Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Lamp Made from Car Parts

Parts all clean, but I have this left over camshaft....
 So I couldn't figure why my Truck kept loosing coolant.  Well, after pulling the heads off I found out.  A cracked head which caused a blown head gasket made the inside of my motor smell like death.  So, a "top-end" re-build (Means we are leaving the crankshaft, rods and pistons a.k.a. the "bottom-end" alone) was in order.  There was water damage on the camshaft so it was in need of machining, but the cost of that was roughly equal to the cost of a better cam.  Needless to say I bought a new cam and picked up about 30 horsepower.
I see a lamp in your future.
 Newer late model roller camshafts are gun drilled. That is, they are hollow in the middle to reduce weight, but they are still VERY heavy.  When I took the above picture, an idea echoed in my head.  LAMP!  Its hollow in the middle so a lamp kit would be easy to mount.  I just need to find a base for the lamp; A very heavy base.

So I went to our local exotic wood showroom Southern Lumber.  I had them cut a 2 inch thick by 7 inch square piece of Pau Ferro. Pau Ferro is a tone wood sometimes called Bolivian Rosewood.  It is often used for fret boards on guitars and in the making of other musical instruments. As dense hardwoods go, it is cheaper than other woods like Ebony but is just as beautiful and durable.  Most importantly though it is heavy, really heavy.  This is very important to ensure that the lamp is stable and not top heavy.  I paid about $40 for my piece, but you can order it here online from Rockler Woodworking for about $23 plus tax and shipping.
Pau Ferro Blocks from Rockler Woodworking. Awesome.

Camshaft cleaned and test fitted on the block.

Disclaimer:  Before the  extreme environmentalists go nuts, this piece of Pau Ferro cam from a tree that was felled before I was born, and no one had cut a piece from that sample in 15 years. No new rainforest was cut down for my lamp.  Oddly enough recycled woods are more expensive than conventionally harvested, yes I did check there first.  (that will be a different post)

I bought a Lamp Kit and the Threaded Rod Extension ( both are available at Lowe's or Home Depot)    then I drilled a hole through the center of the block.  I cut the threaded rod with a hack saw to fit the length of the cam. ( I had to make a spacer for the threaded rod so that it didn't slide around as the rod is smaller than the hole. I used over size bolts and filed them to fit the hole in the cam.) Then I used a 1 inch spade drill bit to counter sink the hole I already drilled in the block. you do this to make space for the nut that will hold the lamp together as well as space for the cord to come out the bottom so that the lamp will sit flat on a table.   I then used a saw to cut a channel for the cord. A simple staple from a staple gun keeps the cord from falling.   In the end it looked like this:

Here is the finished lamp.  I was unsure of the shade I should use so I just picked a neutral tone. (Shade was purchased at Lowe's for $10)  I still may change the shade. Is there an Art Direction for this lamp?  Yes, yes there is.  Wood is organic, yet the wood here is cut into a square block, metal is hard and cold, but this cam is machined into very round flowing shapes. Its all about contrast. PLUS there's the shiny metal and blinky lights..... so
The wet spots on the cardboard are Teak oil.  I used Teak oil because it penetrates dense woods better and leaves a beautiful dark tone.  The total cost for the lamp since I had a camshaft already was about $60, but you might be able to do it for $50.  The key is already having the Camshaft.  A new cam costs $200, a used one costs $60.  That could make the total cost between $110 and $250 for the lamp.  

For me, the best part about this project is that this camshaft came from the Truck that sits in My driveway.  The truck runs great, and the camshaft could be re-used at anytime.  No car parts were harmed in the making of this lamp. 



  1. When you had drilled - you had said it was hollow in the middle... what did you use to drill and where does it begin to get hollow?

  2. The roller camshaft is hollow in the middle (gun drilled) like a pipe. It comes this way. Not all camshafts are hollow, but roller camshafts are generally hollow. Those that I know to be hollow: "Newer" Hemi cams from dodge chargers and challengers are hollow. All LS type engine cams are hollow. I think the new ford 4.6/5.4/coyote cams are hollow. Beyond that, just go to a junk yard, pick up roller cam and see if you can see down the middle and you are set.

    I only had to drill through the wood block. I think I used a 5/16 bit, but really I just matched the size of the rod in the lamp kit.