Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Built-in Light fixtures

Loyal reader, I started this weblog post in September 2014. Now that it is six twelve months later, I suppose its time to finish this quick write up.  

Well, after about seven (7) months of having romex dangling out of the front of my bookcase, I decided it was time to install some sconces.

I know you won't believe me, but it wasn't pure laziness that derailed this project for so long.  I honestly couldn't find any fixtures that would fit this bookcase.

Let me rephrase... I couldn't afford any fixtures that would fit this bookcase.

Okay, let me rephrase again... I didn't want to afford any fixtures that would fit this bookcase.

But seriously, with four identical lights needing to be wired to this bookcase, I'm not going to spend $380 a piece. I let you do the math, but that probably ends up costing more that four times the cost of building this bookcase. Total.

Sorry Barn Light Electric. I think the last "farmer" who could afford to put $400 sconces throughout his "barn" had a last name of Escobar and hailed from Medellín.  

The world of "lighting design" is an industry that casts a dark and sinister shadow.  To me, its all overpriced junk designed to rip of wealthy people that may or may not have more money than brains.  With a pipe bender, and some scrap brass, I think anyone could make those rusty looking barn fixtures.

So, I have been looking at the internet and the local lighting stores for ideas.  And for months and months, I was feeling depressed and uninspired.  I wanted something like the picture below, but these are so expensive that they don't even bother pricing them.  I'm guessing they are in the $500/ea range.

I almost scored a set of used ones from a guy on ebay, but I think my style of hardball negotiation scared him away.  I called him out on selling some pure overpriced junk and had him reduce the price by almost 50%, but I couldn't close the gap.  I wanted all three shipped for $130 and he wouldn't go below $150.  His loss. I hope they get good use in a dusty box in his garage.

What was my goal with lighting this bookcase?  I really wanted a down casting sconce. For some reason, these kind of lights are sort of rare. They just aren't big sellers, and most of the time down casting lights are reserve for outdoor applications.

I also found that having hard wiring sconces is not exactly for your typical working class household.  Most average Joe Homeowners are going to do plug in sconces rather than punch holes in their walls to fish some romex up to a legit junction box to do sconces.  I had no idea before I got into this project, but it does make sense.  Lesson learned: Hardwired sconces are typically for people with disposable income.

Well, that doesn't exactly include me.  So, I started looking at these crappy "layman" plug-in sconces.  I was thinking that if I found one with a proper canopy, I could probably do a hardwire conversion inside the canopy.  I was getting desperate.  But the whole pricing thing was very discouraging. I can't spend $2,000 on the lighting for this bookcase.   My entire house is probably only worth a few dollars more on the open market!

So, I turned to every college kid's home decor venue of choice: Ikea.  Well, I actually didn't just turn there, I was just cruising around looking for cheap plug in sconces with ability to modify as mentioned before.  And, I found these: the Ikea "Arstid".  Behold:

If you use your imagination while simultaneously feeling sorry for me, the word "elegant" *might* just pop in to your mind.... maybe.
In a way, they are pretty nice.  I mean, they definitely aren't the stately bookcase lights fit for a walnut-clad, ivy-league library.  But, they look decent and seem to have the illumination capacity and style I was looking for.  Besides, the arm of the light is out pretty far which allows for books to slide under the light with ease.  The physical shape of the lamp was another obstacle in this process.

The trouble with the Arstid lamp is that we will need to some modifications to make them work.  Let's give it a go.

Fresh from my local Ikea dealer

An "apartment therapy" appropriate plug-in sconce.

The issue: fully domed w/ backplace. Not exactly setup for hardwiring.

Well, that's going to be a problem. Let's start dismantling these.  Warning: warranty-voiding content below.



Let's just do away with this pesky plug. Obviously, we leave enough of the leads inside the canopy so we can wire this thing directly to our Romex.

The pull switch cuts the black wire like a typical switch does in a wall. I'm keeping the pull switch in because... well I don't know. Maybe I want to turn one or two of these off instead of having all four on at once. (Nearly a year later, I've never pulled any of the pull switches, and these lights are on almost constantly at the house.)

Let's mark it for future electricians at this house, and for ease of installation when I'm up on the ladder.

Okay. Now, about this back plate. We need to get one (or two) stripped 12/2  romex wires through the back of the canopy, which will attach to the leads for the lamp.

Right now, we are stone walled. Solid back plate.

Tin snips do the trick.

"Custom" hanging bar

Ahem... let's just re-shape these a bit and...

Relatively, sort-of straight. Perfect.

Great. Only three more to go.

That's the basic process of lamp modification.  Now let's get to hanging these things on the built-in.  I surfaced mounted these to pancake boxes because I just wanted to get something up on the wall and see how it looked.

Romex thru pancake.

Conductors ready for connection.


Wire it up and this project is a wrap.  The finished product:

It actually works.

On the first one I covered the pancake box with a 4" hose clamp.  I know, this sounds terribly budget.  But no one actually notices.  No one really notices the other three that I did not put a hose clamp on either.  The bottom line: no one really notices anything.

Here are some glamour shots, just because...

The bookcase is so massive that its hard to fit in the frame of the camera.

This post is about a year old, but who is counting?  Thanks for indulging, Loyal Reader.  You saw it here first on Occupy Wolf Street.

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