So here’s the deal: I’m excited about today’s post.
I know I say that about every post, and it is the honest truth – if I’m not excited about a project or post, I don’t want to share it – but it is especially true for this post today. Extra-excited.
I’ve been in a slump for a while.
Slump is such a mild way to put it. Quite honestly, I have been anxious and depressed. Astute readers might have gathered as much from paragraphs here or there. It was a rough summer, and the end of summer didn’t bring the peace and rejuvenation I had hoped. For weeks I kept up with this blog by way of Thrift Score Thursday and not much else. I felt like every ounce of creativity had been sucked out of me like those last droplets of juice-flavored air from a child’s Capri Sun. There was no inspiration or motivation left. I didn’t even want to create. But I wanted to want to create. Frustrating. Soul-numbing.
As we headed out the door on a long car ride several weeks ago, I grabbed a small stack of favorite old Elle Décor issues to pass the time. A small part of me was hopeful that what had once been such a source of enjoyment and inspiration could perhaps spark some creativity again.
And there it was on the page of an issue from March 2012 – a blue and gold agate slice sconce (designed by Marjorie Skouras), priced at $1650. Each.
If there is anything that gets me excited about DIY, it is lighting. I can’t explain why, but I have a complete fascination with creating my own light fixtures (like this tripod lamp, this industrial pipe light fixture in my kitchen, these Ikea hack wall sconces, and my copper pipe icosahedron pendant light).
And I instantly found myself planning (and, okay, obsessing over) my first DIY project in months, convinced that I could make my own DIY agate sconces and motivated to figure out how to do so.
Spoiler alert: it happened.
And for a whole lot less than $3300 for the pair. Thousands less. (Isn’t it nice when you can say that about a project?)
Now, I will be honest and say that this was no entry-level DIY.
It’s definitely not quick or easy or extremely cheap (but hey – I saved thousands), and I called in the big guns on this one – my dad and his arsenal of power tools.
I also can’t one-hundred-percent-honestly call this a “tutorial”, since we definitely flew by the seat of our pants (and boy did those pants get a crash course in aviation!) and some things were completely dependent on the measurement of the particular agate slices I used.
That being said, I did document the process extremely well so if you have a little ambition, imagination and access to certain power tools or power-tool-possessing friends, you can hopefully benefit from our experience!
**May contain affiliate links. You can shop from your sofa and help support The Gathered Home at no extra charge to you– win-win!
- 2 coordinating agate slices, roughly 6” diameter– I purchased mine from this eBay seller (I believe the eBay store for Crystal River Gems) and paid pennies more than I would have from Crystal River Gems directly, plus I was able to choose each slice via photo rather than selecting a size and color family and hoping for the best. My slices are not matched (cut from the same piece) but they are the same color and roughly the same dimensions. I think the variation is kind of fun. (And I’m impatient. And it was really hard to find large matching slices.) My cost: $54.
- 2 wooden plaques, 6.75” diameter
- 10’ roll of 1/4” copper refrigeration coil
- 2 candelabra-base socket 6’ cord sets
- 5’ paintable cord channel
- Copper leaf
- Metal leaf adhesive –
- Liquid leafing finish – I used the Precious Metals leafing finish in bronze, which I have found to be a better match for copper piping than the Precious Metals copper version.
- Minwax Polycrylic in gloss
- Krylon Copper Premium Foil Metallic spray paint
- Small sawtooth picture hangers – I already had a few on hand, but you’ll find these in the picture hanging aisle of your local hardware store.
- 1/2” self-adhesive vinyl bumpers – Also available in your home improvement store with the furniture accessories like felt pads, casters, etc.
My Total was $94 ($47/sconce) since I already had many supplies on hand. I’d estimate that the total with no supplies on hand would be around $120, $60/sconce.
Let’s remember that the inspiration sconces were $1650 each. And celebrate for just a moment…
Before we diving right into the nitty-gritty manufacturing details!
ARE YOU READY?!
Step 1: Drill a hole for the light socket.
We drilled a hole into the center of each wooden plaque using a 1” spade bit. (And by we, I mean my dad, in most of the power-tool usage instances. Thanks to my awesome dad for not only being my hand model, but also doing most of the scary stuff on the project. Like using spade bits, and routers, and scroll saws. And for being awesome enough to own all of those things.)
Tip: For a smooth hole on each side of the plaque, drill halfway through on one side, then finish making the hole from the other side.
Step 2: Create a channel for the cord.
