Sunday, October 25, 2009

Homemade Lamps

Man, almost a week since my last post...I'm so bad. I really have lost all track of any kind of schedule since I went back to work and I need to really crack down on that...working out, stuff at home, walking the dog, etc.

So anyway, my homemade lamps...I really got into how easy and fun these things are to make, especially from empty bottles. Say you've got a really nice bottle of wine or something. Once the wine is gone, you want to keep the bottle, but you don't want it to be a dust collector. Why not turn it into a lamp?

What got me started on this was a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne my husband had brought home in 2007 for our anniversary. It was one of those "once in a lifetime" kind of deals. We saved it until March 2008 for our 10th anniversary, actually. But I couldn't bring myself to toss the bottle when it was empty. I'm kind of a pack rat, I guess. So what to do with it?

I went online and found a variety of companies that will take your empty bottles or what have you and turn them into lamps. You have to trust the postal service won't break your bottle in transit, of course. But the prices were a little high and some of these companies were pretty rigid in their choices. One place wouldn't let me pick the color of the lampshade! And of course, they said it HAD to come with a lampshade. Okay, whatever. I knew I could do better than that.

I found out Home Depot has a great little bottle lamp kit by Westinghouse, right there in their lighting department for just under $10. It comes with a couple different sized collars to make sure you've got the right fit, and the electrical part is as easy as pie.

The nice thing about these lamps is that they are totally customizable. I like going to A.C. Moore to get wood for the bases. I don't like leaving the bottles as stand alone lamps, because they tend to be a little thin and need some stature to them. A.C. Moore sells pre-cut wood in different shapes and sizes. I get two matching pieces (one larger than the other), epoxy them together and then stain them. The edges are usually already routered and have a nice look to them. Even their shallow wooden trays and bowls work well if you flip them upside down.

With a good epoxy, you can attach just about anything together. Once the base is dry, I like to set the bottle off center so I have room for something else next to it. This is a good place to add the cork from the bottle, if you have it. Personally, I think it's best to give the base a half day to completely dry before you attach the bottle. And once the bottle has been set, give yourself another half day before you start manhandling it to put the electrical stuff on it.

K-Mart or Wal-Mart tend to have a decent selection of smaller lamp shades to choose from. One thing I need to remember for the next lamp, is the addition of an eye hook in the back of the base. By adding that to the base, and then threading the cord through it before wiring up the socket, I think that will help keep the cord under control.

Since the Dom lamp, I've made three more lamps: a Jameson whiskey bottle lamp for a friend, a Vampire Merlot wine bottle lamp for me for Halloween, and a Marnier-Lapostolle lamp for some friends as a late wedding gift. (The Marnier bottle didn't have a cork, so I swiped one of their personalized coasters and a silver bell from the reception to use in it's place.)

The Jameson lamp was bought online by a friend for another man's birthday. It was some kind of special reserve, and when the friend ordered it, he didn't realize the conversion rate from Euros to US dollars. So when the credit card bill came, the friend decided he was keeping that bottle of Jameson for himself. For that price, there was no way the friend could toss that empty bottle!

The Halloween lamp was fun to make. I just happened to have the silk fall leaves here (see, again, I'm a pack rat!) because you never know when you're going to need a handful of silk leaves for something. The lampshade actually matches the little vampire's base. How cute is he...walking his little pet bat through the cemetery, holding a bag to clean up after his bat? Seriously, the bag is really labeled "bat guano."

The Marnier lamp hasn't gone to the newlyweds yet, as I'm waiting to hear back from them to see when they'll be home. They were married two weeks ago, and I'm not sure if they remember me taking the empty bottle with me when we left the reception. The bride wasn't sure if she wanted me to take her favorite bottle for a lamp. She had been collecting empty bottles to use at the reception as vases for silk arrangements. My husband actually suggested letting me take one for a lamp for them, and the groom loved the idea. I hope the bride is happy with it!

Depending on how fancy you want your lamp to be, these are actually quite inexpensive to make:
--a nice bottle you already have
--$10 for the lamp kit
--$10 for the lamp shade
--$6 for the base (if you decide to do a double layer base)
--$4 for some good epoxy or glue
=$30 to start

For me, I've decided I really like staining the base. The Halloween lamp base was painted because it's actually MDF board with a little fake turf on it. You can either use actual stain (the Marnier lamp has a light coat of poly on it as well) or you can water down some paint instead. You're only limited by your imagination. If you decide to make a lamp, let me know how it goes!

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