Steampunk Lamp
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Steampunk Lamp #1

Build a "Steampunk" Lamp - Part 1

steampunk lamp 3 sm Steampunk Lamp Assembled

Welcome to my How-To article for building a Steampunk Lamp. This was my first lamp and it taught me many things. Give it a read and see if it’s something that you think you might want to give a try. If you have any questions, send me an email using the link above.
I'm a hands-on guy and like making things. After seeing several cool looking Steampunk style lamps on eBay, I decided "I could do that". That statement can get me in trouble sometimes, but none-the-less, usually works out. I scoured eBay looking for various "steampunky" looking items like steam pressure gauges, water control valves and the like. I could identify several of the exact parts used in the original eBay auction lamps.

For items that I couldn't find on eBay, I searched the rest of the web. To my surprise, many parts were available on Amazon including the Metal Cage Bulb Guards. To the left is my final creation. On the right, you'll find a detailed diagram showing you all the parts needed to complete this great Steampunk Lamp Project. you can click on it for a much larger picture. One more note. You'd think making a lamp from readily available black pipe would be cheap. It is not. You'll be surprised at how quickly the 90-deg. elbow, nipples and straight sections add up. Just buy more than you think you'll need and take back what's left over.

Steampunk Pressure GaugeThe art of making a Steampunk style lamp is quite simple. Think Victorian Industrial Lighting. The first thing I noticed about old pressure gauges is that some have very plain pointers while others had very ornate ones. The arrow on the end of the pointer could be just a point or it could have some flourish to it, like the head of an actual arrow. The designs of the tail were ever more extreme. The older the gauge, the more fancy the pointers seemed. The old saying "They don't make them like the used to" came to mind.

I placed bids on several and won an auction for an old pressure gauge made by the "Nash Engineering Company" It was about 5 inches across and the point had a circle incorporated into it. The tail was a crescent moon. Very cool looking. What was even neater was the water stain across the front. The brass bezel was worn and pitted, but that just added to the look and feel I was going for.

Gears used to buil my Steampunk lampNext I needed gears. If I could find a few gears big enough, they would make up the base of the lamp. Now here's the problem with making a Steampunk anything. People are catching on to the style and everything old on ebay is being labeled Steampunk.

That of course increases the perceived value and drives the bidding up, great for the seller, but not so great for us makers. So finding gears large enough to use as a base, but still cost effective (including shipping) turned into a challenge.

I settled for a box of 8 assorted gears that I believe came off of a tractor, as one was painted John Deere green. They were a little smaller than I wanted but I had other ideas for the base. After all, this lamp was going to be heavy and will be needing extra support. One of the gears was taller than the rest and would make a great transition from the bottom gears to the black upper parts of the lamp.

Read more: Build a "Steampunk" Lamp - Part 1

Build a "Steampunk" Lamp - Part 2

Steampunk Lamp PartsNext, I headed over to the Lamp section where they have an assortment of lamp parts. I realized at this point, I was learning Spanish as I walked around the store. All of the aisle signs had recently been replaced with bi-lingual ones. So off to the "Lámpara" section I went. I purchased a package of 1/4-inch steel threaded lamp nipples. It had two 6 inch long pieces, that you can cut to size. It is used to connect the lamp socket to the black pipe. You don't need to purchase the more expensive brass nipples, as they will be hidden, or painted black in my case. (OK, I giggled a little when I typed that last sentence). I've created a "Bill of Material" as we say in the business, to list the parts you will need.

Lastly, I went to the plumbing section where they have the assortment of brass fittings, reducers and couplings. I needed a couple reducers to connect the pressure gauge and the lamp socket to the 1/.2 inch black pipe. I found a brass 1/2 in to 1/4-inch coupling. They are not cheap ($5-$6 ea.) but it's what I needed. This part is the one I get the most questions about. Because it is not located in the black pipe section, they are not easy to find. There are also other versions available on line made of stainless and galvanized steel. I would shy away from the galvanized ones since you will be screwing in a brass lamp nipple which is a much softer material and it may be chewed up by the galvanized coating.

