Friday, April 18, 2008

In search of the perfect work light

I am in search of the perfect desk lamp. It has to be bright. Really, really bright. I'm sure that many of you know what I mean by that. Basically, that I turned 50 and my vision went on permanent vacation. In a nutshell, I can't see squat. If you want me to do detailed work like hand sewing or drawing, you have to invoke some serious candle-power. This is the one I use now; it's a cheap short-term solution that came from Target. While it's a fine lamp in that it swivels and tilts effectively and puts out a lot of light (albeit yellow-tinged and not good for color matching), it also uses a halogen bulb and generates a ferocious amount of heat. I have burned myself inadvertently on that conical metal shade more than once, while reaching past it for the calendar or above it to the pigeonholes in the hutch. See that little handle for adjusting the shade? If you're going to use it you better do it before you turn on the lamp. After it's burned more than 15 minutes that handle gets to about 150 degrees and becomes purely ornamental. I don't know about you, but I don't keep a potholder at my desk.

I finally decided, after a prolonged appliqueing stint which left me red-faced and sweating from the tropical micro climate the halogen bulb creates around my desktop, that I had to get another lamp. I surfed all the lamp manufacturer's websites and compared all the full spectrum lamps. The problem with them is that most were kind of ugly -- think gray plastic case. (I'm sure you know which ones I'm talking about and they cost way too much for a plastic lamp!). I'm trying not to be a decorating snob, but they just don't go with my cherry desk that I have tried so hard to maintain and keep nicely accessorized. I did find another reason not to choose them, which I'll discuss later.

Many of the more decorative full spectrum lamps were either too tall or bulky to fit on my desk under the hutch, or were shaped like a banker's light and didn't swivel and tilt to focus the light. I discovered several possible candidates made by Verilux that were metal and stylish, but most were nickel or bronze finish. The hardware on my desk is antiqued brass and I'm trying to match finishes for consistency. I can be the queen of matchy-matchy, but that's another story. One was antique brass but it had a paddle shaped head fitted with one of the four-tube bulbs that was way too large; the whole lamp took up too much valuable desk real estate. There was another that looked interesting because it was an articulated pharmacy lamp with a round shade, that used a full spectrum twist bulb instead of the long bulbs like in the Ott lights. It came in brushed nickel and bronze. Well, I told myself, I could live with bronze. So I was narrowing it down to the pharmacy lamp (if I went for classy) and the Verilux standard plastic desk lamp with the woodgrain finish (if I cheap-ed out at the last minute - it was better than gray).

There is a lighting specialty store in town which carries Verilux and a lot of other really nice lamps. I love decorating with interesting lamps and have drooled all over this store's front windows on more than one occasion. I've even bought a small blue and white porcelain lamp there, which is one of my favorites. They're nice to work with but can be pricey. I headed over there after running a few errands this morning to scope out my possibilities.

That's when I found out that the standard gooseneck desk lamps with the paddle heads won't work. They just don't extend far enough from their base to center the light over the workspace on my desk. The desk is 30" deep, and the gooseneck wasn't long enough. Surprisingly, the woodgrain plastic casing wasn't that bad, and if my desk wasn't so deep, it would have worked well. The light was wonderful - bright, clean white and non-glare-y.

Then I looked at the articulated pharmacy lamp. Here's a manufacturer's picture of it.
The engineer in me went gaga for the articulated arm which raises and lowers the shade, keeping it parallel with the desk at all times. It's a great design and it works so smoothly. It also extends a good distance from the base, so it would sit on the back of the desktop and still light the middle of the desk.

I swallowed my cheapness and took it. Now this store has a 48 hour in-home trial, which is a great thing for lamps, since sometimes you won't know if the proportions and appearance of the lamp will work until you take it home. As soon as I got home, I cleared off my desktop and put the lamp in place. I switched it on. Ahhhhh! Clear, bright, white, glare-free light. I pushed the little handle. The lamp shade swung up and down, up out out of the way, and then down over the center of the desk. Heaven.

Then, I noticed something. Where the moving parts came together at the small rod pinned to a collar on the vertical rod of the base, the finish was being rubbed off as I moved the lamp up and down. It flaked off in chips like paint. It wasn't a plated finish at all, just a painted one. It appeared that any little knocks and dings were going to make this lamp look bad quickly. It was a condition I simply couldn't overlook. But I loved the lamp. What to do?

If I bought the brushed nickel finish, it would not have a painted treatment and would be more durable. It also wouldn't match the knobs on my desk, but would that be so bad? Brushed nickel is a very common finish for desk lamps; could I live with it? I decided that I could.

Reluctantly, I packed up the lamp and headed back to the store. Not for me, I said. They didn't have one with the other finish in stock, so I headed home. An Internet search found the nickel finish lamp with free shipping. (I hate to pay shipping.) So in 3 or 4 days I'll have my lamp. I would have loved to have bought it locally, but it wasn't to be. I'll be glad to move my desk out of the tropics!


Jacquie said...

What a story, but I can so relate. I can see perfectly for distance, but as soon as I hit 50 this year I couldn't see squat up close and good light makes so much difference.

The Calico Quilter said...

Jacquie, it's impossible for me to tell a story without going the long way round! They all become epic tales, but I did look at enough lamps that this started to feel like some sort of quest.

Deb said...

I know what you mean about lighting... Looks like you found a good solution.