DIY Copper Pipe Icosahedron Light Fixture

Several months ago I found an amazing light fixture online and fell head over heels in love with it. It sparked a spinoff DIY idea that knocked my socks off, but I kept it under my hat for a while. I nursed the idea for a few months, plotting carefully, working up the courage to attempt it…

I’ve once or twice claimed to be a “fearless DIYer”, but that’s not actually how I see myself. If anything, I’m somewhat of a fearful DIYer. My creative side is restricted by my perfectionist side. I’m often intimidated by the processes/tools/skills required to make my ideas a reality, so I put them off or write them off. I don’t just dive in and hope for the best – I have best-case, worst-case, and zombie apocalypse scenarios worked out beforehand.

So the grand-fantastic-splendiferous-best-thing-in-the-world light project stayed tucked away…
Then one day, while feeling unusually bold, I linked up my plumbing pipe light fixture for a chance to be a contestant in Creating With The Stars, a DIY blogging competition with four weeks of themed projects and weekly elimination. Twelve projects would be chosen out of the roughly 300 that were linked up… Oh the suspense!

And as the time grew closer and closer for contestants to be announced, I knew, I just knew I was going to be chosen. (Spoiler alert: I wasn’t.) I was ecstatic with all the possibilities. At the opportunity – the excuse – to pull out all the stops and create four of the most mind-blowing projects I could invent. And obviously with the hectic pace required, I wouldn’t be able to let my fears hold me back.

I royally counted my chickens before they were hatched. I named and bonded with and started college funds for those little potential birdies. I brainstormed projects and gathered supplies and got my lineup all ready for each week’s theme.

And then I didn’t get picked.

I cried a little. (A lot.) And skipped a few days of blogging because the wind was knocked out of my sails just a little. (A lot.)

And then of course, I realized that I still had my ideas/plots/plans – they hadn’t magically disappeared with my ambitions – and that my determination to go big or go home didn’t have to die just because my ego did a little. (A lot.)

So fears be damned, I sat down and did some freaking geometry.

And, well, this happened…

DIY Copper Pipe Icosahedron Light Fixture

My light fixture: $50…

Inspiration light fixture: $2111: The Block 2 light, designed by Henry Pilcher.

I’m going to take you on a step by step… journey… of how I built this icosahedron light fixture. Tutorial just doesn’t seem to cover the epic scale of this endeavor. Tutorial feels a little too middle school, while I’m going for a lot more middle earth with this whole “journey” metaphor. Come be the Samwise Gamgee to my Frodo on this adventure? (And yes, I’ve been rewatching the Lord of the Rings trilogy lately. Extended editions. Your point?)

We begin by facing our deadliest foe yet…

Step 1. Math.

Remember when I said “I sat down and did some freaking geometry”? Like I’m all bad/tough yet good at math? Truthfully, I had a little help with the geometry. To say it is not my strong suite would be an understatement. I’m just impressed that I managed to figure out that my inspiration light fixture was 20-sided, composed of equilateral triangles, and called an “icosahedron.” After that, I needed to borrow Bryan’s brain.

DIY Copper Pipe Icosahedron Pendant Light | www.thegatheredhome.com #tutorial #geometric

I began by tracing the base of my light fixture. I knew that I needed to fit the circle inside a pentagon (see this diagram to help you visualize how an icosahedron fits together), so we divided our circle into 5 sections with a protractor (72 degrees/section). Bryan helped me figure out that 7.5” sides for the pentagon (and hence, for the entire icosahedron) was a close enough number while giving me an easy length to cut. In retrospect, once assembled, the entire icosahedron came out a little large for the Ikea pendant light, so I probably could have shaved the sides down to 7.25” or so.

This seems so simple now, but I assure you, trying to wrap my mind around the circle-within-a-pentagon and pentagon-to-icosahedron was quite the headache. Grr. Maths!

Step 2. Spray paint.

The 10” Foto lights from Ikea come in silver, green, red and beige, but I wanted/needed black, so I taped around the wire and did a few coats of glossy black spray paint*.

*denotes affiliate link: shop from your sofa and contribute a few pennies to The Gathered Home – win-win!

DIY Copper Pipe Icosahedron Pendant Light | www.thegatheredhome.com #tutorial #geometric

Step 3. Cut the pipe.

An icosahedron has 30 equilateral edges, so I needed to cut my copper pipe into thirty 7.5” pieces. A 10’ pipe will give you sixteen 7.5” pieces (plus 1/2” to 1” extra, I discovered, as they aren’t exactly 10 feet), which is why I needed to purchase two 10’ pieces. If a 10’ pipe is too long for you to safely transport home, and it very nearly was for me even in the bed of my truck, you could always cut the pipes in half at the 5’ mark before loading them into your vehicle, using one of these*:

Copper Pipe Cutter

Although cutting all thirty pieces was a little tedious, this small copper pipe cutter worked just fine. First, I made dots at the 7.5” mark all around the diameter of the pipe with a sharpie.

