08 Jan #PinTest: designertrapped’s $40 West Elm Pendant Light
Since we updated our front room lights with these really cool retro Edison lights from Costco, we’ve been struggling to find a solution for the light right above our door. It’s not a light that gets used a lot (except to hang Christmas decorations from), but what was there was from the original brushed nickel set that hung in the front room originally.
It doesn’t match anything now. Not the new lights, not the new coat hangers, not the new Lifestyle door hardware.
As we were working on a redesign for the front entry anyway, I decided to poke around on Pinterest for an idea or two, and came across this little gem from 2014:
The pin was by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer’s Body. The premise seems sound enough: save some money with a cool DIY. Not a problem.
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The first things needed were a set of quilting rings and MDF floral rings. I headed down to Michael’s with the intention of surprising Amanda with this installation. It would be temporary, of course, in case she didn’t like it, but before I did I went ahead and ordered the pendant light kit from Amazon, and then collected my materials.
It’s a good thing there was a sale on. It turns out these quilting rings are NOT CHEAP…not in Canada anyway. The recommended ones from Tasha’s blog are on Amazon, but when I checked it would have taken up to three months to deliver to Canada. Accessing the Canadian site, I found they weren’t any cheaper than Michael’s anyway. I just happened to luck out and get a sale at Michael’s, so they were basically half price.
Note that as I write this the West Elm original is online for $199 US. This one cost, in total, just shy of $100 CDN. So, on balance that’s quite a bit more than the original DIY, but still considerably less than the product it was modeled on, especially considering the exchange rate.
I got the materials home, glued up (and clamped) the floral rings in sets of three as instructed. A quick note: make sure to remove the stickers, and keep the stamps on the inside of the gluing. There may be some sanding later, as they’re not completely uniform in size.
Next, I set about cutting the quilting rings. I actually cut each pair together, just to save time and keep my cuts straight.
Tasha suggests removing the blocks from the newly-created straps. The ones I got, however, are stapled on. This means they’re not easy to remove. I started with just a hammer and chisel to break the glue, but that just split the wood. So I did what any enterprising DIY-er would do:
Big. Huge. Saw.
Bertha’s more than capable of embarrassing a few tiny staples, so I ran each piece through the blade and got it as flush as possible to the strap. What was left was easier to pry off with a chisel.
One thing you need to know about quilting rings, however: the inner ones are bent slightly tighter than the outer ones. That means you probably want to stick with all inner or outer rings, to keep the tension uniform around the lamp. I didn’t, and the finished lamp was a little unbalanced when it was hung up. A fancy bit of knot tying cured that though so you can’t tell. I also went with only eight straps instead of her suggested fourteen — largely because I had wrecked a few, and partly because it has a lighter, open feel.
You’ll buy that, right?
Tasha also suggests staining the straps at this point. I decided to stain the finished product instead. Should work…
The floral rings, it turns out, aren’t uniform in size. After gluing them together, I found there was quite difference, even after trying to match sizes as closely as possible. Rather than risk sloppy-looking work, I flipped the Mouse over on its back (clamped into the extension arm on Bertha), and smoothed the outside of each triple ring so it was flush all the way around. I then took my router with a flush cutting bit and evened out the inner part of the ring. That worked.
So, next up I simply added a drop of wood glue and a couple of finishing nails (I used a hammer, because that’s how I roll), and fastened the end of each strap to the first ring. On the inside of the ring (once I determined which would be the top) I fastened a small piece of furring strip that I had sanded and drilled. This is what the wire would pass through and hold the lamp in place.
Attaching the straps to the rings was WAY more complicated than you’d expect. First, they’re under quite a bit of tension, so an extra set of hands is useful when you’re trying to clamp the glued pieces into place. Second, even after clamping and gluing they wouldn’t always stay in place. In fact, one even snapped off and pulled the top layer of the floral ring with it. Not cool. So I opted to glue, clamp, then nail down each piece with 2-3 small finishing nails.
This was also hard work, as the MDF rings are quite hard, and made harder with the glue between them. Plus, again sometimes they would pop out if the glue let go (which happened once). Each nail went in only about 3/4 of the way, then I hammered them flat so they’d act like staples. That worked, but the results weren’t super attractive. The solution is an old finishing trick: get another floral ring to glue to the outside to cover the ugly bits of the work.
With all of that done, I repeated the bending and nailing procedure with the other ring and set the lamp aside. So far so good. The only trouble here was that the straps themselves kept cracking and splitting, so I’d have to pause to glue and clamp down those cracks as well.
All-in-all, attaching the bentwood straps to the rings took several days to a week. It wasn’t a smooth process by any means. In the future, I would strongly suggest soaking the straps overnight, or possibly longer, just to make them more pliable.
I’ve worked a lot with Minwax wood stain, and my favourite for our projects so far has been Jacobean. It’s a rich, dark brown that reacts differently with different woods. This time I knew I wanted a dark rubbed bronze finish, so I took my time applying and removing the stain (tip: a couple of sandwich bags on your hands still gives you the control you need to stain without having to invest in rubber gloves).
You know what? It kind of sucked. The quality of the wood vs. the quality of the rings vs. the glue drips and other flaws didn’t react well to the stain, and it came out blotchy and not super convincing. But not to worry: Rustoleum makes a fantastic line of metallic spray paints, including oil rubbed bronze. It turns out the “oil rubbed bronze” pendant kit wasn’t 100% oily or bronzy either, so a coat on that plus a couple coats on the lantern shade itself and we were back in the money!
I strung it up and installed it, but I left the cord LONG and just suspended it, tying the cord out of the way. I wanted Amanda to decide if she liked it before I committed to the final length. Plus, she could customize it to her liking. To cover up the gaps in the top and base, I twisted around some twine and stuck it down with some hot glue. I think it turned out pretty snazzy:
Well, Amanda loved it, and we set the height and made it a permanent fixture. Now people ask about our fancy custom light all the time, and I’m happy to tell them it came from Pinterest!
What did you think of our very first #PinTest? Is this something you’d try at home? Let us know in the comments, and share the pic below on Pinterest!