Monday, December 2, 2013

Our Steampunk Chandelier

A few months back Nellie and I had dinner up at Grappa in Park City.  In the entryway of Grappa is a chandelier that I think is beautiful --it was love at first sight.  It looks like a rusty planter with two hoops at the bottom with light bulbs extending out horizontally.  As I didn't have the foresight to take a picture, I've borrowed a picture someone else took of it.  It wasn't long until we started to think about how we could reproduce elements of the Grappa chandelier into one that would fit the scale of our home.

We decided it would be best to start with a rusty wagon wheel.  We asked our favorite antique dealer (my mom) if she knew of any rusty wheels and it just so happened that she had a couple that she was kind enough to sell us at a great deal.
It made sense to use the smaller wheel for our dining area.  One day when Nellie was out of town I started to work on the fixture.  It was a challenge for me because I've never really done much with metal, nor have I ever wired a light etc.  

I began by drilling six 1/2" holes that we could at least run the wire through.  
Once the holes were drilled, I ran my brown lamp wire through the holes and attached the lamp sockets outside the wheel.  Instead of hanging the chandelier with chain we decided to mirror the Grappa chandelier and hang it by a bar.  This is a white painted steel bar that is sold for use in closets to hold hangers.  As you can see in the picture I used liberal zip-ties to hold everything in place for the rough draft.  
One of the biggest challenges was deciding how to hang the fixture itself.  It is fairly heavy and I wasn't sure how to harness it into the ceiling.  When we'd installed a ceiling fan a number of years back, I had installed a brace for the ceiling fan and decided to use the same support.  I drilled a hold through the top of the pipe, about 1/2" from the end and used a screw to hold it into the harness above.  
The rough draft was bright and kind of ugly, but it was a start.  One of the challenges was going to be figuring out how to get holes large enough for the lamps to fit inside of the rim.  Nellie and I didn't really like the drooping nature of the lamps as composed.  Also, the white pole needed to be replaced with a rusted one, as did the bright bolt holding the pole in at the bottom.  

After concluding the 1/2" holes would need to be 1 3/8" I set about trying to find solutions.  I first picked up a step bit that went up to 1 3/8", but that didn't end well.  After fishing for solutions on Facebook, I found one of my friends already had the ability and willingness to drill the holes larger for me.  He wouldn't accept any payment from me which was kind, but made me feel a little bad.  In no time at all, he had the holes looking perfect.

After re-wiring the lamps in again, the next step was to flash rust the pole.  After scraping and sanding the white paint off, I sprayed vinegar on the pole and watched it rush before my eyes.  
The next day it had enough of a rust look to it we were ready to hang it again.
I bought some bailing wire to wrap a few spots that I wanted to secure (I thought it would be more of a fit than the zip ties).  The final, most important step was the right light bulbs.  We really love the Edison style bulbs, but don't really love the price most local places charge.  We found a great source for our bulbs and ordered a good supply of them from  When they came Saturday, we were so excited to finish off our chandelier.  
I am well aware that rust and wagon wheel and old looking light bulbs are not everyones style.  I love it in our house.  I feel like our home is eclectic enough that it fits in great with everything else.
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