Steampunk Lamp SocketsI am an Amazon Prime member, so it's one of the first places I go to when I need something. I'm still amazed at what I can find on Amazon and can have in 2 days.
I was able to located the Porcelain lamp bulb sockets on Amazon with the appropriate 1/4-inch threaded hole. Perfect for what I needed. I purchased 4 of these, thinking ahead on my next lamp, which I know will have 2 separate lights with cages. They are reasonably price and look great as they are made from Porcelain and not easily found at your local big box store.

Amazon also sells a White Porcelain lamp socket with a 1/2-inch threaded hole which may allow you to skip the 1/2 in to 1/4-inch coupling mentioned above. Just be sure to check your hole sizes ahead of time so you know the couplings you need. They are a little more expensive but may be worth it in the long run (I didn't use these).

Also, do yourself a favor and don't purchase the cheap plastic lamp sockets that are widely available at you local big box store. First of all, plastic was not really around in the late 1800's and they look cheap as they don't have the deep glossy finish that you only get with the white porcelain. It will also last much longer and take a pretty good beating before it breaks.

Steampunk Lamp CageI also found on Amazon, the Black Metal Wire Bulb Cage that gives the lamp the old-tyme industrial looks that all Steampunk designs strive for. I purchased 4 of these as well.

At this point you do a test fit of all your parts. Prepare to get your hand dirty as the black on the "black pipe" does not seem to stay on the pipe.

There may be a trick to getting the pipe fitting tight and in the correct orientation, I just haven't figured it out yet. I'm sure if I had welding equipment I could apply a small weld at the appropriate place and be done with it. Instead you must plan each elbow carefully. When it starts getting a little tight you must decide if you can make one more entire full revolution or should you settle with what you have. What I did was hand tighten each part until they were about as tight as I could get it. Then I would use a wrench to tighten it to the angle I wanted. Sometimes you had to give it almost an entire revolution, sometimes you were almost to the right spot. A vise helps hold some of the parts in place as you crank on the elbow.

Amazon also carries another style Wire Cage that has an adjustable opening. It's also brass colored. So, if you want more brass on your lamp. Check out the link to Amazon below.

Continued in Build a "Steampunk" Lamp - Part 3.

Build a "Steampunk" Lamp - Part 3

Steampunk Lamp Switch Final assembly of my Steampunk Lamp. I rummaged through my stash of electrical switches looking for one that would fit my Steampunk Lamp style. I came up with an old fashion toggle switch with a collar long enough to stick through the thickness of the rear casing of the water meter. I then drilled a hole in the casing slightly larger than the switch collar. I was surprised at how easy the rear case casting material drilled.

Steampunk Lamp Base My base consisted of a 13 in. x 13 in. x 2 in. thick chunk of wood. One I had sitting around for about 15 years, not knowing what to do with. Actually, it’s half of the original chunk of wood. The other half will be used for my second Steampunk lamp project. I drilled a hole dead center to run the power cord through. I also routed a channel to hide the cord in and run it to the back of the chunk of wood.

If you have room, try to use a 3-wire power cord with a green safety ground wire and affix it to the metal inside somewhere. In this lamp, I attached it to a large ring terminal which I put around the neck of the power switch before putting it through the rear cover. Since the rear cover is screwed onto the water meter with 4 rather large metal screws, it is electrically connected to all the metal pipes. A ground fault inside the lamp will trip your 15 A house breaker and not electrocute someone. Be sure to scrape any paint off the cover where the switch makes contact as well as under the 4 cover screws as you want good contact.

If you choose to use a two-wire cord, be careful when routing it through the pipes as you don't want to nick the insulation. I use the tried and true method of sucking a string through the pipes using my shop-vac. Then I tie the string to the electrical wire and gently pull it through the pipes. You may need to block off some of the other pipe openings to get enough suction to the opening you want.

Steampunk Lamp Safety GroundMy background is in product safety and being that these lamps are mostly exposed metal, you risk the chance of an electrical shock if any of the live internal wires are nicked and contact any of the metal pipes. Using a three-wire cord will allow you to ground all the metal. In the event of a short, a circuit breaker will trip and all is well. Also, please pay attention when pulling your wires through the metal pipes and make sure to follow the color-coded wires on the lamp sockets. White is neutral and should be connected to the aluminum colored screw of the socket. If you choose to use a two-wire cord, the neutral wire should connect to the wide blade side of a two-wire power cord.

