Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Lamps and Lighting

I'm a picker of sorts.  I like finding deals and picking them out of the refuse for cheap or free when I can.  I was recently at Lowes and they had lamps on clearance.  I picked up a $170 tiffany style chandelier for $44.  Score.  Unfortunately not everyone appreciates stained glass.  I've been enthralled with it since I was a kid and the older boy at the neighbors where I was staying the weekend was doing some stained glass artwork.  I thought it was really cool at the time and as I grew to appreciate the difficulty of doing it well, seeing even somewhat mass-produced modern works from China, I like the overall effect the light brings to a living space.

Since my wife doesn't share the love of the lamp style, I have placed it in my workshop till we get my office built over the garage (some years from now I suppose).  It really changes the warmth level and with three bulbs instead of the one that had been, it's more evenly lit and useful to me. 

Four light (3 lit) Tiffany Chandler
As I was admiring the new fixture, I noticed my pile of stuff had grown when I recently upgraded our homes exterior lighting with motion sensing lamps.  Two of those I swapped out were good solid brass, needing polishing but good fixtures to hang on to.  One day I hope to incorporate them into my garden structure that remains planned for now, budgeted for much later.
Brass Carriage Lamp

Brass Sconce with beveled glass
Effective use of lighting is something I learned in my college days where I was privileged to study under a guy name Dean whom we called Dean-o.  The work I did for television sets was well regarded and I took it as a compliment when the Engineers said the cameras liked my lighting a lot.  It was a job I enjoyed because it was something I could often do at my own pace and take time to be creative and take pride in.  Hours spent 30 feet above the studio floor adjusting spots, floods, elipticals and soft boxes.  Fun times, hard work, lousy pay. :-)

On that thought, I captured a few shots of my finished basement area to illustrate how a table lamp in the right place can create much nicer lighting and interest than plain overhead lighting.  Below are two different views, the first with overhead lighting, the second with some old but nice table lamps.

My Desk
Overhead, flat lighting at desk

Overhead off, lamps on - warm and cozy corner
 The lamp is a hand-me down wood carved Benjamin Franklin-esque lamp lighter.  Situated behind my monitors, there is no glare but plenty of light on my work surface.  This second image captures some of the warmth the light adds.  It really helps demarcate my "at work" office which has cold overhead lights from my "at home" office which is typically lit as shown.  I like to feel like I'm in a different place altogether aside from just geographic changes between work-work and home-work, and the lighting helps a lot.

The Reading Nook

Overhead Lighting
Overhead off, lamps on - interesting faux window when viewed from across the room.
The paint in the built-in nook, which will one day have glass shelves for curios, has some luminous components that help reflect and amplify the light from the lamp.  I love the effect this has when I come down to the basement, current effective office, to work.  It's not perfect of course, the overhead lacks a finished ceiling or final lighting fixtures which will vastly improve things if I ever get around to completing them.  In the mean time, the lamps bring a nice comfort level to the basement living area.

Lamps and lighting do a lot to sculpt our living spaces and should be given ample consideration as an inexpensive and dramatic way to revive a living or work space.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Scrap Built Workbench for Kids

One of my recent shop projects has been building a workbench for my kid's more destructive desires.  I told them, "we need to make a special place for you to break stuff" since the usual places (everywhere) usually break unapproved items.  The total project cost: $81.

So it is that one old baby changing table, a donated table leaf, some scrap lumber and some left over heavy-duty shelving wheels came together to make a mobile workstation for my kids to tear things up.  Here it is about half done.  I have more drawer handles to make, some drawer dividers to cut and secure inside to make bins for parts, tools, etc., and then it's getting a red, white and blue paint job using a lot of left over paint.

I started by removing the rails from the top of the table and securing the table leaf to it with numerous salvaged screws.  Then I tried putting the wheels right on the bottom, but we were a bit top heavy so I had to extend the base with some scrap lumber.  Lag bolts and glue put the new, wider and deeper, base on the bottom of the table and I threaded 1/4 inch holes at 20 pitch so I could screw the wheels right in. 

I then noticed the table structure by itself was wiggly so I took one of the now detached rails to the miter saw and made several right-angle triangles to glue and tack with brads into the inside drawer support corners.  This cross bracing tightened thing up tremendously.

For handles, I've gotten some aluminum rod and bent it at a 90 degree angle.  On the ends I threaded it to 3/16" 20 pitch thread and found some nuts and washers to make it work with the existing pull handle holes.

To top it off, we bought a brand new $50 vice with anvil so we have something to properly mash, bash and otherwise break things with. I found some carriage bolts, left over from our swing set kit build years back, and with some scrap blocking and washers they made a good fit for securing the vice to the table top.

Hopefully, as my dear ones embark on their now legit rampage of destruction, they'll learn some valuable skills along the way and have a lot of fun learning shop craft first hand. :-) Project cost breakdown so far: $50 for vice, $6 for aluminum rods, nuts and washers, and about $25 finding bargain bin tools to stock the workspace with (a decent claw hammer, a no-mar mallet, a square with spirit level and a screw-driver set.)