March 2010: Do It Yourself [with video!]



Not a fan?


Let’s face it: A major design issue in a lot of rentals is lighting, whether it be dated, unattractive fixtures, or a complete lack thereof. Many of us spend our days in offices with harsh, fluorescent lighting that makes us look like the before photos on makeover shows; we shouldn’t have the same experience at home. In my case, I wrestle with a house full of old ceiling fans. They’re functional, yet dated, and don’t provide the best overhead lighting. 

If this were my house, I would simply take the fans out, but instead, I found a way to easily mask them—from fan to fabulous in five easy steps! 

Materials: A large drum lampshade of your choice (you want to use a shade that attaches to a harp and finial, not the kind that attaches to the base of the lamp—available at The Shade Shop & Lighting Gallery), any malleable stainless steel wire (at least 19-gauge) that’s easy to work with.

Tools: screwdriver, ruler, good pair of shears or utility scissors to cut your wire.


Before you dive right in, take a few preliminary steps that will save you a lot of heartache. 

1. As I start any project that will later involve returning the fixture back to its original state, I take pictures. Photograph the fan and fixture, so you can remember exactly what it looked like when you moved in. 

2. Turn off the power to the fan with the pull chain. Basically, you want the fixture set so when you flip the wall switch, the light comes on, but the fan does not. 

3. Using the necessary screwdriver, remove each of the fan blades from the hub. Put all eight of the screws in a clearly marked plastic sandwich bag, and store these with the removed blades. 

4. You could stop there, but we can make it so much better. Holding your shade upside down against the fixture and using your ruler, measure the distance from the air grate of the fan to the spokes of your shade. Cut four pieces of wire (one for each spoke) and attach the wire to the spokes. 

5. Using pliers or your fingers, bend the end of wire to form a hook. Holding the shade up to the fixture, attach the hook end of each wire to the grate on the base. Adjust so your wires hang evenly by shortening or lengthening the hook.

Stand back and admire your new fixture. When you move on, you can take the shade with you and return the fan to its original condition. No harm, no foul.—Ed Warwick

Playing with pliers


When you graduate from mere painting and demo to more skilled DIY home improvement projects—hardwiring a new light fixture, for example—you’re going to need precision tools. Pliers are one such tool where a specific type is needed for a specific job and shouldn’t be used for other purposes. Otherwise, you risk damaging the tool and possibly yourself (I once attempted to use needle-nose pliers to loosen a stubborn nut and ended up with a puncture wound and a ruined tool). 

All pliers—too many types to list here—have two basic parts: jaws and handle. Pliers differ in size and shape depending on whether their purpose is to grip, cut, bend or crimp. The needle-nose or “long nose” pliers are the most common and useful for small home projects. They’re what you’ll need to bend wires into loops, hold them in place or skin or splice them. To cut steel, iron, brass or copper wires you’ll need diagonal pliers with short jaws that cut by indenting and wedging the wire on an angle. 

If you’re getting into sophisticated wiring projects, you’ll want what professional electricians use—combination “lineman’s” pliers that can both grip and cut. They have insulated handles to prevent shock.—Katherine Ludwig