how to make a copy of a $40,000* Lindsey Adelman brass wall sconce and immediately become the fanciest person you know

*I assume this is a copy of a $40,000 wall sconce, since all of Lindsey Adelman’s (beautiful, perfect, breathtaking) lighting fixtures cost around that much

I have been wanting to get into lamp building for approximately FOREVER. There is so much cool shit out there and it all costs eleven trillion dollars, but I feel like it probably doesn’t have to? Especially stuff like this, which is super simple and made from all readily available stuff. (I mean, people who are handmaking cool stuff on the internet should absolutely charge whatever they want, but $200 for a teeny wall sconce is just slightly out of my budget.) I’ve spent literally dozens of hours browsing grandbrass.com in the last year, trying to internalize exactly what a “bobech” is and the difference between hickeys and nipples and slip-through balls, but there were just TOO. MANY. THINGS. So many fiddly connectors and kinds of nuts and with no way to actually touch and arrange the pieces, my brain kept disintegrating into a pile of sludge every time I tried to plan out anything. BUT THEN–

Cayce came to my goddamn rescue. She wanted some badass lighting for over her sofa, and was totally willing to spring for the Lindsey Adelman DIY sconce kit as long as I promised to put it together. (Honestly I probably would have paid her to let me put it together–that’s how bad I wanted to figure this stuff out.) And after fully assembling the sconce three separate times (oops), my understanding of lamp construction is almost not completely rudimentary! It honestly feels like kind of a miracle.

So why did I have to assemble it three separate times? It turns out that the instructions are… not great. Like, if you already know how to make it, the instructions are fine,  but if you’ve never wired a cluster body before they’re a pretty good recipe for –just as a totally hypothetical example here– fucking up and causing Cayce go have to go without power in half of her apartment for 36 hours. They also aren’t even included with the kit–to find them you have to go to Lindsey Adelman’s website, find where the sconce is listed, then click on the “pricing” link in order to get the pdf download link. Even the parts list isn’t accurate, which caused a lot of head scratching over here.

The stuff I’m writing down here is going to be specific to this particular DIY kit, but hopefully it will also be helpful for general light-making, or at least demystify some of the weird lamp parts words.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • DIY kit from Grand Brass (I checked and the kit is basically the same price as buying all the parts separately)
  • flathead screwdriver
  • adjustable wire stripper (if your bff ruined yours by opening a can of beans because she is secretly a hobo, these are a totally fine replacement)
  • wire cutter, or the middle part of a pair of Ikea pliers
  • lighter or hair dryer or something hot
  • dimmer switch plug (optional)

You can download my annotated/corrected version of Lindsey Adelman’s instructions HERE.

 

Parts list:

a. 3 candelabra sockets   b. 3 candelabra socket cups   c. 3 straight nozzles (to hold the socket cups in place over the sockets)

d. 3 friction swivels    e. 2 y-type cluster bodies    d. 3 large swivels with teeth–not pictured, oops!    e. 2 cluster bodies with no side holes

k. 2 cast iron flanges (to attach everything to the wall)    h. 2 straight back tees (to attach the flanges to the lamp)    j. 12 feet cloth-covered wire    l. 1.5″ coupling–it’s in the picture with all the pipes because oops again

6 1/2″ nipples  –  1″ arm (not on official parts list)  –  bushing (it goes on the end of the the 1.5″ coupling where the grey cord exits to stop the cord from rubbing against the sharp edge of the coupling) (also not on the official parts list)

the first one is the 1.5″ coupling, then the rest are the pipes I got in the kit, which are different than the pipes listed in the instructions because of course they are.

There should also be some wire nuts (little plastic cones), a roll of electrical tape, a plug, some heat shrink tubing, and a bunch of black and white wire.

step 1 – wire a socket

First, strip the plastic off the last half inch of the black wire, and twist the little wires together. Unscrew the gold screw a little and hook the exposed wires around it, then screw the gold screw back down super securely. Repeat for the white wire and silver screw. Then pop the cardboard sleeve back on the socket and that’s it! This is a good time to measure out 36″ of wire (plus maybe a little more for safety) and cut it, so you’re not threading the next pieces along 20 feet of wire.

step 2 – assemble the first branch

note: while you’re assembling it, screw everything together securely but not too securely–you might need to go back and change stuff around if you make a mistake, and you don’t want anything to get jammed together. 

