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Monday, July 10, 2017

DIY: industrial "metal" lampshade

After a few years of tolerating the glaring light from the brass chandelier hanging in my dining room, I finally had enough. This quaint holdover from the era of pastels, acid-wash jeans, and hair-metal bands was a permanent fixture in my apartment, and --per the rental contract-- I couldn’t switch it out. Sure, I could go the easy way and cover each of the bulbs with those little clip-on canvas lampshades, but there had to be a better solution which made the room look less dated, not equally.

"The light! It burrnnnnsss ussss!!!"

I loved the idea of getting a large paper-lantern-style globe that could both diffuse the light AND cover up the hideous brass. But when I measured the chandelier, the diameter turned out to be a whopping 18” inches (not even counting the extra inches I’d have to allow for heat distribution.) Not only that, but the arms on that damn thing dipped down so low, that even if I managed to find or make a shade wide enough, it wouldn’t be long enough.

(Insert obligatory “That’s what she said.”)

I read through dozens of DIY options: paper-mache, paper/cloth over wood/wire frame, even one made with laminate flooring… all were too small or too expensive. So I looked around my apartment to see what I could do with what I had: cardboard, tape, and craft paint. Inspired by a tutorial on Epbot, I decided to make an industrial-looking lampshade.

Items needed:
  • Aluminum tape (available in the HVAC section of the hardware store)
  • Cardboard box
  • Scissors and box cutter
  • Notecards
  • Black craft paint

I broke down a standard-size Amazon shipping box, trimmed it to size, and rolled it into a cylinder of the appropriate diameter. The corrugations in the cardboard are what especially help this to look like corrugated metal.

I cut off strips of tape in varying lengths, and began covering the outer layer. To add some texture and make it look like there were “patches”, I randomly inserted little scraps of notecards under the tape. (Notecards work better than regular paper due to its thickness.)

As you cover the patches, you can make “rivets” by pressing a small tool into the tape (in my case, I used different-shaped drill bits.)

"This is SO metal, dude..."
Don’t forget to cover the inside as well! (Since this obviously won’t be seen, it’s not necessary to use paper scraps on this part.)

When the entire thing is covered, paint small sections with the black craft paint, then quickly wipe it off with a paper towel. Depending on how artistic you want to get, you could also use brown and/or dark red paint to simulate rust.

After I finished the lampshade, I realized that I hadn’t thought about how I was going to mount the damn thing. I looked through the random assortment of things in my toolbox, and realized I could just hang it off the chandelier’s chain using picture frame wire.
I made four small holes in the lampshade about 6” from the top, spaced at 90* increments, and pushed a small bolt through each hole, securing it with a nut on the other side. I then wound one end of the pre-measured wire around the bolt, threaded the wire through the chandelier’s chain, and wrapped the other end of the wire around the bolt on the opposite side. Repeat for the other pair of bolts.

Lampshade upskirt shot posted with its permission.

Now that my spiffy new lampshade was up, the brass chain it was hanging from looked even more horribly wrong than before. How to hide it? Solution: more cardboard and tape!
I found a tube from an empty paper towel roll, cut a slit from top to bottom, wrapped it around the chain, and covered it with aluminum tape, using the same technique I’d done with the shade.

I did this project about three years ago, and it’s held up wonderfully. There’s no sagging or bending, and my friends are blown away when they realize --from 6” away-- that it’s actually just made of cardboard.

As per my Irreverent Guarantee, here’s how this project scores:
Ease of Execution: 10/10
Practicality: 10/10
Durability: 10/10

So if you're looking for a simple, super-cheap way to add a little industrial style to your place, this is a fantastic way to do it! 

Pictured: industrial light and magic.