Carl’s Overhead Light Bar (and Camera Bar)

Photo: Carl's Overhead Steel (or Wood) Light (& Camera) Bar (carls_light_bar_page1_blue)

Click here for a black & white PRINTABLE version of the above blueprint.

Over the last 20+ years I have seen and used a lot of lathe lighting solutions. I have gone thru a number of different solutions in my studio. I started with incandescent Moffatt flex arm lights when they were all the rage. Then, I moved on to …

Then roughly 10+ years ago, I came up with my own Overhead Light Bar system with magnetically attached LED lights. See above drawing and photos below.

I love this system. I have installed it over all 4 of the lathes in my studio. My students like it. I have made almost no changes in the last 10+ years. The benefits are:

  1. Let there be light ANYWHERE! You can move the light bar backwards or forwards over the lathe. You can move the lights left or right on the light bar.
  2. EASY to REPOSITION lights! Just reach up and move the gooseneck. Or, pull the magnetic base off and move it to a new location.
  3. Never in the way! The area under the lights is NOT obstructed by goosenecks or magnets attached to lathe.
  4. No shake! The lights are NOT attached to the lathe thus they do not shake when the lathe shakes.
  5. Low cost DIY! Make your own, with off the self materials from Home Depot.

    Example – Light Bar In use

    Photo: Example - Light Bar In use (light_bar_11)
    Photo: Example - Light Bar In use (light_bar_07)

    I know, it is hard to see the light bar in the above photos. It is the gold colored metal thing at the top of the photos. It is a piece of Electrical Strut Channel. The black gooseneck LED lights are hanging from it via DIY magnetic bases.

    The piece on the lathe may look like it is overlit in the above photos. It is just right in real life! Lots of good EASY to REPOSITION light.

    It is really hard to get a photo of anything up near the ceiling in my studio due to all the stuff up there. Dust collector pipe, air lines, electrical conduit, etc. and lots of bright florescent lights.

    I took the best photos that I could. I had to shut off all the florescent lights in the room, and dork around.

    Note: If you look carefully at the above photos you may notice that the light bars in the above photos DO NOT match the design in my drawings. The light bars in my studio hang from custom brackets that I welded up. Most people do not have welding skills or welding equipment. Thus, I came up with a design for my drawings that DOES NOT require welding. It uses off the shelf stuff from Home Depot.

    Photo: QUANS 5W COB LED Gooseneck Light (magnetic_light_base_00) QUANS 5W COB LED Gooseneck Light

    The gooseneck lights in the above photo are the old IKEA Jansjo Led Lamps that are no longer available. I now recommend the "QUANS 5W COB LED Gooseneck Light" with a DIY magnetic base. See my DIY Magnetic Light Base blog entry.

    Photo: Camera Gooseneck Clamp (amazon_camera_arm) Camera Gooseneck Clamp

    You can use the same light bar to hang a still or video camera via a flexible gooseneck arm. Find an arm that attaches via a spring clamp or C clamp. Or, add your own DIY magnetic base.

    The photo on the right shows one of many gooseneck arm mounting options on Amazon. It has a standard 1/4" screw camera mount. Thus you can mount anything you like. A webcam, etc.

    However, I really like the flexible gooseneck arm on the above "QUANS 5W COB LED Gooseneck Light". Not to soft, not to hard, good length, etc. Thus I would probably attach (glue) a little spy camera onto the QUANS light. Or cut the light off and reuse the gooseneck that I known, I like.

    You can hang as many cameras as you like from multiple gooseneck arms. One for an overhead shot, one for tailstock shot, etc.

    I am not into making videos. Thus, I don’t have much experience. I am not going to say more on cameras and arms. You get the idea.

    The Details

    Photo: The Details (carls_light_bar_page2)

    The above drawing and sketches below show most of the details.

