Important: Before doing any electrical work in your home, you should consult with an electrician (I did!). Make sure the power is OFF, and use a voltage tester to make sure no wires are live. Be safe.
Want to see lots more awesome pictures of this fabulous DIY light fixture? Of course you do! Check them out right here in Part 1.
Here in Part 2 I’m going to provide the best tutorial I can for those of you interested in making your own DIY plumbing pipe light fixture! I’m going to show you how to build the shape of the light fixture but for liability reasons, safety concerns, and my own peace of mind, I prefer not to address the electrical wiring – you can consult a pro or find tutorials that cover wiring a light fixture elsewhere online.
First, decide what you want your light fixture to look like. I based mine on the track lighting options I was considering for the kitchen, since I knew a long, narrow shape would work best. I mocked it up in Photoshop Elements for reference, at around 50” in length:
If you can imagine a shape composed of straight lines, you can probably create it! It helps to know a few basic plumbing pipe piece shapes and names, so you know what you have to work with. Also so you can keep a straight face as you’re rummaging through poorly organized bins and asking the plumbing department workers for the correct size nipples. *smirk*
Threaded Nipples. Yep, that’s the official name. These come in various lengths from miniscule 1” pieces to about a foot long. The perfect building blocks for our light fixture as they are pre-threaded on both ends.
Elbows, Tees, Flanges. These pieces are all connector pieces – they screw onto the threaded ends of nipples and let you form bends and t-shapes. The floor flange is a perfect top piece for securing your light fixture to the ceiling (more on that later).
I gathered the components for my light fixture over the course of several trips to Home Depot, basically brainstorming as I went. Lucky for you, I’ve created an inventory/shopping list below, as well as a handy budget breakdown at the end of the post!
For starters, I decided to use 1/2” black steel pipe. I chose the smallest diameter available to make the light fixture as light as possible. I also loved the industrial color of the black steel.
(Also, it makes me think of THIS! Oops, wait, that’s blue steel…)
*Contains affiliate links – you can also find these parts at your local hardware store. Prices vary, so be aware that online prices may be more expensive than in-store.
1. Six light fixture sockets. This is the kind of socket with two screws – a silver screw for the neutral wire, and a gold screw for the hot wire.
2. One 1/2” floor flange. I could only find this part in a galvanized finish, so I spray-painted it to match… More on that momentarily!
3. Six PVC Male 1” by 3/4” Coupling Adapters. Again, these pieces were spray-painted to match, since I could only find the size and shape I needed in white PVC pipe. I chose to go with PVC pipe after searching high and low for a part that the light socket could sit up inside (see detail photos below). It doesn’t actually screw together with the other metal parts, but I was able to push the two pieces together – it works.
4. Two 1/2” Black Steel Elbows. To create the arms hanging down on the left and right sides of the light fixture.
5. Six 1/2” x 2” Nipples. For the six short arms that hang down and connect to the light sockets.
6. Four 1/2” x 8” Nipples. To create the length of the light fixture.
7. Three 1/2” x 3” Nipples. One to hang down from the ceiling, the other to create the split portion in the center of the light fixture.
8. Five 1/2” Tees. To hold the arms of the light fixture. $1.86 each, $9.30 total.
And this is the spray paint I used: Rust-Oleum Bright Coat Metallic Finish Dark Bronze. It was a near perfect match for the black steel pipe:
Here are the parts all laid out so you can see how this light fixture comes together:
And assembled (and wired):
Again, I am not an electrician, so this tutorial is going to stop short of wiring instructions. Feel free to consult other tutorials online if you pan to DIY it, but I highly encourage you to seek the advice/expertise of a licensed professional.
I will say that basically, you need to wire the light fixture while you are assembling it. I started with the farthest arms and worked my way inward, screwing the pipes together as I went, which was much easier than fishing the wire through the completely assembled fixture.
Closeup photos. You can see how the light socket fits up inside the PVC adapter:
Actually hanging the light fixture was beyond my expertise, so I called in my dad to do the honors. As such, I do not have advice besides: have someone who knows how to do these things do them for you. If you are the one who knows how to do this, then you’re golden. (I am beyond impressed!)
Here is a closeup shot so you can see how we hung the light fixture:
That is a 7” wooden plaque from Michael’s ($1.99) painted with white ceiling paint, with a 3/4” thick hole drilled through the center.
[Again, at this point, double check that the power is off. I know you already did, but do it again anyway for me, okay?]
We first mounted the wooden plaque to the junction box, pulling the wires through the hoe in the center. Then we connected the wires to the wires in the light fixture with wire nuts. Finally, we screwed the metal floor flange onto the wooden plaque.
Now, at this point, your arms will be tired from holding the light fixture up above your head while installing it, but your heart will be warmed and your eyes will be blinded by the supernova of incandescent delight happening above your head. God bless those 60-watt energy hogs.
(Would Edison bulbs look fantastic in an industrial light fixture such as this? Yes, indeed they would. But goodness knows I am much too cheap to spend that much on a single light bulb. So I settled for clear round bulbs and my wallet is thankful.)
Speaking of which, are you ready for my budget breakdown? (Keep in mind, prices may vary depending on where you source your parts.)
Plumbing pipe parts and fittings: $48.31
Light Bulb Sockets: $19.44
Spray Paint: $5
Wire: $22 (This cost was for much more wire than I needed and used in this project)
Wooden Plaque: $2
MY TOTAL: $97.
Not counting the light-bulbs. Because light bulbs aren’t sexy. And I like to think that I kept this project under $100.
NOT BAD for totally rad, industrial, modern, hand-made awesomeness!
So what are you waiting for? Get thee to the hardware store in throngs and greatly perplex them as to why their plumbing department is full of crazy-eyed people searching high and low for the right-sized nipples! ;)
Obligatory closing disclaimer: Once more, I am not an electrician. I highly recommend that you consult with an electrician before doing any electrical work in your home. Got it? Good!