DIY Tutorials

Making It Right |Library Light Pt. 2

May 27, 2015

In our last post about making a light fixture for The Library things weren’t going so well. I am happy to report that we now have a new, easy on the eyes, light fixture! Just to catch you up, I originally wanted to replace the current fixture…

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…with the Finn Pendant by Pb Teen. The price + shipping fees, however, kept the Finn out of reach. Plan B was to use the Firefly Pendant (from CB2) that was made homeless after our office was turn into a playroom. I tried looping the lights through a wreath form to mimic the look of the Finn Pendant, but the wreath form was too dingy for the thick wires of the pendant lights.

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Then I hoped to use embroidery hoops. The hoops were thicker, which worked better with the wires, but they were bigger circumference-wise too, which made the 5 lights look lonely.

Caught up?

So, on to what we’re calling Plan E – because it feels like it’s been that complicated. We decided to forgo the round part(s) and the looping of the wires (read in your best Christopher Walken voice), and just let the lights hang.

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I say we, but I totally had to convince Michael that this was a thing by showing him photos like this.

In the last post I showed you how I disconnected the lights from each other and the ceiling cap. This left me with 5 individual pendant light strands. I then used my wire stripper to cut the ends of the wires to the same length. I did this by barely pressing the wire cutting part on my wire stripper through the black casing on the outside of the wires. Wire cutters can be very sharp, so you have to be careful not to completely cut through the wires.

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After using the wire cutter to make a shallow slice into the black casing, I then bent the wire back and forth until the casing split and I was able to pull it off of the wires. This doesn’t take much effort at all, and if you didn’t cut through the actual wires, then it won’t do any damage to them.  This is what the wire looked like sans casing:

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It has a white wire and black wire wrapped in pieces of twisted string – which I can only assume is used for added insulation. I used scissors to cut away the string. With the white wire (neutral) and the black wire (hot) now accessible , I needed to strip them to expose the bare wiring at a length that I work with. For me and this project, that meant exposing them slightly longer than I normally would, because I needed to twist them to 5 other wires (more on that in a minute). To expose the bare wires, I used the first gauge (I actually have no idea what this is called.) on my wire stripper to cut through the casing (aka insulation) on the wire.

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This part of the stripper is designed to cut through the insulation and not the actual wire, so as long as you use the right size for your wire, then you don’t have to worry about it cutting all the way through. I completed these steps for both the white and the black wires. When finished they looked like this:

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I then repeated those steps on each of the pendant strands. It wasn’t terribly difficult. It might seem complicated when written out, but really, it took me about 20 minutes to do 5 strands. (It probably would have taken less time, but I was having some trouble sliding the insulation off of the wires.)

With the wires stripped, my next step was to slip them through the ceiling cap and connect them together. I twisted all the white wires together and all the black wires together. God bless the person who came up with color coding the wires! Do not, under any circumstances, mix the wires. I’m not an electrician, so I’m not sure what would happen if you did, but it probably wouldn’t be anything good.

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After twisting the wires together it was time to add the pigtails. The pigtail is a separate single wire that is attached to the other wires. This allows you to only need to fool with one wire at the ceiling box rather than, in this case, 10 separate wires. The pigtail is exposed on both ends, so one end is attached to the other twisted wires and the other end will be connected to the wire coming out of the ceiling. Again, you match the colors – white to white and black to black. I used a wire nut and electrical tape to secure everything together.

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(At some point, I thought slipping that little, black doodad would keep the wires from slipping through the ceiling cap. It didn’t help, but I didn’t bother to remove it, either.)

I was still a bit concerned that nothing was really preventing the wires from slipping through the ceiling cap, and I didn’t want the weight of the pendant light strands + bulbs to only be supported by the connection at the ceiling, so I used electrical tape to tape the wire bundles to the ceiling cap.

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We moved the chair in The Library forward and had just enough room to squeeze the ladder in behind it.

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**Before doing any work with wiring make sure the power is OFF. Put a note on the breaker box or tape over the circuit switch, so that someone else in your house doesn’t go and turn the power back on while you are still working.**

At the ceiling, I used a screw driver to remove the old fixture – if you can call it that…

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…and then removed the wire nuts to detach the fixture leaving only the wires in the ceiling box.

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This box already had a ground wire connected to the crossbar (it’s typically a green screw with a copper wire wrapped around it), so I didn’t need to add one. If it didn’t, then I would have added it with the one that came in the ceiling cap kit that I bought at Lowes.

So here, I connected the white wire to the white wire and then the black wire to the black wire. Again, I secured the wires with wire nuts and wrapped them with electrical tape for good measure.

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It was after securing the ceiling cap with the cap screws and stepping down from the ladder that I realized I had forgotten to use the ceiling medallion I’d set aside to go around the light. D’oh! Annnd the medallion was too small to fit around the already-installed ceiling cap. So I had two options:

  1. Completely remove the ceiling cap – which meant undoing all the wiring, too – and then installing the medallion.
  2. Using mounting tape to stick that puppy right on top of the ceiling cap. However, this would leave a small gap between the medallion and the ceiling.

Because we are all about the path of least resistance here, I went with option #2.

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As far as the gap between the ceiling and the medallion, it’s not that noticeable when you aren’t standing on a ladder looking at it straight on. Also, I want this library / coffee bar to vibe like a well-loved, well-worn, eclectic hangout, so when my perfectionist tendencies start freaking out, I tell ’em this is totally what that hip, bearded, coffee barista would do. (I’m most likely just describing my younger brother.)

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I currently have 25w Edison bulbs in there, but I will probably switch them out for something else. Edison bulbs are great to look at when off, but when on they emit this amber light; I mean REALLY orange. I’m not a fan of that.

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I was also hoping to have some better shots of The Library to share with you guys, but the weather was not cooperating. (Have you heard about the crazy weather we have been having here in Central Texas?!)  It’s really hard to take photos of this small, windowless room when it’s storming outside of the closest window. This is probably the best photo I could get:

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And it’s not really of anything but the corner. Ha! I wanted to show you how the shelves have filled out since we’ve added a few more books. Hopefully, I can get some better photos soon and then add them to the Home Tour page.

Just a few other things that I wanted to mention:

Obviously, we used a light we already owned to complete this project, but if you don’t have a spare, multi-light pendant lying around, you could buy pendant light kits from a number of different stores. Lowes has them, as does Home Depot. Ikea has them for about $5 a pop – that’s what we used to make our pendant light in the playroom. You can use as many or as few as you like and how ever you like. The possibilities could be endless. **Note: Again I am not an electrician. Whatever I have shared in this post is just what I did, not an expert opinion.**

I also wanted to share these awesome websites that I found for lighting supplies!

  • This Etsy site, Vintage Wire & Supplies, has AMAZING vintage switches, cords, and gauge faces + tons more awesomeness.
  • Moonshine Lamp Co. has swoon-worthy, industrial style pendants (if you’re not up to making your own.) Many of them are made from old liquor / wine bottles. Gorgeous!
  • Color Cord Company has tons of fun fabric colored cords.


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  • Reply Rachel May 27, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    Yo! We need a picture of the ceiling with the medallion around the cap. 🙂 Text me when you add it, or text me one.

    • Reply Blair May 27, 2015 at 5:35 pm

      It’s already there! 3rd photo. You can see the medallion around the light at the ceiling.

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