Making a Grow Light Stand

Last night was the quarterly hackathon at work, the day where we get to work on something fun and new until 4am and then demo to the team. Beers were drunk, Thai food was eaten and the sports tournaments were played out (darts and ping pong, or table tennis, if you prefer). It was a great time and although my work wasn't as brilliant as some of my colleagues, I felt accomplished by the time we crawled off for breakfast sometime around 7am.

That was 6 hours ago. I'm still awake. I've been awake since sometime between 7am and 9am yesterday.

I don't know why, really. I ran an errand for the wife this morning and one thing led to another. Before I knew it, I had not only completed the errand (returning some plants and a grow light stand to Growing Hope after Chrissy did some seed starting for them), I had also completed our own grow light stand (a project we purchased the pieces for back when I made the raised bed) and cleaned the cat litter boxes. Luckily for you, I didn't take pictures of the latter task; I'm keeping those precious memories of being watched by a cat while I dug around in his feces (mostly) to myself, but I digress.

Often, when you garden, you have to start some seeds. When the weather is inclement prior to the growing season, as it often is in these parts, you need to start those seeds indoors and, much like this winter in Michigan, there's no Sun indoors (I'm thankful for that, I like my stuff unsinged), so an artificial source of equivalent light is required. That's where the grow light stand comes in.

Unlike the one we had borrowed from Growing Hope, which was a simple wood construction with two A-frames at each end joined by two planks from which the 4' long fluorescent grow lamps were suspended, our grow light stand was to be made out of PVC. As mentioned earlier, we had purchased the pieces for it some time ago, which explains why some of the pieces were wrong. Thankfully, Home Depot awesomely gave me store credit for those incorrect pieces despite a lack of receipt. That's customer service for you.

The parts required for this little project were:

  • 120" of 2" PVC pipe
  • 4x end caps
  • 2x three-way connectors
  • 2x elbow connectors
  • 2x ¼" eye bolts with 4 nuts
  • 2x S hooks
  • 1x shop light
  • 2x fluorescent grow lamp tubes
Barry inspecting the parts and tools
Barry inspecting the parts and tools

In addition, the following tools were used:

  • Safety Gloves and Glasses
  • Drill
  • ¼" drill bit
  • Permanent marker (I used the one Chrissy got from John Mayer's fan club)
  • Hacksaw
  • Pliers
  • Wrench/Spanner (for tightening the nuts)

The assembly was really quite easy and probably would have taken about an hour at most if I hadn't needed to go to Home Depot twice (once for the shop light and again to get the correct size elbows).

First, the PVC pipe was marked (with the John Mayer fan club marker) and cut (with the hacksaw) to the following lengths:

  • 4x 5"
  • 2x 24"
  • 1x 52"

Then, using the connectors and end caps, join them all together to create the stand.

All the pipe fittings and lengths ready for assembly
All the pipe fittings and lengths ready for assembly
End caps fitted to 5" pipe (QA manager, Barry checking craftsmanship on the left)
End caps fitted to 5" pipe (QA manager, Barry checking craftsmanship on the left)End caps fitted to 5" pipe
End caps, 5" lengths and three way connector combined
End caps, 5" lengths and three way connector combined
Light stand legs and cross bar assembled
Light stand legs and cross bar assembled
Completely assembled stand without light fixture
Completely assembled stand without light fixture

See, that was easy, right? No glue, just push it all together. It's a little disappointing that it did not include power tools, but don't worry, because this is where I whipped out my trusty drill after marking where I wanted the eye bolts to go. The shop light fixture hangs from these, so I measured where the chains would go in the shop light and chose eye bolt locations accordingly.

Chains, S hooks, etc. for attaching the light fixture
Chains, S hooks, etc. for attaching the light fixture
Position of eye bolt for one side of light fixture mounting
Position of eye bolt for one side of light fixture mounting

If you attempt this, be sure to wear your safety gear as I did; PVC pipe can be slippy and drills can make easily eye bolt holes in your hand if you're not careful (I recommend having some sleep too).

Safety gear on and ready to go
Safety gear on and ready to go

Once the holes were drilled in the pipe (though a little skewed), I fitted the eye bolts. In order to get a sturdy fixture, I first screwed a nut onto the eye bolt, then pushed the remainder through the pipe and applied a lock nut to the other side (though a regular nut would have done, I think). I then tightened the nuts on each side of the pipe so that the eye bolt was secure.

