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TIKISKIP : How to make tiki light, Lamp 101

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Ok here is a new thread that will house most of the knowledge
about making tiki lights that through the years I have found, made up, dug up, ECT...
Not going to give up everything all at once.
And some I will keep to myself but in due time wish to post here.
Hope you like it and get something from it.
The TC / Tiki folks have been very cool to me so this is a small payback.

FIRST Electric:
You will need a Male plug rated for 120 volt 15 amp household current.
I try to get small ones made of rubber so they don't crack and are some what
water resistant. (see photo)(cost $2.30?)

You will allso need.
A socket, and wire. (Cost two sockets $4.67//// Wire $60.00 250 foot roll)
The socket shown is called a Candelabra base, The bulbs that go in them are
the C7 Christmas type light bulb and come in 4 watt and 7 watt you can get clear
or many other colors.
You can also use 15 to 25 watt exit lights that are clear in this size if you need more light.
Remember keep the wattage down if you can, this will save money and lower watt bulbs burn with
less heat, and less heat will make your light bulbs last longer plus less fire hazard.

The wire I use is 18 gauge flexible lamp cord brown, it is also called zip cord or just lamp cord.
As you can see I buy in bulk this costs a lot less you can get a roll like this at Grangers.
But I think you need to have a bussiness with tax ID to shop there.
You can get this cord at hardware stores it will cost more though, see if they will give a cost break
for buying a full roll.

"Roses are red, these floats are blue, Send me some money and they belong to you"..."TIKISKIP"

[ Edited by: tikiskip 2013-03-13 09:21 ]


Hey, thanks for having the gumption to divulge some knowlegde. You will have good vibes coming your way for sure. I'm looking forward to your posts. Adios

"I can hang this if I figure how to attach the top to the bottom"
Quote Gold Z.

Thanks Gold Z, The first light I will show here will be a basket light how to.
Tip.... you mount the basket not the hat.

More soon.

TIKISKIP lights worldwide, "over 200 made" next one to you.

[ Edited by: tikiskip 2013-11-02 02:57 ]


Ok let's move on.
You need to find the length cord you need.
Making the light set up lets you get the cord right to
the outlet you are using, and you don't need to settle
for a white cord.
Come on a white cord on a tiki light is a deal breaker. No white cords!
Now cut the ends of the wire and twist them so they are nice and neat.
Attach to the male plug and then the socket.
Make sure there are NO loose wires sticking out of the screw on the plug or the socket.
No need for a ground wire here.
See photos.

"Roses are red, these floats are blue, Send me some money and they belong to you"TIKISKIP"

[ Edited by: tikiskip 2012-12-12 13:30 ]


Let me know here, or PM me.
Ask now so you can get it right.
I had a friend who I showed how to wire lights.
So he wired some and then some time later he asked me to come to his bar and change
some light bulbs.
Well I unpluged the lights to change the bulbs and he said
"WOW that's a good idea"
I said what? and he said unpluging the light.
Why is that I asked?
Because I got shocked when I touched it.
That SOB was going to let me get shocked! He called me there so he would not get shocked.
When I looked at the fixture the wire was crammed next to the screw and wires everywhere
and bolted down that way!
This guy was way too old to do this, I thought he would know better.
So Ask, get it right!
This first part here is the important stuff.
Anyone can build a light, and anyone can burn down their house doing so.

TIKISKIP lights worldwide, "over 200 made" next one to you.

[ Edited by: tikiskip 2012-12-12 12:57 ]


And the super fine print on that socket says put the ribbed cord to the silver side terminal...


Never saw that Tim.
But then I buy those socekts 50 at a time so I don't get
the store packing most do.
But Tim refers to Electrical polarity, I don't know if that would make
a difference in a light fixture.
when I worked in the electric shop at OSU they never had us wire lights this way, in fact
the whole polerized wire thing came up in like the 80s?
That's why we have those plugs with the one prong that is fatter than the other.
Pain in the a$$ I say, all those years it was not a big deal.
But Tim is right, that's why you have the two screws that one is silver and one is brass.
Your wire is some times silver and one is brass as well.

Electrical polarityFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaJump to: navigation, search
Electrical polarity (positive and negative) is present in every electrical circuit. Electrons flow from the negative pole to the positive pole. In a direct current (DC) circuit, one pole is always negative, the other pole is always positive and the electrons flow in one direction only. In an alternating current (AC) circuit the two poles alternate between negative and positive and the direction of the electron flow continually reverses.

Thanks for the tutorial and I look forward to more. I love learning something new and I have never made a light so this can be fun!


Thanks littlegiles it is fun to make these lights.
I do make some money selling these lights but most
of that goes right back into tools.
Hope to see your first light posted right here one day.

TIKISKIP lights worldwide, "over 200 made" next one to you.

