building a four-armed chandelier
Friday, January 18 2013
I'd started some tomato seedlings back in late December, and they'd seemed dormant since then. I thought they'd died and was making plans to start some other seeds. But while Gretchen and I were in the Adirondacks over the weekend, the seeds suddenly sprouted into a small forest of cotyledons. So on this cold morning I found myself moving the hardiest of the seedlings to new cans, where they will spend months before needing to be repotted again. I also set up some special LED grow lamps to give the seedlings light between 2AM and 8AM. Without that, there's too little light at this time of the year for them to thrive.
This afternoon I drove into town to resupply my laboratory liquor cabinet and get proper supplies for building Gretchen a lamp for the ceiling of the first floor office. Tomorrow would be her 42nd birthday, and a custom lamp seemed like an appropriate gift. For whatever reason, getting LED bulbs at Lowes is currently my most cost-effective solution. For an affordable price ($12), they have clear-glassed globes with tiny LED illuminators that superficially resemble incandescent filaments available in both candelabra and standard-socket sizes. As far as I can tell, at this time there are no equivalents available online; 1000bulbs.com is still sold out of them, and other online suppliers only stock ugly bulbs. I decided that the lamp I would make would have four standard-sized light-bulb sockets, and that I would use the ceramic sockets that interface easily with plumbing fittings (these ceramic sockets are available at Lowes, but not at the Home Depot). I also bought a copper-colored base to suspend a lamp from.
Back at the house, the design I came up with for the lamp was an axis around which four foot-long arms could swing. For the kind of swing lamp that I make for reading in bed, I include a right-angle bend in the arm so that a spotlight bulb placed in the socket can be pointed in various directions. But for this lamp, the bulbs would all be along the same axes as the arms. Six years ago when I made a chandelier for the dining room, I'd solved the problem of keeping the central axis together by running a steel rod up the center, threading a supporting nut to its bottom. I thought I'd do it the same way for today's lamp, but then I got to thinking about it and decided that was a bad idea. A central rod impinges on space otherwise available for wire, and there wouldn't be anywhere near the space in the axis of this lamp as there had been in that earlier one. For this one, the central axis would be made with half inch pipe, which only has a small fraction of the space available inside one inch pipe (what I'd used for the axis in the 2007 lamp). So I decided not to use an axis rod at all. Instead I made the stack of swing arms part of a loop, similar to the loops I use in my simpler swing lamp designs. A loop allows the elements of the axis to swing freely while holding its shape by virtue of the part of the loop running parallel to the axis. In the lamp I built today, I made it so the loop could be completely disassembled; I made it so the part of it running parallel to the axis could be broken into two pieces at a union fitting. Such disassembly was essential for threading the wires coming from the arms up around the top of the loop and out through the ceiling plate. Finally, to get the lamp to attach to the ceiling plate, I first had to enlarge the central perforation that the ceiling plate had come with. Step bits are great for this operation; it;s a good thing I have a nice one dating to when I used to shoplift from Lowes. Obtained with anything less than a five-finger discount, they are rather expensive.
While I was getting groceries at Hannaford, Ramona became bored and started chewing things that she wasn't supposed to chew. One of these was one of the new LED bulbs I'd just bought. She managed to crush the packaging and shattered the glass bulb around the element, but since that part is purely decorative on these bulbs, it still worked. Indeed, I might have a use for her modified bulb in some place where a normal-sized bulb does not fit (such as in the refrigerator).
When making lamps, of late I've switched from using cheap threaded metal sockets to using the fancy ceramic threaded sockets alluded to earlier. I'd intended to use whatever fittings (and ghetto-lathing) necessary to solder threaded brass nipples to the ends of the swing arms and screw the socket on to those nipples, a technique I've used since the 2007 chandelier project. But today I realized that a half-inch solder fitting slid nicely over the outside of the ceramic socket's threaded base. All I had to do to attach a socket to the arm was to attach a coupling fitting to the end of the arm and then carefully drill a hole to accept the socket's set screw. Being able to do that eliminated maybe a third of the work (and perhaps 20% of the material expense) of building the lamp.
In other news today, our housecall vet came out today and put Marie (aka "the Baby") into a state of light sedation and then took her back to her place to remove to rotten teeth. You might recall that just before Christmas we'd tried to get this same vet to send the Baby into great beyond and she'd more or less refused to do the deed. Since then, the Baby has rallied to the point where spending $100 to have her bad teeth removed seemed like a good investment in her future happiness.
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