As the name suggests, the trouble light was initially designed to withstand trouble when used as a utility light in garages and for other “hard service” tasks. A hook, handle and a long extension cord would allow a user to hang and move the light wherever it was needed, and a cage around the light source would protect the bulb from breakage by dropping or bumping.
The first patent for a trouble lamp was filed back in 1939. This original design included a light guard/cage made of metal wire and a handle made out of electrical-insulating wood or rubber. More recent variations on this wire cage have included synthetic resin (plastic), which was found to stay cooler to the touch and could be molded into the handle to create a more durable singular unit.
But it is the metal cage that continues to capture people’s imaginations to this day. It invokes the romance of the bygone industrial era and the hardy yet delicate-looking craftsmanship of the original metal and wood materials. In modern decorative applications–outside of the mechanic’s garage–trouble light (also called cage light) style fixtures are obviously less prone to much dirt, oil, bumps or bruises. However, the wire cage is still more than just a pretty face and remains utilitarian in protecting the bulb within.
This open wire cage also presents the ideal opportunity to show off the beauty of a chosen decorative bulb, as shown in some recent trouble light-influenced designs from Foscarini Diesel, Arteriors and Hudson Valley Lighting below: