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Behind the Scenes | Lead Spinner Transforms Raw Metal to Functional Art

We’re starting a new feature on the blog today to give our readers an inside peek at what happens behind the doors at Barn Light Electric. When we celebrated the grand opening of our new 50,000-square-foot facility in October 2013, our 100-plus employees were thrilled with the new digs and the expanded space to do their work.

Today, we visit with James, our lead metal spinner, who hails from West Virginia. He traded work in the coal mines for sunny Florida and has been spinning metal for Barn Light Electric for almost three years.


“James knew nothing about spinning when he came to work for the company and after a few short months, he was producing quality shades,” says Michael “Cracker” Byrnes, Barn Light Electric’s Machine Shop Manager.


Spinning metal is a physically demanding art form. The spinner must constantly work his arms, much like rowing a boat, to maintain steady pressure on the light shade as it takes shape. James and his fellow spinners start the process by hoisting a heavy steel mold onto the lathe then inserting a flat disk of metal which is pressed and shaped against the mold.


“I like to spin brass and copper,” James says, although he admits these two types of metal are more difficult to work with than steel or aluminum.


His favorite shade to spin is the Original™ which is one of our most popular RLM-inspired warehouse shades. The Original™ shade is used in a number of fixtures including ceiling pendants, gooseneck lights, wall sconces, and post mount lights.


The Original™ is spun from commercial grade steel under James’ careful eye then coated in three layers of porcelain enamel glass. This glass is baked onto the shade in our special porcelain oven that reaches 1,500 degrees. In just 200 seconds, this extreme temperature seals the glass to the shade and produces the high-gloss, never-fade finish.


When he’s not spinning shades, James enjoys golfing, hunting, and spending time with his wife Christina, who also works for Barn Light Electric, and their three daughters Ashlee, Mackenzie, and Jayme.


“James has a great attitude and work ethic,” Cracker notes. “He is always willing to go above and beyond for Barn Light Electric!”

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