How To Build A Desktop Lamp that Charges Your Gadgets

desktoplampThis summer we all spent a couple weeks making over my workspace. One of the cool new additions I’ve added to my desk is a desktop lamp that also has an outlet and USB charging ports.

I found it on pinterest looking at DIY charging stations since our family has so many gadgets to charge (my next project). When I pinned the lamp, it sent me to a “sold” product on Etsy and the store owner didn’t have any more listed at the time.

SO, I headed to Home Depot with a mission to figure out how to build one myself.

Here is a supply list of everything I bought:

  1. USB charger receptacle (which I found cheaper on Amazon than what it cost at HD)
  2. Basic light switch
  3. Galvanized Steel Outlet box and cover with rectangle holes to fit the two outlets. (I couldn’t find this on amazon to link to, but if you’re at home depot they are on the same shelf as the outlet box)
    Side note: You could buy the plastic outlet boxes for this project. I chose the metal because I liked that industrial look.
  4. Paint for the outlet cover (if you want to paint it) I had paint from a previous project that also worked on metal.
  5. For the “feet” of the lamp I picked up a few things –
    a 3/4 inch T intersection from the plumbing department, then a pipe nipple that is 1/2 inch on one side and 3/4 on the other. That way the 1/2 will fit into your electrical box and the 3/4 will fit in to the T that you’re using for the feet. You’ll also need a nut or a cap for the half inch side so that the legs will stay in place on the box and not fall out every time you go to move the lamp.Side note: you can get creative here with the metal pipe pieces, I also picked up a couple other intersection pieces to make the legs a little taller.
  6. Next, you’ll need a lamp kit. Honestly, for this step, I just pulled apart a lamp we had in our garage that was in a donation box and was able to cut it for the pieces I need. But you could buy something like this lamp kit to have everything you’ll need.
  7. Finally, a lamp shade and bulbs – I picked up 40w white bulbs while at home depot and then found this killer punched tin lamp shade on Amazon. I’d recommend sticking to the small clip on lamp shades. When I tried a 10inch shade it dwarfed the lamp and made it hard to access the usb ports.

A couple lessons I learned from this as I put the project together (without instructions):

  • You’re going to need the T pipe for the feet. You can’t just use a 3/4 inch pipe. The box is heavy on the front because of the outlets, the T “feet” keep it balanced. If you don’t want the T feet, I’d just set the box flat on the desk.
  • The lamp is hot glued in place on the top of the box. I couldn’t find a pipe or fitting to put in the punchout at the top of the electric box that would hold the lamp socket and chord in place. I just did a ring of hot glue around the top of the opening and held the lamp socket in place while it dried.
  • Whether you purchased the lamp kit or broke apart a lamp, you’re going to need to cut the cord in order to wire it to the outlet and switch in the box. I only gave myself about 3 inches of cord which made it REALLY hard to wire and i ended up cutting and connecting additional wire to have enough room. I’d recommend giving yourself at least 6 inches from the lamp socket and then cutting the cord.
  • If you’re new to wiring with electrical cords or lamp cords – these articles may be helpful – http://www.familyhandyman.com/electrical/repair/fix-a-lamp-cord/view-all#step2
    – http://www.instructables.com/id/Simple-conversion-of-metal-lamp-to-use-touch-swi/step4/Identify-the-hotneutral-wires/
  • While youtube is normally my friend when it comes to learning about these things… I didn’t really find a youtube video that showed me how to wire an outlet and a switch IN THE SAME BOX. There are LOADS of videos on how to wire them in a wall… So I had a few calls to my Dad and he helped walk me through connecting the wires.
  • IMPORTANT – I have to say this because I just don’t know who will read this in the future. PLEASE, please please keep the lamp unplugged from the wall while piecing the lamp together. 😉

Finally, since I could not find a single DIY video showing how to make one of these lamps. I MADE ONE for you 🙂

Here is a walk through of how I built and wired my lamp.

desktoplamp-tnIn total the lamp costs about $40 depending on the USB outlet you buy which is the most expensive part of the project. At home depot the cheapest one was $20, but I found some as low as $10 on Amazon (see link above). You could also repurpose an old lamp and lamp shade to save a little on those costs.

As far as time goes – I’m sure I’d get faster if I were making multiple and had an action plan of how to do it (unlike this time). In total – counting the shopping I’d say it took me about 2 hours to complete this project. However, now that I know what i need, I think next time around I can cut it down to 20 minutes for building and 30 for the shopping 🙂

The best part of the whole project is that I now have a cool custom lamp for my desk that I’m proud to say I made myself.

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