Surveyed Enlightenment: Vintage Tripod Lamp

Surveyed Enlightenment: Vintage Tripod Lamp

A couple of years ago, a local beloved store (We Took to the Woods) had a FANTASTIC “yard sale” which was more like a fancy flea market. At this sale, I bought two things- a pretty antique picture frame and a very cool, very trendy vintage surveyor’s tripod. Cottonball was intensely fascinated by the tripod from the start, and he briefly thought about a surveying career.

Cottonball cat looking at vintage surveyor telescope tripod to be repurposed into a floor lamp /

Inspector Cottonball.

I always knew that the tripod would eventually become a lamp. They are all the rage, and can cost upwards of $500. I mean, who has that kind of cash laying around for a floor lamp? Ok, maybe lots of people do- but I don’t!

So my vintage tripod hung out in our garage, patiently waiting its turn. This post contains affiliate links for your crafting convenience.

Vintage surveyor telescope tripod to be repurposed into a standing floor lamp by Sadie Seasongoods /

Build me, build me, build me…!

Well, as luck would have it, our current floor lamp broke down in the oddest of ways recently- the concrete  base (tucked inside an ornate metal stand) came loose and started crumbling everywhere! We got rid of it and the tripod quickly moved to the top position in our project queue.

We’ve built lamps before, so it wasn’t our first lighting rodeo. But there was a problem- the large hole at the top of the tripod- where the lamp kit needs to go- was a gaping hole, way too big for a lamp nipple.

Vintage surveyor telescope tripod to be repurposed into a standing floor lamp by Sadie Seasongoods /

A hole to fill…

Jon knew he had to build a “plug” for it- something to fill the wide hole so that the electrical kit could be secured in place. We cleaned out the tripod hole (it was coated in vintage goo- fun!) and we bought a wooden dowel, slightly larger in diameter than the tripod hole. Jon then sanded down one end of the dowel to the point that it barely fit in the tripod.

DIY Floor lamp by repurposing a vintage surveyor or telescope wooden tripod by Sadie Seasongoods /

Sanding the dowel…

After sanding down enough dowel to fill the tripod hole, he cut off the “plug” and drilled a hole through the center . This was no easy task without cracking the small plug in half- fair warning! Then, we inserted a reducer for the lamp nipple.

DIY vintage surveyor tripod floor lamp /

Perfect plug!

He then hammered the plug into the tripod (a perfectly snug fit!) and screwed in a lamp nipple.

Repurposing a vintage surveyor's tripod into a trendy industrial floor lamp by Sadie Seasongoods /

Ready to be electrified!

A few minutes later, he had wired the socket into place and we had a functioning lamp!! Now all I needed was to do something about the hanging cord and to buy the perfect shade.

Cottonball with our vintage surveyor telescope wooden tripod industrial floor lamp /


To make the lamp neater, I wanted to gently secure the cord along one of the legs. I decided a staple gun was too risky and too semi-permanent, but the staples themselves were the perfect hardware for the job.

Hiding the cord on our vintage surveyor tripod floor lamp by Sadie Seasongoods /

These suckers don’t separate easily…

Using my funfetti craft hammer, I lightly tapped them into the tripod leg. The staples “bridged” the cord in place without hard-clamping it down.

Hiding the cord on our vintage surveyor tripod floor lamp by Sadie Seasongoods /

Hammering staples- that’s a new one for me.

And ta-da it worked beautifully- no more draping cord!

DIY industrial floor lamp using a repurposed upcycled vintage wooden surveyor or telescope tripod by Sadie Seasongoods /


All in all, a complete success- I only wish we hadn’t waited so long to make it because it really is fantastic. AND it was nowhere nearly as costly as the versions in hip home décor stores. Yard sales + DIY = stylish savings, which is ALWAYS trendy.

Craft on!


PIN ME!DIY industrial floor lamp using a repurposed upcycled vintage wooden surveyor or telescope tripod by Sadie Seasongoods /


  1. Fantastic light….looks light it came straight out of the Pottery Barn catalog!

  2. I love this! Great work and thanks for sharing at Think & Make Thursday!

  3. It’s really amazing to see vintage tripod and also your post is quite interesting to read.

  4. This is so beautiful and so clever. Thanks for sharing.


  5. distresseddonna says:

    Such a clever way to hack an expensive lamp.