[ Edited by: tikiskip 2012-12-12 12:58 ]


Back at it.
Just a few more electric bs and we will get to the baskets.
These are two other types of sockets you casn use for your lights
the first is a standard base or also called a medium base you know
the type you have in your lamps at home.
The other is a C9 base or socket like old school Christmass lights
you would put on your house.
These are fine too but on the standard base don't go over 45 watts on
your bulb size the heat from more watts is no good.
Plus colored blubs burn much hotter as they have a coat on.
There are all kinds of attachments for your sockets and power cords.
Like inline dimmers these are VERY cool! I got a Shag and the picture light
was way too bright so one of these dimmers did the trick.
Plus when you put a dimmer on a light it lasts longer.
This is called under rating the bulb if you look at what they call long life bulbs
you will see that the voltage for that bulb is 130 volts, well household voltage is 120
so under rating that by 10 volts = long life.
The dimmer does the same thing.
You can see the in line on off switch, plus the other socket adapters that let you put
other bulbs in other sockets.
Know what these things are so you can bring them out to make your project work better.
I've seen a ton of lights that would look much better with the right bulb or just
dimmed down a bit.

Sorry if I'm getting ahead of you T.Skip....

An Underwriters knot

is a very good thing for hanging lamps. It helps to take the strain off the wire connections points.

If you can get the knot to fit inside of that plug connection putting one there is a good idea too.


Hey that ones good to know.
But.. I never hang lights by the cord as I'm
sure it's a code violation.
Some of my lights do go in businesses.
I always have a loop or hanger of some sort
that you can put a chain on.
But that knot is still a good idea.

TIKISKIP lights worldwide, "over 200 made" next one to you.

[ Edited by: tikiskip 2012-12-12 12:58 ]


See chains are not so bad.
Even if you use a rattan chain
on a lite light it would help keep
a light hanging especially if a ladder
or some other thing gets hung up in the light and pulls on it.
The right chain will add to the look of the light and be safer.

UPDATE: How to make Rattan chain how too here....


Lights for home and
commercial TIKI bars.

[ Edited by: tikiskip 2013-03-12 07:40 ]



Awesome thread, Skip! I get a lot of my chain from swag lamps friends find at the flea markets for around a $1. Brand new chain at the hardware store can be expensive ($1 or more per foot).


Good point KAHAKA!
You need to get all of your parts when you can.
Go out looking for a hat but find a basket.
Try to find chain and get hats.
Buy it all bring it home and wait till you have things that match.
Plus the old stuff is kronkie and rusted just right.
It can take years to find a hat basket that work together!
Or there is ebay, tpye chandelier chain in and see what you get, 16 pages today.
You can find some deals on ebay.


Ok so we are going to make the basket light first.
But what is a basket light?
The light can be large or small.
Most of the time it is nothing more than a basket with
a rattan hat on top.
People mostly find a basket and hat and put them together
to make this light.
But you can also make both the basket and the hat.
For this light we will use found objects, ie ones aready made.
On the big lights shown here you must make the hat as you will
never find one big enough.
Here are some basket lights I have made in the past.

Home made hat.

Home made hat.

Here are some hats and baskets that would be good
to make your light with.
And a few that would not work.
Why do you have sooo many?
You need to find just the right hat to go with just the right basket.
I have seen here that some people try to take the first basket and hat
they find and make a light even if the two items don't work together.
Don't do it! wait to find two that match.
Remember back when these bars were made the hats, baskets and rattan things
needed to make these lights were very popular so you could find them easily.
The first photo is of baskets that won't work.
Why? because they don't let light shine through the side you need a basket that
will let the light shine through.

Ok so remember those three baskets that would not work?
Well lookie here we can fix em!
If we take out some of the rattan.
And get rid of the ribon on the one basket these are
good to use.
In fact the on with the ribon is old school rattan.
You will find it's the hats that are hard to find
at least at a price low enough to buy.
These antique dealers think they are rare and worth $30.00 - $40.00 bucks.
Just wait you will find em.
But on that large ottoman you must make that hat.
What a cool light that will be!

This is the basket we will use.
Now let's find a hat for it.
The first one no not good.
Next, we can do better.
Last one,perfect!
This is the hat and basket we will use.


Very cool, Skip! Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us :)
It is pretty hard to get those hats and sometimes it will be a while before you get lucky and find one at thrift store or it will cost an arm and a leg trying to get them online.
You may be able to find several styles at Halloween store during the season or year-round Costume store you may have near you, they are a bit more pricey, about 6-8 bucks, but a great alternative if you don't want to wait.


Great thread tikiskip as i've been basket hunting for the hat I found. I know of 3 vintage ones in thrift/ant. stores and the highest is 75.00!! I have one from the spirit halloween store that will work and one that's either a hat or a ratan bowl liner. Still looks good.

