How to turn a vintage sconce into a wood DIY wall sconce (2022)

Do you have an old house with old light fixtures that you want to replace? Are those light fixtures sconce lighting?

Here’s a DIY hack offered to inspire a great idea or two for your old light sconces.

Plus! Bring your vintage sconces into the 21st century by adding wifi bulbs. Tips below.

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I created this project to update our 100+ year old vintage sconces. Now, instead of frosted globes and harsh light, we have custom wood wall sconce shades that provide a warm glow.

Vingate brass sconce with frosted glass globle.

Any DIY upcycle project will be its own kind of challenge – and reward. What shows below is less a step tutorial and more an inspiration for your unique wall sconces.

Assess your sconce

First, figure out what you’re working with. Remove the shade and other removable parts to get down to the essential light fixture on your wall.

Our fixtures have a brass arm that extends out. At the end of it is a part that resembles a crown with a brass socket cup in the middle of it. The glass globe that used to be a part of this sconce fit inside the crown.

I used the lip at the base of the crown as a shelf that holds the 1/4″ piece of wood, turning the wood into a mounting plate for the top part of my shade.

1/4″ thick wood that became the mounting plate for the top part of the shade.


Determine the right shape for your shade

We are not alone. Many DIYers are figuring out DIY wall sconces!

Here are 20 ideas from Little Lovelies, and 10 more ideas from DIY Craftsy. You’ll find DIY industrial sconces, sconces made out of mason jars and cardboard tubes, wireless sconces that use LED puck lights, and more.

After much research and some trial and error, I settled on a simple cube design that felt balanced.

The cube shape worked well with the round and arrow shapes in our sconce.

Choose a color

My goal was to create wood wall sconces that light could shine through, leading me to explore super light and thin craft balsa wood.

Balsa wood is a light blonde color; I needed it darker. I wiped on a few rounds of General Finishes Gel Stain in Prairie Wheat to get the color I needed.

Cut pieces and assemble

The cube required 1/16″ balsa wood sheets, 1/4″ thick balsa wood sticks, and the 1/4″ scrap wood to mount everything on. I spent a couple of hours making seven wood wall sconce shades.

  • 1 front piece – 6″ wide x 6″ high sheet
  • 2 side pieces – 4″ wide x 6″ high sheet
  • 2 supports – 5-3/4″ long 1/4″ sticks
  • 1 mounting piece – 4″ deep by 6″ long 1/4″
Gluing balsa sticks into place to support a front and side panel.

I used a 2″ hole saw drill bit to drill a hole at the center of the bottom 1/4″ piece and cut the balsa wood to size with an X-acto knife.

Next step is gluing the bottom of the front and side pieces to the front and side edges of the bottom piece.

Finally, I used hot glue (you can use wood glue, Gorilla glue, etc.) to attach the balsa sticks into the inside corners to hold each side piece to either end of the front piece.

(Hot glue sets fast. If you haven’t used it before, here’s a good tutorial.)

Add wireless bulbs (optional)

For old lights here’s a genius idea: create wireless sconces.

We used to turn each sconce on and off individually. Wifi bulbs let us control all of our 100 year old (!) sconces with a phone app. We can even dim these old lights (video below)!

There are many different ways to turn this easy DIY wall sconce into a wireless wall sconce. To get started, check out Android Authority’s post about hub-less smart bulbs.

Let there be light!

Our sconces look and work great in our living room, dining room and over a faux fireplace.

The next best part and benefit of easy DIY lighting projects like this: no electrical work! No turning off power at the electrical box! No messing with electrical wiring (and possibly creating fire hazards)!

More upcycle projects

The great thing about upcycling is that it inspires some of the best ideas for DIY projects. Examples: