Repurpose Old Lamp Parts and Found Objects Into New Light Fixtures

Find ideas and inspiration for making handcrafted lighting and lamps out of salvaged materials.

Photo By: Bob Farley

Photo By: Bob Farley

Photo By: Bob Farley

Photo By: Bob Farley

Photo By: Bob Farley

Photo By: Bob Farley

Photo By: Bob Farley

Photo By: Bob Farley

Photo By: Bob Farley

Photo By: Bob Farley

Photo By: Bob Farley

Photo By: Bob Farley

Black Iron

You can make a lamp out of just about anything using electrical conduit and plumbing parts, broken light fixtures, secondhand finds, lighting hardware and cord kits. Found objects inspire handmade and quirky lamps that combine functionality and self-expression. Creating a one-of-a-kind lamp will not only brighten a room but will add a personal touch to your living space. For the electrical part of your lamp creation, buy a new lighting kit and follow the manufacturer's instructions, but if in doubt, seek the help of a qualified professional.

A tall, iron pipe lamp goes perfectly with an ensemble of art made from found objects, wrought-iron candleholders, and a Mexican star lantern. Topped with a Moroccan goatskin and henna shade, the lamp was put together with threaded black iron pipe and fittings, a lamp-assembly kit, an extra length of lamp cord, and a tiki torch base.

Rice Paper and Basket Reed

Sometimes ordinary objects spark ideas. Ryan explains the inspiration for this light, "I found this set of Hawaiian placemats at an estate sale and knew I wanted to make a lamp with them." He continues, "I took two placemats and covered the bottoms with handmade rice paper. I bound them together using bookbinding thread to create the final shape. A basket reed arch adds a functional detail, holding the lighting hardware."

Disc Harrow Medallion

The punched-tin lantern, adorned with glass marbles, offers soft light over the bathtub. An antique disc harrow from a farming plow makes a unique canopy for the lantern. To wire the lantern, I purchased the drop cord, threaded connector, cord grip, and socket components from the hardware store and followed instructions I found online. A threaded nut holds the harrow to the mounting bar and snugly to the ceiling.


Artist Ryan Carlson likes to make sculptural lamps, and this light was inspired by bioluminescent fungi — something you might find glowing in a forest at night. "The skeleton is made from basket reed," Ryan describes the process of making the hanging fixture. "The outer shell is created from tissue wrapping paper. I tear the paper into thin strips and apply them to the skeleton using a water/glue solution with a Japanese brush. I build up six to seven layers to add strength."

To Dim or Not To Dim

Bright overhead lighting offends my eyes, so dimmer switches and shades are necessities. Instead of the usual clip-on shades made for candlelight chandeliers, I opted for something different. I used broken points from Mexican star lanterns. Cutting them down to the appropriate size with tin snips, and resting them onto the dishes, the metal shades diffuse the harsh candelabra bulbs.

Birdcage Light Stand

This decorative globe would ordinarily hang from the ceiling. A thrift-store treasure, the globe was separated from its dated, shiny brass canopy and chain. Rewired with a long lamp cord, it now hangs from a curvy birdcage stand. It is paired with a Moroccan henna table lamp for a soft, warm-glow effect. The cords of both lamps have easy on-off switches at their bases.

Scrolled Stand

Turning a special lampshade into a hanging pendant is easy with a ready-made cord set. The large, printed-fabric shade hangs by a chain attached to a threaded hook that is fed through where a harp and finial would normally attach. The lighting cord is simply twisted around the stand and scroll, and the socket hangs through the shade. The wrought iron scroll is raised above the backboard on a tall adjustable stand.

Folksy Lamps

Dark, earth-toned walls help balance brightly colored folk art while unique handmade lamps illuminate the space. Wrought iron and black iron pipe are two of my favorite materials for making lamps, and by finding connectors and pieces that all fit together, there is no need for welding.

Garden Folk

Artist and garden designer, Arnie Rutkis, made this lamp from an upcycled clay pot. And the clip-on shade, he made from wire, decorative paper, and wallpaper paste. Two threaded nuts attached to the nipple (a hollow threaded metal stem) on both sides of the pot's drainage hole secure the socket to the pot.

Industrial Garden Lantern

A battery-powered LED light shines through the industrial light fixture, and parchment paper lends a frosted glass effect. The caged utility light fits perfectly into a clay plant saucer, and the unit sits on top of the courtyard's fence railing.

Metal Lamp Shade

I've made several lamps with various bits of Mexican wrought-iron furniture and broken-off points of star lanterns. I love the light patterns the triangular cutouts cast. The bulb socket hangs from a homemade harp attached to the iron stand, and twisted coils from a broken metal basket hide the connections.

Industrial Fittings

An industrial cast-iron floor flange, threaded bushings, nipples, reducers and a black iron pipe are connected together to make a table lamp. The holes in the flange serve as a wire loader. The wire is then fed through the base, up through the connected base parts and through to the lamp-lighting kit at the top. To find all of the pieces that fit together, search the aisles of the electrical, plumbing and lighting departments of the hardware store.

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