Metalwork processes for Vintage Industrial Lighting – Loomlight

Engineered Once, Used Forever.....

Spun Copper & Cast Brass Vintage Industrial Ceiling Pendant

March 04, 2020

When I hear Andy, (chief lighting buff here at Loomlight) talk about our products with customers, the one line that crops up over and over again is....


"They don't make them like this nowadays"


So who are "They"?

Well there is a wide range of lighting manufacturers ranging from high street brands which churn out lighting made using plastic parts from China, which look OK but are unlikely to stand the test of time (or force). But they are cheap.

There are the commercial lighting manufacturers that design and build good quality fixtures but aren't very pretty looking. 

Then there are the high-end luxury lighting designers using all sorts of beautiful materials that, of course, cost a pretty penny too.

When you look back at the light fixtures designed and built to supply the military and marine industry pre-1990, this is where beautifully engineered light fixtures can be found. Lighting that has gone through a range of metal work processes to create robust often waterproof lighting tested to withstand the harshest conditions. These lights are built by the likes of Wiska, Daeyang, Aqua Signal, Crompton Lamps, Thorlux, Rotherham's of Coventry to name a few.

And you can look at them and own them, because they still exist in fantastic form, often being broken off decommissioned cargo ships. The ships have become wrecks, but the lights are still fine!  All they need is some tender loving care in the form of professional restoration, which is where we come in...

These reclaimed lights are full of character often with aged patina and manufacturers marks to highlight their authenticity. To buy these lights brand new from the manufacturer is really tricky because 1. they only deal directly with trade (being large industrial companies) and 2. the cost of each fixture is astronomical.

But by buying reclaimed lighting you gain all the benefit of a well-engineered industrial lighting product at a fraction of the cost whilst doing good for the planet by purchasing second hand. What could possibly make your belly warmer and your pockets deeper. 

Here is a quick run down of the metalwork processes involved to create metal light fixtures: -

Metal Spinning (aka Spin Forming)

In order to get the dome-like shape that you see on metal ceiling pendants and metal light shades, a piece of sheet metal must go through a very fast spinning process where the shape is formed. A CNC lathe is used to turn the metal and as it spins at high speed, force is then applied to the sheet metal which causes it to flow over a shaped block. The force is usually applied via various levered tools. These tools can be used to create different patterns and decorative shapes in the metal if required. Virtually any metal can be formed, from copper to brass and stainless steel to aluminium. The advantages to building metal light shades and fixtures using the spin forming process is that you produce parts without seams. Without seams, a part can withstand higher internal or external pressure exerted on it. 

The dome of this light is spun aluminium. The top section is cast aluminium.

Spun Aluminium vintage industrial ceiling pendant

Cast Metal

Where you need to create more complicated shaped metal lighting parts, the process used is metal casting. In its basic form it's a process in which a liquid metal is poured into a mold that contains a negative impression of the required shape. There are many different methods for creating the mold depending on what you want to produce. For example if it is a one off piece or mass production piece, the methods of casting would differ. 

This outdoor wall light is made from cast bronze. The cage is brass with heavy duty tempered glass.cast bronze vintage industrial outdoor wall light

Machined Metal

Unlike metal spinning where no metal is removed to create the shape, machining is a process in which metal is cut into the required shade by a controlled material-removal process also known as subtractive manufacturing. A CNC machine is often used nowadays to carry out this process, however most vintage industrial lights were made before the CNC had become fully established, so the machined parts were created using a milling machine.

On this Korean copper strip light, the brass parts where the electrical cable enters are machined metal.
Milled parts on a vintage industrial strip light tube light

Pressed Metal  

Another metal working process known as stamping or pressing is the process of placing flat sheet metal into a press where a tool and die surface forms the metal into a shape. Stamping includes a variety of sheet metal forming manufacturing processes and can be a single stage operation where every stroke of the press produces the desired form on the sheet metal or could occur through a series of stages. 

This is a large Japanese stainless steel searchlight ceiling pendant which has a spun stainless steel dome with a pressed metal frame securing the tempered glass in place. 

 


pressed stainless steel and brass vintage industrial ceiling pendant
   

Nowadays we are more aware of the damage that fast retail and mass production causes to our environment and because of this there is a new customer who demands something more from their products.


Quality products that you only buy once.


Timeless products that don't cost the earth in more ways than one. 


If you are interested in reclaimed vintage and industrial lighting with superior build and design quality browse our range of light fixtures and we'll be happy to talk to you about bespoke requests.