Gorgon lights / by Ian Devenney

A few months ago, I was in a restaurant in the annex that has some of the nicer lighting fixtures made with standard copper plumbing fittings. There seem to be a lot of these floating around, but they tend to be inelegant, messy (not in a good way), and, on the whole, boring. I thought perhaps I would design my own version of this type of chandelier.

I liked the copper, but I wanted organically curving lines with smooth profiles, instead of the square and lumpy fittings from the hardware store. I set to work bending some copper refrigeration pipe and worked out a system to bend nice curves over a plywood form, machined with a cove in the edge.

Then I began designing a custom-spun socket cover that would work with a 2" keyless candelabra base.

I drew the cross sections that I knew I needed, and then lofted them in Rhino. Here is the result.

The canopy is an assembly of two nesting plates, also spun copper, that was CNC water-jet cut to admit the copper refrigeration tube.

Luckily, 7/16 brass tube fits nicely inside the 1/2" copper refrigeration pipe, and I machined some custom fittings on a metal lathe to admit the 1/8 IPS nipples commonly used in lighting applications.

The whole assembly is then soldered together. The first iterations of this design used plumbing solder, but it shows as a faint line at the join between the tube and the socket cover. Sadly, low-temp solder cannot be plated to hide the joint. Subsequent iterations use a much higher temperature silver braze, which can be copper electro-plated almost entirely hide the joint. There is still a crisp line at the joint, but no change in color.

The electro-plating is a fantastic process that I hope to go into in more detail later. But essentially I bought a pre-made plating solution, dipped the end of each "arm" into the solution and ran a current through the solution.

After primary assembly and plating, the parts are brushed and then sprayed with a durable metal lacquer to prevent oxidization of the copper. These lights are also available unfinished.

Then the lamp is assembled with the canopy and the sockets and wire are installed.

The last step is the certification by the ESA. This is a poorly understood process for a lot of new designers, and it is hard to find solid information. I would suggest trying to get in touch with your local inspector to discuss the requirements before he/she makes the trip at $190/h.

Lights must have proper labeling and grounding. In this case it looks like this: