Pulley Lamp Stands Up With You

Standing desks are either the best thing since sliced bread, or the fastest way to make your legs tired and get you ridiculed by your coworkers in the bargain. This leads some folks to compromise and make standing desks that can be re-lowered to sitting height when you need to take a break. But now the distance from your desktop to the light source that illuminates it has changed. We can’t have that!

fo6i703itw44bt1-medium[John Culbertson] came up with a very elegant solution to the “problem”. He made lights that are suspended on pulleys that raise and lower with the desk itself. We’re not sure that you’re in the same situation he is, but we’re sure that you’ll agree that he did a nice job.

Besides the pulley mechanism, the light shades are a work of art. [John] clearly wanted a retro feel, so he used low-voltage lightbulbs, but augmented them with LED strips to pump out the lumens. All in all, there’s a tremendous attention to detail in the project, and it shows.

Disclaimer: your humble author is writing you this missive from a standing desk. Ours is just a regular desk put up on bricks — a temporary solution that’s become permanent. We’re always keeping our eyes out for mechanisms to make the desk convertible, but everything that we’ve seen is either overkill or ridiculously overpriced or both. It’s hard to beat 24 bricks at $0.35 apiece. Anyone have any suggestions?

Of course, with an adjustable desk come the problems of moving your lighting along with it, but [John] has solved that one for us.

33 thoughts on “Pulley Lamp Stands Up With You

  1. This is pretty nice – but I think you have a responsibility to point out the obvious simple alternative: a desk lamp. I realise it’s not quite the same thing (takes up space on the desk, more focussed lighting pattern, obviously not as cool etc), but it sure does do a good job of staying at a fixed height above the desk surface.

    1. Elliot probably assumed that most Hackaday readers and the project builder would be aware that desk lamps exist, and that the obvious reason to suspend something over your desk is to reclaim desk space. Therefore desk lamps not relevant to the discussion.

      If you’re looking to add other similar trains of thought to the mix, perhaps you could suggest making the desk non-adjustable.

        1. I am in the why make an adjustable standing desk club. You say you love your drafting space so you must have done drafting. The drafting desk I used in High School was a standing desk. I think most drafting desks are standing desks. So why not use the other drafting tool as well. A drafting stool? Stand when you want and sit in the stool when you do not?
          What is the advantage of an adjustable desk vs a fixed height desk and a stool?
          Now your build is great it has a very 1900s feel about it

  2. Though I never understood a desk to stand behind instead of sitting?!?! That all doesn’t matter, this desk is nice looking and mostly because of the lamps above it. I like the color of the wood, the style of the lampshades, the pulleys and then it all moves up and down. This is furniture I like to look at, very nicely done.

  3. Having a chandelier hanging over our dining table that my son and I have all too often sent swinging with our head, I was hoping for some arduino/LiDAR/bluetooth enabled cordless drill/winch system to yank the lights out of the way as one stood up from the table…

  4. I think I’d be more than a little worried about knocking one of those lamps off it’s pulley and that big bulb showering my lovely desk with glass shards… But then I’m fairly tall and used to banging my head against light fittings.

    1. One of my future mods to this project will be to add catches to each of the pulleys to mitigate this exact scenario, because this is something I am worried about as well.

    1. I would have to disagree, as I am sitting at the desk under these lights right now and the quality of light is great. Yes, the 40 watt bulb is bare, but it throws of a feeble 140 lumens. The High CRI LED strips and also bare, but their light is distributed over a fairly large surface area. Certainly you will be seeing stars if you look up at the lamp, but the way I have them positioned relative to my height, both while standing and sitting they are nearly never in my sight-line when reading or working at my computer.

      I could certainly have a shade drape around them to to diffuse the light more, but I don’t feel it is necessary YMMV

    1. Thanks for bringing this up, I did consider this. I have strain reliefs on both ends to make sure none of the load is transferred to the electrical terminations and I am using MIL-W-22759/16 wire, which is built tough as nails.

  5. About 20 years ago desks like these started to appear in film/video editing rooms which used digital video editors. They had an adjustable desk for keyboard/mice/jog controller, with an overhanging shelf for monitors & speakers. Remember this was in the days of CRT. A generic Avid room would have 2 19/21″ CRT hi res monitors plus at least a 21″ video monitor on the shelf. Being able to adjust the height of the chair and the desk meant you could easily set the room up for people of varying sizes.

    I was a freelance editor and used to work regular for the BBC. My usual room had a desk with 5 memories. I am 5′ 8″ and the other regular was 6′ 1″, so we could set the chair, desk and monitors for what suited us and store the settings. When you consider that a normal day was 10/12 hours with only short breaks, being able to sit in comfort was vital.

    Getting the room lighting right to both illuminate the desk, and minimise reflections in monitors was always the biggest hassle. We had both desk lamps and adjustables on clamps, plus various types of directed lights in the ceiling. The desks were very expensive, but I think the lighting ran them a close second! This sort of set-up would have been ideal. The only change I would make would be to add another two pulleys on the wall to make an extra loop to adjust the lamp to desk distance.

    1. Thank you for the detailed feedback. I am the one who designed and fabbed these.

      The way I tie the wire to the desk I do have the ability to adjust the height, but you have to climb under the desk to do it. I like your idea about adding the additional pulleys. Alternatively I could route the wire termination (via an additional small pulley under the desk) to the front of the desk where I could put a dial to tighten or loosen the cable; raising or lowering the light. Hmmm.. this has got the gears turning, it wouldn’t be very hard…I might try this next weekend. Thank you!

  6. Hey, got an incoming transmission, the voices are telling me that ANY desk should be adjustable in height… it needs some clever shit, but doable… retrofit… check back in the morning after I’ve played with my solid modelling hardware (Erector set/Meccano)

  7. Just dig a pit the right depth in front of your desk.

    Anyway standing and treadmill desks are passé. I have a sparring desk that tries to punch me at random times in random places from random directions unless I block and counterpunch. Keeps me alert, saves me gym time, and occasionally gives me a nap.

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