How to Build Rain Lamps

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Rain lamps date back to the late 1950s. But by the early '70s their popularity had faded. Nevertheless, they remain a beautiful example of decorative lamps. Traditionally, rain lamps depicted Grecian scenes, often using a statue of Aphrodite among greenery. However, a rain lamp can have any sort of decorative display, or none at all, with the simplicity of dripping oil as its main feature. Likewise, they can be designed with only the "rain" feature and not employ any sort of lighting.

Things You'll Need

  • 2 metal jars with screw-on covers
  • Drill
  • Large eye-bolt or bolt with hook with matching nut
  • 3 metal pipes (tubes)--threaded ends with matching nuts optional for ease of installation
  • JB Weld (or similar metallic epoxy)
  • Greenlee punch
  • Metal flashing
  • 2 by 2-inch square of glass or plexiglas
  • 1/2-inch metal stripping (or flashing)
  • Paint
  • Fishing line
  • (optional) 2 small washers
  • Fountain/aquarium pump with lighting attached (lighting optional)
  • Plastic tubes
  • Decorative statuary, ferns as desired
  • glue
  • Rain lamp oil (or mineral oil)

Drilling and Preparing the Various Pieces

Drill several small holes (1/8 inch) through the lids/covers of the metal jars, circling around the outer edge--but not so close as to interfere with the cover's threads for screwing it back onto the jar. These are the holes in which you'll later thread the fishing line for the oil to drip down. Therefore the number of holes you drill depends on the size of the lid and how close together you want the fishing line "rain fall" to be. Note: You want the holes in both lids to match up.

Drill a larger hole (large enough for the eye-bolt or hook bolt) in the center bottom of one of the jars. This will be the top of the lamp and the eye-bolt or hook will used for hanging the lamp. Secure the bolt, using a nut, through the opening. Finish the drilled edge, thus sealing the bolt into the hole, with some JB Weld. Apply the weld compound and smooth. This is now the "top jar" of your rain lamp.

Drill three pairs of holes (the diameter of your metal tubes) in both lids. Within the circular lid, select three points to form an equilateral triangle and drill your holes there. Again, the holes must match up on both lids. All holes must match up. These three holes will be used for the metal pipes which provide both structural strength as well as oil flow features.

Use the Greenlee punch to punch a hole (can be round or square) in the center of the lid that screws onto the top jar. (Or you can cut the hole.) Make the opening a little smaller than the 2 by 2-inch piece of glass--you want enough lip around the hole to hold the glass. Glue the glass over the opening, gluing it onto the inside of the lid, so the glass edge will not show.

Attach a strip of metal (flashing) around the square of glass with JB Weld. The flashing will make a small barrier around the glass to keep oil from getting on it.

Drill out an opening in the side of the bottom jar. This is for the pump's power cord. Don't drill the hole too low in the side or you may leak oil. Optionally, you could weld more flashing around the hole (from the inside) to help prevent leakage.

Putting the Pieces Together

Attach the metal pipes to the lids using JB Weld (and nuts on the threaded ends if you use a threaded metal pipe). You should end up with three pipes, standing in a triangle atop one lid while supporting the other. The jars will screw onto the bottom and upside down onto the top. But do not screw on the jars just yet.

(Optional) Paint the outside of the jars and the lids connected together with the three pipes. Antique gold would be the most appropriate, but you could paint the parts any color.

String the fishing line through the holes. Begin on the underside of the bottom lid and tie off the string with either a washer or a really large knot--one that can't pull through the hole. Once you have the string anchored, draw the string to the top lid and thread it through the matching hole. Be sure the thread is pulled through tautly. Now thread it back down, through the neighboring hole, back to the bottom lid. Repeat the threading process all the way around. Whenever you reach the last hole, tie off the line with either another washer or another large knot. Make sure both knots are secure and the fishing line from hole to hole is tight.

Thread the halogen light through one of the pipes from the bottom to the top. Secure the light over the glass square. Now you can screw on the top jar. Note: If you opt to not use a pump with lighting, you will simply have two empty pipes for excess oil.

Thread the output tube from the aquarium/fountain pump up through another pipe. Note: The third pipe is for oil overflow and allows oil to run back down into the reservoir. Notch the overflow pipes so excess oil will flow down through it/them rather than the feed pipe. Make sure pump tube is connected to the pump.

Thread the pump's power cord through the hole in the side of the bottom jar.

Fill the bottom jar with enough rain lamp oil to submerge the pump. Then place pump unit into the oil and screw jar tightly onto its lid.

Position and glue down any small statues, plastic greenery, or other decorative items you wish to display inside the rain lamp.

Hang the lamp and turn on the pump/light fixture. If need be, you can help prime the process by adding a small amount of oil into the top directly. NOTE: You may have to experiment with adjusting the flow rate on the pump to get the rain droplets to fall at the desired rate.

Tips & Warnings

  • Make sure the metal pipe size is large enough for the halogen light and the plastic tubing to fit through.

References

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