Army 101 / Coping mechanisms

Whiskey’s gone, but I ain’t leaving. I’m making a lamp. And then leaving.

Though there are countless ways to bounce back from the after-wedding letdown, an easy one we’ve stumbled into is interior decorating. Which, when you’re apartment hopping from army post to army post, is less “decorating” and more “didn’t we used to have lamps?”

And since we seemed to have zero bedside lamps after my last move but had accumulated, instead, a worrisome collection of empty liquor bottles (that’s the kind of year it’s been), we decided to kill two birds with one stone.

Jack Daniel's Bottle Lamp

Jonathan and I share a vice of getting emotionally attached to our alcohol. I have a collection of empty wine bottles saved from special nights (memories frozen in time, people), and Jonathan has a collection of empty whiskey bottles. I’ll admit that his attachment is generally more about how much he loves whiskey, and mine is more about how much I refuse to let things go. You can decide which is worse.

We opted for the two matching Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel bottles in the collection: one from our recent trip to the Jack Daniel Distillery, and one that Jonathan’s dad gifted him for surviving his last deployment. If you’re keeping track, that means we’ve gone through two bottles of Single Barrel in the last five months. We really need to get out of Tennessee.

For me, turning a piece of barware into a functional piece of electric hardware is easy. Because Jonathan did it. And because we found some good tutorials online, and then discovered that most hardware stores sell DIY lamp-making kits with a few of the essential materials packed neatly inside them. We discovered this kit after having found each of the materials separately in Home Depot, which took more time than you’d think it would considering Jonathan spent several years working at Home Depot. (In his defense, he worked in Flooring, not in electric. He knows way more about carpet than I ever expected an average person to know about carpet.)

Drilling through Jack

The first step in liquor bottle lamp making is to make sure all the alcohol is removed from the bottle, and to drill a small hole through the glass for the cord. Jonathan happily did both. The latter thanks to the new drill set his father got him as a wedding gift.

The next step is to sit on the floor next to the tool bag and not help.

Dog the builder

Just kidding, that’s what the dog did. Also possibly what I did.

And the third step is to create electricity. I’m assuming at some point Ben Franklin was in our apartment. I must have been in the living room. There was a Law and Order: SVU marathon on.

Liquor bottle lamp construction


The last step, acquiring and affixing the lampshades, was unexpectedly the most difficult step. We had planned on using the original bottles’ corks as decorative toppers where the lamp harps meet the shades. Seven stores and three hours later, I discovered that 99% of modern desk and table lampshades are designed to fit directly onto a lamp base or clip onto the bulb, with no need for a harp. This would work great for something like a wine bottle that has a long neck; for a squat Single Barrel bottle, however, sticking a lamp shade directly onto the bottle neck or bulb would hide the bottle, and would leave nowhere to display the beautiful corks.

In other words, that day searching for lampshades was the first time I’ve ever almost-cried in a Pier One, but it probably won’t be the last.

As it turns out, Lowe’s had a single lampshade that would fit our needs, and the color happened to be appropriate, though it was larger than I’d hoped for. Beggars and choosers and all that. Lowe’s was also the first store I checked, but apparently in my lampshade stupor of rage, I’d missed the doable option.

Ducks Unlimited Single Barrel Cork

Jack Daniels Single Barrel Cork

Jack Daniels Single Barrel Lamp

Completely worth the unnecessary freak-out.

Despite the lull of after-wedding life, the Army has made sure that the lull soon turned very lull-less. Jonathan is on day two of Modern Army Combatives (Tactical Combatives Course) Level II; I wasn’t aware this existed until a few days ago and, trust me, I will have a lot more to say about it and its relation to the Hunger Games. Meanwhile, I’m going through the excruciating process of adjusting to all the medication changes Tricare forced down my throat; I also have a lot to say about going to the Army OBGYN on post, but honestly it might be one of those battlefield experiences I choose not to relive through the telling.

And, most importantly, we’re staring straight down the barrel of our first PCS. For those of you who don’t need an acronym for everything like the military does, that means, before the year is out, we’ll likely be saying goodbye to Fort Campbell. Whiskey’s gone, so we’re moving. Which honestly makes more sense.

