I saw my first turbine pendant at a local crafts show. It was made from an upcycled old wind turbine similar to those you might have seen spinning atop homes with attic spaces many years ago. Its perfectly aged patina, weatherworn and oxidized to a dull gray, dotted with specks of rust and lit by a vintage-style Edison bulb very much appealed to my retro-modern sensibilities. My desire for one of these marvelous pendant lights was exceeded only by the steepness of the light’s price tag.
So, I studied it closely, took mental pictures, and decided I could do this. The only problem: I’m not exactly Tim the Tool Man when it comes to being handy or inventive around the house. Seriously, I once had to call my handyman over just to light the hot water heater. Duh.com, right. Well, I share this misadventure in home improvement for no other reason than to convince you that if I can build one of these, you can, too.
Here’s how it’s done.
Here’s the obligatory before shot of my quite ordinary flush mount light fixture. Nothing against flush mount fixtures, mind you, but after all the time I’d spent sourcing the materials for my new Turbine Pendant Light, it couldn’t come down soon enough.
I really wanted to use a reclaimed wind turbine for this project, but after searching high and low for nearly a month, I decided to use a new one from my local Home Depot. I initially planned to spray paint it to simulate a more vintage look. But after getting it out of the box and sitting with it for a few days, I decided I liked the turbine just as it was.
To make your own Turbine Pendant Light, here’s everything you’ll need:
- An upcycled (it’s hard to find one in good condition but worth the effort) or new wind turbine (I used the Master Flow Galvanized Wind Turbine)
- Westinghouse Mini Pendant kit (available in several different finishes)
- Light bulb (I went with the retro appeal of The Original Vintage Style bulb)
- Tin snips (for cutting the aluminum spoke that attaches the inner housing of the turbine to the frame)
- Needle nose pliers
- Phillips head screwdriver
- 1 piece of 1/4 x 1 1/2 inch lamp nipple
- 2 1/4 inch brass lamp couplings
- 2 1/2 inch flat washers
- Ladder (tall enough for you to comfortably reach the light fixture on the ceiling)
- Work gloves
You’ll need your gloves on before handling the turbine because its edges are rough and sharp. With tin snips, cut through each of the spokes attaching the housing to the turbine frame. Once you remove the housing, use your hand to remove the small pieces of spoke still attached to the frame by bending them back and forth until they break away. Trust me, this will be a lot cleaner and easier than trying to use the snips.
To assemble the pendant, thread a lamp coupling onto one end of the nipple. Then, slide a washer onto the end of the nipple so that coupling rests on top of it. Insert the nipple into the opening on top of the turbine from the inside, covering the hole with the washer. Repeat on the top side, placing the remaining washer onto the lamp nipple and tightening it to the top of the turbine with the remaining coupling.
When you’re ready to hang the pendant, you’ll thread the cord of the light kit through the lamp nipple, cut the cord to the desired length and hang it. But before you get to all of that, there’s a little more work to do.
Removing the old light fixture
This part is very important. The No. 1 rule when doing this type of electrical work is don’t get shocked! Be sure you have turned off the power at the breaker box before you begin removing the old light fixture. With the power safely off, remove the screws from the fixture to expose the junction box and wiring. Unscrew the lock nuts and ground wire to completely remove the old fixture.
Turbine Pendant Light installation
With the old fixture now removed, I decided to use the old mounting bracket for my new Turbine Pendant Light. I was lucky enough to scrounge up a couple of nuts to hold the mounting screws in place. That made it much easier to line up the canopy cover holes with the mounting screws in the final steps.
Of course, if you use the bracket that comes with the pendant light kit, you probably won’t have to worry about any of this.
Here’s where it gets exciting because at this point you’re almost ready to hang the light! There are theories for everything, including how to choose a chandelier and how far the light fixture should hang above your dining table. However, I chose not to consult any of these well-considered sources when it came time to hang my pendant.
According to the experts on these matters, a chandelier (which admittedly this is not) should hang 30 to 36 inches above your table — and I mention this because it is a good rule of thumb.
Since this is not a chandelier but will hang over my dining room table, I felt comfortable going with another time-honored technique: the old eyeball test. After several trips up and down the ladder, tying the pendant cord off around the mounting bracket at various lengths, I found a length that suited my eye and marked the cord with a silver Sharpie.
Not much to this step. Cut the cord with needle nose pliers at the mark.
Wire strippers are the preferred tool for this step. But if you don’t have a pair, a utility knife will do. The trick is to carefully cut into the rubber casing of the wire all the way around, just enough as to not damage the wire itself, stripping off about 3/4 inch of the insulation. Take your time, go easy and definitely wear your gloves.
Before we talk about wiring up the pendant, a word of advice. This step is really a two-person job, unless you’re able to pull off balancing the pendant on top of the ladder while you’re wiring it (which I don’t recommend). The pendant isn’t very heavy, but it has plenty of sharp edges, so imagine trying to hold onto it (which I did somehow) while trying to wire it. Not recommended. It will be much easier if someone else is holding the pendant while you’re wiring it, or vice versa.
The good news is that wiring up most light fixtures is fairly simple. But be sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions that come with the pendant kit. There are usually only three wires to connect. I simply twisted together the black wire from the junction box with the black pendant cord wire, did the same for the white wires, and twisted wire nuts onto each to secure the connection. I screwed the green ground wire onto the mounting frame in the place provided. Now the pendant was wired up and almost ready to be switched on.
Finally, all you have left to do is slide the canopy up against the ceiling, tighten the locknuts and cord screw, and step back to admire your work. You’ll experience an even greater feeling of accomplishment and enjoyment once you’ve restored power at the breaker box and flip the switch on your new Turbine Pendant Light for the first time!
DIY Décor is a series about small, affordable design and décor projects for home and garden.
And while you’re here, take a look at more DIY projects here on The Home Depot blog.