How to Turn Abandoned Bicycles Into Hanging Lamps

Credit: Trevor Tondro for The New York Times

A delightful article “Seeing Noguchi in a Bike” from the NYT’s traced the creative path from one friend’s inspiration from a art show to creating an homage to one of the twentieth century’s most inspired artists in the quietly rusting carcasses of abandoned bicycles in the city. It’s a fun read and an even more fun project to do yourself. Though they stick to a super simple aesthetic – it seems to also be a great starting basis for re-creating something magical in your own unique way to compliment your unique space.

Andrew Wagner, the director of and the former editor of the now-defunct ReadyMade magazine, and Jen Turner, an architect and designer, used the rims of two abandoned bicycle wheels, one slightly larger than the other, to create a hanging lamp reminiscent of Isamu Noguchi’s classic Akari pendant lights.

The two scoured the streets for spare parts — abandoned bikes with a patina of rust, a missing seat or handlebars, flat tires or mangled rims.

First, gather a few materials, including bicycle wheels, ribbon and translucent, nonflammable fabric like ripstop nylon, often used as parachute fabric.

Ripstop, comes in all kinds of beautiful colors, too. It’s ideal, but a similar Rayon fabric could also work. The fabric selection is where you can use the basic framework of this project as a springboard to change it up with a different color, texture or even a print (careful!) Make sure that the ribbon and the fabric you choose look good together.

Remove the spokes from the wheels. Fit one rim inside the other and attach through the spoke holes using a screw, nut and washer. It’s also a good idea to give things a cleaning – to remove any rust or grime that might degrade the lamp over time or mess up the fabric.

Thread the lamp cord through the opposite set of holes, holding it in place with a clamp. An old lamp socket and cord would work beautifully, though you can find something similar at any lighting store. With at least 20 feet of cord, the lamp can be adapted to virtually any setup.

String the ribbon through the holes, like a shoelace, to create each face of the pendant. You could also use sliced, discarded bike tubes.

Stretch and measure the fabric to fit each side.

Cut the fabric.

Apply transfer tape along the rim channels.

Stretch the fabric across the rims and secure to the tape.

The finished lamp. Isn’t it lovely? If you make one, email me a picture and I’ll repost it next to this one!

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7 Responses to Bicycles in the Home Camoflaged as a Pretty Lamp

  1. […] of DIY ideas out there of how to repurpose old or worn out parts as something new. This one from The Bird Wheel is pretty interesting, and not terribly hard for even non-mechanically gifted folks to create. Just […]

    • Starlet says:

      I’ve tried spray paints on bikes bfreoe. Once I even used primer first. It has scratched up very easily. My friends have had frames powder coated (costs about $ 75) and that has been very durable.

      • admin says:

        Powder coating is the way to go if you want a durable scratch resistant paint. In NYC SQUAREBUILT is the best for custom work, though of course I’m biased… in SF there’s a great place called the ice cream shop doing exciting work as well.

  2. […] of DIY ideas out there of how to repurpose old or worn out parts as something new. This one from The Bird Wheel is pretty interesting, and not terribly hard for […]

    • Yummyyaty says:

      Never owned a bike that is sad, Sabrina. I rode for hours and hours as a child during smumer vacations. Now mind you I don’t think any of my bikes were every new. My parent never had extra money when I was growing up so good used was a term well known in our family, but I never cared.I do like this photo hidden in the bushes and vines waiting for it’s owner to grab the handlebars, throw a leg over and off it goes. A lot of people run away to discover later they’d packed their problems/issues and brought them with them. You know, a life on the road could describe an attitude about living life open, adventuresome, and acknowledging with awareness and a sence of newness each of those things you experience. But it’s true we also sometimes need to make major changes externally. I’ve had those moments too. Take care!

  3. […] ah no cazzo non è ancora iniziato, menomale. beh intanto se vi avanzano due cerchi e vi volete cimentare qui c’è tutto un bel racconto. […]

  4. […] There are lots of ways to repurpose sports equipment, such the Adirondack ski chair, among others, but they often fail because their creators forget that the goal isn’t just to repurpose — it’s to make something excellent. So with that, we bring you two defunct bicycle rims transformed into a very mod-looking hanging lamp. To anyone not looking closely it’s just a lamp — it’s not a bunch of bike parts. And to us, that makes this one of the cooler DIY projects you can do, because the achievement is that you don’t have to be a gear geek to love the end result. Via thebirdwheel. […]

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