Classy floor lamps are expensive –like, very expensive. As I priced sturdy lamps for my new Seattle apartment, I couldn’t find a single sturdy tripod-style adjustable lamp for under $250. Target and World Market had non-adjustable options in the $80-$120 range, but I’d been tricked into buying cute-but-fragile lamps there before and always ended up with an unstable or non-functional lamp within a year or two. So when I came across a vintage tripod during a recent trip to a goodwill outlet, I was more than ready to use this as a base to make my own Pottery Barn inspired industrial-chic floor lamp.
This project turned out so well, and I get so many compliments, that I decided to create this tutorial for how to build your own floor lamp out of a camera tripod.
All you need is the following:
- Tripod new or vintage (See Etsy’s selection of vintage tripods or click here to get the exact model of vintage tripod used in this tutorial)
- A light socket & cord (In these photos, I’m using a workshop style clamp lamp because it’s what I had on hand)
- electrical tape or heat shrink sleeves
- lightbulb clip-on lampshade adaptor
- E6000 glue for setting the light socket in place
- Drum shade (I picked up this ine at the Goodwill Bins and did a deep clean of the shade before use)
- Hacksaw (This one is about $9 and- it turns out- is handy for lots of projects!)
Creating your own floor lamp from a tripod is remarkably easy. To create a stable and professional quality lamp, however, you may need to get a little bit out of your comfort zone –running the cable down the core of the tripod (essential for a professional look) requires cutting and splicing the electrical cord. Don’t worry, with my instructions, even that will be a piece of cake!
Step one: Modify the tripod into a lamp base
Use the hacksaw to cut the center column to remove the flat plate from the top of the tripod. Be sure to make a level cut across the pipe. This will take a little bit of elbow grease if you’re working with a quality tripod, but a good hacksaw should be able to cut through the metal pipe in a few minutes.
I resisted a hacksaw in my toolbox for a long time and honestly, I don’t know why: The thing was only about $8 and cuts through anything. Definitely pick one up for this project and keep it around for all the other times it’ll be useful.
Step Two: Prepare your Light Fixture
If you’re using a clamp lamp, start by removing the clamp and the reflector so you’re left with just basic hanging lantern cord. Next – just trust me on this– triple-check the cord is unplugged from an electrical source and then use a sharp pair of scissors to cut right through the cord. Make your cut about 6-12 inches from the plug, for best results.
Step Three: Feed the Cord Through the Pipe
Without the obstruction of a plug in the way, you can now feed the cord straight down through the center pipe. Depending on your particular tripod you may need to remove a fitting from the base of that pipe or use your hacksaw to cut another fitting off. The cord should run straight out the bottom.
Next, with cords in place where they’ll need to be on the finished product, move on to splicing the cable back together.
Step four: Splice the cord back together
Slicing electrical cords is a little intimidating the first time- but it’s so easy and very safe as long as you pay attention to instructions. I’ve actually done this on so many different lamp-related DIY projects now that I have a tutorial with graphics and instructions on the ready. If this is your first time splicing an electrical cord, work through that tutorial now, then return for step 5.
Step five: Test your Light
Go ahead and test your lamp with a lightbulb at this point just make sure the wiring is working before you press on.
Step Six: Gluing the Light Socket in Place
Coat the outside base of the light socket with a generous amount of E6000 glue or epoxy. Any glue that has a lot of mass to fill in gaps, that won’t run, and that will bond metal to plastic should work for this project. E6000 glue is my best recommendation for this, but you’ll need to work in a well-ventilated area.
If your socket is wider than the pipe you have two options. 1. Use the E600 glue very liberally, creating bulk to support the socket floating above the pipe, or 2. Use the hacksaw to make a cut vertically down the pipe, and then use pliers to open the pipe up, then add E6000 and glue in place. I chose the latter option because a very stable lamp was my goal.
Be sure your glue cures with the socket set level. It may be helpful to stand the tripod on a level surface, add glue, and then use a level across the top of the socket to ensure the position is perfectly level. (Thankfully, independently-adjusting legs on most tripods can remedy slight imperfections and level the lamp if you’re a little off)
Step seven: Install a lampshade
If you purchased a clip on lamp shade adapter, the final step is so easy: Just install a lightbulb (CFL or LED bulbs work great as long as they are shaped like a traditional lightbulb) and take the two loops of the adaptor, separate them, and slip them onto the lightbulb as shown:
Next, unscrew the finial on top, install the lampshade, and screw the finial back in place:
(You can spraypaint the lampshade adaptor if the gold is offputting- they don’t seem to be made in other shades- but once a lampshade is in place the adaptor should be essentially invisible)
Step Eight: Literally bask in the glow of your glory
You made a lamp! Not just a light source- but a sturdy, swanky lamp to rival any industrial-chic vintage-reproduction! For just the price of the few parts, you can repurpose cool found or inherited tripods into something that complements your home decor for a fraction of the price Pottery Barn or West Elm would tag on a reproduction.
Lindsayanne is a professional artist, writer, and serial-DIY-er with a knack for solving problems creatively at home, in the studio, out in the garden, and even online. Learn more about Lindsay, her training, and her background here.