Almost a year ago (April 1, 2016 to be precise), I posted about how I had been planning to get sconces for either side of the mirror in the living room for months but just hadn’t gotten around to it yet.
I then proceeded to make zero progress for another 11 months, despite that fact that I still wanted them because 1) I think they will help balance out the mirror, and 2) it is really dark in the back corner of the couch, which is also my preferred spot to cozy up and read (at night — the bench in the sunroom is the best daytime reading spot!).
Even though I was willing to splurge a little, I was still struggling to find something that fit the bill. My requirements were:
- Plug in (not hardwired), with an on-off switch
- Vertical profile, to run alongside the sides of the mirror
- Distributed light, ie not an intense spotlight shape
- Fairly flush with the wall, so no swing arms
- Not hideous
- Not more than ~$250-$300 for both
Unfortunately after more than a year of searching, it was becoming clear that this was a tall order. And so I did what any self-respecting DIYer would do: I decided to make my own. And I think they turned out pretty darn awesome.
I was inspired by Mandi of Vintage Revivals, who is incredibly talented and awhile ago made a fairly similar sconce. However, I put my own spin on it and had to get creative in a few places because:
- While Mandi’s video tutorial is fun to watch, she doesn’t include a source list and she flies through listing the supplies (and skips some and calls others by the incorrect name), so I needed to figure out the supplies myself.
- Mandi’s light is a plug-in, but she doesn’t deal with how to get the cord out of the canopy — instead she mounts it on a brick wall and then is able to snake the cord out from behind the canopy through a depressed grout line, but that wouldn’t work if you mount it on a flat wall (ie the wiring would be trapped inside the canopy unable to escape to be plugged into an outlet).
- Hers sticks out from the wall much further than I wanted mine to and is a little bulkier in the middle.
- Hers requires plugging/unplugging from the wall to turn it on and off, but mine will plug in behind the couch so I knew I needed to add a switch in order for it to not be the most monumental pain to turn them on and off.
I ordered most of my supplies at Grand Brass, an online lighting supply vendor (the only things I bought elsewhere were lightbulbs, two screws to mount it, and wire connectors, which are all available at hardware stores). All told I spent $135 (including lightbulbs), though I could have spent about $10 less since I bought a few extra things not knowing if I’d need them and also missed one thing and had to pay a second round of shipping for it. Still, $67.50 for each sconce is such a steal compared to how much I’ve seen these same lights sell for!
These are the supplies to build one sconce (multiply this if you’re making multiple sconces!):
- 1 x Brass canopy (Item #CAS05)
- 1 x Gray cloth-coated cord and plug (Item #WICT12S)
- 1 x White rocker switch (Item #SW5406W)
- 2 x 6″ unfinished brass pipe with 1/8 IPS male thread (Item #PIBR06-0X8) — these come in a variety of lengths depending on how tall you want your fixture to be (it will be about twice as tall as whatever you choose for this pipe). The 1/8 IPS is the pipe diameter (they also come in 1/4 IPS), so make sure everything else you buy is also 1/8 IPS and it will be compatible.
- 1 x 1″ unfinished brass pipe with 1/8 IPS male thread (Item #PIBR01-0X8) — this is the pipe that determines how far from the wall your fixture will protrude, and I picked a short length (1″) as I wanted it to be pretty shallow.
- 2 x porcelain socket (Item #SO10045C)
- 2 x brass socket cup (Item #CU578)
- 2 x 1/8 IPS beaded nut (Item #NU430)
- 1 x 2-hole 1/8 IPS small cluster body (Item #BOS2X8) — this is the connector that joins the two arms of the sconce.