You are right Lena.
But those hats are made with plastic binder cane.
So this means you can't flame the hat.
Plus the last time I used them they were $11.00 bucks each.
I like the old patina of the used hats too.
But if you need a matched set like I did for this light I made shown below
they work well.

And ka'lenatiki Just put the hat on and see if it works.
Like to see photos of your light when it's done.


On 2011-05-31 12:29, tikiskip wrote:
You are right Lena.
But those hats are made with plastic binder cane.
So this means you can't flame the hat.

Ahhhhh.. Good to know! :D



Hope all is well with you and Jim.


Things are good :) thank you for asking!
I have been working on a few things, keeping busy, mostly for the bar. Jim tries to make me keep everything I make, lol :)


I do miss some of my lights too.
But I sell almost all of them.
There is just no room for them all, to date I have made over 100 lights.

Now take a torch and lightly burn the basket, this will give it an old look
plus put some variation in the colors on the basket.
Don't go over board on the burning!
If you do go too far with the flame you can lightly sand it out
with steel wool or a light sand paper.
Here is the Basket after flaming.
Shown is the torch that I like to use , find at hardware store.

Next we need to put on the fire retardant, you can buy this at a place that
sells stuff for theatrical supplies, I would guess on line as well.
Just spray the basket well and let dry.
on thatch you would need to soak the thatch in the solution.
Then let it all dry.
On this date Flamex is $60.00 a gallon.

[ Edited by: tikiskip 2011-06-01 08:45 ]


Here is a link to a online source for flame retardant.
You need to use this stuff!

Applying Flamex

This is the most efficient method of impregnation. Immerse completely for complete saturation, and hang to dry. Some wrinkling and shrinkage of thin paper products or paper covers may occur

Using a wide lay-in brush, brush the Flamex solution into the fibers of the material being treated. Brush in the solution using a criss-crossing pattern to insure adequate absorption.

In a spray application, it is very important that an adequate amount of the Flamex be absorbed. In calculating the amount of solution needed, remember that a substantial portion of the spray will not fall on the material. Use a Hudson-type sprayer with a medium nozzle setting. To insure adequate penetration of Flamex allow material to dry after first application, then reapply a second time.

Over saturating the fabric may cause it to stiffen or otherwise alter its hand. ALWAYS treat a test sample to determine how the fabric will react and to test for effective flame retardance.

Certification and Testing
Flamex PC has been approved for use by the California and New York City Fire Marshall and has been tested according to NFPA 701.

[ Edited by: tikiskip 2014-02-13 16:23 ]

Fascinating thread Skip! I dunno if I'll try my hand at lamps soon but this is just too cool not to read! Great pix and info!


Thanks Sneaky.
I know you can do it, make a light and show it here.


You need to do the same to the hat as you did the basket.
Flame retardant, lightly flame.
At this time you are going to shellac the basket (outside only)
and shellac the hat outside and part of the inside.
Burning these will not only make them look older but also help them
to match better.
Shellacing makes them stronger helps protect them from water and dirt
it also helps to make these look more like they match.
Some people think that the shellac looks too shiny, if you don't want
this shiny look(it will dull through the years)
You can buff it out with steel wool when shellac dries.
See the last photo it is the shellac I use.
The one far right or the amber is the one I use most.
On the brushes I buy the cheap one dollar type.
Someone once asked me how I clean my brushes, I don't clean my brushes.
I just wrap them tite the in plastic film or cling wrap and put them in the fridg.
If you use the brush every now and then it won't dry out.
This brush is a year old.

Skip, here's a light you inspired me to make for my Lanai ceiling fan. Thanks for all the tips, I would have never thought to flame the basket first.

It turns out that a tuna can is just the right size to fit into the ceiling fan globe holder. I attached the light socket to the bottom of the can, cut a hole on the bottom of the basket, then glued and screwed the can to the basket.

The tapa cloth is stretched across a bamboo embroidery hoop and screwed into the basket so it can be removed to change the bulb

I'm diggin' your thread here tikiskip - good tip about wrapping your brushes and refrigerating them. Also, good point about finding a basket and hat that match. Your photos clearly illustrate what you mean.

How well do those tiger flakes work? I had to google that (never heard of it)... interesting that you can mix your own.
-Trad'r Bill

[ Edited by: Trad'r Bill 2011-06-03 12:58 ]


Great job Mike!!
I love your idea about the bamboo rings.
Next I will show how to paper that basket for an even golw.

Thanks Bill I wanted a lot of eye candy on this thread.
On the flakes try and think of other uses for the flakes
other than just making Shellac out of them.
But you can just mix in with shellac to tint it more.


