd lead us to think, not being able to count above two. Yes, it should be grounded of course. No, you should not use electrical tape as an insulator. What else is wrong Mikey? I've made my list and will be heading to HD in the morning to reproduce a $1,400 hanging farmhouse light assembly that my MIL has. Love it and I know I won't be able to reproduce it quite as nicely, but ... I have a number of vintage barn light shades and if I can figure out how to securely mount the bulb sockets in the reducers I should have something that's 90% there for less than $100. I'm going with 1" pipe, BTW since this will be hung from the ceiling and I want more strength and visual weight.

Thanks for posting this!

rcpmac said...

The liability incurred by the poster for this fire and shock hazard is enormous

mike said...

did I just miss it. I didn't see any on/off switch

Anonymous said...

If you tried to sell this lamp anywhere in Europe, you would be asking for trouble It has no Earth or Ground connection (as they would say in the USA).

Why is this a problem...

Well let's say that one of those internal connections worked its way loose and touched the pipework internally. If the item had been properly 'Earthed/Grounded' that current would flow/dissipate to Earth and would almost certainly trip whatever mechanism was in place for electrical protection.
The item as it stands above would just become a deathtrap, as the pipework would become live/hot and that current would have nowhere to safely flow/dissipate to. The first person unfortunate enough to touch the lamp would instantly provide it with the necessary connection with Earth/Ground, and the current would flow quite nicely through this individual and into Earth/Ground.

Solution, use 3 core cable and ensure that both the main body of the lamp, and the lamp holders themselves are connected to Earth/Ground.

Anonymous said...

I would just thread a 3/4" PVC adapter in for the light sockets, paint it black no metal no shorts. then we can all be happy again. Recycle a thumb dial switch cord. and if we are really concerned plug it into a GFCI protected outlet.
No harm no foul.

Unknown said...

I recently built three lights. Came out awesome. Vintage barn shades.

You cannot have electricity running into a metal pipe and eliminate grounding by saying the endpoint is plastic. You need to ground the pipe.

What I did was to drill and tap a #10/32 hole behind the base plate and grounded that. Problem solved. I mounted this to the wall and ceiling and the screw head is easily crushed into the surface it's mounted too when you cinch it down. Obviously your situation will vary, but do use an electrical ground like this.

Anonymous said...

Lowe's has a similar tutorial, but theirs is only a single bulb. It also doesn't mention anything about grounding, is that because they only have the single bulb or because they recommend using a more legit socket?

Unknown said...

Good question. For a hundred years they didn't ground lamps. Heck there WAS No ground for the longest time. I don't know what the code would be for building a two wire lamp these days, but personally I wouldn't. I would not want a large metal pipe in my home, hot with 120v because of a frayed wire inside, ready to kill someone. Like I said above, I grounded mine and it was super easy to do so, so why not be safe?

Stick this in your hand drill and you're done in 60 seconds.

Unknown said...

I made my light sockets sit in deeper by grinding down the threads on the 1inch side of the reducer. I used a dremel and it fits perfectly. Just a little epoxy and thats it.

Check out how it looks here

Eric Estep

Unknown said...

Thos is so unsafe. All wires that pass through metal need to be earthed. This should not be done at home. Use a licenced electrician to wire up. The last thing you want is a wire to come loose internally and someone to touch the lamp and potentially cause death.

Unknown said...

You know, "unknown", please don't post opinions like this as fact. There's been plenty of discussion here about grounding this light. There's nothing a licensed electrician learns in class or in his apprenticeship that better qualifies him to drill, tap and screw a ground wire to a pipe than anyone else. If you want to add to the discussion in such a way that helps people fine, but "don't do this yourself" is simply not valid advice.

Jessica Jones said...

Popping in to say that I really love the comment section on this post in particular. It's not a tutorial I wrote myself, and electrical wiring is not something I know much about. What I do know is this lamp is cool, and if people can make one themselves and save a lot of money, awesome! So I appreciate both the cautions for safety and the expertise from the folks who are offering wonderful suggestions to clarify or improve this so more people can make it. You guys are the best!

