Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Vintage Bass Drum Chandeliers

A while back (a LONG while back), I purchased these vintage bass drums from Craigslist for $25 for all. Not each - ALL.


I was sad to see that the White Marine Pearl ones were so badly UV damaged, but one was beyond repair, so I gave the other to the man that tipped me off to the sale, long time friend of the family Bill Vits, percussionist extraordinaire.

The rest I thought I'd make tables, light fixtures, etc. But time and budget constraints caused me to leave them in a pile for a while, slowly realizing that as much as I'd like to create more things and make some money on them, the smarter play would be to pick the few I want to keep, and sell the rest off to friends for cheap, so they could make their own creations.

My first thought was to create two matching chandeliers for the band garage, and since the blue drums were not the same on the inside (one has a grey graphite look) the only other two matching drums were the red sparkle.

I started by removing all the hardware and washing everything. The wrap on one of the drums was pretty badly cracked at 3 seams, but not so bad that it wasn't still worth working with.

I then needed a chandelier to suspend within the drum. I headed to Habitat for Humanity ReStore, thinking I could find some hideous chandelier to strip down to just the basics - after all, it would be inside the shell, so you wouldn't really see it.

I was so lucky to find two matching black chandeliers for $10 each:

All the horrible ornamental stuff was easily unscrewed so all I was left with was a downrod, three square arms, lights and the wiring. They couldn't have been more perfect. Also, the ends of the arms were threaded, so I could use threaded rod to attach to the drum. I didn't end up taking that last step, since finding fine threaded rod of the same size proved impossible without special ordering, but I think if I had to do it over again, I might take the time to do so.

My first obstacle was figuring out a way to suspend the drums from the ceiling, since they were after all made of wood, and not as easily hung as your typical fabric shade. For this, I contacted recent buddy Dan Faires of HGTV, who we had at our Home & Garden Show, and was a genius at refinishing and repurposing things. Without him, this project would have ended up SO much more complicated.

The dude is so awesome, he sent me a rendering of what he would do:

Using simple cable and ferrule stop sets, I would be able to suspend them from the ceiling via an eye hook into the ceiling joist, and then run power through conduit to each drum, without having to tear apart the ceiling drywall.

Some of the drums came with these handy hooks that were presumably used to attach the drums to a shoulder harness for marching band, but worked very well for my purposes, since they were open-ended, and I could just slide a hook of wire over it instead of having to loop wire in mid-air.  I counted the spaces between the lugs, and found three spots evenly spaced to drill holes and put the hooks in place.

Next came figuring out how ferrules worked. I had bought 3/16" wire from Lowes, that claimed to be able to handle 160lbs each (I believe), and the drums are only like 25 lbs maybe, so I figured that'd be safe enough!

I started by snipping the wire to 6 exact lengths of 36", which would put the drums about 8' off the ground. I then threaded the wire through the double ferrule, through the hook and then through the other side of the double ferrule, and then added the stop to the end. Then, there's a special crimp tool you can use, but I just used a pair of Vise grips to crimp the stop onto the end of the wire. I repeated for both ends of all 6 wires, being careful to make them as close to the same crimp spot as possible.

Our ceiling was still drywall/mud, so I could easily see where the ceiling joists were, so I marked where I would drill the holes, measuring evenly from each wall, and measuring up so they were on the same line as the current junction box, and the conduit could go straight over.

Drum #1 went up with little hassle, as did the second. They looked fantastic. Now the hard part - adding the chandeliers.

I decided that since I had the hooks, and there were hooks on the chandelier arms, that I'd just use the same wire concept to suspend the chandelier within the drum.

I also had a plug from a lamp laying around, so I attached that with some wire nuts and plugged it into a wall outlet just to be sure the lights actually worked, and both of them did!

Finally, I added a steel junction box over top of the existing box, just so the conduit would have something flush to go into, and ran conduit to both hooks. Then I fished new wire through, hooked everything together and flipped the switch.

One thing I was afraid of was there not being enough light, since most shades are transparent. But with 6 total bulbs, and the drums being so large, the room is brighter than it's ever been.

Now I just have to make the rest of the room look as good as these lights...


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