Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Mason Jar Light: Not-so DIY

Ooooo had to get out the fancy camera this time. Don't get used to it, it's just impossible to photograph a light bulb.

Kyle and I are at a constant tug-a-war with the living room light. I like the corner lamp because it's a soft light, and lights everything in a pretty inoffensive way; he hates it because it's too dark and claims he can't see anything. He likes the ceiling light fixture with its two fluorescent bulbs because everything is very clearly lit; I hate it because you could do open-heart surgery by it.
That's not why I wanted a new light fixture though. I just couldn't help but realize that I've been living with these same dome lights pretty much my entire life no matter where I was, and that maybe something fresh and different would be the key factor in truly changing the image of the apartment. My inner hipster loves anything with mason jars and since I've relapsed with my Etsy addiction lately, this seemed like a great idea.

Most DIY tutorials will walk you through how to put together a light socket kit, but as much as I want to be handy, I have no desire to start anything to do with wiring. I needed more than one pendant to make sure the room would be properly lit, so I picked up this 3 mini-pendant light fixture from Lowes ($62 with tax - this definitely would have been cheaper had I done it myself). I also got 3 wide-mouth mason jars from Micheals (total $14 with tax) - one large, two medium. That was the easy part.

My Dad has enough tools to - I think, anyway - officially call the basement a workshop. This is lucky, as I don't own a hole saw to cut through the lids. He did this for me in the time that it probably would have taken me to identify what a hole saw looked like, and I was sent home with my newly cut jar lids and my light fixture, ready to put up.
It looks like a science experiment or octopus torture chamber.

Not true, however, and this is something that no DIY tutorial told me. You need to drill a couple tiny holes in the top of the lids to allow heat that builds up from the light bulb to escape. Mason jars have one function - to trap air. If that heat builds up, I can only assume you'll have glass and filament raining upon you someday. Not hard at all though!
Remember to wear safety glasses in case of falling debris. Or if you don't have safety glasses, grab those Urban Outfitters glasses you bought last summer that you thought would look cool but actually look awful and were a waste of $16 and for some reason you haven't thrown them out. They'll do in a pinch. But throw them out after, k?
See that sweater? Trade that in for a t-shirt too. I was gasping by the end.

The short list of things I like about this apartment includes the fact that I have access to my breaker box; it makes this much easier and well, possible. You better turn off the power to this particular light. Of course you have no idea what any of these do.
Good thing your hyper-organized friend got you 5 colours of Post-Its and pens for Christmas. Take this chance to label which ones do what and turn off the right one once you find it.

One last note on safety.... DO NOT DO THIS:
I don't own a ladder, but a step stool on a coffee table that I've already admitted only has 3 functioning legs is not an acceptable cause of death. Don't let the fact that I'm alive to write this fool you into thinking it's safe. I'm an idiot, remember.

After that it was your basic dismantling. I used this as a guideline on how to switch out a light fixture. I guess it went smoothly enough, except that when it came time to put the new base in, I couldn't figure out why the new screws didn't seem to fit. This could be why:
So I used the old screws to fit the new base. Hope they don't crumble and die though, 'cause they seemed to be as old as the building.

Full disclosure, this isn't perfect. As you can see, it's an external base, unlike most places which would have a nice hole here. Because of this, the peg on my new light fixture ended up being too long, and so the fixture hung about an inch from the ceiling. I frantically paced back and forth for several minutes before the obvious solution occurred to me; the same solution I used for the screws. Use old parts.
I call it the nipple, for obvious and mature reasons, but it's the piece off the old dome fixture that filled in that hollow space between the bolt and the base. I plan on it being temporary, but unless I can find a nickel finish version of this, I guess it's not the worst thing if it sticks. Open to suggestions!
Yes, there's a tiny bit of cable peaking out. It's taunting me.

My face must have looked like Christmas when I switched the power back on and everything, well, worked. Not only that, but the lighting was perfect; it was the perfect balance between the open-heart surgery light and the too-dark lamp. The glass cast some cool subtle shadows across the apartment as well (because they hang lower, the light now shines through the liquor cabinet), and the tiny holes in the top provided a fun pattern on the ceiling.
In terms of bulbs, these are 60W candelabra sockets. I ended up using 40W clear bulbs (store was out of frosted - I'd like to try those so it's easier to look at), but I tested some 25W Edison bulbs before them. They were brighter than I expected, but just not quite bright enough to light the room to a decent level.
So that's how we pulled off the mason jar light fixture - sort of DIY. I'm happy with the result, and I'd do it for my entryway light if we wouldn't become known as the people obsessed with mason jars.

Cost of Light: $62 + $14
Source: Lowes, Micheals

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