Monday, April 11, 2011

How to: Rewire a Lamp

My brother and his fiancée sent me another milk glass lamp last week.  I loved the detailing but it needed a little work.  The metal parts were discolored, it didn’t have a socket or switch and the plug/cord had seen better days.

IMG_4935I took it to a local lamp store and asked for all of the parts I needed to rewire the lamp. They gave me a plug, cord, socket w/switch, cap and shell for $18. I’m sure it would have been cheaper at Home Depot but I didn’t know what I needed so I figured going to an actual lamp store would be best for me plus I like supporting local stores. 

Step 1: Disassemble Lamp - I eagerly started as soon as I stepped foot back in the house.  All of the pieces were placed over a metal rod so it was as easy as sliding the pieces off the rod (and taking pictures of each section so I knew how to put it back together again) and then pulling the old cord through the bottom of the rod. I spray painted all of the metal pieces silver to give them a new life and brighten up the lamp a bit.

Step 2 – Prepare the Cord While the metal pieces were drying I figured I’d try to assemble the cord and plug.  I’ve never seen them in separate pieces before so I was a little stumped as to how to get the plug to attach to the cord.  There was a hole in the back for the cord to slip into but I couldn’t figure out how to get the cord to attach to anything.  Finally, the trusty internet helped me out. My particular plug was a clamp-type plug so it was incredibly easy to attach. The basic steps are:


You don’t have to strip the wires – simply pinch and pull out the prongs, slide the cord into the plug base and then the prongs, pinch the prongs back down onto the wire and push the prongs back into the plug base.

IMG_4960 IMG_4963 You now have a plug with the cord attached!  The other end is the end that attaches to the socket so you first need to use a sharp knife to split the last 2 inches of the end of the cord, slitting down through the narrow groove in the center making sure not to cut the wires. You should end up with two sections, each containing a bundle of tiny copper wires. From each cord section, strip away about half an inch of the plastic covering from the very ends, so the copper wires are exposed. Do this carefully--you don't want to cut or fray the wires.  I tried using a knife and pliers to do this part but I ended up cutting my wires.  So I quickly ran to ACE Hardware to buy a wire stripper.  I cut off the entire stripped sections and started over resulting in two perfectly cut sections.  (I also had to cut down the middle more – which I didn’t do in this picture – since I needed the sections to be longer to attach to my socket.)

IMG_4965 Twist each wire bundle together clockwise, making them easier to attach to the terminals on the socket.

Step 3: Reassemble the lamp -  Lay out all of your pieces so you can start putting together the lamp like a puzzle.

IMG_4966 1- cord w/plug     **     2 – metal rod     **     3 – socket     **     4 – shell     **     5 – cap

IMG_4967 6, 7, 8, 9 – lamp pieces     **     10 – base     **     11 - weight

Thread the metal rod through the weight and base. Stack the lamp pieces on the rod in order.  In my case it was 6-8-7-9-7-8-7-9-7-8.  Place the cap (5) on top of the last lamp piece.  The cap should be threaded so screw it onto the metal rod.

Step 4: Rewire the lamp – Thread the cord through the assembled lamp so that the cut ends stick out through the top of the cap.

IMG_4968Normally on one section of the sheathing, you'll see a groove or stripe marking the neutral wire, with the smooth section marking the hot wire.  To wire the lamp according to electrical code, the  smooth wire should be connected to the brass terminal screw, and the neutral wire to the silver terminal screw.  Of course, my cord didn’t have these markings so I just guessed. 

Your socket (3) will have two screws on the outside of it – a silver and brass terminal screw. Loosen the terminal screws with your screwdriver and then twist the exposed copper wires of each cord section clockwise around a different screw, just below the screw's head. Wrap the wire so the edge of the plastic sheath (where you cut to strip the wire) butts the screw head. There shouldn't be any stray copper wires running out from beneath the screws. Tighten the terminal screws so the heads clamp down on the copper wire to hold it in place.


Slip the wired socket back into the cap, pull the plug end of the cord tight so there isn’t any slack of cord at the top of the lamp and tighten the small screw where the cord enters the cap. Slip the cover (4) over the socket.

IMG_4977 Step 5: Test the lamp - Plug in the lamp, screw in a lightbulb, and cross your fingers as you press the switch.  If you did everything correctly the light will turn on without starting a fire!  Hooray!  Now go buy a new lampshade and put your revamped lamp somewhere in your house.  Me – well, I’m still trying to find the perfect shade and place.

IMG_5017I thought this would be much harder than it was but I was able to put it together without any issues.  I put the light together and then found a tutorial online to check my work (yep – I like to take chances and THEN find instructions to see if I did it right) so for anyone wanting to do this, you can follow my instructions or check out the tutorial linked above. 

Happy wiring!


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