Jan 18, 2011

How To: Make an Industrial Chic Lamp from Pipe Fittings

created at: 01/15/2011

Over the last few months, I've seen several sets of super cool lights created from plumbing parts at always reliable sites like Design Milk and Boing Boing. In the midst of redoing my own office, I realized I needed a desk lamp to shed a little extra light on smaller tasks. I went to the office supply and home furnishing stores, but I couldn't find anything that'd work. So, I recalled the pipe fitting lamp I'd seen, and decided to make my own.   


  • Assorted pipe fittings from the plumbing aisle. We used the following 1/2" parts:
      • (1x) 6" nipple
      • (1x) 3 1/2" nipple
      • (6x) 1/2" or "close" nipple
      • (5x) 90-degree elbow
      • (3x) t-joints
      • (1x) 3/4" - 1/2" 90-degree reducer
  • citrus-based sticker remover
  • Lamp cord set with candleabra base socket and rotary switch
  • Electric drill with 5/16" bit
  • Hot glue gun
  • Cutting pliers
  • Electric tape
  • Soldering iron (optional)

created at: 01/16/2011

1. Begin by removing all the stickers and tape from the pipe parts and cleaning them with mineral spirits or citrus-based cleaner.

created at: 01/16/2011

2. We'll need to thread the lamp cord through the pipe fixture, and so it's necessary to cut the cord away from the plug and switch. Use the pliers to cut the cord right above the switch, and then cut the switch out all together. We'll reinstall it later.

created at: 01/16/2011

3. Insert a bulb in the socket and thread the now-cut cord through. Place the bulb where it looks best and then use the hot glue to fill the cavity in the reducer to hold the socket in place. Be sure not to get any glue on the threads.

created at: 01/16/2011

4. Choose a place where the cord will exit the lamp, and drill a 5/16" hole. When drilling into metal, be sure to use a slow speed and wear proper safety gear. I drilled my hole in the bottom of a t-joint, accounting for the angle at which I knew it would sit.

created at: 01/16/2011

5. Then, just assemble all the pipe parts as desired, threading the cord through where necessary.

created at: 01/16/2011

6. Open the rotary switch, and note how the fixture works. Remove the cut cord, then recreate the setup to connect the two ends of the cord. Connect the cold wire (the one with ridges) with solder or by twisting the wires and sealing with electric tape. Insert the hot wire into the proper channels, and close the switch to insert the little teeth. Here's a helpful how-to for safely working with a switch like these.

7. Test to make sure everything is set up properly, and get to work!

created at: 01/16/2011


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Greg on Sep 03, 2015:

Could you wire two lights to one switch then only have one plug in?

Tagh13 on May 01, 2015:

Directions say you only need (5x) 1/2" or "close" nipple, but you actually need 6 to complete the lamp. No big deal, just had to make another trip to the store! Great & fun project!!

Bob on Nov 23, 2014:

To be honest, the likelyhood of the light shorting to ground is probably slim, especially if the cord hole is grommeted. Do not listen to Andy's advice about grounding, the lamp socket is not grounded and the only accessable metal in it is the lamp shell (threaded part) and if volage shorts to the pipe through the shell or a bare spot in the wire, and you grab the pipe, you will get 120 volts through you if you are touching something that IS grounded. 

Diane's use of PVC pipe is the safest way to go.

Alec, the lamp shown looks like a  frosted G-12 Globe with a candelabra base, but I can't tell you what wattage he used.

Bob on Nov 23, 2014:

Jonathan, you are correct, this should be grounded, but I am not aware of a lamp cord with switch that comes with a three wire cord. To do this safely, you would have to forget about using a socket/cord assembly and use a replacement-type candelabra socket, an 18-3 cord and a grounded plug. I would also drill the hole in the T-fitting large enough to install a rubber grommet to protect the cord from the sharp metal edges around the hole. You will also need to drill and tap another hole for a #8 machine screw. This hole can either be across from the opening in the T-fitting or in the feet, as long as it can be reached with a screwdriver to tighten the #8 screw from inside (so it doesn't show on the outside). Once you have the cord through the grommet, strip the jacket off the cord and run the ground wire to the #8 screw. I would use a red fork crimp-on lug on the end of the wire and tighten it down under the screw. The rest is the same as the original project, but you will have to make the connections at the socket and plug. To switch the light, I would buy a Woods 32555 Outdoor Remote Control Outlet Converter Kit ($12-18 on Amazon). It plugs into the wall outlet and is grounded. The lamp cord plugs into it and you have a remote pushbutton that would sit on the desktop to turn the lamp on and off.

Alec on Jul 26, 2014:

What kind of bulb was used for this project?

Chris on Mar 10, 2014:

Hi Trina,

Actually, most standard twist bits are designed to go drill through metal, not wood, so you probably have what you need. Yes, proper safety gear is a must, as is a slow speed (less than 1000 RPM.) A vise would be helpful, and if you use a hand drill, set it up so you can drill from above and put your weight on it. It will take longer than drilling through wood, but you'll be surprised how easy it actually is.

Good luck!

Trina on Mar 09, 2014:

I love this design. Ive never drilled metal and it freaks me out just a little. I can imagine scenarios involving broken drill bits and blood. I know safety glasses are a must. What other tips can you give? Is there a certain type of bit youd recommend? A vise maybe? Or anything else to advise a newbie?

Dina on Feb 15, 2014:

Hi Andy, you are writing "So, as long as the lamp socket is touching some part of the metal fixture" lamp socket...? But its insulated, so how would it touching anything woult change the grounding situation?



I'm also worried about the grounding here....

Andy on Apr 22, 2013:

Johnathon, you wouldn't really be able to ground it any further than it already is. The lamp cord does not contain a ground, however, the outlet in which it is plugged into is grounded. So, as long as the lamp socket is touching some part of the metal fixture it will be grounded to whatever (usually a ground rod at the service) the outlet is grounded to. As electricity always seeks the path of least resistance back to the source, there shouldn't be an issue unless you somehow lower your resistance to a value less than that of the copper wire in your outlet, which is REALLY difficult to do. Hope that makes sense. If not, I can try to explain it differently.

Jonathan on Apr 19, 2013:

As this is a metalic enclosure, would you not recommend grounding? If so, what would be the best way to go about that?

Chris on Mar 02, 2013:

Matt - I believe it was around $25 in parts.

Diane - I made this project over two years ago, so I can't confirm a brand. I bought all the parts and supplies at Lowe's, and I believe most of their lighting and lamp parts are Westinghouse (with the blue card), so that's my suspicion. 


Diane on Mar 01, 2013:

Love the design!  Followed your specs but used pvc pieces to make the project more cost-effective.  The lamp cord set we purchased had about 12 inches from the base of the socket to the switch. That is not enough length to be able to bring the cord out in the suggested place your design shows.  I'm curious what brand ord you used and if it might be any longer (from sockt base to on/off switch).  Love the design!

Matty on Sep 19, 2012:

About how much did this project cost?