How to Rewire a Vintage Lamp

Learn how to gently clean and rewire an antique brass lamp.

Grandma challenged me to rewire one of her favorite lamps recently, a vintage molded brassy model that’s no doubt sat in the attic for 30+ years. I love a good grandma challenge. Neither my mom or I ever remember seeing it before, and a lamp expert at a local antique shop guessed that it dated back to the very early days of electricity, even possibly converted from a gas lamp given certain characteristics.

I like it a lot, dude’s got personality, and while it may have been a more mass-produced model, in it’s current form it’s in beautiful shape. It just didn’t work anymore. Grandma thought it would be a costly (or even impossible) repair, I was happy to give it a try and return it to its useful state. 

The vintage lamp had accrued a lot of dust, whereever it had been stored. The first thing I did was give it a quick clean-up, not with a harsh agent because we actually kind of like the patina that has formed during it’s lifetime, but with a simple toothbrush and a light cleansing mix of Barkeeper’s Friend and water.

The solution, coupled with the soft bristled toothbrush, was enough to clear the many crevices of dirt and dust.

The real reason I had taken this lamp in its assembled state to a lamp wiring specialist, was because I wanted to try and duplicate the silk-wrapped cord with a similar one. While silk cords are no longer readily available, he did stock nylon wrapped electrical cord (at the tune of $3/foot) in a dark brown, which I really liked and thought was infinitely more handsome than the plastic-coated cordage available in mass.

More imporantly, taking the lamp into the specialist also saved me a bit of money because he advised that I wouldn’t need new electrical hardware for the plug or bulb, even noting that what I had was in great condition and the newer components weren’t always made so well. I tore right into it, disassembling the old wiring in full (dislodging even more dust, how could one lamp be such a dust trap?

In prepping the new wire for wiring the lamp, it was advised to dab super-glue around the edge of the cord to prevent fraying. As I began to strip away the layers of fabric down to bare copper wire, it was apparent that the fraying would have been really bad and quickly destroy the whole cord had I not followed this tip.

Wiring a lamp is fortunately pretty easy, when you focus on how it was wired during disassembly. Even so, I was thrilled that it worked on the first try.

I’ve been toying around with a few lampshades too. Originally, the unit would have come with a glass pillar like this one, but that is long gone.

I learned that you could find one pretty easily at a salvage shop for a few dollars, I knew Grandma was hoping to fit the updated lamp with a shade, so I picked up a few for size. While a shade that clipped onto the bulb would have worked, I opted for a model with the dropped halo (I have no idea if that’s what it’s really called) that sits around the base of the light bulb itself.

It fit amazingly, even better than I expected, and even if it ends up not being Grandma’s style, I’m happy to be able to point her in the right direction. This one is 9″H x 13″W at it’s widest point.

Upcycled Lamps

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Industrial Inspiration

As seen on HGTV's Flea Market Flip, this industrial light was created by mixing metal roofing hooks with five trendy Edison bulbs.

Line of Lights

Brass candlesticks and vases make for a funky light display in this innovative creation from HGTV's Flea Market Flip.

Birdcage Floor Lamp

A thrift-store birdcage is paired with an old chandelier to create a unique floor lamp. Design by Joanne Palmisano

Photo By: Administrator ©Susan Teare

Mason Jars

Aqua and green jars are fitted with funnel tops and Edison bulbs then hung in a cluster to make a vintage-style kitchen light. Design by Brian Patrick Flynn

Wine Jug

A big bottle of vino was emptied then turned into a table lamp. The unique macramé shade adds the perfect touch of fun chic.

Photo By: Sarah Wilson/Getty Images

Library Lamp

A stack of books is sandwiched together, wired, then topped off with a wire egg basket.

Dress Form

This lamp can wear a gown for formal occasions or put on a casual frock for everyday use. Design by Joanne Palmisano

Photo By: Susan Teare ©Susan Teare

Wood Baskets Pendants

Wooden bushel baskets are repurposed as kitchen lighting. The conduits were covered in rope to give the fixtures a coastal look and to provide a nice contrast with the wallpaper-covered ceiling. Design by Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Mali Azima

Globe Light

The world is dissected at the equator then the Southern Hemisphere is turned upside down to create a semicircular lampshade.

Photo By: Sarah Wilson/Getty Images

Wash Tubs

A pair of inexpensive galvanized buckets have been converted into charming patio lighting. Design by Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Rustic White Photography, LLC

Old Pulley

A salvage-yard bracket and pulley are joined with an Edison bulb to make a rustic wall sconce. Design by Joanne Palmisano

Photo By: Susan Teare ©Susan Teare

Big Whisk

Industrial-sized bakery whisks are whipped into a stylish pair of pendants.

Photo By: Sarah Wilson/Getty Images

Tugboat Toy

A toddler's toy is transformed into an adorable table lamp. Design by Joanne Palmisano

Photo By: Susan Teare ©Susan Teare and Lindsay Raymondjack

Lego Lamp

Have a table lamp you're sick and tired of? Cover it with these classic building blocks.

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Tall Tins

Vintage-style snack tins are stacked together to make this clever floor lamp. Design by Joanne Palmisano

Photo By: Susan Teare ©Susan Teare and Lindsay Raymondjack

Cupola Cap

The peak of a barn cupola was flipped upside down to make a rustic light fixture in a wine-friendly rec room.

Mementos

Save wine bottles from special occasions and use them to make a personalized chandelier. Before you begin the project, mark the label on each bottle with the date and event. This way you can look up at your new light fixture and reminisce about the time each bottle was enjoyed.

Architectural Salvage

Old columns are easy to find at most any salvage yard, and it is just as easy to drill a hole toward the bottom of the column and wire it to make a floor lamp with tons of character. Design by Joanne Palmisano

Photo By: Susan Teare ©Susan Teare

Bugle Lamp

A piece of a band's brass section was repurposed into a quirky lamp.

Photo By: Sarah Christine Wilson, Sarah Wilson/Getty Images

Book Light

The pages of a book that are adorned with an elaborate typeface and detailed artwork were used to create a tiered light fixture. The book pages were fastened to the old chandelier frame using simple binder clips.

Photo By: Sarah Wilson/Getty Images

A Tisket, A Tasket

A bunch of thrift-store baskets are roped together to make a coastal-style light fixture. Only the large basket holds the bulb; the rest are just accents. Design by Joanne Palmisano

Photo By: Susan Teare ©Joanne Palmisano

Twiggy

An old thrift-store light fixture is given a budget makeover. Tree branches and the fixture are spray-painted white then wrapped around the base of the fixture. Design by Joanne Palmisano

Photo By: Susan Teare

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