Monday, October 25, 2010
Mannequin Leg Lamp
The 1983 movie A Christmas Story supplied the idea for this project when I happened upon a ladies mannequin leg at a local store. To clarify, the leg was for sale and I did pay for it.
So, in the movie A Christmas Story the father is awarded a leg lamp for winning a contest. Technically, the winning answer is supplied by his wife and when the prize shows up she is less than enthusiastic about it. But, the father is quite smitten with the leg lamp and the movie takes place in the 1940's so it's all good.
Here, I have just found and purchased the leg. As you can see, I am quite happy with the find.
I took the leg shoe shopping. Although I didn't find any shoes there to fit I did get some good information. The ladies at the store, who got a good laugh out of shoe shopping for a mannequin leg, said I would need a size 6, 4" heel. I suspect it is closer to a 6" heel that would be necessary.
A local thrift store had these shoes available. Not a perfect match for the lamp in the movie or even a good match for the leg as it needs a higher heel but the size was right and so was the $3.60 price tag.
Halloween seems to be a good time to make one of these lamps as body parts and costume clothes are necessary ingredients. The stockings came from a seasonal Halloween shop. Sexay...
Here you can see the leg manufacture info it says RPM Industries, INC Shoe Form Division Auburn, NY. The designation #W-47 is probably the model number. You can also see that I have added a piece of poplar wood with a clearance hole for the lamp parts about to be installed.
With the parts from a donor lamp installed I could run the power cord. I drilled a clearance hole in the leg approximately in between the inferior extensor retinaculum would be if this were a human leg. Once threaded through the interior of the leg I tied a knot in the cord for strain relief. Then I wired the bulb socket so that the center conductor was the AC "hot" wire and the threaded part was the AC "neutral".
One of the things I was struggling with design wise was how to mount the leg in the shoe on a base so that it will stand up and not wobble around. I thought that a shoe like the one I found would be enough to strap it down and in the end it was ok, but I was a bit disappointed to find that the strap has a piece of elastic on it. So, as it stands now, I have screwed the sole of the shoe to the base and have a little riser temporarily to make up for the slightly short heel. The base of the lamp is a piece of locally reclaimed black walnut. For now it is unfinished but I will pretty it up one day.
The stockings are infuriatingly difficult to stuff in the end of the shoe against the slippery plastic mannequin leg. You can also see the local black walnut base here.
Here is the nearly finished product. As you can see it is not an exact replica of the one in the movie. For instance, my shade with the added tassels is a bit different and the leg in the movie was, um, meatier? But, differences aside, anyone who as seen it thus, far immediately recalls the movie A Christmas Story.
This is by no means a project of great technical achievement, but it was a heck of a lot of fun to build. There is something to be said for spontaneous projects. I did not set out to build or own one of these lamps - or any lamp at the time, but I found the leg and had a few hours to kill.
In the movie the father uses the words "glorious" and "magnificent" to describe his lamp and if I am honest with myself, truer words could not describe this lamp. I find myself looking at it with satisfaction and sometimes turning it on just to have it on. The pictures, unfortunately, do not do it justice.