- 1 x 2-3/4″ swivel cross bar (Item #CBSV2-3/4)
- 2 x 3/4″ ball head screw (Item #SCB3/4)
- 1 x 1/8 IPS male hex nipple (Item #NIH900BP)
- 1 x 1/8 IPS threaded straight coupling (Item #NE470)
- (Not pictured, because this is the thing I didn’t order the first time) 1 x 1/8 IPS male slotted plug (Item #FI1/8PLUG)
- (Not pictured) 2 x twist-on wire connectors — you can get these at any hardware store
- (Not pictured) 2 x screws to mount the cross bar to your wall. #6 1″ screws worked well for me.
- (Not pictured) 2 x lightbulbs of your choosing — I went with simple frosted globe lights, at 25 watts to create fairly soft lighting. If this will be a primary light source in your room, you’d want to go brighter.
In terms of tools, you’ll need:
- Wire strippers
- Flat head screw driver
- Needle-nosed pliers
- Black oxide drill bits (for drilling an extra hole in the canopy) — I had a set on hand from building my coffee table, so I used a 1/8″ for a pilot hole and then a 5/16″ for the final hole
- Clamps (for clamping down the canopy while you drill the hole)
- (Optional if you have a slight issue like I did on one of my four sconce arms — more info in the instructions below) Dremel and grinding attachment
Okay, so here’s how I did it, written in the second person because I assume you will immediately follow my instructions and do it too!
1) Start by drilling a hole in the bottom of the canopy so that the cord will be able to exit the fixture and plug into the wall. You do this by marking where you want to drill the hole (positioned so it will be at the exact bottom of the canopy if the two mounting holes are parallel to the floor) and then clamping it to the table with a piece of wood for protection.
First use a smaller black oxide bit to drill a pilot hole:
Then use a 5/16″ bit to start drilling the hole larger. This make take longer. Here it is in progress:
And here’s the finished hole:
Nothing fancy, but the perfect size for the cord to run up the wall and into the sconce.
2) Next up it’s time to start assembling! Started by cutting your cord so that you have the plug with a length of wire needed to run from the outlet to the sconce and then the rest of the leftover cord you can use for internal wiring of the light. I measured that my sconces needed about 50″ of cord to run to the outlet, and I added another 2″ for inside of the fixture. I measured up my cord from the plug to 52″ and then just snipped it with my wire strippers (which have a cutting blade).
3) Set aside the part with the plug, and take the leftover part you’ll be using for internal wiring and untwist the two strands. As you can see, it’s just a black (hot) and white (neutral) wire twisted together.
4) Then strip off the fabric coating so that the wires are slimmer and easier to work with inside the lamp. The fabric pulls right off.
5) Next cut your first two pieces of wire. These will run through one arm of the sconce and into the body, so for my sconce I did a quick dry fit of the pieces and determined I needed ~14″ in length. Cut a black and white piece to whatever length you’ve determined (too long is better than too short), and then strip a 3/4″ section from one end of each using your wire strippers.
6) Attach these to the screw terminals in the porcelain socket, black wire to brass screw (hot) and white wire to silver screw (neutral).
7) Then attach the bottom of the socket, which is a metal threaded piece that attaches by tightening two little screws inside the socket. You can see the screws inside the socket:
And here it is screwed on, with the wires exiting the hole in the bottom:
8) Then slide a brass socket cup over that, with the wires running through the hole in the bottom of the cup:
9) Next screw a nut onto one end of your first long pipe (the 6″ ones in my case):
Note: This leaves only a small threaded portion of the pipe still exposed. In most cases I was able to get the next step to work, but in one case I had to use my dremel to grind down the top of the nut just a tiny bit so that it was a little skinnier and I bit more of the pipe thread would come through.
10) Twist your wires together (so they are slimmer and easier to work with) and feed them through the pipe, starting at the end with the nut and coming out the other end. Then screw the end of the pipe with the nut onto the socket. The brass socket cup itself isn’t threaded, what you’re doing is screwing together the pipe and the silver bottom of the porcelain socket that’s now inside the socket cup.
Ta da, you have finished one arm of the sconce!