Cutting Copper Pipe

Then I lined the blade in the pipe cutter up with the sharpie marks, tightened it, and laid it on its back on a flat surface.

Cutting Copper Pipe

I found it easiest to rotate the pipe against the cutter, rather than vice versa. Otherwise, my hand began to seriously cramp. After you turn the pipe to score it, you tighten the wheel on the top of the cutter, the blade scores a little deeper into the pipe, and a few turns later, the two pieces separate – easy peasy! I also put on a pair of nitrile work gloves* right after this, because my hands began slipping & burning on the pipe after a little while. So, pro-tip: wear gloves.

All in all, the cutting process took a little over an hour with the majority of the time spent measuring and marking my cuts.

Step 4. Clean the pipe.

Once all 30 pieces were cut, I used some very fine 0000 grade steel wool* to remove the red ink markings from the copper pipe. It worked like a charm – fresh, shiny, pure copper pieces ready for assembly. 15 minutes.

Step 5. Assembly.

This is the most detailed step, and the one for which I have the least amount of advice and helpful photos. I began with three copper pieces and as long a piece of copper wire as I could manage.

DIY Copper Pipe Icosahedron Pendant Light | www.thegatheredhome.com #tutorial #geometric

After I made one complete equilateral triangle, I kept adding triangles using one of the existing pieces as a side. (You might find this YouTube video helpful). While I wish I could be more informative, I’ll repeat that I do not have a geometrically inclined mind, so I had a hard time visualizing what exactly I was doing. I just kept in mind that each “point” of the icosahedron had five edges running into it, and the shape really did build itself. It was amazing watching it become 3D beneath my fingers. Gotta love that math!

When I ran short on wire, I twisted it off at an edge of one of the pipes and attached a new piece, tucking the edges inside the pipe. 50’ of copper wire was just enough for me to complete the icosahedron  (with literally only inches remaining), but that is partly because I had a false start and cut my wire too short at first, leading to some loss.

Before closing up the icosahedron entirely, I made sure to fit my light fixture inside. I didn’t do this at first, but you will want to run the wire for the light fixture through the center of one of the points of the icosahedron, and then close it up around it. I forgot to do this at first, so I had to open up one of the points after the fact and re-thread my wire.

Confused yet?

Hopefully these pictures will help make sense of everything.

This first shot is before I realized I need to run the cord through a point of the icosahedron, which is why it is looped around. If you loop it, the light fixture will not hang centered within the icosahedron and it will drive you/me crazy.

DIY Copper Pipe Icosahedron Pendant Light | www.thegatheredhome.com #tutorial #geometric

Step 6. Hang it.

I mounted a plant hanging bracket on the wall up by the ceiling (with heavy duty toggle bolts – this light fixture isn’t a featherweight). My initial plan was to hang the light fixture with its own cord by looping it over the bracket, however I ended up using a piece of black rope (a shoelace, in fact) to remove the strain from the cord. This allowed me to position the lamp within the icosahedron exactly where I wanted it – I could separately control the height of the icosahedron and the height of the lamp. (In the photo below, see how it hangs down a little ways into the icosahedron?)

DIY Copper Pipe Icosahedron Pendant Light | www.thegatheredhome.com #tutorial #geometric

DIY-Copper-Pipe-Icosahedron-Light-Fixture-4

The purpose/destination of this light fixture? Task lighting over my side of our DIY Ikea hack double desk!

As you can see, I ran the cord down the corner of the wall to the outlet. (FYI, the Foto light has a plug on the other end of its decently lengthy cord). It may not make a whole lot of sense just yet in the context of the room, but we have these amazing reclaimed wood shelves that are going up across the other 2/3 of the desk, so this light is centered between the corner and where the shelves will start. With the slanted ceiling, this is the best placement for everything.

DIY Copper Pipe Icosahedron Pendant Light | www.thegatheredhome.com #tutorial #geometric

DIY-Copper-Pipe-Icosahedron-Light-Fixture-11

DIY Copper Pipe Icosahedron Pendant Light | www.thegatheredhome.com #tutorial #geometric

It’s perfectly easy to reach through the copper pieces to screw/unscrew a light bulb. I can’t decide if I love this light more on or off…

DIY Copper Pipe Icosahedron Pendant Light | www.thegatheredhome.com #tutorial #geometric

DIY Copper Pipe Icosahedron Pendant Light | www.thegatheredhome.com #tutorial #geometric

DIY Copper Pipe Icosahedron Light Fixture

And that is the incredibly long-winded tale of how I faced my fears, fought my polyhedron-shaped demons, and built one kickass copper light fixture. The End.

Brynne
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Comments

  1. says

    Dude. You're a badass. I have to say, I did feel the same way about not being picked. I even considered changing the name of the blog – I was in a glass case of emotion. A little happy tear came to my eye when I saw what you had done. I am so very proud of you and, although I am not a hugger, I WILL hug you at Haven for this… for the math, for the amazing light and, most of all, for the inspiration to never give up.

    • says

      Hey – your comment made my day! I'm not much of a hugger either, but I will LET you hug me at Haven & maybe even hug back a little (a lot) ;)
      You ROCK and I love your blog! Your DIY projects always floor me – keep it up, Dena!