Unknown said...

I have a grounding question. I have a basic understanding of electricity as ive properly wires many switches and outlets to code in the U.S. This will be my first lamp and Im wondering if you could come from the outlet with a 3 prong and have the ground wire connected to a ground screw somewhere on the metal. It seems like the issue is a wire coming loose and touching the inside of the piping. With my odea wouldnt the current then leave the lamp through the grounding wire? And if so wouldnt the bulb sockets not need to be grounded?

Unknown said...

We've been talking about grounding HEAVILY, so I suggest you read the comments above. Yes, ground the pipe.

Unknown said...

Yea I have read the comments but no one mentioned what Im asking hence my question. So a 3 prong plug coming from the wall and the ground wire screwed into the frame at any point should take the current away from the frame should a wire be exposed, correct? The right info is much more important than being condescending since this is a diy project.

Unknown said...

Nope. Not condescending. Just not sure how else to repeat what's already been said! The entire point of grounding the pipe is to carry away stray electrical currents. That's the ONLY point of any ground. Why else would I be tapping a hole and screwing the ground to the chassis? Or an electrical box? The only way any device can get away with a two pronged plug is by having it double insulated.

Unknown said...

I had an electrician tell me using a polarized plug would prevent shock

Unknown said...

Ha ha. No I have to believe you're just trying to have your fun. I'm out.

Unknown said...

Guys, Todd drilled a hole in a piece of metal to attach a ground wire and now it's his forum and he's the master of the universe

Unknown said...

It is not required to ground this lamp because it's made from metal. Similar pipe lamps & chrome/metal lamps are sold all over the place with 2 prong plugs. How can that be? Because their electrical connections are done CORRECTLY.

And umm.... there's no such thing as "code" for building a lamp. LOL I about spit out my beer when I read all of the "not code" comments. Good grief, ya nelly nancies.

Seems folks' concerns are internal wires/connections coming loose & making contact with the metal pipes, risking electrocution. Well, the real solution is to ensure your electrical connections are done correctly. You're not going to have a pre-made wiring harness like a commercial lamp manufacturer will have, but you can still wire your lamp a little more securely than is presented here.

And that's not a slam against the original poster at all.

First - the wires are protected inside the pipes. Not like little gremlins are going up inside your pipe & messing with your electrical connections. So, they're not going to come apart over time, or because the wind blew on it. The risk is that your connections aren't solid in the first place and during assembly, maybe something has come loose. Or, the electrical tape you used (I do agree that is not a good solution at all) came off or was damaged during assembly. So - don't use wire nuts & electrical tape. There are WAY better methods & parts you can use.

Second - ever hear of a thing called soldering/solder? Yep - solder your connections & surprise! They can't come apart. And you don't have those bulky wire nuts that don't fit quite nicely inside the pipes.

Then, use the way too easy & convenient heat-shrink electrical wire tubing over your soldered connections - and VOILA! You essentially have a non-spliced wire! It's similar to having wire insulation and it is as non-conductive & effective as the original insulation - and electrically correct/appropriate to use. I actually doubled it up, just to be safe. You don't need a heat gun - you can use a butane lighter to shrink the tubing, just move it quickly over the tubing - don't hold it steady in one place.

Third - Home Depot & Lowe's sell pre-wired lamp sockets that are encased in rubber. They're pretty heavy duty & the connections are beneath the rubber inside, completely insulated from the metal pipe base. And I mean COMPLETELY insulated in thick rubber.

Replace the 1" x 3/4" coupling reducer with a 1 1/4" x 3/4" one for your bulb base. These rubber-encased sockets fit snugly & PERFECTLY inside. Use J-Weld or any other fast-curing epoxy that can bind multiple surfaces to hold the sockets permanently in place.

Lastly, use a polarized plug & ensure you don't cross your wires (hot to hot, neutral to neutral) and you're all set.