Steampunk Lamp Base Feet Not wanting my lamp to mar my table top I screwed on these 4 rubber feet. They also helped level the lamp as the wood had a slight bow to the middle. I think I've had the rubber feet laying around for some time as well. I can't seem to throw anything out without stripping it of anything I see could be reused.
I love the screw on and adhesive rubber feet as they come in so handy for many projects. I use smaller ones on my Twilight Zone Mystic Seer replicas to give them a nice base that won't move around on a table. You certainly don't want to scratch a table with your cool looking steampunk lamp.

Steampunk Lamp Assembled steampunklamp2sm Here's the finished product. Simple, yet functional. Clicking on the picture will get you an annotated diagram of all the parts I used and their placement. Let me know if you have any questions. Be sure to check out the "Steampunk" Lamp parts list.

To the right is my second Steam Punk lamp where I add a second light and a few added twists. I think you'll like it. Check it out.

Questions or Comments?

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Steampunk Lamp Parts List

Steampunk Lamp Assembled

Here's the Steampunk Lamp #1 Parts List

Below I've listed all of the parts I used to build my Steampunk lamp. To the right a picture of the finished lamp so that you can see where each part is used. It was such a fun project and looks great with the rest of my decor. If you have any questions, please let me know. I'd love to see what types of lamps others have come up with.

Part Manufacturer Type Qty Estimated Cost Source Link
Steam Pressure Gauge misc. 5 - 6 inch dia. 1 $20 + $11 s&h ebay Steampunk Pressure Gauges on eBay
Gears misc. 5 -7 inch dia 3 $16 + $13 s&h ebay Large Gears on eBay
Brass Water Meter Sensus 1 $39 ebay Brass Water Meters on eBay
Light Bulb misc. Nostalgic Edison style 1 $5-$10 Hardware Store/Amazon
Lamp Socket misc. Medium Base Light Socket - Porcelain - 1/4 IP - PLT D76 1 $3-$4 Amazon

Lamp Nipple misc. 1/4 in. Steel Nipple 1 in. $3-$4 Hardware Store/Amazon
Brass Coupler misc. 1/2 in. MIP to 1/4 in. FIP 2 $5- $6 Hardware Store/Amazon
Black Pipe misc. 1/2 in. x 1.5 in. 1 $1.04 Hardware Store/Amazon
Black Pipe misc. 1/2 in. x 2 in. 1 $1.45 Hardware Store/Amazon
Black Pipe misc. 1/2 in. x 3 in. 1 $1.56 Hardware Store/Amazon
Black Pipe misc. 1/2 in. x 4 in. 1 $1.88 Hardware Store/Amazon
Black Pipe misc. 1/2 in. x 5 in. 1 $2.10 Hardware Store/Amazon
Black Pipe misc. 1/2 in. x 6 in. 1 $ Hardware Store/Amazon
Black Pipe Elbow misc. 1/2 in. 90 deg. 5 $1.59 Hardware Store/Amazon
Black Pipe 3-way "T" misc. 1/2 in. 3-way "T' 1 $2.10 Hardware Store/Amazon
Reducers Coupling misc. 3/4 in. to 1/2 in. 2 $2.99 Hardware Store/Amazon
Threaded Floor Flange misc. 1/2 in. 1 $4.19 Hardware Store/Amazon
Rubber Feet misc. 1 inch dia. 4 --- Amazon
On/Off Switch misc. 120 V ac, 3 A minimum 1 --- Junk Bin/Amazon
3-Wire Power Cord misc. 18 gauge, 120 V ac 4-6 ft --- Junk Bin/Amazon/Big Box Store
Electrical Wire - White misc. 18 gauge, 300 Vac 5 ft --- Junk Bin/Amazon
Electrical Wire - Black misc. 18 gauge, 300 Vac 5 ft --- Junk Bin/Amazon
Wire Lamp Cage misc. Black 1 $5-$10 Amazon
Lamp Base Chunk of Wood 13 in. x 13 in. x 2 in. 1 --- Junk Bin/Lumber Store/Woods