Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Rustic Chandelier

A few days prior to the start of this project, I made some rustic sconces to help light up my dining room.

Although these sconces turned out beautifully, they were not overly effective at illuminating the room.

I then sought out to build some rustic lamps similar to one that my girlfriend liked at a store.

But I wasn't very gung-ho about them.  With Christmas a little over a month away, we thought of ways to illuminate the room with Christmas light, and then it hit me to build a chandelier.

My sketchup model was simple: a few 2x4's that attached like the image below.

The Christmas lights will wrap around the 2x4's.

My main concern with this project is the weight of the wood chandelier, plus the strength of the ceiling.  Aside from the Christmas lights, I don't plan on hanging anything else on the chandelier, so I decided to make the 2x4's out of insulation foam!

I'm going to try my best to make the foam look like wood.  I used a scrap piece of 2x4 to help measure the thickness of the foam beams.

Then I began to measure, mark and cut the foam.

One piece of foam is not as thick as a 2x4, but two pieces are.  So each beam strip got glued to another.  The 3 below are the longer beams (2 will be used).

For the 3 shorter cross beams, I repeated the process.

Next I used my many sanders to even out all the surfaces on the long and short beams.

I also used a coarse sanding block to give the foam a wood-like grain.

After a while, I had all the beams needed for the chandelier.

Next I began marking and cutting out pieces where the beams attach to each other.

With all the pieces cut, I assembled the whole thing, using hot glue and screws on all the joints.

Next I cut some strips of foam mat.

These strips will be used on the ends of each beam, and will eventually made to look like metal supports.

But I called it a night before attaching them.  The next morning I had to line up my 2 work tables side-by-side so that the chandelier could lay flat.

I further strengthened the joints with some DAP Alex Ultra 230 filler.

While I waited for the filler to dry, I went out and bought a few things.  The first being some chain - to connect the chandelier to the ceiling.

Ceiling hooks.

And Christmas lights.  These lights are battery powered LED lights with a timer.  

Once I got back I proceeded with attaching the strips of foam.

Each strip was attached with hot glue and screws.

At the joint for each strip I added a smaller strip to cover the 2 ends.  These joints will face downwards once the whole chandelier gets attached to the ceiling.

After a little while each beam had foam strips at each end.

Next I cut some thin pieces of plywood.

These pieces will attach to the beams so that the hooks I bought earlier will have something to anchor onto - something more substantial than foam.

I cut out a little of the foam surface so that the wood fits in.

Then I glued and screwed the wood in place.

I then used some wood filler to fill in the areas around the wood.

I also used filler to fill in the slightly visible divides from the foam pieces that formed each 'stud'.

Once the filler dried and was lightly sanded, I added many coats of white brush-on primer.

Once the foam surface had been coated a few times and had become sufficiently sealed, I applied some coats of spray on primer.

When the primer fully dried I went out and bought some flat brown paint...

...and painted the whole thing.  Now it looks a lot more like wood!

While the paint dried, I cut 4 links of equal length chain.

Then I screwed in the hooks to the chandelier...

...and to the dining room ceiling.

When the brown paint dried, I put the chandelier in place to see how well it works.

It holds up very well, and looks great too!

Then I tested to see how well the chandelier holds up with the string lights attached.

And it holds up well.

...although, I think I need more string lights.

Feeling confident that the foam chandelier will stand up well, I took it down to complete.  I mixed several colors of acrylic paints and began streaking it onto the foam to make it look more wood-like.

I used browns, oranges, whites and blacks to add a variety of streak colors.

When the acrylic paint dried, I dusted on a little more brown spray paint.  This only added to the color, and did not take away any streaks.

Then I painted the foam mat pieces black to look like iron.

Then I let the whole thing dry for several hours.

When it dried I hung it up once again, this time at night.

I left the chandelier up for a few days.  I wound up buying more lighting to string around it.

Next it's time to protect everything, and give it a wood like texture.  A few years back I made a M1 Garand Marshmallow shooter.

For this project I used Mod Podge to give the "wood" on this rifle a more wood-like texture.

I plan on repeating this process for the chandelier.  So I bought some Mod Podge and some cheap straw brushes.  The rough brushes will give the Mod Podge a better grainy, wood-like texture.

Like Elmers (white) glue, Mod Podge goes on white, and dries clear.

The pictures below show that the Mod Podge, along with the streaky acrylic paint, give the look of wood.

But one problem with Mod Podge is that it doesn't do too well in extreme heat or moisture.  Living in Arizona the moisture isn't a problem, but the heat may make it tacky.  So after the Mod Podge dried, I applied some enamel clear coat.

Now all that's left is to hang it up again and string up the lights!

This was a fun experimental project, and in some way it will be ongoing.  I am not totally sure how well the foam will stand up in the weeks and months to come.  But I am confident that it should last throughout the holiday season.  If it breaks, I'll build a new one - because I really like how it looks and can't image my dining room without it.

After a few days I started to notice a dip forming.  In the picture below you can see the straight red line showing what it should look like straight.  In the middle there is a noticeable dip.

So, the chandelier did not last as long as I would have liked.  So I'll build a new one out of wood.   Also, I bought the lights after I constructed the frame of the chandelier.  The lights have a large battery pack that I would like to hide better.

 Like the first version, this one will be made out of 2x4's, only difference being that I am using wood this time, not foam.

I cut the pieces of wood with my miter saw.

Then I made marks for where the cross beams will attach.

This one will be a little different than the foam version...