There are videos on youtube where people show you how to build a water valve rotary switch. It's pretty awesome & looks perfect with this lamp. If that's a little too involved for you, put an in-line switch or dimmer in the cord. Home Depot & Lowe's carry those, too. They're made specifically to be used on a cord & work perfectly.

If I could post pics of the sockets I used, I would. But I found them right where HD & Lowe's have all of their other plugs & sockets on display.

See? This is how you address peoples' questions/concerns & present solutions. Sans hysterics. ;)

Unknown said...

So... you're not exactly right here. It's funny how often people post their opinion as fact, versus labeling it as their opinion.

"Code" depends on where you live, so stating whether something is code generically on a forum like this is a suggestion at best.

Using the fact that you see two-prong lamps sold as evidence that "if you build it right" it doesn't need to be grounded is, frankly, silly. If the wiring/socket is double-grounded the chassis doesn't need to be grounded. That's how you get away with two-prongs. Please read up on that.

In conclusion, don't spit your beer out. It's not worth it. You should absolutely ground a home built pipe lamp. It would be irresponsible to put others' lives in danger because some guy spit his beer out (or almost did) and assured you that building something "right" (by soldering it - HA!) is sufficient protection, even though "code" most assuredly states otherwise.

Unknown said...

You do not need to ground a lamp made from metal. And "code" applies to construction, not the manufacture of lamps. There's the UL listing - but that's electrical standards, not code. And I've taken apart & rebuilt PLENTY of lamps in my day with metal bases (I have an affinity for Tiffany glass/replica lamps and not a single one has a ground plug & the socket is not grounded to the chassis or metal base & the wire is pulled through the base. And some of the lamps where I replaced the crappy socket with a better one - are UL Listed.

So, while it is opinion, it is based on TONS of experience.

If you make proper, insulated connections, you do not need to ground any lamp in order to prevent electrocution.

If you want to ground your lamp - knock yourself out. Just be sure to disregard armchair experts histrionically crying from the hills that 1) it's required and 2) it's unsafe if not grounded.

It's unsafe if you made improper connections. And then, no ground will help you. You still risk fire, injury or a constantly tripping breaker.

Peace out!

Unknown said...

This looked interesting so I went to Lowes to price the pipe connections and then added them up to a surprising $128.00. Then there is the rest, like light bulbs, wiring, etc. Not sure what someone would sell one of these for but $175 would probably cover the materials and maybe 5 hours to complete. $20 per hour would bring it in around $275-$300.

Unknown said...

For the life of me I can't make sense of the cost estimates just quoted. No way. I made three pipe lights - two wall and one ceiling. I paid less than $20 each plus $5 for vintage barn shades. They look amazing and are super safe.

? said...

A great source for finding materials for these projects is your local Restore (Habitat for Humanit). I recently picked upnejat would have been a couple of hundred dollars worth of steel pipe for $30. Also scored a bunch of copper fittings for a few dollars. An extra bonus is that the stuff is rusty anf in the case of he copper, it has a nice patina.

Unknown said...

A 1 1/4" or 1 1/2" to 3/4" coupling would allow a phenolic lamp base with spring clips to be inserted into the pipe fitting without the use of electrical tape. These are available at Lowes and any electrical supply house. The pipe coupling may need to be ordered from Amazon, McMaster Carr or from a plumbing supply house but they aren't very expensive and readily available.

Anonymous said...

Hi- I came across this blog post (I'm late to the game!) and wanted to make a similar lamp but with four light sockets instead of three. Does anyone have any insight on how I would need to change the wiring? I researched a little about about wiring in parallel but am just not sure I am totally understanding. If anyone can walk me through the steps that would be much appreciated.

Unknown said...