If I’ve learned anything about military life in my few short years of exposure to it, it’s that nothing is 100% until it’s happened. Something can change, and something will change, almost every time there is a change. And that change can occur with a month’s notice, with a week’s notice, or with no notice at all, because fuck it. I mean OPSEC. Because OPSEC. So for the sake of OPSEC (and not jinxing myself), I’m hesitant to talk too much about the potential move until it’s closer. Unless you want to hear me complain about finally having unpacked all my shoes and now having to re-pack them again, which I’m more than happy to do.

But assuming you’d rather not, here are a few more lamp pictures.

DIY Jack Daniels Lamp

Bedroom with bottle lamps

DIY liquor bottle lamp

I’ll miss you, Tennessee. Thanks for all the whiskey.

23 thoughts on “Whiskey’s gone, but I ain’t leaving. I’m making a lamp. And then leaving.

  1. I’m so impressed! The lamps look great and are an actual useful way to keep memories around. Unlike my massive drawer of wine corks. One day I’m gonna get real crafty up in here and do something with them. Luckily for Dan our move from Maryland necessitated me throwing away all the empty wine bottles we had accumulated (only like 30… we definitely like wine).

    • It’s one of those things you assume won’t be difficult, but then two weeks later you’ve pulled out all your hair and you still don’t have a lampshade. There’s clearly a market for a lampshade specialty store.

  2. That’s a great idea to make a memory into something functional. My husband had a few empty bottles that he insisted on moving from North Carolina to Florida. He swore he was going to keep them forever, so I was relieved, when he chose to get rid of them before we moved up to New York. In this case, I’m glad we didn’t know you could turn them into lamps!

    • You’re lucky not to have known–I have a feeling we’re going to end up with a dozen bottle lamps. We’ll have to get another bedroom just to store lamps. Which would actually be a pretty cool room.

  3. Go get on Tricare Standard and move your prescriptions off post. There’s no need to deal with those Army doctors or change your meds if you don’t absolutely have to. Standard can be a little more expensive, but it’s way worth it in the end. (Sorry, I’m like a Tricare Standard evangelist)

    Also, your lamps are awesome.

    • Thanks for the advice, Tori. I’m definitely switching when we PCS. My healthcare needs are a lot more intense than my husband’s, so when he signed me up for the on-post plan, neither of us really knew how…unideal…it would be. Lesson learned.

  4. I’ve done this, too! It’s a great way to commemorate special occasions and lessons learned, though for myself it’s more the latter. One is a Captain Morgan bottle from a night of particularly bad decisions a few years ago, and I’ve got another made from bottle of Absolut that my mother found in my brother’s room when he was 19 (he’s 34 now); she freaked and kicked him out of the house. Though the Captain Morgan lamp has had to be fixed, the Absolut lamp works just as well as it did when I first made it, and still sits on my bedside table. Though it’s older, it’s definitely the more stylish of the two. Cheers!

    • It’s good to know they’ve got staying power, Thor! If I’d made lamps out of my college alcohol bottles, they would be mostly orange-flavored Smirnoff bottles. I’m a lot classier now, though; whipped cream Pinnacle is for adults.

  5. Love the lamps! I’ll have to remember that for my wine bottles. At least when you PCS the Army packs you, which is much easier then doing it yourself, but a little stressful at the same time.

  6. Your lamps are awesome!! Even though it’s a still photo, I kept expecting the drill bit to slide off the glass and hurt your hubby, though @_@; was that an issue?

    Also: I’m convinced your posting schedule is designed to make me late for work lol

    • Don’t worry; he knows his way around power tools. And I know why way around staying a safe distance.

      Hah–I actually set my post schedule so that I could check all my links and hit publish when I got to my old office, but before the workday started. Now that I’m job-less, though, my OCD tendencies won’t let me change the schedule. 🙂

      • Lol.. It comes through just after 8am, and I start at 9am, so I get the e-mail and just sort of settle wherever I’m at to read it because I can’t wait. Hey! Just goes to show that you’re an engaging writer. Kudos!

  7. Hilarous! I love your candid thoughts. Great job with the lamp, I may have to try that someday. It’s really special to have unique memories of various duty stations and you’ve nailed that one. =) Good luck with the move!

    • Thanks so much, Heather! Our current brigade actually has a wine named after it at a local winery; we’ve got an empty bottle ready for our next lamp 🙂 Do you know if the Navy does anything like this? I’d love to be able to make some across the branches.

  8. Very impressive! It’s cool that you two were able to make the set together. Not only do you have the fully functional lamps to use but the emotional attachment that came by working together. You’ve made a truly unique set.

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