Sunday, February 15, 2015

Steampunk Room Progress: DIY Cage Light Sconces!

Our steampunk room just got a hefty dose of drama, because LOOKIE:


I knew from the beginning that I wanted cage light sconces with Edison bulbs, but the cheapest options I could find were at least $150 - and I wanted seven of them. So...

Time for a little DIY action!

Here's one of our completed sconces:

Total cost, including the Edison bulbs? About $22 each.


Don't worry, I'll include a price breakdown with links at the end of this post, along with a few tips on how to put them all together.

Dramatic night time shot:


I also wanted exposed pipes in the room, if only for decoration, so I love that our piping is actually functional: it houses the new lights' electrical wiring.

We have three sconces each on the side walls, and one on the back wall. The focal wall will have other cool stuff, so I'll just leave that to your imagination for now:

 (That TV cabinet is only temporary.)

The pipes are cheap half-inch PVC pipe, held in place with metal pipe straps. To make the plastic look like metal, I painted the pipes flat black, and then John lightly dusted them with copper and iron spray paint:

To be honest, I'm amazed how well these turned out. The speckled texture is incredibly convincing, and the copper areas look like rust. So cool!

Oh, and as it turns out, 40 watt Edison bulbs do NOT give off much light - I had to have the overhead light on for all those pictures.

Here's what they look like without the overhead light:

So, awesome and dramatic, but sort of just glorified night lights. Heh. When it comes time to replace these we'll go with 60 watt Edisons, but I doubt that will be a huge improvement. I can't complain, though; it's so warm and cozy looking at night.

Speaking of dramatic, here's our new airship in place on the wall:

 We have that small spotlight on it at night, and combined with the Edison sconce overhead, it gives the ship some amazing shadows and depth. Ahhhh.

Ok, now if you want to make those lights, keep reading:

I found that Grand Brass has the best prices (and is the only site that sells friction swivels) so I bought most of the pieces there:

Antique Brass canopy, $3 ea. 
(I painted mine bronze, but you can leave as-is.)

Brass friction swivels, $3.75 ea. 
(There are 2 sizes. This is the smaller, cheaper one.)

Unfinished brass single turn key socket, $5.80 ea. 
(You'll have to scroll a little ways down that catalog page to find it.)

Then, from 1000 Bulbs:

Brass Wire cages, $3.44 ea.

I should warn you: these cages don't fit ANY socket; they're way, WAY too big. I have no idea what the manufacturer was thinking. So, to make them fit your socket, you'll have to crimp down the metal band on both sides, like John's doing here:

To crimp the band, pop it out from the rest of the cage, use pliers to bend it into submission, and then re-assemble. Once the band is reduced by a good inch or so, it should fit the socket nicely, like so:

Shipping from both of those websites is pretty high - an extra $14 each for my orders - so once you account for that, we're now at around $18 each sconce in material cost.

Edison bulbs still average close to $10 most places, but if you're willing to wait on shipping that could take up to a month, you can get them insanely cheap on ebay from overseas sellers. We ordered 6 bulbs each from 2 different sellers (for some reason all the cheap sellers only have 6 total in stock.) Both orders were about $15 with shipping, and both arrived in under two weeks. That's only a cost of $2.50 a bulb! YES! (Full disclosure: one bulb did arrive broken. So order extras like we did.)

The finished sconce.

The only other things you'll need to assemble your lights are basic lamp cord (available for cheap at any hardware store) and two 1/8 inch threaded nipples per light, which will join the socket to the swivel joint (it just screws in to each end), and the swivel joint to the wall canopy. (You can use a nut on the back of the canopy for extra security.)

So all told, that's around $22 per light for materials, and less than a half-hour each for assembly. Not bad, right?

Now, since my last "how to wire your own lights" tutorial seemed to scare most of you off, [grin] I'm not going to do another step-by-step here. You can check that link for how to wire the sockets, though, which is the same, and then putting the rest of the pieces together should be easy enough to figure out. That said, feel free to ask any questions in the comments!


