A Circulating Air Sock Lamp

We admit our sock lamp looks unusual, but that's part of what makes it useful; it's designed to provided soft, diffuse light while circulating air and heat.

| January/February 1983

  • circulating air sock lamp - side by side pair
    The finished circulating air sock lamp. The fan is at the bottom end of the tube.
    Photo by MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
  • circulating air sock lamp - assembly diagram (orange)
    Assembly diagram for the sock lamp.

  • circulating air sock lamp - side by side pair
  • circulating air sock lamp - assembly diagram (orange)

Any piece of handwork can be a source of pride for the doer and of inspiration for the admirer. Moreover, when art serves a purpose beyond its aesthetic value, it can become even more worthwhile. Our unusual circulating air sock lamp is a good case in point.

The unit is really nothing more than a copper shade that's fitted with a bulb and a perforated light shield, but just below that tungsten globe hangs a muslin "sock" — a tube about eight inches in diameter and six feet long — which has a small electric fan housed in its foot.

And, as noted above, there are practical reasons for this attractive combination of components. Besides providing warm, diffused illumination, the fixture draws hot air from the ceiling area (where it naturally collects) and pumps it down to floor level (where chilly drafts seem to run rampant). The device makes efficient use of available warmth — increasing the usable heat provided by your woodstove, for instance — and furnishes some degree of air circulation, too.

MOTHER EARTH NEWS' research director, Emerson Smyers, came up with the idea while reminiscing about the old-timey ceiling fans that graced many a residence and public place not too long ago (and have recently made quite a comeback). "Most people think they were there for cooling, but they're only half right. Those big blades did a heck of a job circulating heat, too, and anyone who doesn't believe it should take a closer look at some of the original models. Many actually had resistance elements built right around the motor housing that could be switched on in the winter to throw off additional warmth."

In an effort to adapt that technology, Emerson merely designed a more compact package and placed his fan (which uses about one-quarter the energy required by its predecessors) out of view. The result — which would cost about $45 if all new parts were used (naturally, we scrounged some of ours) — required a 19" x 27" sheet of 16-ounce copper (this item can be purchased as scrap for a couple of dollars), a porcelain socket fixture with a threaded mounting stud, a swag light kit with a switch, a 150-CFM (cubic-foot-per-minute) 8"-diameter circular fan (available from Solar Usage Now, or use any comparable muffin fan and adapt the design to fit it), about a foot of 1/4"-loop wire chain, 2 yards of muslin cloth, three lengths of copper-coated 1/8" welding rod, 8 feet of speaker wire, seven 1/2" plastic tether rings, a 4" x 27" scrap of sheet metal and a piece of foam rubber of the same size, and a half-dozen small sheet metal screws.

According to Mr. Smyers, assembling the lamp required only the most basic metalworking or electrical skills, but did call for the use of a soldering iron, an electric drill with a bit assortment, tinsnips, needle-nosed pliers, a hammer, a pin punch, and a sewing machine.

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