Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I finally see the light...

The Pete Lamp is finally complete! This project was inspired by a hanging lamp in the Long Island City abode of my friends, Stacey and Pete. Pete's version was smaller, but the idea was the same: kraft paper coated in shellac and attached to a basic Ikea light cord set. For my version, I made a frame out of garden mesh and electrical ties, so that I could make the lamp a bit bigger. I also added the stencil, which was done with black spray paint. Everything is held together with spray adhesive. I kind of like how the grid shows through the paper when the light is on, but a google search will reveal places where you can buy top and bottom rings for homemade lampshades, so that you can re-create this shape without the grid.

A word of warning: if you choose to make one for yourself, use one of the flourescent energy-efficient bulbs, please. Not only are they more eco-conscious, they also emit less heat, which is a good thing when you are working with a paper lamp and all. If you are still nervous about combustion, I hear that there are flame retardant sprays out there, although my trip to my local Home Depot was fruitless on that front.


  1. Concerning heat - it's also important to leave the top and bottom of the shade open: a natural convection current will keep the shade cool. CFL's don't put out as much heat as an incandescent bulb (or worse - halogen or xenon!) but there's still an appreciable amount generated in the transformer located in the base of the bulb. That heat has to go somewhere...

    I don't have any experience with residential use or over-the-counter flame retardant sprays, but my inner skeptic says "Bullshit". I *have* used flame retardant sprays for fibrous materials at work, but those only work when they permeate the material -- in other words, they can't be sprayed onto this lampshade and still do their job, since the shellac has already permeated.

    In other words, Use Your Head. Leave at least a couple of inches all around the bulb, and use the least heat-generating bulb you can get. Don't place the fixture in a ceiling corner, where the airflow will be restricted.

    Variations on this them include fabric shades. Silk, by the way, is inherently flame retardant. That doesn't mean it can't catch fire - it simply means the flame won't spread as fast as otherwise.