Monday, December 8, 2014

the Re-Purposed Home: DIY Converting a Sled to a Kitchen Light and Pan Rack

When I was a kid my cousins, siblings and I would re-enact the winter olympic bobsled races on our flexible flyer sled, getting as many of us as possible on the thing as we tore down the hill.  The kid at the front did the "steering" (to this day I'm not sure if those things can really be "steered") and the kid at the rear did most of the pushing to get the sled and all its occupants moving and was lucky if he or she found a place to actually get on the sled once it was in motion.  I have fond memories of these times that return every time I see a flexible flyer sled.

Which brings me to the subject of this post.  I was trying to find a unique, rustic light fixture/pan rack for my kitchen and I was not that impressed with what I was finding at the stores (especially in our price range).  I was walking around the barnyard trying to get ideas when I saw it; There in the scrap pile was a beat up flexible flyer sled or at least what was left of it.  My guess is it had been run over by the tractor because all that was left of it were a few scraps of lumber & a mangled pile of metal runners.  Suddenly I knew what I wanted in my kitchen as a pan rack and light fixture. I now have a re-claimed and re-purposed flexible flyer sled with mason jar lights attached for lighting and the runners on the sled work great as a pan rack.  My husband and kids love it, it was cheap to make, filled the need and fit our family and our home.  If you are interested, here's how I did it.

1st I used scrap lumber and a couple of cheap, pre-drilled metal plates from the hardware store to rebuild the sled "enough" so that it would "look" like the real deal and be strong enough to hold lights and pans. A regular sled, still intact, would work fine for this project too.  I just liked the idea of taking something broken and discarded, reclaiming it and making it like new again with a new purpose.  I mapped out how I wanted my lighting to be positioned and how I would suspend it and because I was building this thing anew I made a few alterations in my sled.  I wanted my lights to be attached on the outside of the runners so I made the wooden steering piece just a touch longer to accomodate a pint-sized mason jar on each side.  I also lengthened the rear, wooden, cross piece to do the same.   I wanted my sled to shine so I coated it with clear lacquer to help preserve the wood and the metal runners that I had bent back into place as much as I could.
My hanging-lamp-light-box-cover after I painted it.  It was white when I bought it.

2nd Once my new and improved flexible flyer was built, I headed for the hardware store for electrical supplies and some brown, hemp-looking rope that I thought looked similar to our old sled rope, only tougher so it could easily hold sled, lights and pans suspended above our kitchen island for the next century.  I also picked up some I-screws that would work to secure the rope and sled to my ceiling.  I bought a hanging-lamp-light-box-cover and some red spray paint (I wanted to make the white light box cover match the runners of the sled and I already had the other necessary spray paints to make a good match at home- black, bronze and brown). For the rest of the electrical aspect, I purchased four, 3" long sections of threaded electrical tubing with 4 hex nuts and washers to match, four lamp light sockets that threaded onto the tubing, a drill bit with a diameter just larger than the tubing, 2 very large wire nuts and about 12 feet of gold colored lamp/electrical cord (without any plug-ends so that it would wire directly into my light box).  I had already gauged the distance from my ceiling fixture to where I wanted my sled/pan rack/light to be and knew I needed 12ft of cord to pull it off.  I chose gold electrical cord because I wanted it to match my mason jar lids and rings.

3rd I measured where I wanted the center of my mason jar lights to be and, using my new drill bit, drilled holes through the ends of my "steering piece" and rear cross board.  I then drilled a hole thru the center of each of my mason jar lids for the tubing to go through and threaded the light sockets onto the end of the tubing inside the lid.    (I then realized that for venting/over-heating purposes I would need a few more holes drilled in the lid.  I ended up with 6 extra holes--2 large holes and 4 smaller ones for this purpose)  I threaded the tubing that protruded from the top of the lid through the holes I had just drilled in the wooden pieces and secured it there with a washer and nut on the top of the wooden piece. 

4th I cut my 12 foot cord into 4 equal 3ft-long pieces and split and stripped the ends.  Following the lamp cord instructions, I tied a granny knot in the ends (just like you would begin to tie shoelaces, with the split end of the cord being your laces) then made a hook out of the exposed 1/2" of wire ends and hooked them over the  screws- the smooth sided half of the cord around the hot screw and the ribbed side around the neutral screw-then tightened them down.  After the ends of each of my cords were attached properly to the sockets, I threaded the other ends up through the tubing and on top of the sled.  I painted my light box cover red with a few light sprays of brown, bronze and black to "antique" it and make it match the runners as much as possible.  After it dried, I threaded the cords through the hole in the center and for convenience I tied all my loose ends of cord in an overhand knot to keep it out of the way as I finished.

5th With my electrical stuff ready to go, it was time to make my hangers.  I drilled two more holes into the ends of the "steering piece" just on the inside of the pint-sized jars and two to match on the rear cross piece.  I cut two, 3ft lenths of my hemp rope and doubled them over exactly in half.  I took one piece and threaded each cut end through my newly drilled holes in my "steering piece" and knotted the ends with a couple good knots so they wouldnt pull back through.  I did the same on the rear cross piece and now had two loops of brown rope on the front and back of the sled.  I measured where the sled would hang and installed the I-screws into my ceiling.  At this point I needed help hoisting the sled so I waited for my husband to get home from work and then we were off to the races.  I pulled the end of my loops through the I-screws and when I had pulled the sled up to the desired height, I tied a couple of simple overhand knots in the rope around the I-screws.  Hung!

6th It was time to do the final wiring on this bad boy. I went to my breaker box and cut the power to my kithen. Using a ladder I untied the knot I had put in my cord ends, found all the smooth wire ends and twisted them together and then did the same with the ribbed.  I then twisted all the smooth wire ends together with the black wire inside my light box on the ceiling and capped it with a large wire nut.  The ribbed ones I twisted together with the white wire inside the light box and capped it with a large wire nut as well.  I then slid my new red light box cover up and into place and secured it with a couple screws.  I flipped the breaker back on, put bulbs in all my sockets, twisted the pint-sized mason jars back onto the suspended lids, tried the switch and was amazed that all the lights worked!  I didnt like that some of my cords were lose and visible so I used a finger-pressable staple or two to hold the wires in place (I didnt put them in tightly and certainly didnt damage the coating of the wire cord to do it).  And finished!  Our flexible flyer sled, light fixture and pan rack was complete!  If you are thinking of doing something similar, I hope this has helped!
To see my other mason jar lighting ideas check out my previous post about mason jar lights.

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