First thread the socket cup onto the end of the black and white wires, then the nozzle, then the first 6″ pipe. The socket cup might feel a little jangly even after you tighten everything, but that will magically solve itself  after you screw in the light bulbs. Now you’re at the first friction swivel:

Cut off about 2″ of the heat shrink tubing and use a lighter or a hair dryer or whatever to shrink it around the wires. If you don’t feel like messing with that, you can just use some electrical tape (which is what I did after running out of tubing on my third try…) The point of the tubing/tape is to protect the wires from sharp parts inside the swivel so as long as that’s happening you can do whatever. Just disassemble the swivel, thread it on, snake the wire around the middle part, and reassemble it. (Don’t forget the little silver spring thing.) When you tighten it, try to have it at at a 90 degree angle, so there won’t be strain on the wires when you adjust it later.

Then screw on the 13″ pipe, and repeat all of this for the second socket, except with the 5″ and 1″ pipes. When both the arms are completed, attach them to one of the y-type cluster bodies, followed by a 9″ pipe. There should be four wires coming out of that pipe.

The large swivels with teeth operate pretty much the same way as the small ones, just with more room. I was out of tubing and the instructions didn’t specifically say to use any here, so I left these wires bare. Feel free to cover them if you were a little more judicious in your tubing usage than I was.

step 3 – these crappy, tiny cluster bodies

Cluster bodies are where you join up wires from multiple sockets and reduce them down to just one black and one white wire. Since the swivel and the cluster body are both “female,” they get connected with one of the 1/2″ nipples.  This is how I see a lot of tutorials do swivel bodies, and it’s what I tried to do at first:

The cup end is screwed on first, then the two wires of each color are stripped and twisted together along with a third wire of a matching color and secured with plastic wire nuts, then everything is crammed inside and the top of the cluster body gets screwed on. That way is super difficult though, because you have to leave a little extra length/bulk on the short wires to be able to manipulate them and there’s basically no room inside the cluster bodies for anything extra. So don’t do that. Screw the flat end on first, then cut the wires as short as you can while still leaving enough room to twist and cap them. Then you want to tape that shit up. Tape it really securely, otherwise the wires will untwist and your lamp won’t work and will possibly blow a fuse. This is what it should look like:

(Except I’m the worst and the only picture I have of this is of the second cluster body, where you attach the decorative gray cord. The first one should just have one black and one white wire coming out of it.)

step 4 – draw the rest of the owl

From here, just continue to assemble everything according to the diagram. This is what the very end should look like:

(Oh boy, is that out of focus or what?) The final little section is a nipple + the 1.5″ coupling + the little bitty bushing that stops the cord from rubbing against the edge of the coupling. The big iron flanges get attached to the straight-back tees with some nipples.

step 5 – wire the plug

The hardest part of this is just getting the rubber cover off the plug. A large flathead screwdriver might help, or someone with really strong hands and short fingernails.

This works the same as wiring a socket, except this is a non-polarized plug with two silver screws, so it doesn’t matter which wire goes on what screw. Pop the white cover back on when you’re done.

step 6 – locate your fuse box

You know, just in case. (If you don’t have access to yours and it’s a Saturday night and maintenance people won’t be available until Monday afternoon, maybe hold off. Or make sure you have some extension cords and aren’t plugging into the same fuse as your router or refrigerator.)

step 7 – plug it in!

Probably don’t be holding it while you do this, because brass is conductive and electricity is scary. If it goes on, you are amazing and I’m very jealous. I’m sure you’ll be very successful in life. If it doesn’t go on, start disassembling it from the bushing up and check which cluster body you didn’t tape tightly enough. Reassembling it goes much quicker the second time, I promise. And even faster the third!

step 8 – hang it on the wall

This is where you want to tighten all the connections REALLY, REALLY WELL. Otherwise stuff will get floppy and nobody wants floppy stuff. This thing is horribly, horribly unbalanced, so you’re definitely going to want to take advantage of all 8 screw holes in the flanges, and use anchors appropriate to your walls. (I used the medium sized screws and anchors from one of those Ikea sets.) The more horizontal you hang it, the more unbalanced it’s going to be, so definitely consider if you live with people who might knock into it or fiddle with it or otherwise try and ruin your life.

I guess you’ve probably noticed there isn’t a switch on this. I have no idea why they didn’t include a switch. The easiest solution is to use a dimmer switch plug like I linked up at the top, or for extra credit wire in one of these bad boys at whatever place in the cord feels right.

HOLY SHIT, SO FANCY. Be sure to coordinate the legs on your sofa with the lamp and the books on your side table for maximum effect. (Because nobody’s ever proved that you can’t fill all the voids in your heart with tapered legs and cheap houseplants and pink and brass everything, have they? I didn’t think so.)

 

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