Using a router with a straight 1/4” bit, we created a shallow channel for the light fixture’s cord on the backside of the wooden plaque. This way, the cord wouldn’t be a layer between the light fixture and the wall – it would be recessed into the wooden plaque.
You can see how we clamped the wooden plaque in place, then used an extra board to create a guide for the router. We set the router-bit to make a very shallow cut from the center hole to the outer edge of the plaque.
Our angle wasn’t 100% perfect, but close enough.
Step 3. Create the copper arm pieces.
This part of the planning process was making me the most crazy.
What would be the perfect material to create the arms that would hold the agate slice? It needed to be strong enough to hold the slice a few inches away from the face of the wooden plaque, but able to create/form/hold some kind of clip so the slice wouldn’t shift forwards or backwards.
So I shot a few drawings and ideas over to my dad to see if he thought the light fixture was DIY-able, and he sent me back this helpful sketch with the idea to use 1/4” flexible copper tubing for the light fixture’s arms, cut at an angle, and then flattened with a hammer so we could bend each arm to hold the agate slices.
Um, brilliant. His plan turned out to be spot-on and worked perfectly!
So here are the copper arms we cut for each light fixture:
And here’s where it gets very specific to each individual sconce – the measurement of the long top arm and the short bottom arm were very dependent on the dimensions of the agate slice for each sconce. Each slice was slightly different in width, which translated to the curve of each top arm being slightly different, but basically we factored in the light socket’s height + a small candelabra bulb, held the agate slice a slight distance above that, and calculated the arm-length based on that.
Relevant finished shot:
We cut the piece for each sconces the same and we cut the end detail around 1” long which allowed for some room for adjustment when the time came for assembly.
He used a pair of pliers to bend each end into the perfect clip shape to hold each agate slice. (Again, the thicknesses of our slices varied, so this was perfectly customized for each slice.)
Are you still with me? Once more for reference:
Step 4: Attach copper arm pieces.
We used a cylindrical shaped part to created indentations in the middle of each top arm.
Then, we used a center punch to further delineate where we would drill to place screws.
Next, we drilled holes for the screws, before attaching to the wooden plaque.
And here we go, the finished light fixture skeleton! At this point, I packed up all my materials and headed back home (no more heavy-duty tools needed).
Step 5: MORE COPPER.
I decided to use copper leaf on the wooden plaque, and liquid metal leaf (in bronze, which was the perfect match for copper) on my screws, and spray paint the head of my light socket copper so that everything would be cohesive. I sealed the copper leaf and copper tubing with polycrylic in gloss to protect against oxidation.
Tip: stuff something inside your sockets to protect the electrical contacts from spray paint.
Another tip: spray paint on the cord just gets tacky and doesn’t dry well, so you might consider taping it off.
Step 6: Add the cord kit
The socket clips neatly into the hole in the center of the light fixture and the cord runs down the routed channel to the bottom.
Step 7: Final touches
I added a sawtooth hanger and some rubber bumpers to the back of each plaque to ensure that the plaque would sit levelly against the walls.
I cut my plastic cord cover to the correct lengths – one length down to reach the cord switch, then another to continue down the wall behind my TV sideboard – and painted it with some leftover wall paint. (That I keep in a plastic-wrap-covered mug. Like everyone does.)
Step 8 – Hang those babies on the wall!
I cut a scrap template to decide where I wanted to hang the sconces and used lots of math to make sure each one would be at the same height and the same distance in from each side of the TV sideboard. (AFTER making 100% sure, to the joy and delight of my husband Bryan, that the sideboard was perfectly centered on the wall.)
I used a stud-finder, but alas no studs were to be found (with the exclusion of the afore-mentioned Bryan), so I used a drywall anchor to hold my screws.
Then, I slipped the sawtooth hanger over the screw and banged on the walls, slammed the door, and asked Bryan to stomp on the floor in the room above to make sure the sconces weren’t going anywhere. Once satisfied, I slipped on my adhesive-backed cord covers and attached them to the wall.
Finally, I slid each agate slice into the copper arms, and my sconces were complete!
I warn you: I have oodles of photos and absolutely zero restraint in the matter. I can’t help myself. They look like candy!
It’s very hard to capture how gorgeous they are with the lights on, but the agate slices backlight beautifully and the 10-watt bulbs I used provide a very soft glow without being glaring – we can have the sconces on and watch TV without a problem.
And finally, do you know what would make me almost as happy as if my wall sconces were actually candy and I could actually eat them (well, have my sconces and eat them too)?
If you pinned or otherwise shared this project with reckless abandon!
All my love!