...I'll attach the wood using pocket holes/screws/glue.

Once assembled it looked similar to the original, but were missing those pieces sticking out from the 3 crossbeams.

So I attached smaller pieces of wood to complete that effect.

Another difference is that the 3 cross beams are not stacked on top of the 2 main beams.  The main reason for this was that I was having too much trouble trying to cut away spaces in the main beams to support the cross beams.

But this chandelier will still look nice.  Remember those battery packs I wanted to hide?  I thought the best way to do that was to cut some diagonal support beams....

...miter cut them to 45 degrees...

...and I can hide them in the corners.

After cutting all the support beams, I really liked how this looked.

It took me a few trys to attach the support beams, but after a while they were in place.

The newer chandelier is much heavier than it's foam counterpart, but I think the ceiling will still support it's weight.

Next I began leveling the piece, first with my hand planer.

Then with my belt sander.

Once level I used my other sanders to smooth out the whole thing.

Next I filled in the pocket holes with some plugs.

Then I used wood filler to fill in other holes, knots and imperfections.

While the filler dried, I started cutting strips of thin black crafting foam.

Like the foam chandelier, these foam strips will wrap around the end of each stud.

But I'll glue those on later once the chandelier has been stained.  When the filler dried I began sanding this thing once again.

I sanded and planed some of the rounded edges off, so I routed all the edges again to get that nice rounded look.

Then I sanded everything one last time.

Next I gave the whole thing a good cleaning and prepped it for staining.

First I stained the bottom (the side that will be facing the table).  I did this in case drip marks show - they'll collect on the top where people can't see.

Then I flipped it over and stained the other side.

The first coat seemed a little light, so I gave the whole thing a second coat of stain.  

Once both sides had fully dried, I began sanding the whole piece to give it that worn, weathered look.

After a little clean up, I attached those strips of crafting foam using contact cement.

Then I used some furniture tacks to look like bolts.

Next I took the hooks off the foam chandelier and screwed them into the wood one.

For the battery pack for the lights, I added a screw to the 4 inside angled corners.

This will allow me to hook the battery pack to the chandelier, and minimize it's visibility.  It's also easy to remove, should I want to put different lights on.

Then I very cautiously hung it up.

It's holding, but I'm wary.  

I used some zip ties to make some of the chains a little more taut.

To add a bit more insurance, I bought more chain & hooks.

Unfortunately the store was out of the black hooks, so I was forced to buy white hooks.  That's ok though - I simply spray painted them black.

I also cut the chain into 2 equal sized lengths - the same lengths as the ones I made already.

When the hooks dried I attached them to the middle of the chandelier...

...and to the ceiling.

Then I hung it up.

I also added a small hook to the center to hang decorative pieces from.

Then I added the lights!

And I am done!

This has been a fun project, even though I had to make it twice.

It's a shame the foam version didn't stand up as well, but the wood version is nicer anyway.

I'm going to keep a lookout for a lighter wood to use.  All the chains and hooks support the chandelier just fine, but I would be happier with a lighter alternative.

In the meantime, I'll enjoy my new chandelier!

Thanks for reading!

UPDATE:  after showing off my chandelier to my brother - who is much better and knowledgeable at household DIY than I am - he was afraid for me, as the ceiling was not meant to support so much weight.  This made me scared, so I took down the chandelier and hooks and patched up the holes I made.

What I'll do is have 2 pieces of wood that will connect to the beams in the ceiling.  Then the chandelier will connect to those pieces of wood.

I cut my wood pieces to 30 inches.  With beams running every 16 inches, I can mount each piece of wood into a beam twice.

I cut, sanded, filled and sanded the 2 pieces of wood...

....then stained them to match the chandelier.

Once the stain dried I measured and marked the spots for the hooks.  I drilled holes using my drill press.

Then I screwed in the hooks and gave the wood some sanding to match the distressed look of the chandelier.

While working here I realized that once again I am not doing things the best way I could be.  Why have these 2 pieces of wood running perpendicular to the beams in the ceiling, when I can have them running parallel?  Running parallel will have many point where I can screw the wood to the beams!  SO I started over again using leftover beams the length of the chandelier itself.

I marked and drilled the holes for the hooks.

Then made many drill holes with counter sinks for the screws that will attach to the ceiling beams.

You'll notice that the front piece is actually 2 pieces of wood attached with pocket holes and screws.  Since these pieces will be screwed to the ceiling in many spots, I'm not worried about the stability of the joint.

Then I sanded everything smooth.

I used filler to fix a few spots - mostly around the 2 pieces I joined with pocket holes/screws.

Then I sanded again, cleaned and stained.

When the stain dried I sanded again.

Next I began adding the hooks.

While screwing in one of the middle hooks, the screw broke off inside the wood, and I was not able to get it out.  I then removed the other middle hook and filled the areas with filler.  I then added a little more stain to cover up those areas.

Then I attached the wood to the beams in the ceiling.  This was no easy feat to pull off by myself.

But I was able to do it, and I attached the chains and chandelier.

I feel safe now and I'm not worrying about it falling out of the ceiling.  So I once again hung the lights.

And I'm happy to say that I am truly, finally done!

With the lights on.

Despite how it looks this was a huge project for me and I'm happy it's finally done!
Thanks for reading!


  1. Whew! That was a huge project for sure - and it turned out great. Thanks for sharing the full build log - it made made me appreciate the finished project so much more.

  2. Thanks Phil! I always incorporate my missteps on my blog. Mistakes are an important part of the learning process, at least I believe so.