A quick example is that you run the hot to the first bulb. Instead of wiring it directly to the bulb, you run it to a wire nut. If you then run another hot line to the bulb (so far all you did was effectively cut the wire and install a wire nut, but also run a second hot wire to a second bulb, you're parallel. Do the same with ground and neutral. Not hard. Be sure to properly ground everything.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Todd. Just to make sure I understand, then to add the 3rd/4th bulb, would I then run another hot line from the wire nut to the next junction (where i could then have a hot line to the 3rd and 4th bulb)? And do the same with the neutral? Or, am I misunderstanding?

Separately, in terms of grounding, I have read some of the comments above and also came across this tutorial on how to ground a lamp.

This seems to suggest that a grounding option is using a three prong plug and attaching the ground wire to the based of the lamp itself. Does anyone have thoughts on whether that would work with this type of lamp? Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks!

Unknown said...

Correct, as long as you can safely and securely join the wires. You can also daisy chain them. So, come into the first blue, splice in a chain segment to the next lamp. Then splice that into the next bulb and another segment for third and so on.

Ground ... as long the metal parts that a person may touch are all grounded and it's secure you're good. The reason that most lamps aren't three wire is because they're double insulated.

Unknown said...

I make pipe lamps for fun and my background is in mechanical engineering and not electrical but here is my take on the safety aspect: I can understand that a lamp made predominantly of
an insulating or non conductive material such as wood, ceramic, plastic etc needs only a 2 wire connection but a lamp made of conductive metal certainly needs the addition of an earth wire no matter how well the internal joints of the live and neutral wires have been made.
These are the steps that i follow when constructing a pipe lamp:
Remove any sharp edges on the inside of the pipe where the wires run.
Include an earth wire that is securely fastened to the frame of the lamp.
Solder joints, make sure there are no 'spikes' in the soldered joint and then insulate with heat shrink.
Switch through the live wire.
Secure the wiring where it exits the lamp by means of a gland or simple cable clamp so that it can not pullout.
Remember, electricity can KILL.

Keith McCafferty said...

By Australian wiring standards, this lamp project would fail the safety test. Running mains wiring through metal pipe requires an earth wire to be securely fastened to the whole structure in case the active wire short circuits. Secondly, fixing the lamp holders to the metal pipe with electrical tape and the type of terminations used would fail any safety check.

Uconn22 said...

I love this lamp, but kinda freaking out about people's comments on the wiring. I have negative zero experience in electrical.

Has anyone built this following the instructions, minus the electrical tape, and not had it catch fire?

Anonymous said...

If you use weatherproof sockets which are rubber... you can wrap the collar of it with a few layers of electrical tape and then it will thread itself into the reducer coupling. Goes in tight... very safe. And they have pigtails as Don said above, so use solder or butt connectors rated for 120volt and shrink tubing. A ground wire attached via clamp to the frame of the lamp you’re making connected to the grounding wire in your electrical box will suffice... you might think it looks bad but I think it adds to the industrial look of it.

Anonymous said...

First, thank you to the original author for detailed specs, design and photographs. Second, thanks for some of the commenters who addressed concerns about potential electrical problems.
Having said that, I just built this lamp over the weekend and it came out great. I did make some small changes to the design and made a few mistakes of my own. Here are experiences.
1) To address the rough surfaces in the inside of the pipes, I used clear vinyl tubing with O/D of 3/4". This gave a nice path for the wires without the fear of wire damage during install.
2) I used a utilitech 3 wire cord with the ground attached to the body of the lamp. A small screw and nut held the ground cable in place.
3) I ran 3 full length wires to minimize splicing.
4) At the exit point of the wire, I used a 3/4" to 1/2" bushing and attached a wire clamp to it. This made the plug wire "stay in place"
5) I used a larger 1 1/4" reducing collar and the rubberized socket, which sits nicely. I haven't glued it in place yet.

My mistakes:
1) I should have used smaller nipples instead of the 36" pipe with a union. It would have looked great and made it easier to work with.
2) I painted the whole lamp (on reflection should have left the black pipe alone. The darn stickers with clear tape was painful to get out.
3) Next time I will need to source some used pipes and fittings.

Anyway, great project, thanks for such hard work in putting together the instructions.