Branching Out Wood

Modern Functional Home Decor by David Wertheimer

Edison Bulbs

David Wertheimer2 Comments

There are two questions I've heard a number of times at the festivals: where can I get those light bulbs, and tell me about your shop? I'll cover the first one here, and the one about the shop next week.

Where do the bulbs come from?

The light bulb question has come in a few varieties:

  • Do you make the bulbs?
  • Where do you find them?
  • Do they last?
  • What will I do when they burn out?

In turn: no; online; yes; get a new one!

Or, with a little more detail: they're really easy to buy. A few of the shapes and sizes are available at Lowe's or Home Depot, but for the variety and volume (and convenience), I get mine online, primarily from www.1000bulbs.com, and Amazon.

They're all new, and not terribly expensive, costing anywhere from $4 - $12 per bulb, so while it would be amazing to develop the skills (and workshop!) to make them myself and I definitely have some curiosity about that process, that's not really high on my list!

They are all rated for 2000 hours, and when lit at partial brightness which would be typical for the mood / ambient lighting you would often be using the fixtures for, should give you far beyond that!

The only challenges with them are that, with the very long and fragile glass arms holding the tungsten filaments, motion (such as loading and unloading for a show) can easily damage them - but once installed in your home or business, it's just like the life (and only marginally above the replacement cost) of a regular bulb.

 Original carbon-filament bulb from Thomas Edison.

Original carbon-filament bulb from Thomas Edison.

Their History

Lifted from the Wikipedia entry here:

Carbon filament bulbs were the first commercially viable electric light bulbs to hit the consumer market in 1882. In 1904, a tungsten filament was shown to be more efficient and longer lasting than the carbonized bamboo filament used previously. The introduction of a neutral gas to the glass envelope (or bulb) also helped to improve lifespan and brightness of the bulb. To produce enough light, these lamps required the use of extremely long filaments, and remained so until the development of more efficiently wound tungsten filaments.

While the intricate filament design never fully left, innovations in energy efficiency outpaced the highly inefficient design quickly. Still, 51 years after more efficient designs had come into play, “Edison-style” or vintage lights saw resurgence in restaurants wanting atmospheric lighting or vintage themes. The demand for bulbs has increased since the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) ban on low-efficiency lighting. Edison-style light bulbs are not included within the ban and are listed under “specialty lighting.”

Reproductions of the antique bulbs were started in the 1980s by Bob Rosenzweig. He began selling the vintage-style light bulbs after watching a salvage operation. The reproductions sold mostly to collectors and prop houses up until the turn of the century when new energy efficiency laws pushed for use of compact fluorescent lamps, at which point demand for the vintage bulbs increased since they are listed under the new EISA regulations.

Modern "Edison light bulbs" are designed to replicate the same light color and bulb shape to offer a more energy-efficient version of the popular vintage reproduction bulbs. These bulbs also maintain the same “exposed” look to further preserve the vintage reproduction style. The desire for more authentic reproductions has led to the development of LED filament bulbs, which recreate the appearance of multiple light-emitting filaments within the glass envelope. LED filament bulbs are substantially more energy-efficient and produce less heat.

Wrapping It Up

So don't fret when shopping for these lamps - you can easily get a wide variety of replacement bulbs! And if anyone here makes their own lightbulbs, reach out to me - it's something I'd be curious to see in person!