Tag Archives: lights

A Sconce Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

We recently had the opportunity to replace some sconce light covers. The ones that broke were simply a piece of curved frosted glass. Caroline and the kids made some decorations this summer by melting pony beads in a cupcake pan run with the idea and use it to make some custom sconce covers myself.

I bought a new flat all-metal pan from the thrift store to avoid getting melted plastic all over the pans we use. I would’ve preferred a cookie sheet, but this is what they had.

I bought a bit of clear beads and a bin of transparent color beads. I made sure to get hard beads. I laid the beads out how I wanted them, but I made sure to extend my layout about 2 inches wider and taller than I was going to need. I knew that the plastic puddle would be thinner at the edges.

Laying out the beads
Laying out the beads

I placed the whole pan in the grill on medium-high. I checked on it every few minutes and here’s what happened.

  1. The beads all got shiny. They looked almost wet. I could still touch them at this point and they felt rubbery, but wouldn’t quite stick together.
  2. The beads started to stick together, but were still separate.
  3. They turned into a big puddle.

That took about 10 or 15 minutes. If you checke it less often it will probably take less time.

After it was melted I removed it from the grill and let it cool by itself until I could comfortably touch the bottom of the pan with my bare hands. At this point a slight twist of the pan made the plastic sheet pop off.

On an initial trial run I tried pulling the plastic off before it was all the way hardened and it left a goopy mess stuck to the bottom of the pan. Wait until it’s cool.

Once both sheets were cooled I used a fine-tooth saw blade on the table saw to trim the edges to make two rectangles.

The next step was to bent it. I actually did this step over the grill, the heat of the grill helped keep the whole piece warm, while the heat gun warmed it enough to actually get back to the bendy stage. I wore a clean(ish) leather glove during this stage so my hand didn’t get too hot.

Be sure to constantly move the heat gun around so you don’t get odd hot spots. They’ll warp and sag.

Bending the formed sheet
Bending the formed sheet

Since I was just barely bringing it up to the bendable stage, all I had to do to harden it was pick it up off the grill and hold it in the cool November Minnesota air.

The curves aren’t perfect, but they didn’t need to be for this. If I wanted exact curves I’d have made a mold out of sheet metal or something and let it droop over the mold.

A sconce after being drilled
A sconce after being drilled

Once it was curved I used a series of sandpaper on the edges to remove the saw blade marks. I used 120, 220, 500, 1200 and steel wool. That left the edges with a hazy white finish. A quick pass with the heat gun healed all those micro-scratches to leave clear edges.

Smoothed and reheated edges
Smoothed and reheated edges

Caroline says she loves them, so I guess the project was a success.

The sconces in action
The sconces in action
Another Action Shot Of A Sconce
Another Action Shot Of A Sconce
Another Action Shot Of A Sconce
Another Action Shot Of A Sconce

Notes:

  • Melting plastic lets off terrible fumes. Keep it outside the whole time it’s warm and don’t do this in the oven. 
  • This works with CFL bulbs because they don’t get hot enough to melt the plastic. This would never work with halogen or incandescent bulbs.
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Transplanting Round Two

Every day as I’d sit and program in my office, I’d look at the plants as they slowly outgrew their containers. I knew I needed to transplant them even two weeks ago, it just seemed like such a big job. And it was. It took up about 4 hours to get everything transplanted and the lights set up, but it had to be done. Just look at these poor tomatoes trying to grow in the tiny starter pots.

Help I've grown to big and I can't stand up!
Help I've grown to big and I can't stand up!

I really didn’t want to transplant everything twice, I would’ve preferred to wait till I could transplant directly to the garden, so next year I’m going to have to start them later, or give them less hours under the lights, or something.

Without further ado, let me take you on our transplant adventure.

How to Transplant Your Tomatoes (or whatever else)

We mainly transplanted tomatoes and peppers, but we did transplant the couple of cucumbers that hadn’t been moved before.

The cheapest easiest containers I could find were disposable plastic cups, so that’s what we used. I found it easiest to fill the cup 1/2 full with dirt at an angle.

I like to fill the cup at an angle
I like to fill the cup at an angle

The next step is to get the plant out of the starter pots. This was the trickiest step and the one I couldn’t take a photo of since my hands were always full and dirty while doing it. My starter pots were in the 3×3 squares seen in the first picture above. What I would do is, prop the starter pot on its side and work my way across the top row and on down. For each plant I’d gently squeeze the tops and sides on the back of it’s pot and then gently push in the bottom. These 3×3 pots are pretty thin plastic so it’s easy to push them. The main issue to watch out for is if the roots have started growing through the drain holes, then you have to be careful not to break them off.

Once the plant was loosened slightly, I would simultaneously pull on the base of the stem while pushing on the bottom of the pot. In most cases I would get a nice intact clump of dirt and roots. A couple of the most poorly rooted plants broke doing it this way, so it’s not risk free, but it was the best way I could figure out.

This is the second round of transplanting we’ve done (we did the squash a few weeks ago) and we found that if the roots and dirt were most likely to come out together with dirt that is just slightly moist. I recommend waiting about a day after watering to make the process easiest.

Once the roots and dirt block are out, slide it down to the bottom of the cup.

Then I gently wedge the roots and dirt clump along the side of the angled dirt.
Then I gently wedge the roots and dirt clump along the side of the angled dirt.

Add more dirt and gently pat it into place, and you’re done!

Fill the cup op the rest of the way with dirt, and you're done!
Fill the cup op the rest of the way with dirt, and you're done!

Making Light of the Situation

Here are the plants when they we were about 1/2 way done with transplanting. I don’t have a greenhouse or anything like that and the shelving unit setup that worked so well for starting the plants was getting too short. So what do I do?

Ok, now how do I hang the lights?
Ok, now how do I hang the lights?

The correct answer of course is to jerry-rig something. I split the starting shelves into two pieces, and used bricks to stabilize them. Initially I tried just hanging the lights on ropes between the two shelving pieces, but that would’ve tipped the shelves over, even with the bricks. So I extended our ladder across the gap, and helped support the lights from that.

It seems like I should really have 4 more lights hanging over the plants. I’m not going to buy 4 more lights right now though. We’ll have to get by with rotating the plants every few days, and pulling them outside to get light and harden off. Since the plants are in the garage it will be a little easier to harden them off. I’ll just leave the garage door open a little each day for a few days, and then start hauling the plants outside for a few hours each day. After that they should be pretty well hardened off and I’ll just need to figure out exactly when to put them in the garden.

Two halves of plastic shelving, bricks for anchors, a ladder and rope? Sure.
This is normal, right?

The plants look like they want a lot more room than they’ve got, but at least they’re not in the tiny starter pots anymore!

Independent plants, ready to keep growing
Independent plants, ready to keep growing

 

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2011 Garden Finally Planted

Well, I finally did it. I finally got everything planted. I also ended up buying two more fluorescent shop lights and making a better growing station than I had last year.

 

Everything Planted and Under the Grow Lights
Everything Planted and Under the Grow Lights

I made a frame to go around the shelves, and lined it with part of a 2mm poly drop cloth. the bottom shelf of containers doesn’t have water trays, so they just drip down to the bottom. you can see on the left that I’ve got the lights on a timer.

Last year we made a 5 gallon bucket of wet dirt and filled containers from that before planting. I wish we had done that again this year. When I watered the plants, the light dirt swirled all over, and I’m pretty sure that a lot of the seeds are no longer at their recommended depths. Oh well, I’ll cross my fingers and everything will probably work out anyways.

Happy planting!

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