Lighting Project

The Basics

More and more of the fluorescent lights in the Space failed in 2014. It wasn’t due to bad bulbs (putting in good bulbs didn’t help).

By late summer most of the lamps had failed, so we decided to replace all of the fluorescent lights with new lights. Many folks didn’t like the look of fluorescents, so we decided to put in “greener” LED bulbs. We decided to save money by building the new lamps ourselves, using recycled parts wherever practical.


The LED light bulbs we chose are pretty similar to ordinary incandescent light bulbs. Each LED bulb screws into a lamp holder. The lamp holder fits inside a simple reflector, and the reflector hangs from the rafter by a lamp cord.

The reflector is a recycled “tin can”. We used large (restaurant-size) cans that originally held pizza sauce.


We bought the LED light bulbs from Costco; they were about $6.00 each. Each one shines as brightly as a 40 Watt incadescent bulb but only uses 7 Watts. They don’t get very hot, and they should last for about six years.

We bought the lamp sockets from Hibbert Lumber. They very graciously gave us a great discount: The sockets cost less than $2.00 each. The sockets are the kind that can work with 2-way light bulbs, so they have built-in switches.

Tim F asked Woodstock’s Pizza for used tin cans; they gave him permission to go dumpster-diving, and he retrieved a dozen nice big cans for the project. They originally held pizza sauce.

Jim Stewart and Emily donated the lamp cord, Rob donated wire ties, and Tim F donated spray paint and wire nuts.

The only costs to the Space were for the light bulbs and lamp sockets; about $102.00 total. But the lamp cord, paint, wire ties and wire nuts were probably worth another $80.00.

We made a dozen lamps, so each lamp cost us about $8.50 but is worth about $15.00 in material. Since we did all the work ourselves, labor was free.

Time and Effort

We installed the lights on Saturday, September 27, 2014.

Before that, Tim F spent an hour or two removing the labels from the cans, washing the cans, and drilling a hole in the end of each can for the lamp cord.

Our Saturday work party started at about 10 a.m. We shut off the power to the old fluorescent lights and disconnected them. Some folks smoothed the edges of the holes so that they wouldn’t damage the lamp cord.

Other folks decided where the new lamps would be and how low they would hang, and strung lamp cords through the rafters to those locations.

Meanwhile other members sprayed the outsides of the cans with white gloss paint.

Once the paint was dry various folks took turns putting the lamps together. To do that, they threaded the cans onto the hanging lamp cords, connected the lamp sockets to the ends of the cords, connected the two pieces of each socket, and screwed in the LED bulbs.

When all of the bulbs were installed, we turned the power back on and tried them out; they worked and we all cheered. We cleaned up, took some photos, and called it a day at about 5 p.m. So our work party lasted about seven hours, and involved nine people at different times.

Our thanks go to (in roughly chronological order): Tim F, Jim Stewart, Braden, Emily, Bill Horn, Jordan, Rob and Mary Jane, and Nicholas.

And special thanks to Woodstock’s Pizza for their cans, and to Hibbert Lumber for their nice discount!


The new LED lamps are hooked up in place of the old fluorescents, so all you have to do is flip the usual switch next to the door.

But you can also reach up into a lamp reflector and turn the little round knob on the side of the socket to turn off that lamp. That makes it easy to turn off specific lights for special events.


Our new lamp fixtures are designed for low power, low heat LED light bulbs. Never install regular incandescent light bulbs in our lamps!

The LED light bulbs should last until about the year 2020.

The glass part of the LED bulb doesn’t get hot, but its metal part can get hot if the lamp has been on for a long time. So please be careful handling the LED bulbs – just like you’d be careful with any light bulb.


It’s very easy to decorate the outsides of the lamps by covering the white reflectors with paper sleeves (but please don’t directly mark or paint on the reflectors).

To make a paper sleeve:

  1. Tape together two ordinary letter-sized pieces of paper, forming a piece 8.5" tall by at least 19.5" long.

  2. Decorate the paper before you put it on the reflector.

  3. Wrap the decorated paper snugly around the outside of the reflector to form a sleeve.

  4. Tape the outside of the paper sleeve to itself (not to the reflector).

  5. Tape the outside of the metal top of the reflector to the inside of the paper sleeve so that the sleeve doesn’t slide off of the reflector.

Tim F made some example sleeves that say “DMS”.

He is also planning to use some foamboard to make rigid sleeves with polygonal cross-sections.

It’s also possible to line the inside of a reflector with a sleeve of colored paper in order to change the color of the light a bit.

Feel free to make your own lamp decorations, but please be nice and check with the previous artist before you remove their decorations!



Emily has posted a blog page of nice photos about this lighting project:

Mood Lighting