Eye bolt installed (note the two nuts on either side of the pipe)
Eye bolt installed (note the two nuts on either side of the pipe)
Chains showing S hook before being attached and after
Chains showing S hook before being attached and after

The shop light fixture came with its own chains for suspending it, however, only one end of these chains had a hook, so I carefully crimped S hooks onto the other ends of the chains. I then hooked one end into the corresponding eye bolt and the other into the light fixture and that was job done.

The assembled and working light stand (with QA manager doing final inspection)
The assembled and working light stand (with QA manager doing final inspection)

The height is even adjustable by threading the hook through the eye and hooking back into the chain.

With the assembly complete, I placed the new stand over Chrissy's seedlings and plugged it into our timer ready for her to be surprised when she gets home or reads this (whichever is first).

Chrissy's seedlings enjoying their new light stand
Chrissy's seedlings enjoying their new light stand

Now, I've been awake for far too long so I'm off to play video games and eat snacks before a well-earned nap.

Our new desk

IKEAEver since we moved into our house, we've had grand plans for our office (originally, the third bedroom). The plan was to use it as a reading room but that just never panned out. We had painted it when we moved in, then populated it with bookcases from IKEA, which in turn were populated with our books and CDs, but that was about it. Though we had a little tiny desk in there with a computer, all we really did was use the room to store things or hide other things when guests came over.

Given that this space was not really adding value to our lives, this year we decided to make a concerted effort to get the office into a more pleasing state with a view to actually using it as an office. So, we measured things, sketched a plan on the whiteboard in the kitchen and penned a list of tasks, including items to purchase.

Step one was to move some of the bookcases, so I did (though perhaps not at the pace my wife would've preferred). Once the bookcases and their contents were moved to the appropriate location as per our sketch, we were ready for the next step: the new desk. If moving the bookcases had been too slow for the missus then getting a new desk had been going in reverse. However, eventually we decided to head out to IKEA for inspiration and see what we could find.

Before the new desk
Before the new desk

I admit I wasn't expecting to find anything appropriate but after looking at all the desks and tables we could find in IKEA, we settled on the VIKA AMON black desk. We were originally going to get both the drawers and the storage leg, but the drawers only appear to come in white (I don't get why), so a change of plan was required. After examining all the other legs available in the VIKA range and discovering most options were out of stock and not quite what we wanted, we settled on the wooden legs.

The wooden legs
The wooden legs don't quite match our black office furniture

The only problem with the legs was their appearance, but unlike the white drawers, the plain wood made this a reasonably easy fix. The office furniture is black/brown, including the desk top we selected so a quick trip to Home Depot was required to get a matching wood stain. The stain I selected was a Classic Black Minwax Polyshades stain and polyurethane in one with a satin finish. I admit that I mostly guessed at what colour might match the existing IKEA furniture. I also admit that I'm lazy, hence the stain and polyurethane in one.

I forwent the application of conditioner to the wood as I was applying an extremely dark stain to the wood. Over two days, I applied two coats of stain to the legs. In hindsight, three coats may have been better but any thin patches on the legs are not easily noticeable, so they can be our little secret.

Minwax stain and polyurethane
Minwax stain and polyurethane

After two coats, the legs were barely distinguishable from the desk that they were to support.

The stained legs and the desk top
The stained legs and the desk top

With the legs ready, it was time to clear some space in the office. So I dismantled the computer and moved everything out of the way to clear space for the new desk.

Space cleared, ready for the new desk
Space cleared, ready for the new desk

Some quick, effortless assembly later and the desk was all ready to install. The three legs attached to the desk as per the instructions provided with each leg. The remaining support was provided by the free-standing storage unit that we selected for housing our computer.

The desk, assembled and ready
The desk, assembled and ready

Once the desk was in place, it was clear we'd made a good choice as there was just enough room for the lamp in the corner. It was time to reassemble the computer and put it into place.

The finished work space
The finished work space

Proud of my efforts, I grabbed Chrissy to show her my handiwork. She was, of course, quick to point out that we still need to get lampshades and put our lamps on the new desk. Perhaps then, the office will finally be finished1.


  1. Just in time for us to turn it into a nursery? No, this is not an announcement.