11) Next up is the connector, which is what joins the two arms and the canopy section. This is where you use your cluster body (#9 in the supplies). The front of the cluster body screws off, so remove that so that you can easily see inside it. Here’s the body with the front screwed off, and the piece I screwed off is sitting on the floor to the right of my hand (you’ll screw this back on later).
12) Next feed the wires coming out the end of the pipe into one of the side holes from the outside.
13) This next part just requires some patience. With the wires fed through a side hole and out the front, you’re now going to take them and direct them through the back hole (the hole is where the extra parts are crossed out in the photo above). This is hard because you’re forcing the wires (which are stiff) to make a 90 degree bend, but just be patient and coax them through. Once they’re through, you can screw the pipe into the side hole where the wires are feeding through.
14) You’ll repeat steps 5 – 13 to create the second arm, which will leave you with this:
15) Next take the two sets of wires and twist those together. You’re going to be feeding them through a pipe together and it’s a tight fit, so you want to get them as tight together as possible. At this point (or any point) you can also screw the front of the cluster body back on.
You’ll be using your short pipe and coupling next:
16) Screw those together:
17) And then feed the wires through this, going through the pipe end (not the coupling end) first:
It takes some coaxing because it’s a snug fit, but it’s doable.
Once you get the wires all the way through, you’ll be able to screw the short pipe onto the back hole of the cluster body.
18) Next you will feed your wires through the center hole in the front of the canopy.
19) And then take your nipple and pass the wires through that:
Once you get it all the way down to the base of the canopy, you’ll be able to screw the nipple into the coupling, which is right on the other side. This is what attaches the body of the sconce to the canopy.
Woohoo! So close! This next part is two steps forward one step back. I wanted to install a switch on my cord, but before I did I wanted to quickly wire up the sconce and plug it in to make sure it worked. That way if it didn’t work when I was done, I would know it was because of the switch I’d installed, and not wonder whether it was the switch or if there was wiring off somewhere inside the sconce.
20) To test it, you first unwind the bundle of cords you passed through the back of the canopy:
21) Strip off about 3/4″ on the end of each of these.
22) Then pass the end of the cord with the plug attached to it (which you cut and set aside earlier) through the hole in the bottom of the canopy. You don’t actually have to pass it through this hole now as you’ll be removing it, but it’s a good time to double check that it fits through!
23) Then untwist a portion of the cord that’s inside the back of the canopy and strip the ends of the white and black wires about 3/4″.
24) Next twist together the three white wires (the two that came from the sconce and the one that came from the plug cord):
And twist on a wire cap.
25) Repeat this with the black cords:
26) Next, grab some lightbulbs and screw them into the sockets, and then plug the sconce in to test it out. Get really excited when it works, ignore that these aren’t the right lightbulbs to use with it.
Now undo some of your handiwork if you want to add a switch. You don’t have to add one, but then you have to plug and unplug the sconces to turn them on and off, and who wants to do that?
27) To add the switch, first unscrew the caps holding together your wires in the back of the canopy, and remove the cord connected to the plug from the back of your canopy so that it’s freed up to work with. (Obviously unplug it from the wall first!)
28) Next, grab your switch, and open it up by removing the screws in the side.
This is what’s inside:
29) Figure out where on the cord you want your switch to be. I wanted the switch to sit right below the top of the couch so that it’s hidden from view but easy to reach, so I measured how far from the body of the sconce the top of the couch is and marked that on my cord. Make sure to factor in the ~2″ of the cord that will be inside the body of the sconce (ie add that in when measuring the distance from the end of the cord to where you want the switchto be).
30) Untwist the two strands of the cord starting at the top and going all the way down to about 2.5″ past where you’d marked. The mark is where the top of the switch will be, but the cords need to be untwisted to the point where they enter the switch at the bottom of it so however long your switch is will determine how much further you need to untwist past the point of the marking. The cord is really easy to twist back up again, so don’t worry if you go too far at first.
