In September, we were hosting a gathering of family and friends after Mary’s paternal grandmother’s funeral, and one of my mother-in-law’s good friends who was helping set up accidentally walloped the lamppost attempting to back up the driveway. It’s a bit of a feat in itself – the post isn’t exactly right next to the driveway (it’s 3 feet off and down a hill) – but it took a shot and down it went. Fortunately, while it looks pretty bad here in this picture, it’s a tough-as-nails vintage Progress Lighting fixture and post made of cast aluminum and extra thick glass. Bruised and battered? Yes. Ready for the trash heap? We’ll see. So off to work I went.
The first steps were to dismantle the light itself. I have done this before – as a matter of fact, this light is the one I cleaned up in the spring. But even then there were a few nagging issues I had – first of all, the base for the chimney shade had previously come loose, allowing the bulb to wiggle. Second, the post itself was not quite plumb. My grandfather was a pretty particular dude, so I am assuming that he put it in plumb and perhaps it shifted or was tapped later on. I had also been planning to update the fixture to include a daylight sensor. I originally had this fancy master plan of lights that I could control from my Smartphone, but then Robert over at Live Better Electrically casually pointed out that for $8 I could just have the lights turn on at dark all the time. I wisely took his sage advice.
My efforts at repair focused in two different directions – first I needed to get the light fixture itself back in fighting shape. Separately I also needed to either get the post usable again or replace it with one that was and re-set it in the ground. I first went down to the local hardware store and grabbed a new post, as I thought the original was a goner. I grabbed a pick mattock and shovel and got to digging out the concrete base of the beaten post. It took an hour or two of digging and working it, but I did successfully get everything out of the ground.
Upon closer inspection, I realized that the post, while battered, was much nicer than any post I could find today – first of all, it’s an adjustable height post, so it comes in two primary pieces – a nice feature. Second, the visible portion of the post is actually slipped over a smaller diameter “stub” that you set in the concrete. I also was able to discern that the damage to the stub was very clean – right at the point it entered the concrete, and that there was still a lot of “stub” sticking above ground – enough that I could potentially reuse it. With a little trickery using the vice on the workbench to hold things in place, I managed to pull about 12 inches of the stub back out, restoring the previous length encased in concrete. With a little paint and a new hole to place in a daylight sensor, the post was back in business.
The fixture itself was a little more work. Since I had to take it apart anyways, I was determined to put in the extra work to get it all fixed up correctly. This involved some creative methods to bend and flatten out the aluminum. I replaced the lamp socket so it would be correctly mounted and purchased a replacement chimney glass enclosure. Fortunately only one pane of glass in the light broke, and only broke in three places. I searched high and low for the glass, but it is apparently not produced any longer and therefore pretty much impossible to find. One day I will come across a pane of it, but for now I glued the three pieces back together and in all honesty unless you are next to the fixture it’s pretty difficult to tell the pane is cracked.
Some tips about fixing aluminum – if you want have a ding or a dent, place the piece on a solid surface (concrete), then get a block of wood and place it on the opposite side and hit that with a hammer. It will smooth the dent or ding. Not completely, but significantly. To get the frame correctly bent, I clamped it to the workbench and carefully worked it until it was close to square again. It’s also important to note that all of the accessory parts – lamp sockets, nuts, tubes, etc, are all still available and easily purchased.
So with everything now fixed, I went about setting the post back in the ground – making sure it was plumb – and put the freshly painted, freshly cleaned, daylight sensor-enabled fixture and post back into production.
Turns out the results were so good, I got ambitious and went through all of the exterior lights and got them cleaned up and set up with daylight sensors as well. So now we have a bunch of great looking exterior lights that automatically turn on at dusk and off at dawn. Since we use LED bulbs in all of the fixtures, it costs about $25 a year to run all of them.
Here’s all of the newly refurbished fixtures both in progress and completed: