Monday, July 7, 2014

How To Build A Glass Globe Totem

In July of 2012 I built these two glass totems.

They became pretty popular on Pinterest and Hometalk and have generated a LOT of questions over the last two years. 

I've been promising inquiring minds that I would add a new post with enhanced directions.

I have added a few new globes to my collection - enough to build a third tower.

Now I can see one from my upstairs bedroom window. It makes me smile.

If you're a check the pictures and run type of blog reader, you can probably stop here...

I've taken a gob of pictures - hopefully enough to help answer past questions and clear up some of the confusion.

So here we go...

Gather your globes

Globes need two holes.  Typically globes have one large opening and one small 1/2 inch hole.

Sometimes globes, usually those from a lamp base, have two large openings.

Gather your lamp parts

Lamp parts are all the metal pieces that supported the globe in its former life.

Paint them to match.

Lots of the lamp parts - particularly the thin brassy ones - will rust heavily. Painting helps prevent this.  Paint the outside and the inside. 

Get your rebar

Use 3/8 inch  rebar because it will go through practically all of the small holes in lamp pieces and globes.

If you have lots of pieces with large openings you can use 1/2 inch rebar. You will have to adjust your lamp pieces by drilling the holes with a 1/2 drill bit. Be very careful. Drilling a small metal circle with a powerful drill can cause some problems.

I used 10 foot rebar for my tall towers and 4 foot for the short tower. Tall towers require the rebar to be at least 4 feet into the ground.

Set up your base for the planter

I used a paver base for the large round planter. 

Set up your planter 

Set it on your pavers or level ground.

Insert the rebar 

Get it as vertically level as possible. The very slightest lean will be exaggerated by the weight of the glass pieces. 

Fill up the planter with dirt

In this tall narrow planter I did not use pavers on the ground or under the base of the totem. I did use at least three clay pots in the center though.

FYI - the 1/2 rebar was MUCH easier to get into the ground without leaning.

Slip the base piece onto the rebar and settle it level

Plant flowers in the planter if desired.

This is Purslane. I LOVE Purslane. It's almost a succulent. The flowers open up in the daytime and close up about 6 p.m.

Add your globes!

The bottom of the tower should be supported by a base with a large opening. Use a flat lamp piece underneath the globe to protect the edges.

Notice I did not paint this base. Silly me. Just so you'll know - these heavier metal pieces don't rust like the thinner brassy pieces.

Start adding globes alternating with lamp pieces, making sure to match large opening with large opening and small hole to small hole.


Add the top piece. 

This can be a globe with just one opening, so the top is solid, or you can use a decorative lamp piece to top off the tower like I did on the short one.

Then you're all done!

A few notes:

Notice in the short tower I have the large piece in the middle - for several reasons. One, I hated the way the painted clear globe turned out so I was trying to make it less conspicuous.  Two, the large "wrought iron" globe is plastic so it wasn't heavy. Three, it had very small holes and when I tried to drill them bigger (so I could put it on the bigger tower) the plastic broke into a bunch of pieces. I'm trying to protect it from breaking into a million pieces.

  • I did not light these at all. There are ways you could contrive this if you so desire. It's not that important to me.
  • The first year I made these I used pavers under each one for leveling. I opted not to do it on all of them this time because some of the planters were heavy enough to stabilize on their own.
  • Notice there IS NO GLUE on this totem. It is not necessary at all. This gives it flexibility and really protects the glass when it shifts in the wind etc.
  • The glass has made it through some early snows, but I take these down every winter. That way I can get out the spider webs and clean the globes in the dishwasher so they are ready for next year. I leave the rebar in the ground over the winter.
  • In my opinion these are fine for very windy environments. I lived in Oklahoma for 30 years and I know windy. If you build them as I have shown, they should be fine. I don't think they would withstand a tornado or hurricane, but we'll keep our fingers crossed that nothing like that will happen.
  • If you are having a hard time with a particular spot in the rebar catching on your globe or lamp parts,  you can file down the vertical ridges on the rebar. This can reduce the size just enough to make things fit easier.
  • I've been asked a lot if you can just use a globe with one opening and drill a hole in the other side. Feel free to experiment with this if you like, but most of the small holes on the globe are reinforced and/or thicker than the glass you find on those light covers that I suspect they are talking about. Also - a 1/2 inch hole is pretty big to drill in glass. 
  • Keep your mind open when looking for globes. The two new pieces I have that look like wrought iron were things that had to be adapted. The smaller one was two separate lights put together and the larger one was a hideous plastic ball filled with fake ferns. It was designed to just hang for decoration. Gad!
  • Purslane is considered by the Dept of Agriculture a noxious weed. In warmer climates they are perennial and also grow in the ground where they land after they have broken off the plant. They are considered a succulent herb and actually have some great nutritional benefits. They contain high levels of Omega 3s - higher than any other plant source. You can read more about it here
  • There is a small chance I left out some juicy tidbit of information so you might need to check out my first post here.
And finally - I've also heard from many people that they were going to make one of these for their garden. 

