Off the Shelf vs. Do it Yourself: Riveted Metal Table Lamps

Off the Shelf vs. Do it Yourself: Riveted Metal Table Lamps

Dabney Frake
May 29, 2013

You might have seen riveted metal lamps kicking around online lately. Made by Target and Circa Lighting, they run you $49.99 (without the shade) and $672 respectively (both are pictured below the jump). Ordinarily I would include these in a "Get it for Less" post, but this time I thought I'd take it a step further and try to make my own. Keep on clicking to see my version, along with a tutorial on how to do it yourself.

All in all, this version ran me about $34, including the lampshade. I didn't have any of the materials (except the tin) to begin with, but you might find an old lamp to disassemble and re-use. I think it's also possible to do this project with faux rivets. If you don't want to invest in a rivet tool, glue down the metal instead, and insert some small 4mm brads to get a similar studded look. But this is what I did:


  • Tin Canister with Lid (need not be X-mas themed with an angel on the front)
  • Aluminum Flashing; $5.94  
  • Lamp Kit; $10.29, or find an old lamp to disassemble
  • 1/8" Pop Rivets; $5.24  
  • Tape
  • Lampshade (this one was $3 from Goodwill)


  • Drill with Bits
  • Scissors (a pair you don't care about)
  • Pen or Marker
  • Rivet Tool; $9.97
  • Measuring Tape and/or Ruler


1. Measure the distance around the tin canister, and make a note of it. Then, measure its height and divide by four. These are the two dimensions of the metal sheets that will cover the lamp base. 

2. Measure out four pieces of the aluminum flashing and cut them out with the scissors. Careful! The edges of the metal are very sharp and it's easy to cut yourself.

3. Wrap each piece of metal around the canister and tape into place. Twist until the seams are where you'd like them to be.

Tip: Don't place the tape in the corners. It's harder to get the tape off later, once the rivets are in.

4. Once the metal sheets are taped and in place, mark with a pen where the rivets should go on each corner. Using your drill (and a bit slightly larger than 1/8"), make holes in each of the corners. 

5. Now you're ready for the rivets. First, make sure that you have the correct head on your rivet tool; most come with several sizes. Insert the nubby end of a rivet through the first hole, leaving the longer end sticking out. Insert the rivet all the way into the rivet tool and squeeze the handle. You might have to do this a couple of times before you hear a click. 

Tip: The tool will automatically clip off the long metal piece after the rivet is in place. Make sure you empty out the rivet tool head after each rivet, before you start the next one. Any excess metal in the head will mess up the process going forward.

6. Do the same thing for the remaining holes.

7. Once all the rivets are done, drill two more holes: one in the middle of the lid, large enough to fit the nipple from the lamp kit, and a second at the base of the tin, large enough for the lamp cord to feed through.

Tip: If the hole you drill doesn't come out clean, take a pair a pliers to it and bend back the edges a little bit until the nipple fits inside the hole. Don't worry if it's not pretty. Other parts from the lamp kit will cover it up.

8. Cover the canister and lid with several coats of gold spray paint. 

9. Secure the socket base (from the lamp kit) to the lid of the canister, then feed the lamp cord through the hole in the base and up through. Wire the socket, according to instructions on the packaging, or using this post for reference.   

Note: If your chosen lamp shade needs a harp, you'll need to purchase that attachment separately.

10. Screw in a lightbulb, attach the lamp shade, and you're good to go.

(Images: Dabney Frake)

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