“Arty” LED Patio Light

We have a fairly large patio that was lit by one crummy three-bulb can type fixture. In the evenings the light was horrible – too bright under the fixture and dark everywhere else. The ceiling is also fairly low.

I had an idea of using several LED MR16 bulbs and copper tubing that would be like branches of a tree. This “natural” look also had the convenient advantage of requiring no precise bends 🙂

First I started with 2″ copper pipe cut into 0.5″ sections. A 2″ pipe with a 1/16′ wall is about perfect for holding an MR16 bulb.

2″ copper tubing cut to 0.5″ lengths and copper wire clips to hold bulbs in place

I then drilled three holes in each ring and soldered in short wire stubs to hold the front of the MR16 bulbs. Two of these wires were longer, folded back and coiled around larger copper tubes that were the branches.

Bulb holder soldered to large copper tube “tree branch”

The bulbs slide in from the back and are held in place by a wire coil and a copper “Fahnestock clip” that pushes against the back of the reflector. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fahnestock_clip

I wish I could provide a source for these clips, but they were just junkbox parts that I happened to have.

Fahnestock clip and wire coil push on the back of the MR16 reflector bulb to hold it in place.
Close up of completed MR16 reflector bulb holder

An MR16 socket is wired in. One side of the socket is grounded to the casing and copper tubing. I’m driving the bulbs with 12V DC, but I don’t need to worry about polarity as the bulbs can run on AC.

One whole branch is shown below. I have twelve in all, with various lengths to cover the patio area.

All the copper tubes and 12V power mount to a round metal plate that bolts over the junction box. The cheapest source I could find for such a disk was to buy a cheap (about $15) crepe pan (crepe pans are shallow) on Amazon and cut off the handle. The only negative to this cheap approach was that the aluminum was gummy and not the best to drill. I also didn’t trust it to take robust thread so I made threaded backing blocks to hold the clamps for the copper tubes.

Aluminum crepe pan mounting plate – back (junction box side) view. The rectangular bits are are steel threaded plates to take the clamp bolts from the other side.

The copper tubes are securely clamped in aluminum blocks that were drilled and then cut in half to hold the round tubes. The below pic shows the clamp halves that are mounted to the plate. Another six similar halves are bolted on to fix the tubes in place. Each clamp holds two copper tubes and lamps.

Copper tube clamps, power bricks, and terminal strips ready to wire. The light power is split up among two bricks to give a big operating margin and hopefully prevent the need for “field service”.
All wired up and tube “branches” clamped in place

I cut a star out of some copper sheet to cover the wiring and power bricks and hammered it for looks (because I couldn’t keep it flat). The cover could have been a bit larger, but that sheet was all I had.

Below are some shots of the finished product. These were taken right after completion, so the copper is nice and shiny. Now it is much darker, but still looks cool.

In these pictures, you can just barely see some copper wire hooks that I had to mount in the ceiling with screw anchors to hold the tubes because all but the shortest ones would sag under their own weight.

I won’t bother naming the source of my MR16 reflector lights because this was built over 2 years ago, and current bulbs are much better than the ones I used.

That’s it. This light fixture turned out better can I could have imagined and is often a conversation piece.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s