  2. says

    I totally agree with Julia! Your project totally belongs among the CWTS! I would have totally voted for yours, since oddly enough I voted for the chandelier one!!

    I cannot wait to see the next piece of your office, to say I'm jealous is an understatement :p

  3. says

    Not only are you a super talented DIYer, but you are so funny too. I love reading your posts! Aaaand, I was pretty sure I wasn't going to be selected for CWTS so I wasn't too bummed, but now that I've seen the round 1 projects, I am relieved. Holy Moly… But this amazing light could have definitely been a contender! You are a total star, in my opinion.

  4. says

    This is so incredibly amazing that my jaw dropped while I was reading this and staring at those stunning photos. By the way I had the same reaction to the first round of CWTS so you're a winner in my book :) And it looks freakin' perfect in your office that I'm super jealous of. Pinned! I'd love it if you shared this over at The Makers Link Party!

  5. says

    Brynne, this is seriously fabulous (even if math was involved :)! I wish I had a math class in my youth that made me appreciate how handy actual math would be to know in the future, like when I need to build this lovely icosahedron light!

    Amy | Club Narwhal

  6. says

    That lamp is amazing. You should be so proud of it! If I had room for it, I would totally make it.

    I was having a really rough time at the beginning of March. I seriously considered shutting down my blog. And every time I enter a weekly writing challenge and don't make it to The Freshly Pressed section, I die a little inside. And then I vow never to enter again. But I do. I entered another contest awhile back that I had my heart set on (is it sad that I cannot for the life of me remember what it was?!). That dream was crushed, too. But as we step on all of our crushed dreams, it just means we are getting closer to the top of the mountain.

    If they have that show on again, I am sure you will get picked. Don't give up!

    Jenni

  7. says

    This light is amazing. Thank you so much for baring your wounds and sharing your tutorial – I showed it to my husband immediately (we are in the process of re-doing our second home) and he said "I LOVE IT! Let's make it."

  8. says

    Although you make it look easy, I know I could never make this – it's too perfect! The copper looks stunning against your dark grey walls and I love the industrial feel of the fixture. I can't believe they didn't pick you!

  9. says

    WOW, that's a brilliantly beautiful light fixture!!! You are so clever!
    What a smart looking piece, I t would win any DIY contest I would judge, hands down. A fabulous idea, excellently executed with a professional, fabulous result, you should be so proud. Your process is easy to follow because you and your Mr have done all the hard work for us, (thank goodness, bc math is not my friend either, you're not alone there). Thank you so much for sharing this, I saw it on Knock Off Decor and HAD to have a look, this is so well done it looks like it came from a lighting design firm's shop. I can't wait to show the photo to my son-in-law who owns a lighting design firm, I think he'll love it as well and will probably have one in their home or his office shortly! Thank you so much for sharing this great project! This is my first visit to your blog but I'll definitely be looking at all of your other projects.

    • says

      VintageBeachgirl, thank you for leaving one of the nicest comments I've ever received! I hope your son-in-law does make one and that you'll send me pictures – I would love to absolutely love to see them! I'm so glad you stopped by today! :)

  10. says

    I love this! I want to make it for my entry way so I need to make sure it would clear the top of the door.. how tall is just the copper part of this put together? Thank you!

  11. says

    Brynne, this is absolutely fantastic. I love it so much that it is the first thing I'm making for my new home. I've bought the pendant and pipe, but wasn't sure what diameter of copper wire you'd recommend. Do you remember the width you used – and has it proved strong enough?

    I had a thought whilst sourcing the piping – have you ever consider making one out of chrome plated copper pipe? I might try that at some point.

    Thanks for these brilliant instructions!

    • says

      Thank you so much!
      The copper wire I used was 18 gauge and has definitely proved sturdy enough – I wouldn't go any thinner though. And no – I hadn't even heard of chrome plated copper pipe before, but that sounds like a wonderful idea!

  12. says

    Hi there

    I have just found your FABULOUS light fixture tutorial and REALLY want to make one for myself, but before I get started, please can you tell me how big the finished fixture is, i.e., height, width and depth, then I can figure out if I need to cut my pipe bigger or not?

    Thanks SO much for sharing this AMAZING tutorial.

    Judi in the UK

    • says

      Hi Judi!

      The finished fixture is 17" tall and around 14" wide in the center at it's widest. I'm so glad you're going to make one! I would absolutely love to see pictures of the finished project if you'd like to send them my way :)

  13. says

    I love this light! So creative and unique! I love you you’ve made so many “upgrades” to IKEA lights! I love redoing IKEA furniture etc! Thanks for the inspiration!

  14. says

    When I was in grade school, many decades ago, there was a book, called “Straw Polyhedra” that made most of these shapes out of drinking straws. I found it online at http://www.enasco.com/product/TB15950T, and now thAt I tech math, I use it in class. The book includes assembly instructions for most of these shapes, so you can make a whole collection! This was a neat project!

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