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The Beer Lamp: revenge of the kitsch…

April 29, 2011

It all started with aluminum can tabs…. Some time ago I started accumulating the little aluminum tabs of cans (beer, sodas, etc. etc.). I had this general idea of making a lamp shade using those tabs, but nothing more. When I had enough, I realized that I could build an entire beer-themed lamp… so, after gathering all the materials and spending a couple evenings building it, I have in my hands a fine-art object, able to fill me with warm and fuzzy happyness but also to  keep all people with a proper aestetic sense at bay….

YES, I know it is a very very very kitsch object… but this is part of its appeal 🙂

The Curtain

The idea was to create a maille of can tabs, leaving plenty of space for the light to pass through. To connect the tabs, I used the rings taken from a chain bought at a DIY store: these pre-made chains (the kind that is cut to measure by store staff and generally used for decoration) often have non-soldered rings which can be opened and re-used in a different context… given that there are different sizes/materials/colors/patterns available, those chains gives plenty of opportunities for creative reuse, and it is way more convenient than preparing your own rings. Alternatively, small metal rings are available in many DIY and craft shops. The resulting maille is something like a Japanese 4-in-1 pattern, where each tab is connected to other 4 tabs using smaller rings.

By alternating silver and gold tabs (golden tabs are easy to find, for example, in the Guinness cans) I gave the curtain an additional level of detail. You need to build a maille long enough to cover the bulb and leave a couple centimeters above and below, and wide enough o wrap around the can. At the end, one side of the maille is connected to the other side, to obtain a cylinder.

The Body

For the body I needed a beer can large enough to support the light-bulb holder and keep the curtain at a good distance from the bulb. The 5-liters kegs were too large, and normal 33cc cans too small… On the other hand, the 1 liter FAXE can had an almost perfect diameter; a bit tall for my taste, but it was the best available option…

Before going ahead and drink it up, however, I noticed the can opening is too close to the border: this would have made difficult placing the bulb holder in the center of the upper part. I decided to not use it, but instead to cut open the center of the top lid using a Dremel and a pair of metal shears. Be careful, the edges are extremely sharp, and you risk of ruining a good liter of beer 🙂 …. The opening should be enough to accommodate the bulb holder (but still be able to secure it to the top lid). The border of the cut has been covered with duct tape, to cover the sharp edge and help securing the bulb holder.

The bottom part has been cut out entirely, in order to provide easy access to the interior. I cut a notch on the border in the backside, to let the power cord pass freely. The border of the lower cut has been sanded and covered with tape, to avoid any possible damage to fingers and to the power cable.


The electrical part of the lamp comes directly from an old IKEA lamp I had around. So, I had the bulb holder, the cable, the switch and the power plug already connected properly. Be careful if you need to cut&attach the cable by yourself.

My first idea was to use the two-parts bulb holder to attach it OVER the can (as shown in the image below). However, even if the securing of the holder was perfect, the bulb remained too high. I then tried to put the holder INSIDE the can, and use the bulk of the bulb (which is a power-saving bulb, with a quite large plastic base) to secure the holder to the can (the border of the hole is compressed between the bottom of the bulb and the top of the holder)…. As shown in the other image below, the height was now perfect and the bulb perfectly secured.

To hold the curtain in place, I needed a metal ring and four posts to support it at the correct height. After trying unsuccessfully to make a usable ring using wire, i found an old cover of a PC fan which, after some cutting and bending, proved to be an excellent support (and a safeguard to protect the bulb from above). I attached the curtain with some small connection rings. In order to support this ring, I used four very old (and quite damaged) fondue forks, glued to the top of the can. Their V-shaped ends are perfect to hold the curtain ring (while leaving the option of removing the curtain by just lifting it).

Final touches: cut the upper part of the support bars (which are protruding a little too much, now), attach some weight inside the can in the lower part (just something heavy glued to the sides, in order to make the lamp more stable) and, finally, glue a cardboard beer coaster (try finding one which is larger than the can) on the bottom of the can…

WARNING: the staff of ” la Caserma della Cuntraria” will not be held responsible for divorces, broken relationships and loss of friends due to the gifting of this artifact…


From → Project

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