    Important concepts are:

    1. Light Bar most slide freely! It Floats!
    2. Light Bar and Cross Bars must be Rectangular (not pipe) to prevent roll over of light bar when lights are off balance.
    3. Light Bar needs to be 1" or less thick for Spring Clamps.
    4. Light Bar must be steel for Magnetic Light Bases.
    5. You can use 1×4 Wood (3/4" x 3-1/2") rather than Strut Channel. But, not if you want to use magnets.
    6. Purchase Strut Channel at Home Depot in Electrical Dept

      Photo: Light Bar Height (lb_height) Light Bar Height

      The correct light bar height for you, depends on your height.

      I have found that roughly 30 inches above the center of the spindle works good. See drawing.

      I am assuming here that you have adjusted the height of the spindle to be correct for you.

      Note: Most people recommend, a spindle height that is equal to the height of the turners elbow. Measure the distance from the floor to the center of your elbow when you are standing at ease with your arms hanging down at your side.

      Photo: Head Clearance (lb_head_clearance) Head Clearance

      Overhead light bars that you run into or hit you in the head are NO GOOD.

      I use a two part Light Bar to solve any issues here. See drawing.

      The "Bottom Bar" holds the lights. It should clear your head. But, still be low enough to allow easy "reach up" and adjust it. Move the Light Bar backwards or forwards. Or, move the lights left or right on the Light Bar.

      The "Top Bar" slides in the Cross Bars. It allows the Cross Bars to be a good comfortable height over your head.

      In my drawings I show 8 inches of distance between the Top and Bottom Light Bars. This can be any number. You should adjust it to suit your situation (ceiling height, lathe height, your height, etc).

      Photo: Skewed Light Bar (lb_skewed) Skewed Light Bar

      In the drawing the Light Bar is "Skewed" over the lathe.

      You need to be able to skew the Light Bar. It helps you get the lights into the right position.

      You also need to do it, at least temporarily while moving the light bar backwards or forwards. Why? Because, normal humans can not move both ends of a 6 foot long bar simultaneously.

      If you want to skew the Light Bar then both ends of the Light Bar MUST float in Cross Bars! Why? Because, if length A" is fixed then length B" MUST change when ONE and only ONE end of the bar is moved backwards or forwards! See drawing.

      Photo: Light Bar Length (lb_length) Light Bar Length

      The top and bottom light bars (2 of them) should be the same length. They should be roughly 18" longer than the length of the lathe bed. This will allow for an overhang of roughly 6" on the headstock side and an 12" on the tailstock side. See drawing.

      This means, that most light bars are going be at least 6 feet long, or longer.

      If you turn outboard on the Headstock end or with a sliding Headstock on the Tailstock end then you may need a longer Light Bar.

      You may also need to add length to the Light Bar to accommodate the location of Cross Bars due to location of your ceiling joists.

      Remember that the useful length of the light bars will be reduced by roughly 3" due to the connection rods at each end.

      Photo: Cross Bars Length (lb_cross_bar_len) Cross Bars Length

      The cross bars (4 of them) should be roughly 24" long. This will allow for 8" in front of the lathe bed and a reasonably good amount of backward or forward movement of the light bar. See drawing.

      You may need to add length to the cross bars to accommodate the location of your ceiling joists.

      The location of Cross Bars varies due to location of Ceiling Joists. They should be near the outside ends of Light Bar. The location must allow for "Skewing" of the light bar.

      Photo: Wood Vs Steel (wood_vs_steel) Wood Vs Steel

      If wood floats your boat. Then you can make the Light Bars (and every everything else) out of wood. There is really not that much weight on bottom cross bar. Thus you can use 1×4 wood (3/4" x 3-1/2") rather than Strut Channel.

      Just substitute "wood" where ever I say "strut channel".

      If you want to attach your lights to the light bar with MAGNETS then you CAN NOT use wood. If you go with wood then the lights must be attached to the light bar with spring clamps or C clamps.

      Note: The "QUANS 5W COB LED Gooseneck Light" the I recommend is sold with built in spring clamps. See my " QUANS Led Lamp replacement for IKEA Jansjo Led Lamp blog entry.

