Wednesday, February 20, 2013

make your own mercury glass lamp + coffee sack shade

I've been promising to get this tutorial up sooner rather than later because someone specially requested it. This is a fun project, plus a good way to upcycle some thrift store stuff or things you might already have.


1) Tall Glass Vase (wide and a little curvy is good). Mine cost $4 with a 20% off coupon at the Village and is 15 inches tall. These can be really expensive new, so it pays to do some thrift store hunting and some garage sale-ing if you have the time.

2) Stainless steel pan lid (one with a screw-on handle and a steam vent) that kinda fits the vase top. Mine was $1 at Goodwill.

3) Lamp kit. I pulled mine out of a thrift store lamp. The lamp cost $3. A new lamp kit from the hardware store cost $12. Plus mine wasn't brass. Just make sure the thrifted lamp is modern and UL listed so you won't have to worry about fire risk.

4) Lamp harp. If your thrifted lamp didn't come with one, you'll need it to hold the lampshade on your new lamp. I found a bin full of these for $1 apiece at Bring. They're way more expensive new.

5) Drum shade. I bought this one for $2.99 at Goodwill. The shape was right, the fabric was horrible. I wasn't sure I'd make it work, but you'll see how I turned it all around. (This will work best if your shade has sides that are straight, and the diameter is the same at the top as at the bottom.)

6) Looking Glass paint (there's no substitute. Le sigh.)

7) Black acrylic paint.

8) Light bulb. I found a large supply of Edison-style incandescents over at the Habitat ReStore for a quarter apiece.

9) Hot glue gun and glue sticks.

10) Burlap sack.

11) Dremel tool or drill (to widen the hole in your metal pan lid)

How to Make it:

Let's do the shade first, because it's the hardest. If your shade is white or neutral colored, you can skip the tedious step of removing the fabric from the shade. If not, use an X-acto blade to carefully slit the fabric (but not the plastic shade).

Carefully puuuuuuuuullllll the fabric off the shade. It will probably be glued down well. It will probably come off in strips. It will probably take really strong fingers and a couple of hours to get it all off. Unfortunately, with colors this bright, covering over the top was not an option. Fortunately, most lampshades don't look like this one did.

Once your shade is blank, set it aside while you cut open and iron your coffee sack on a high steam setting. Get it as flat and smooth as possible. Line up your shade on one end and cut while rolling. Leave a seam allowance of an inch, top, bottom, and end. Once you have your piece cut to the right length, press flat a hem at each short end.

Hot glue one end to the shade, leaving the hem loose for now. Use as much glue as necessary to get the burlap to stick, without seeping through.

Once the glue has cooled, pull and smooth the burlap to test for fit. Attach the burlap to the shade as you roll it, adding glue as needed (especially at the top and bottom edge). When you get all the way around, glue down the starting hem, and glue the finishing hem over the top of it.

Wrap the top and bottom edge of the burlap over the top and bottom edge of the shade and glue to the inside. Where the support brace meets the shade, cut slits on the edge of the burlap for a proper fit.

Done! Yes, this is the hard part. If you've covered shades before or if you'll be using a readymade shade, it won't be that difficult at all.


Don't settle for a nine-inch tall vase. Hold out for something the size of a nice, large lamp. Hit a few thrift stores, and you'll find one eventually; they get donated all the time. Once you have one, wash it inside and out. When clean, spray the inside with warm water, then a light layer of the mirror paint. Very light. This paint doesn't have much opacity to it, so you'll still be able to see through it to a degree even after several light layers.

Between layers, you can spray more water if you want a more aged finish. I wanted an extremely imperfect finish, so I was careless with the amount of water and how it pooled when I lay the vase horizontally. I wanted lots of age to it, and things don't age evenly.

Check from the outside to make sure your vase has a mirrored finish. There should be an unevenness to it where the water gathered and ran under the paint.

When everything is dried and cured, take a damp, folded paper towel and add some black acrylic to it. Lightly wipe and dab the inside of the vase with the paint. Some of the mirror paint will come off as you do this; you can control how much. More will be removed when wiping, less when dabbing. The black paint will help the imperfections in the mirror paint to be more visible from the outside.

I used some source images from Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware to inform my process; how much black did I want to show through? How much silver?

If you make mistakes and remove too much mirror paint, let the acrylic dry and then spray another layer of the mirror.

When you get it just right, set aside the vase and let it dry and cure.

In the meantime, take your pan lid and use a screwdriver to remove the handle. Use a drill with the appropriate size of drill bit for your lamp kit to enlarge the screw hole.

Wash the lid well, then assemble your lamp kit through it. You can use THIS tutorial from Aparment Therapy. Just make sure that the cord + plug runs from the top of the pan lid, down through the steam vent, then up through the screw hole as photographed. This way, drilling through the glass isn't necessary; the cord runs out the steam vent and down the back of the lamp.

You can use small adhesive clips to adhere it to the outside of the glass, but it's not necessary. As you can see in this next photo, the cord is pretty unnoticeable.

Once everything is wired safely and tightly and you've tested with a bulb to make sure it works, use a thin line of hot glue or putty to attach the wired lid to the vase. Use a lamp harp to attach the shade to your lamp. Then plug it in!

If you get stumped, leave me a comment below and I'll help you along!

Thanks for reading!

p.s. you can make these photos larger by clicking on them, but you probably already knew that, clever you!

Linking up to

Junkin' Joe Vintage and Thrifty Finds


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