PHILOSOPHY: Objects should be useful, meaning that they are subjected to regular velocity and displacement. Objects that remain motionless—frozen in space—should be difficult to understand and cause the mind to move. Objects that meet neither of these criteria are deadening to the perceptual faculties, and useless, and should be hidden from sight, momentarily or otherwise.
THE SPARK: The past winter was cold. And dark. (Like most winters…) I prefer warmth. And light. (Like most people…) Something has got to give. Birds fly south to compensate; I’ve yet to enter migratory pattern. Until then, an artificial sun will do…
The past five years I’ve used a 250W incandescent heat bulb (photographed above), rather than a space heater, to keep myself (semi-)cozy while sitting at home in the Northeast as the temperature dips through March. I was turned onto this type of bulb by Dr. Raymond Peat who writes and talks of the red spectrum of light it emits. To encapsulate its reported importance, red light is conducive for life. It facilitates energy production. An extensive compendium of studies on the therapeutic effects of red light is in active compilation. The sun gives off red light. Etc. And I tend to feel “better” when I am getting strong incandescent light exposure during the dark months, numbers 9–3. When I go without it, (e.g., when I leave home for a few days), the light feels intense when I resume treatment. So I’m pretty convinced red light does at least something, likely net-positive. And even if the pro-metabolic effect I’m perceiving is merely psychological, I’m at least verifiably kept warm (the bulb itself gets hot to touch).
In short: The 250W incandescent bulbs throw heat and good light. Win, win—these are the two yens of winter. But the average light socket cannot handle 250W, so a typical lamp or ceiling light fixture will not accommodate the bulb, and really, the most practical option to enable household usage of this bulb is an appliance most contextually appropriate for use in a barn or garage: the brooder fixture.
FREEZE: Brooder fixtures come with a clamp. The clamp affixes the fixture (i.e., shield, socket, and cord) to a plane surface like a windowsill (shown above), table, or two-by-four. (The fixture is otherwise hung if not clamped.) To communicate this in the most concise way possible: The clamps suck. They afford little on-the-fly adjustability. The fixture can be rotated some through a wingnut-tightened, knurled, quasi-ball socket located opposite the clamp end, but it is finicky to set and thus frustrating to often manipulate. If I could get the lamp ever pointing vaguely in my direction without immediately drooping, I left it and was thankful.
This meant the fixture was essentially fixed (static, frozen) yet I am often moving around, and want light in different zones, nearer or farther from me, precisely aimed, etc., so it was practically (in practical terms) incongruous with how I dwell. I also wanted multiple lamps beaming during the winter (more bulbs equals more warmth), and I had no space near my desk to mount a second clamp lamp. This was a problem that demanded a solution. I needed to think.
MOVE, MEANT: After multiple mockups and a prototype or two, I arrived at this: the fully-adjustable, easily displaceable red-light (or whatever type of light) lamp. What is so great about this design is that it longs to be moved and adjusted, unlike the clamp lamp. It welcomes interaction. The feet can be nudged to tweak the horizontal beam angle. The arm slides up and down for height adjustment. And the tilt is easily fine-tuned too. It is mobile. It is concise. It is elastic. The lamp is an embodiment of the way of life.
Two stationed around my desk keep me warm during the winter. During the summer, one ten feet away allows me to see. When the days are shorter, the light shines longer. Whenever I read, it’s on.
- Sling Tee (see: height adjustability)
- Union (allows the fixture to rotate 360° along an x-axis)
- Reducing Tee (or a standard tee, depending on the fixture)
- Shock Cord (for holding the fixture inside the tee) (paracord can be more suitable, depending on the model of fixture used)
- 10′ 1-1/2″ Sch. 40 PVC Pipe (JM Eagle brand from Home Depot is preferable) (bring sling tee to store to check fit before buying) (sand labels off w/ moist 220-grit sanding sponge, then clean w/ original Windex + old towel)
- Fixture (remove sticker residue w/ acetone + nylon-bristle toothbrush, then clean w/ original Windex + soft towel) (if this fixture is unavailable, any rated for 250W should suffice)
- Extension Cord (optional) (but recommended)
- Feet: 12-1/2–13″ (feet can be disproportionate in length if light is placed parallel against wall) (photo below)
- Leg: ~5′ with 10–20° angled top
- Sling Tee to Union: 1-15/16 to 2-1/4″ exposed distance (pipe length depends on insertion depth)
- Union to Reducing Tee: 1-1/8 to 1-1/2″ exposed distance (ditto)
- Shock Cord: ~13-1/2″ (secure through holes in base of fixture w/ overhand knots, then lace through and pull around tee)
(Cut pipe w/ miter saw for precision, or by hand w/ hacksaw.)
A note on stability:
This is essentially a tripod. The center of mass of the overhanding arm piece (which can be gauged by removing and balancing it on one finger) should drop midway between the three ground contact points of the base. Traditional tripods function the same way—center of mass equidistant from ground points—but with an equilateral foundation rather than the isosceles configuration used here.
YOUR TURN: See what you can make from this. Build it, and try to improve upon the design. Do not fret too much over precision: Start. Cutting. Pipe. And once completed: Email me! Send me your photos and ideas!
My objectives were to (1) use as little material as possible (to keep costs, weight, and volume down) while (2) maintaining a high level of adjustability. Meeting these criteria would help make a reality my intention for the lamp to incorporate movement. I went through a few iterations before hitting on this design. The sling tee was a part I was not originally aware existed (it’s not carried at Home Depot which is where I went initially to survey for available pipe fittings), and by chance the specific brand of sling tee I’d ordered online fit perfectly with the pipe I had on hand (this is not always the case, I’ve found out; the 1-1/2″ advertised diameter can vary a millimeter or more, which makes all the difference with regard to fit).
The lamp could use an on–off switch. Currently the plug controls the power: plug into outlet (power), unplug from outlet (no power). It’s not the most elegant mechanism. A remote control outlet is one alternative. It would probably offer a huge improvement in usability. (I haven’t bought one yet to try out for whatever reasons.) A foot switch extension cord is another idea I’ve entertained cursorily. Readers are invited to investigate further.
BONUS: Adapted for a red light device.