DIY Nautical Ship Lamp

Ah, the joys of food poisoning.  Last night I awoke at 3 am to spend the next few hours vomiting in a 50 degree bathroom.  Anyways, the point of this isn't to whine, it's to explain that if perfect coherence isn't achieved in this post, it would be advisable to hold off on complaining until I'm in a better mood.


A picture I took of Portland Head Lighthouse in Maine, AKA my dream home.

Anyhow, this post revolves around one of my great loves - anything nautical.  I would kill to live on the ocean or a boat. I don't even have high expectations, a crappy boat is fine, just as long as I get to hear some obnoxious seagulls as I do the dishes, but alas, that isn't in my immediate future.  To compensate for this, I obsess over all nautical decor so I can trick myself into thinking I live on the beach.

A recent trend in the last few years is nautical tripod lamp, which has seen quite a few variations, but all are similar in the fact that they are out of my budget:

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So began my mission to create a nautical inspired tripod lamp.  The first step was to get myself a tripod.  I scored myself a not-too-sturdy tripod for $35 on ebay that had a great vintage look to it.  These can be quite expensive if you buy new, but if you take your time and scour ebay, craigslist, and some thrift stores, you can luck out with a deal on an old vintage wood tripod.  Mine is sequestered by a door we don't use, so the ricketyness isn't a problem, but if you have kids running around or it will be in a high-traffic area, I would definitely make sure it is a bit more sturdy.  Just make sure it will expand out to the height you want, and also take a good look at the head of the tripod, or the bit at the top.  Some are flat, which would be optimal.  Mine unfortunately looks like this, but I made it work with the lantern I had:


I love the red and white stripe of an antique surveyors tripod, but wanted to make it look a little bit aged, so I purposely chose a plain wood one so I could paint it and distress it myself, however, I saw a few that came already striped.  I unfortunately forgot to take a before picture, but here you can see it with just the top section painted red, along with the giant mess I created:


Scotch tape made it easy to measure out and make straight lines, and also to protect the areas that I didn't want paint on.


To get a distressed finish, I used a gnarled, bristley brunch and lightly brushed on the paint, then dabbed at it with a towel to achieve a slightly uneven appearance.  For the brass sections that I painted over, I also sanded it in some sections after drying.  If I had to redo, I would sand the entire brass section before painting to give it a matte appearance.  Apologies for the terrible pictures:


Once it looks as aged as a rotted barrel, you're good to go.


The tripod was finished, and next came the tast of finding a good light to attach to the head.  Ebay and some antique stores sell a number of nautical spotlights/searchlights/lanterns that would look amazing perched on top, but they can also be quite pricey.  The searchlight look (like the black one above)  is quite popular, and you can occasionally spot one for around $30-40, but the trick it finding a way to light those up, so I went in a different direction.  For me, the perfect fix was a lantern I already had in my house that I had picked up for a whopping $2 at a garage sale.


I took out the oil well and wick to get it to fit over the thingamabob on top of the tripod, and also because oil well+fire+rickety tripod=a not brilliant idea that I probably wouldn't have thought twice about 4 years ago.  

Alas, you haven't found one of these gems at a garage sale?  If you are anywhere near a beach, usually the souvenir stores will sell replicas for around $10 - 15, or you can find some options online:


If you're willing to spend more,

this bad boy

will plug in and looks awesome.  In fact, it is now on my list.


This guy

will give off a warm glow and is on sale for $27



over here would give it a cool look, and you can find this style in red too.

Electric would certainly be easier and way more useful than the way I have it, but you really have to keep your eyes out for a good price, especially if you would prefer a genuine antique, which I ultimately want.  But here we are, and all this nautical lantern browsing has given me the shopping addiction shakes, so let's move on.  I decided that it would be easiest to stick in some battery operated string lights that have a timer and be done with it:


I thought I would hate it but it turns out that I totally love it like this.  It certainly doesn't light up the room, but is a great nightlight and gives it a really warm glow.  However, you could also use a battery tealight (

they have them now with timers

) or if you aren't prone to electrocution like this blogger, you could try to wire something in.  OK, nevermind don't do that, I just found


which would make it so easy and I might buy that now.  Here are some pictures of it all set up and styled with some old floats I found at a seaside antique store.  Feel free to comment if you have any other ideas for lighting it up, I love to hear from fellow nautical lovers!