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making lamps....and a digression into the toilet

updated fri 1 oct 04


David Hendley on thu 30 sep 04

Ha, ha, ha, most building trades workers don't want to do anything
that is the least bit out of the ordinary.
Time is money, don't cha know.
Of course, you don't need an electrician to install a sconce anyway.
Anyone with even the most basic skills can install a light fixture.
The electrician just leaves the wire in the box and you attach
the light.

I made sconces for my house - I threw bowls and then cut them
almost in half and added a slab to make the back (almost in half
means each sconce is slightly more than 1/2 a bowl, so no, you
can't make 2 sconces out of one bowl).
I simply ordered the sockets, nipples, and nuts from my lighting
supply catalog, including some nice heavy turned brass finials
which hold the sockets and look great, on the bottom of the sconces.
A trip to a good hardware store with the pottery sconces would
yield the same parts.

I also made the shades for the lights on my ceiling fans - You know
the type, with 3 sockets on the bottom of the fan. Threw them
in an "A" shape, with the wide side down (bottomless on the
wheelhead), and made the small end with a lip, just the right size so
the 3 screws around each socket would hold them in place.
Both the sconces and the fan lights are pierced in nice patterns
for the light to shine through.

I have gotten some great plumbing fixtures from friends because
they were restoring old houses and their plumbers would not
work with the old fixtures. Ha, ha, ha again. Both the toilets in
my house are old, one is a normal looking 1960's vintage, but
my favorite is the 1913 model in my bathroom - enameled cast
iron, wall-mounted tank and tank lid and nickel plated and porcelain
flush lever. The guts still use an old fashioned rubber tank ball
with brass lift wires. The neatest thing was that this toilet, after 75
years, still had the Potter's Union label glued to it. All toilets have
their date of manufacture stamped on them - at least they used to,
I don't know about today.

In my pottery shop, I have a similar cast iron tank toilet from 1917.
The outhouse was retired and the bathroom was built in the '50's,
so these builders also used old fixtures, including the claw-foot

The great thing about these old toilets is that they really work.
No job is too big, unlike the new "water saving" models, which
can take 2 or 3 tries to complete the job. You can also
"customize" the flush with these oldies, once you get the hang of it.
A half-stroke on the lever will give you just enough water to clear
the bowl, so they can actually end up using less water than the
poorly performing new models.

The way things have been going, it might now actually not be legal
for a plumber to install a "non water saving" toilet or an electrician
to install a "non certified" fixture. More reason to learn how to
do things for yourself.

Back to making lamps, there is really only one thing you need to
know, that might not be obvious, to wire lamps. With the advent
of "polarized" plugs (one blade is wider than the other), it does
matter which wire is connected to which screw on the socket.
The wire that goes to the wide blade (also called the ground side
or the white side) is attached to the socket with the white or silver
colored screw. The other wire to the thin blade (the hot side
or black side) is attached with the gold colored screw. There are
lines molded into one side of the duplex wire so you know which
wire goes to which side of the plug without tracing the end of the
wire back to the plug each time.
In the case of hard wiring sconces, the black wire goes to the
gold screw and the white wire goes to the silver screw.

David Hendley

----- Original Message -----

> When we were building our house (in 2000)
> I mentioned to the builder that I wanted
> to make my the sconces. He told me
> that the electricians would not install
> them because they were not certified etc.