The "CMA Light"

Last time, I talked about some of the places I use to come up with ideas for stage designs. Today, I’ll share with you one of my adaptations. We called these “CMA Lights” because I saw something like them on the CMA Awards show a few months ago. This video shows Little Big Town doing one of their songs out the audience surrounded by these cool, vintage-y looking lights on poles. I liked the look instantly, and as we’ve been doing vintage lights for Christmas Eve the last few years, figured I’d adapt the design.

First, The Easy Parts

The bulbs are easy. My go-to spot for vintage bulbs is 1000 Bulbs.com. Not only do they have many different styles, they have lots of other useful parts. For this design, I needed a keyless socket to mount the bulbs in. I wanted keyless because I don’t need a switch to turn the bulb on and off. I found this at 1000 Bulbs, and because it’s nickel in color, it works perfectly with my plan. Once I had the top figured out, I needed to develop a plan for the pole mount.

Plastic Pipe is Cheap & Easy

I don’t know what they used at the CMA’s to build these, but it occurred to me almost immediately that 3/4” Schedule 40 plastic pipe would be perfect. I mounted a coupler on top to give me a little larger diameter hole to glue the socket to. Clear silicone is more than enough to hold the socket in place. 

So now, the bulb is in the socket, the socket is on the pipe, but how do we keep the pipe pointing upright? There are probably a dozen ways to do it, but this is what I came up with. 

Wooden Bases Fit The Bill

My plan was to use 12” square plywood or OSB bases. Those are easy to make, and cheap, and as we’re only making these about 3’ tall, will have plenty of tip resistance. The tricky bit was figuring out how to mount the pipe to the wooden base. 

I had already devised a plan to use a two-part base system for another project. Basically, we drill a 1 1/2” hole in the center of the base, then cover that up with a 4” square piece of plywood, glued and screwed down. This provides a clearance for the rod and nut and keeps the bottom of the base flush. But how to bolt the PVC pipe down?

I wandered Lowes for a good 30 minutes before I stumbled upon this solution. A 3/4” threaded adapter has a perfect little shelf inside of it for a 1” diameter washer. When bolted to the base with a 3/8” in bolt, voila! It’s all good to go. Because these are light-duty light poles, I don’t need a ton of lateral strength. All I need is for them to stay upright, which they do quite well. The bases are small enough that we can put them almost anywhere, and we’ll be spreading ours out across the stage. A small hole near the base of the pipe gives us access for the electrical cord, which is just 18 gauge lamp cord.

If I were doing something like they did at the CMA’s, I would probably use a bunch of PVC T’s and a PVC base. That would enable higher densities and nice long rows of lights.

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