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Learning To Re-wire Old Lamps

Recently I was asked on another thread how to re-wire old lamps. This is something that I dearly love to do. It’s like making something old new again. Often it is not the least expensive way to go, but it can start out to be. LOL! Sometimes you might stumble onto a great old lamp from say the 50’s or 60’s. Often they can appear too tall and bottom heavy, and the color can be gosh awful! Never fear, you can paint that lamp in no time at all. (Also, same with old picture frames.) Rub ‘n Buff is what I use, because of the ease of painting with a Q-tip or my fingers. Back to the wiring part, you can go to your Lowe’s and usually all of their stores have the how to books right inside the front doors near the front counter . Read the title carefully and flip through the books. Some are going to tell you how to wire your home. Some will tell you how to hang and wire a chandelier. I have no desire to do either of those, Bob can hang a chandelier if he must.

OK, so I found a great book that told how to wire a lamp and a few other electrical things. Lest you think I was brave enough to trust myself right off, wrong! I had Bob do one lamp of the pair we found to revive. We did every step along the way. We bought new sockets and wires with the plugs attached. We learned to do the knot in the wire the way the book shows how to. It is an extra protection in case your wire was to fall loose from the screws. You would not want the loose hot wires to fall out the bottom of the lamp. Before you even go buy your book on wiring, decide where you want the harp to sit and if you want a new harp. After you have possibly painted or at the very least cleaned your lamp and re-wired it, you are ready to take it to a shade shop for a fittinig. Please, don’t skimp on the shade. It truly makes the lamp!!! Yes, they can be quite high priced, but you can watch for a sale or budget for the one/ones you truly need and therefore, want. I would not do this alone the first time. As all the sites on the web say, “unplug the lamps from the wall” first. Great idea!! Hope this helps rid any of y’all of the fear of attempting it. Read the book’s directions. Don’t rush in selecting the book, you need the best one there is.

Now I really have egg on my face!! The truth is what got me to thinking about posting this other than a member’s question was that I have been searching for my prized book. It is in this house, but I am bad to toss in a drawer or bookcase. So, more than ever I will look for it. I can almost see it, do y’all do that? Hang on! Thinking it is nearby! Found it!! Sigh!!!! Of relief and it was right beside my computer all along. Mind you have been upstairs, downstairs and back again. I really thought I had tossed it in a drawer in the master bedroom. I study when I can’t sleep.

OK, the one I have and love is by Creative Homeowner Press and it is Quick Guide, Third Edition, Wiring, Step-By-Step Repair Procedures. Copyright 1998. I didn’t see this exact one at Lowe’s the other day, but one quite like it.

Is it worth it to do the wiring yourself? Depends on if you get satisfaction in the knowing you made something lovely again and if you want to do it. I personally loved the whole thing. I didn’t have to paint any of mine yet. I will post a before and after of my next project. It is a ceramic lamp that I paid $8 from Goodwill with the idea it would never look the same when I finished it.

The cost is next to nothing considering you would pay a repair shop more for the supplies than what the wire with plug and the new socket would cost. I prefer the 3-way switch sockets, and the last time I purchased sockets they were less expensive than the single switch sockets. I have had a stash of them for a while and haven’t priced any lately. It is easy to do. More trouble to me to drive to the repair shop and get one checked in and then return to get it and wait to pay, etc. I would imagine that you would be charged based on their time a portion of an hourly rate. That starts to make it worth it to learn for many of us, doesn’t it? It doesn’t take long at all after the first or second time. (Don’t forget to make that “Underwriter’s Knot”!!! Your book should have a nice illustration of how to do that.)

Now, hear me! The exception is this one lamp that we inherited has the wiring under the bottom. It is one of those tank lamps that has been electrified. I have not figured out how to do it and that makes it worth the trip to have someone knowledgeable to ensure a safe repair. This is reminding me that I really should do that, too.

My definition of an old cord/wire is one of the ones that isn’t the clear gold or clear silver looking. The ones that are on the lamps in the shops today are like the ones we have used. I think we might have one lamp that is fairly new that is the exception to that and it is an ugly solid brown. It won’t be much longer.

Originally, I started out concerned about old cords, because we lived near a home fire that was started by a lamp. That did it. Suggestion was strong, I had lamps that needed re-wiring. That said, allow me to stand on my soapbox and say that if you have a lamp you love and it is over 20 years old, then you need a new cord and socket. Good to be safe and get the newer looking cord at the same time.

Also, another thing about many recent lamps has been that switch on the cord. I hate those things on a large lamp. They are not so bad on the tiny ones, but maybe they are. You decide! We had bought a very high end lamp new when it was greatly reduced. It was in our formal living room. One day when I was going to turn it on, the switch on the cord basically came apart in my hand. It was not cracked or anything , just came apart. I don’t want those things here. Bob and I agreed that we wanted a switch on the socket and that is what we have now.

If a lamp is large enough to be an end table lamp, I prefer it to have the 3 way switch socket. You can start out using it on the lowest wattage. Always can go up if you need the extra light or if the lower burns out.

Hope this makes sense. Just study the book for a while. Pick your lamp to redo and decide if the harp is right. That is one way to adjust the height of it. Hopefully, my rambling will make sense. Any professionals, please feel free to jump in and correct where you find an error, if you see it. TIA!

Note by Helen: The above is an actual thread from a message board that I participated in. Hope it is helpful to you. If you are unsure of what to do, either find someone, who is sure or take your lamp to a professional lamp repair shop. You and I both want you to be safe. You need to give this repair your full attention if you do it. The photo above is one of the pair that Bob and I brought back to life via a new 3-way switch socket and a new cord. Also, please view the video for more details. Thanks for dropping by!

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12 Responses to Learning To Re-wire Old Lamps

  1. Helen, you are so brave! LOL This is one project I have never had the nerve to tackle but I sure loved your tutorial and all the great advice! Happy Valentine’s Day!

  2. Thanks, Maria, but I don’t consider it as brave as some of the projects you have untaken. You can do this if I can. Thanks also for the Valentine’s Day wishes. Helen

  3. Linda@Coastal Charm

    Thanks for all the info on how to do this…just might come in handy.


  4. You’re welcome, Linda. Thanks for visiting my blog.

  5. Penny @ The Comforts of Home & Flea Market Makeovers

    Great post! We rewire lamps all the time in our house. Thanks for visiting me and becoming a follower. I am now following you too.

  6. This is going to come in handy! Thanks for visiting my blog and following!

    • Christina, I hope it helps you, too. You’re very welcome…I just returned from another visit and saw that MIRROR!!! Terrific luck..it was meant to be yours.

  7. HI Helen! You are absolutely the smartest one tackling this project! Thanks for popping in to see me.
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia 😉

  8. Thanks for dropping by, Shelia. It really isn’t that difficult…the main thing is following all the rules of safety. I still check the book before going back to do another one. Thanks again, Helen

  9. Helen, I admire you for re-wiring !! Thanks for the information. Judy

    • Judy, you did realize, that I didn’t do this alone! Right! I still rely on Bob when it comes to electricity! Even though I can do the “Underwriter’s Knot” I always prefer that he oversee my work. You’re very welcome, Judy. Let me know if you are considering changing cords.

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