Transform a Boob Light Into a Sputnik Chandelier

6 Materials
4 Days

Here is a spectacular update to the practical but unimaginative flush mount light using wood glue and skewers. It is inspired by Sputnik chandeliers. It is also oddly reminiscent of an Austin Powers movie...

Why are flush mounts generally so boring? I understand that they are needed in places with low ceilings but this was definitely not the case in our dressing room. There was enough room to replace it with a modest drum shade but I saw a show-stopping chandelier with glass disks in a magazine and I realized I could get the same effect with glue disks. My glue sheets are made from wood glue and food colouring and although they take forever to cure, they are extremely satisfying to make.

Make glue disks

I sprayed muffin tins with non-stick cooking spray and then poured some (a thinish layer) of white wood glue into them. I have come to realize that the ambient temperature and humidity plays a huge role in when you should be add the food colouring. Unfortunately I can only tell you that with an average temperature of 18°C and humidity of about 50% you need to wait 15-30 minutes if you want a marbled effect. You will have to experiment. Bear in mind that the colours continue to slowly mix and spread long after you have added them.

With my first batch pictured above I added the water-based colouring almost immediately. You can see that it bleeds into to glue which is great if you need a more solid colour and you could also mix it more thoroughly. With the second batch pictured below, I waited 20 minutes before adding the colouring and gold tempera paint. I then marbled it with skewer. I avoid gel colouring because it is too concentrated for these small disks and my droplets are never small enough so end up overpowering everything. I have also used poster paint (school tempera) in the past as well as gel colouring on larger pieces.

Next came a rather long wait - days in fact. This time around, by day 2 the glue had still not shown signs of even starting to dry, so I put the tins in my warming oven at, lets say, 30°C. I haven’t tried it at any higher temperature. Ideally you should just leave the glue out to dry naturally, particularly in summer and when adding paint because the paint may react differently to the higher heat. Be patient, they do dry out eventually starting with the tops and about a day later the bottoms. At some stage you will need to gently pry an edge open and check if the bottoms are dried out enough for you to carefully flip them over. If the disk lifts without sticking it is probably dry enough to turn but handle it with care.

Finish the disks off

When they were dry I wiped the disks with paper towels to get rid of some of the non-stick spray. I trimmed off messy bits with scissors. They are still maleable but return to their original state when folded.

One side is generally glossier and more coloured than the other. I had forgotten to add gold to my first batch so I painted the rims and backs with a bit of gold nail varnish. When dry, I sprayed them with varnish to bring out the colour and reduce the oiliness.

Spray some skewers

The disks are stuck to wooden skewers so I used two different lengths of wooden skewers and sprayed them gold. I found that using two different lengths gives the final product more dimension.

Make nibs

To finish the sticks off, I made some round blobs with a glue gun. I waited for them to dry, trimmed and sprayed them gold. You could also use nail varnish to paint them.

Thread everything

Initially the glue disks are still stretchy so it is easy to thread them onto the skewer and then end each skewer off with a gold blob. However, as the glue dries further it shrinks and comes loose around the sticks. I fixed this at a later stage by using a glue gun to stick the disks to the sticks on the reverse side ie. not the side that you would see when standing beneath the light, see below. But before sticking them into place, first make your bases as described in Step 6 below!

Sticking the disks so they don’t slide off.

Make bases for the sticks

Initially I just glued the sticks directly to the glass shade with hot glue. This didn't work because there was too little surface in contact with the glue and they quickly dropped off. So I made blobs of hot glue for each stick on a silicon sheet, then stood the skewers straight up and dead still in the still hot blobs until they dried a bit. I then added a second blob of glue (see below) on top of the first and surrounding the stick's base so that the stick was effectively standing in a little glue mound.

In order to do the above ie. get everything to stay put until the hot glue dried, I had made a stand from a cardboard box with gaps cut in it and worked in batches (see above). The disks may get in the way so don’t stick them in place at first, slide them out of the way whilst making the footing and only stick them into place as described in Step 5 after making the bases.

Left needs more height, right is better

You can see that the base on the right (see above) is a lot higher than the left hand one so will stick more securely.

Peel and paint

Once the feet are dry, peel them off the silicon and paint their top sides. I used nail varnish. Effectively you are left with a stick with some skewered disks and two gold blobs at each end. Now is also the time to stick the disks into place so that they don’t slide off.

Glue the sticks to the shade

I used more hot glue to stick the bases to the glass but my advice is to use stronger glue. Two of my skewers came loose within a week. Also take into consideration that there may be some heat so use LED bulbs and even so your light might not be ice cold. You don’t want little spears raining down on you or worse.

Replace the shade and enjoy you handiwork

I sprayed my centre screw and then replaced everything. What a dramatic upgrade for the price of half a bottle of wood glue!

They are translucent when the light is on and the colours really come out.

Talk about transforming a boring, dated space!

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  2 questions
  • Redcatcec Redcatcec on May 05, 2020

    It reminded me of Shish kabob? Very interesting!

  • Leslie Leslie on May 06, 2021

    Hi Thea, One more row near the edge and sticking straight out would have completed it but it looks great as is too. Did you left that area clear for when you have to handle and replace the inside bulbs? Have the disks dried and stiffened up more and did you want the floppy look to them which I think is very nice? Your take on the sputnik chandelier is wonderfully creative and looks really well in your hallway with the green color wall and trim. Are those cabinet doors lining the walls? Nice! Was this totally your idea, if so you have a great imagination. I am also thinking that you could do this with resin ( add glitter ) but once set it will not flop or bend. You will have to drill the holes. The best holding glue I have found is E-6000 but, you will have to have to tape the end down so that the glue can set. I will bet that someone will see this chandelier and find a way to mass produce for sale. Thea thank you for sharing your design and process. Don't worry those that can't do complain and criticise and stamp their feet lol.


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