  6. This is beautiful! I want one!

  7. First of all, this is such a neat piece! Second of all, your CATS are cracking me up!!! Third of all…Thanks so much for coming by the #HomeMattersParty – we hope to see you again next week!

  8. Diana Rambles says:

    This is awesome!

  9. I love the lamp! I bought an old tripod like that at an auction about a year ago. I’ve wanted to make it into a lamp but didn’t know where to start. Thanks for sharing yours so I have something to show my husband! Have a great week.

  10. Really cool<3 Great job! I Gotta try making one of these!!!!

  11. Love it! I bought a surveyors tripod last summer with the same plan in mind, but it just seemed to big to tackle (I, unlike you, have not assembled a lamp before!). You’ve de-mystified the process and maybe now I’ll give it a try. Mine’s out in the freezing cold garage, so I may wait for it to warm up a bit 🙂

  12. Very cool transformation. I love it.

  13. I’m loving these tripod lamps but you are right, they can be expensive. Yours turned out beautifully and it looks like a million bucks!

  14. Such a great lamp, love the wood on the tripod. I also adore the door plate art on the wall. Thanks for linking up!

  15. Love your DIY tripod lamp! I’m featuring this tomorrow at Your Turn To Shine. Thank you for linking up with us every week, Sarah!

  16. What a neat idea! I really like Inspector Cottonball 🙂

  17. What a great idea with the piece of wood. The lamp looks amazing!!. Visiting from Someday Crafts!!

  18. Fantastic job! I wish I could find one of these! My dad has all the new ones, but they’re definitely not as cool! Featuring this tomorrow for Think & Make Thursday! Cheers!

  19. Love your new tripod lamp. I’ve seen these go for big bucks.

  20. I love this lamp! Thanks for stopping by and linking up at Totally Terrific Tuesday!

  21. Sharon | Her Organized Chaos says:

    WOW this is incredible! I really love this lamp and really wish I have it for my home! Pinning and sharing! Thanks for linking this up to Totally Terrific Tuesday last week. I can’t wait to see what you have this week! Party goes live tonight at 9pm CST!


  22. Love it. Great job.

  23. What a great project!!!!!!!!! Visiting from Renovar Design!

  24. This look fabulous. I would love a lamp like this. Thanks for linking up with Wordless Wednesday.
    Co-host Julie

  25. I love your vintage tripod lamp and it turned out fabulous. Thanks so much for linking up to our Something to Talk About Link Party and sharing it here. Hope you join us again tomorrow morning n have a great week xo Lisa at Concord Cottage

  26. says:

    I bought 4 of these about 8 years ago with the same idea in mind. I gave one of them to my son who is a wood worker in hopes that he might get a lamp made quicker than me. So glad I saw your directions! I sent them on to him.

  27. Jann Olson says:

    my hubby is an engineer and I picked up a vintage tripod hoping to do something like this. Thanks for sharing with SYC.

  28. Gretchen Mercer says:

    Sadie, I am thrilled to find this! My husband, now 68, grew up working for a surveyor while in high school, and after college he joined the surveyor in his business. Eventually he bought it out and had his own business for about 40 years. I had to insist he keep his old wooden tripod! He just couldn’t see any value in having it. I’d seen these lamps in upscale catalogs…wanted one for him but just couldn’t justify the cost. So, we’ve been waiting for him to “find the time” to figure out how to turn it into a lamp. YAH! Now, he has everything he needs to know. Thank you!

    • says:

      Thank you, Gretchen! My husband had a big part in putting this together so I read your comment to him- we’re both so happy that you found my blog and I hope you’ll let me know how your lamp turns out!!

  29. What size shade did you use?

    • says:

      I don’t recall exactly, but it’s about 16″ across the top and about 11″ tall. Not sure of the diameter at the bottom (it’s not a perfect drum- slightly narrower at the top).

  30. Is Cottonball for hire? I have numerous projects where I could use an independent inspector … Yeah, I thought not.
    Anyway, great idea. I took a semester of surveying. Although those tripods were not wood, an old one could still be used for a lamp and probably easier than ensuring it was accurate for surveying.

  31. says:

    try eBay


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