      Ceiling Mount Photo: Ceiling Mount (carls_light_bar_page4)

      You need to use your own brain here. How you attach the light bars to the ceiling, depends on your situation. The location of your ceiling joists. The direction of your ceiling joints. Ceiling height. Open ceiling or dry wall, etc.

      I show two options in my drawings. Wood 2×4 mount or 1-5/8" Deep Strut channel. I kind of favor strut channel. But, 2x4s are a lot cheaper and easier?

      You really don't want things to come crashing down. Thus, I would use 4 inch deck screws or lag bolts. But, I would not go overboard.

      I would avoid run of the mill dry wall screws. To wimpy. Deck screws are thicker, tougher and have course threads.

      You could hang the Cross Bars on chain or wire. But, I would avoid that. They may swing around to much when you try to push the Light Bar, backwards or forwards. I would use rigid threaded rod.

      I also show two options for your ceiling joists direction. Parallel or perpendicular to the lathe.

      I would try to span at least 3 ceiling joists if I was using strut channel. There is only room for one screw per joist inside of strut channel. Just two screws in 2 ceiling joints would not be enough for me.

      If, I had to live with only 2 ceiling joists, then I would use 4" x 1/2" lag bolts or 2 screws per joist in wood 2×4 ceiling bars.

      Note: You need a 1/4" Impact Driver (Drill) to drive in 4" deck screws. Something similar to a "Makita Model# XDT14Z".

      Strut Channel

      Photo: Strut Channel (strut_channel)

      I like to make my light bars out of STEEL strut channel. This allows me to hang things from them with STRONG magnets.

      Strut channel is relatively light weight. It is used to install electrical conduit in commercial and industrial buildings. Thus it is easy to obtain. It is available in the Electrical Dept at Home Depot, etc.

      Photo: 13/16 13/16″ Deep Strut Channel

      In the Home Depot world Strut Channel comes in two sizes. 13/16" deep or 1-5/8" deep.

      The 13/16" deep strut channel is less than 1" thick. Thus you can use it with most "Spring Clamps". The 1-5/8 deep strut channel is to deep for most "Spring Clamps".

      Thus I recommend 13/16" deep strut channel for light bars and cross bars. Don't worry it is strong enough to span an 8' area with no sagging. No problem.

      Goggle "Home Depot 13/16 Strut Channel"

      Note: 3/8" nuts and washers on a 3/8" threaded rod are a tight fit inside of 13/16" deep strut channel. Hard to install and tighten.

      Photo: 1-5/8 1-5/8″ Deep Strut Channel

      I would use 1-5/8" deep strut channel or wood 2×4 to hang the cross bars from the ceiling.

      13/16" deep strut channel is NOT deep enough to allow room for 3/8" nuts and washers shown in my drawings.

      Photo: Strut Washers (hd_strut_washer) Strut Washers

      Strut washers are square and thick. They easily span the opening in strut channel.

      In my drawings, I only use strut washers to span the opening in 1-5/8" deep strut channel. When it is used to hang the cross bars from the ceiling.

      Everywhere else, I used standard round 3/8" washers.

      Photo: Strut Spring Nuts (hd_strut_spring_nut) Strut Spring Nuts

      I DO NOT use the strut spring nuts they sell. They are real pain in the backside. The springs catch, thus you can't slide the nuts along to install them. The springs DO NOT fit in 13/15" deep strut channel.

      Make Your Own

      Photo: Make Your Own (CartoonStock_592461_CS269523_800)

      I often include step by step, make your own photos in my blog entries. Sorry, not this time. I made my light bars, a long time ago. I don't have any photos.

      Taking photos now is damn near impossible. Taking photos of anything up near the ceiling in my studio is hard, due to all the stuff up there. Dust collector pipe, air lines, electrical conduit, etc. and lots of bright florescent lights. I tried to make good drawings to make up for a lack of photos.