  1. The room looks great! Any chance you're going to steampunk the treadmill?

    1. I would LOVE to, yes, but still figuring out *how* exactly. Heh.

    2. Do you think you and John could figure out how to DIY something like this? (The ones available for purchase are CRAZY expensive.) Or this? Or if that's too complicated, maybe a folding screen (with the panels made out of gears instead of paper or fabric or wood carvings) could be used to disguise it when it's not in use. :)

    3. Also, instead of a captcha, I was just asked to select all the photos of beer out of a group of pictures. WHAT?!

  2. That is AMAZING! You really wouldn't know it's the same room. It's absolutely marvelous. Well done!

  3. Ooooooooh, it's looking so amazing! With the overhead light off it looks perfect for cuddling and movie watching :)

  4. question: where did you procure your spotlight that you have on the airship? its adorable, and i have an old tripod that i've been meaning to turn into a lamp, but haven't been in love with the idea of a traditional shade but perhaps a spotlight could be the answer?

    1. Hmm, that *probably* came from Home Goods, but it's been several years. I see them around pretty often, though, everywhere from Pottery Barn to craft shops, so just keep an eye out!

  5. That looks so amazing! I shouldn't still get surprised by how awesome you and John are at this stuff, but I am! Looks beautiful!!!

  6. It's looking fantastic! I love the ambiance that just the Edison bulb light provides...but as you said a bit dim for it to be the only lighting. :)

  7. (Looks like my comment went off to Neverland, so I'll try this again): the room looks GREAT! I've been drooling over it for a while, and want to do this with the office I've always wanted. I'll have to wait until after my two eldest children go off to college, though. One comment to potentially help with your "night light effect": They used to use brass mirrors behind candles to reflect light out into the room. Maybe it could help here? Supposedly, it doubled the amount of light coming off the candles, so it may help with the Edison bulbs.

    1. A reflector will always help with the amount of light illuminating the room. Though I doubt brass will double the amount it might look cool. Regular glass mirrors will pretty much reach that 100% reflection though.

  8. Electrical work can be intimidating, but my parents (a teacher/shoe store owner and MBA) wired their whole house with some old booklet from the 1950's. They did it 20 years ago and the house hasn't had an electrical issue yet! You are so very good at sourcing materials to create the look you want. It is always impressive.

  9. They look amazing! The room is really coming together beautifully. :)

  10. That room is freakin MAJESTIC! Amazing work, and I can't wait to see it when it's all done!

  11. Do you ever figure in your time when you DIY?

  12. Just phenomenal, Jen, you are my inspiration!

  13. When I first saw the picture of the cage, I honestly thought this was another one of your coat hanger crafts, like your flip flop hangers. I was a little shocked that you bought them. Very cool.

  14. Can I come live in your steampunk room? Please?

  15. The cage is sized for a mogul base socket instead of a regular Edison. I did see a smaller one but it might be a bit short with the longer Edison bulbs.
    On the fancy Edison bulbs themselves they are quite inefficient. Less than half the normal lumens of light output for a similar wattage. The real irony is one of the main manufacturers, Feit, also have an awesome line of LED bulbs/fixtures. But for steampunk the long filament bulbs are the bomb.

  16. Amazing job! The room is really coming together.

    Have you seen they're doing LED Edison bulbs now?

    They actually look really good.

  17. I'm working on steampunking a house right now, and I have a junction box on the side of my craftroom wall that I don't just want to cover, but I had NO idea what to do with it. This tutorial is AWESOME and I think I'm going to give this a try! Looks great!

  18. How do you have these wired up to the electric? Are they hard wired to the house or connected to an outlet? I'm looking to do some stained glass wall sconces and like the idea of the wiring being outside of the wall like this. I'm thinking of just using an outlet and putting an inline antique light switch on the wall, but not certain how I want to do it yet.

    1. John used the room's existing light switch and ran a wire from there up to a new box a few feet overhead, then all the sconce wiring started from there. You should be able to do something similar with the outlet: run the power up to a new box inside the wall, then have the exposed wires pop out from the new box. That said, as always I'd recommend consulting and/or hiring an electrician, just to be safe.


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