“It could have devastating effects.” A miswired lamp
could shock someone who screws in a new bulb
and touches the screwshell. And if the metal socket
accidentally touches the metal housing of your
blender, the whole device could become live.
The best way to prevent this, says Oven, is to buy This DIY lamp was made from an old washing machine
a continuity tester (about $15 at RadioShack) and barrel by Dominik Enenek Zacharski.
make sure the hot wire connects to the inside con-
tact at the base of the bulb. The neutral wire — the
one with a ribbed pattern in the insulation and a bulb. A good option would be to use a compact fluo-
fatter conductor down on the plug — hooks to the rescent lamp (CFL), which creates less heat, uses a
outside. When done, double-check all your connec- quarter of the electricity for the same light, and comes
tions with your nifty new tester. in both small and medium screwbases. High-quality
The other safety consideration is heat. Traditional CFLs can be spendy ($5–$7), but their manufactur-
incandescent bulbs will generate enough heat to ers mix three or more phosphors for a soft glow that
make a fire if placed in contact with plastic, wood, looks as good as incandescent light. Advanced DIYers
or paper. Gillin always uses blenders with glass have also begun using LEDs, which are 12 times as
pitchers for this reason, making his yard sale hunts efficient as filament bulbs and run very cool. The
a little tougher. Palmer advises making sure there’s strange thing is that no affordable 120-volt AC LED
a way to vent the hot air from building up inside fixtures are currently on the market, but hacking
ad-hoc lamps. She typically drills a 1" hole in a metal your own is fairly easy and safe. It involves finding a
bowl when using it as a lampshade. surplus power supply for low DC current, soldering
On a practical level, the heat from bulbs will melt a few resistors, and repurposing some LEDs from a
most adhesives or hot glue used to fix the socket in dollar store (to see how some brave lamp trailblazers
place, creating a crooked setting for your bulb after did it, check out craftzine.com/go/ledbulb).
a few hours. Personally, I once had a dozen hot-glued Whatever bulbs or technology you use, the best
gumballs fall off a lampshade after firing up a small- part of making a lamp is the satisfaction of being your
wattage incandescent. Gillin, who grew up working in own product designer. Lighting up your own kitchen
his mom’s catering company, says he once melted doo-dad or appliance for the first time is like the
a number of sheets of green gels trying to make his punchline to a joke. If it’s wired right — and it will be if
blenders look like they were full of margaritas. you take minimal care — you’ll see a nice warm glow
To avoid the heat issue, consider a different type of and get a chuckle every time you enter the room. ×
best to start with a new electrical plug and cord set
than to use a ratty old cord from the original appliance. For a few dollars at Lowe’s or Home Depot,
you can even get a socket, switch, and cord combo
(no electrical work at all!).
On one of his blender projects, Gillin took the design
to the next level by mounting a switch behind the
actual buttons for the blender. When delighted visitors pushed “Mix” or “Chop,” they activated a light in
the glass pitcher. “Dealing with electricity really isn’t
that hard,” he says.
Well, yes and no, counters electrician Howard
Oven of Belmont, Mass. Nonprofessionals often
commit a big transgression when wiring their own
lights — they connect the hot wire to the wrong terminal on the light socket. It’s called reverse polarity,
and regarding light fixtures, it means “the outside of
the fixture — the screwshell — will be live,” he says.