Here is my collection of bamboo embroidery hoops.
I think mine may be ash wood.
But as you see they cost nothing at the thrift stores.
Plus you can use them for guides for circles.


We need to reinforce the hat.
You will put Elmers glue on the inside on the tip.
And on the outside on the tip about 2" long.
See photo.

Now cut some paper for the top like so.
As you can see I put a nice frilly burn in the circle.
Let the first glue dry then add glue to the back of the
paper circle and to the tip of the hat.

Put paper circle on top of hat as seen.
trim extra paper off of the top of hat.
there will be too much.
When dry shellac top.

This will help keep all that small cane together for later.


If there is a hard or confusing part to making this light
this is it.
pick out your paper, you can get art paper or hand made paper
at an art supply store.
They are not cheap starting at $5.00 a sheet.
Find one that looks like it will transmit light well and look good.
You could practice with news paper so you won't waste good $5.00 dollar paper.
Then place basket on the paper and cut out the round bottom
plus put basket on it's side and trace the basket as you roll
the basket from left to right.
You will need the extra as you will trim and cut it down to
size over and over till it fits just right.
The last photo is what the cut outs from your paper should look like.

[ Edited by: tikiskip 2011-06-04 12:55 ]


You are going to take the round paper piece and place it in
the bottom of the basket, keep cuting it down till you have about
1/4 of an inch too much on sides.
Now cut 1/4 of an inch into the paper, now bend that up 90 degrees.
Put gule on botton of basket and on the ends of the paper.
next do the side the same way, keep puting the paper piece in the basket
and eyeing it make sure the bottom part of the side paper has no gaps.
Cut the 90 degrees into the side paper.
It is best to put the paper in the basket all at once.
Don't let some dry, then go back to it as you may need to lift the paper
and reajust many times.
You can't do this if it's dry.


Cut the paper straight on one side so you can form the seam.
Then put glue on the part you just cut.
press the other uncut side onto the glued seam side.
Lift the uncut paper up and cut close on the right side of the glue.
So you leave the glue side on the basket, the gule acts as a guide to show
you where to cut.
Now put the seam together.
Before the glue dries pry up the extra paper on the seam hold the basket up to the
light so you can see how much paper is sticking together, your goal here is to have
a small seam so you pry the extra paper up to a 90 degree so you can cut extra off
when it dries.
Finish the top with 1/4 inch cuts in the paper after you trim extra.
When glue dries on the top cut off extra as well.

Thank you for this great tutorial Tikiskip! Lots of great tips already. I am sure that its a lot more work for you to explain everything than it is to just do it. I am curious as to why you don't shellac the inside? Conserving materials? or does it interfere with the glue or something? Thanks again for sharing your knowledge.


On 2011-06-13 08:52, Trader Mitch wrote:
Thank you for this great tutorial Tikiskip! Lots of great tips already. I am sure that its a lot more work for you to explain everything than it is to just do it. I am curious as to why you don't shellac the inside? Conserving materials? or does it interfere with the glue or something? Thanks again for sharing your knowledge.

Yeah it makes it kind of a pain to take pic's then post the whole how to thing.
And my grammar sucks.
I have shellaced the whole basket before, just don't do it now cuz I'm lazy.
But it is better to do the whole thing.
If you do do the inside of the basket as well be sure to look for drips on the outside
of the basket as you stain this stuff dries fast so look for drips often.
It is best to glue onto rattan unstained but it is fine to stain then glue after stain.
Gule holds better to porous wood, bamboo, rattan.

Kinda hit the hard part on this light and did not post the end yet.
Have a small surgery tomorrow.
Will finish if they don't kill me first.

Oh, and thank you Trader Mitch for your kind words.
Glad you like.

Keep up the good work TikiSkip, I appreciate you willingness to divulge your "trade secrets".

If you line a basket with fabric (like a cotton tapa print), can you shellac the fabric for some extra protection from the elements for outside use?

I have never used shellac on fabric so I don't know.
You would need to do a test first.
A clear coat paint could be used, or you could seal it with
Elmers glue first then shellac.
All of these apps would need to be tested first.
Putting these lights outside is kinda hard on them.


I used shellac on burlap. I dunno how I feel about it. It stiffened it, but harder to control.


On 2011-06-16 07:06, spiked wrote:
I used shellac on burlap. I dunno how I feel about it. It stiffened it, but harder to control.

That burlap looks wicked there! I imagine that you would shellac the fabric or burlap after it were in place.


On 2011-06-16 08:56, tikiskip wrote:

On 2011-06-16 07:06, spiked wrote:
I used shellac on burlap. I dunno how I feel about it. It stiffened it, but harder to control.

Now that looks cool! Mine is smaller "weave", bigger one looks much better. Where did you find that type? I got mine @ Joann's.. :P

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