I want your pictures!

Send them to me please!

Have a great week (and I hope you had a great July 4)!



Kirby Carespodi said...

Very cool project and an EXCELLENT tutorial! (Of course, I expected nothing less!) Great job, Karen!!

fiona anderson said...

Loved these the first time round, still love them now.
I probably mentioned before that I'd like to make some but I've neglected to collect any globes (oops) I'll have to try harder.
Thanks for the great tutorial ! said...

Your totem is very cool! Visiting from Haven Mavens 14. Hope to meet you in Atlanta!

Anonymous said...

Those are really cool! I haven't seen any on Pinterest yet but I am sure yours would be one of the very best! Very interesting and shows off your personality and invention!

Gigi @ Old World Patina

Tina@WhatWeKeep said...

Still fun!

Marie-Interior Frugalista said...

These are absolutely gorgeous Karen. I am definitely pinning this idea. BTW, love the new look of your blog - so pretty!
Marie@The Interior Frugalista

Art and Sand said...

I love them and you make it look so easy. Maybe even I can make one.

Little Miss Maggie said...

I love these lamp totem poles but I think your new one with the black, clear and green is my favorite. Great tutorial, Karen.

Christine @ Rustic-Refined said...

Holy cow I am sooo stalking your blog now! I love your garden totems. Yours are dramatic and huge!!! not to even go into how beautiful! (unlike all those teensy ones everyone is trying to pass off.

Love this, posting it to my twitter and pinterest accounts as well as SU!! You have a new follower now too :-) (told ya I was gonna stalk ya) LOL

Bliss said...

You have the finest totems around.

Unknown said...

Gorgeous!!! How very beautiful everything looks! How I love the big bucket of flowers. I can look at your garden, and your beautiful home all day. It makes me happy!

Robin said...

YES! This is such a great tutorial on your oh so creative totems! :) Thanks so much for linking up with us at Twirl and Take a Bow! ox

~ Dixie said...

So clever and beautiful!

Unknown said...

OMG - I need a couple of these in my garden Karen - these are spectacular pieces of art !!!
Pinning now - I'm in awe - really I am !

Carole said...

Hi Karen, just stopped by to let you know you've been featured today over at Carole's Chatter. Cheers

Jjoan said...

Have had globes in yard, garden for yrs. Never thought to stack them! GREAT IDEA! wish I had thought of it. lol

Deb Victory said...

Made a tower for my garden and absolutely love it. I'm currently working on another one. Have you thought up any interesting projects using the discarded lamp harps. I know have about 20 harps and would love to turn them into something exciting.

Thanks so much.

Anonymous said...

How does the totem survive the winters? I am in Georgia and we do freeze.

Natalie Thiele said...

I have been thinking about building one for several years.. I noticed the same thing you did regarding hideous, glass lamp bases. The people who sell them think they are precious and price them accordingly. Thank you for the invaluable insights and tips.

Wilna Neethling-Smith said...

How wonderfully quirky. Just what a garden needs. An element of surprise and fun all in one. I love gardens that surprise and delight at the same time, well done to you.

BeadlesAz said...

I’m a bit late to this party but am collecting globes for a tower. A couple questions:

1. Do I insert the rebar 4’ into the ground? Got a bit confused as I didn’t see that in the step by step directions.

2. A couple of my globes are painted. Would it help to clear coat them with something?

Thank you,
Teresa Davis

Anonymous said...

I just found this tutorial online and what a cool project! We have a thrift store in our small town called "Swap Shop" and it's all donation. Nothing is priced, you take what you want and leave a donation. I have seen many beautiful old glass lamps come through there but thought what would I do with them? Now i know so I will be on the look out for those beautiful old lamps and maybe by next summer I can create one for my yard. If you ever come to northwest ks. check out the swap shop in Hoxie, Ks. Thank you for your detailed tutorial!


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