31) At the “entrance” and “exit” from the switch may be little metal pieces that you can tighten to hold the cord in place as it passes through the switch:
Loosen one side of each of them and then completely remove the screw in the other side so that you can swing these out of the way. You’ll tighten them back in place once you’ve finished wiring the switch.
32) The way the switch works is that the white (neutral) wire is going to pass straight through, and you need to cut the black (hot) wire. Make this cut with about 1.5″ from where you want the cord to enter the bottom of the switch.
33) Pull back the fabric, strip 3/4″ off the end of the black wire, and attach it to the screw terminal. Then do the same with the end of the other piece of black wire (the segment that you just separated by snipping it in step 32). Then you can tighten the metal clamps back in place to hold everything in place snugly.
34) Reattach the cover of the switch.
35) Wind the white and black wire back together above the switch, pass the cord back through the hole in the bottom of the canopy, and then repeat steps 24 & 25 to rewire the cord to the sconce.
36) Time to test your handiwork again! Plug the light in and see if your switch works, engage in much rejoicing as you control the power to turn light on and off with the flick of a button.
Okay, you are almost there!!! You just have to get it onto your wall now.
37) The sconce mounts to your wall using the cross bar. All you have to do is figure out where you want the sconce, mark the top and bottom holes on the flat piece of the cross bar (which you want to be running vertically), drill the holes, and use your two regular screws to attach the cross bar to the wall. You’re mounting the cross bar to the wall with the two screw holes indicated here:
I wanted my sconces to be centered 8″ away from the mirror and exactly at the mid-point of the mirror vertically, so I just marked that spot on my wall, held up my cross bar with that marking right in the center hole you can see in the photo above, and then used a pencil to mark where the holes at either end of the cross bar were since that’s where I needed to drill.
As you can see in the photo, you don’t even need to get it perfectly straight, because the other piece of the cross bar (the horizontal piece, which you attach the sconce to) swivels slightly so that you can move that piece to get the sconce perfectly level. (But it doesn’t swivel so easily that it will be loose.)
39) Take your sconce and place it on top of the cross bar, peeking through the two side holes in the canopy to try to align them on top of the holes in the cross bar. You are trying to align them above the holes indicated here:
Just shift your sconce around until you can see those two holes, and then take your ball head screws, poke them through the holes, and start tightening them once you feel them catch in the cross bar holes on the other side.
40) Last step! You still have a hole in the front of your sconce.
Unlike me, though, you immediately have the piece to remedy this because I learned the hard way and didn’t order it with my first batch, whereas you did not make this mistake. This is item 14 in the supplies list.
Just take the hole plug and use a flat head screw driver to tighten it into the hole. (You can really do this at any point after you’ve assembled the sconce, I just did it last because I wanted to finish making the sconces before this piece arrived in the mail.)
Plug the sconce into the nearest outlet, and step back to admire the amazing sconce(s) you built! Aren’t you incredible?
I’m glad that I thought to hide the switches, which I think would have looked jarring in the middle of the wall. You can see one sitting right below the top of the sofa in this photo:
I’m also glad I went with light gray wire to blend in more with the wall, rather than something colorful or bold to make the cord the focal point.
Speaking of focal points, it obviously didn’t make sense to keep the floor lamp at the other end of the sofa anymore, so I moved that upstairs. But I felt like we still needed something with a little height on the end to frame the wall, so I added the plant. I picked a snake plant because they do well in lower light settings (which well-describes our north-facing living room), they are very low maintenance (the woman at the nursery said she only knows one person who ever killed their snake plant, so I hope I don’t become #2), and they won’t make our cats sick (Murphy is a voracious plant-eater).
The pot and side table I had on hand in the basement, but both are a little big so are probably “temporary.” I put that in quotes because it took me over a year to get sconces in here, so I won’t hold my breath that the plant stand and pot are getting remedied anytime soon. But someday. Also someday I will paint the horrible tan baseboards….
Anyway, back to pretty things:
I hope you enjoyed this super long post or at least scrolling through the photos, and I hope that you feel empowered that you too can create light!