Sunday, January 16, 2011

Home: Repairing Narnia Lamp at Zero Cost

Narnia lamp
Our "Narnia Lamp", showing
the repaired side.
When we bought our house, the streetside lens on the lamp in front (which we dubbed the "Narnia Lamp") was broken. I'd put off repairing it because I didn't want to spend the money getting a whole new lamp just because one piece of plastic was broken, but I didn't think I could order just the part from the manufacturer, even if I could figure out who it was. But it looked like heck!

For the holidays, I covered up the defect, first by turning the lamp into a ghost for Hallowe'en, and then by adding semi-random holiday decor for Christmas. But I just couldn't think of anything appropriate for for Martin Luther King Day, except to Do The Right Thing: put in the time to fix it!

This project turned out to be much easier than I'd anticipated.

First I made a pattern for the replacement lens by holding a piece of cardboard up to the lamp, tracing around it to get the general size and shape, and then trimming to fit.  I made the pattern little shorter than the original lens so I could slip it into place without disassembling the lamp; the gap at the top was concealed by the overhanging top of the lamp.

Previously I had verified that the light didn't generate significant heat - a nice side-effect of replacing the incandescent bulb with an energy efficient bulb - so I didn't need to seek some sort of heat-resistent plastic. I simply cut a replacement lens out of a transluscent plastic storage box that was slated to be trashed for lack of a lid (I couldn't just donate it to the thrift store; no-one will buy a storage container without a lid). 

vintage snipping tools
My vintage snips:
Still functional!
My first cutting experiments were so disasterous they were almost funny. My new variable-speed saber saw shattered the brittle plastic with variable intensity. I tried a couple of hand saws, but the blades got bound up. What finally worked were a couple of vintage metal snips (see photo). I'd picked them up for a song at the thrift store! They weren't as fast as the power saw, but they didn't shatter the plastic; I just had to be a little patient. After all, they may be older than I am!

I decided to use the slightly thicker and more opaque plastic at the bottom of the box, instead of the thinner and clearer walls.
The result is as shown in the photo. The lamp frame conceals any uneveness in the edges. It's not bevelled like the other lenses, but the look is close enough to fill in until the next holiday!

I was pleased to see how quickly it all came together once my trials came up with a working solution. And you can't beat the price: nothing but time, and the time was spent having fun, so it's profit all around! Furthermore, by re-using something destined to be scrapped, I did the responsible thing for our environment. Finally, I was happy to find my vintage tools still work and for some applications can be just right!

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