DIY / Home Decor / How To

DIY is RAD — How to Rewire a Lamp

Like most people, I’m sure, I was surprised by the expenses of life when I moved into my first apartment in ’08. The big shockers were rugs, throw pillows and lamps… Why are they so expensive?! Because of this — and my general love of retro — most of our lamps are vintage. But with vintage lamps comes outdated wiring, and that leads me to today’s discussion.

Let’s follow Julia down the rabbit hole of small-scale improvement. A simple task any guy or gal can learn to master? Rewiring a lamp.

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Here is the lamp. My mother found it at a garage sale, decided she didn’t want it and gave it to me. I really like it (ahem, I really like most things mustard colored) and I really liked the cost and we really really needed an additional lamp in our dark bedroom. Fate, I know.

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This is why I wanted to rewire the lamp. While the cord was in fine shape the plug was outdated. And in case you don’t know me, I am a woman on a mission with all things to be paranoid about. Hence, all old lamps are immediately rewired.

Side note — look at those glitter nails! Tacky fabulous, I know, I know.

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To rewire a lamp you need a new socket and a new wire (see above), plus a screwdriver. You can buy these together in a kit or individually. I spent a grand total of $10-ish for the two items above at The Home Depot. To be safe you can also use a pair of tough, thin gloves and safety glasses. If your lamp is old, like this one, they might be helpful.

This is the fourth time I’ve rewired a lamp, so I was expecting this to be easy. Normally you can unscrew the bottom of the lamp and begin taking the pieces apart or unscrew the socket and pull the wire out the top. That was not that case here.

If the lamp won’t come apart nicely you’ll have to force it. The end goal is to remove the old socket and wiring while still having a lamp in hand. I threw on some safety glasses and bent the socket backward after fifteen minutes of trying to do it the normal way.

Main thing to remember? Look at your lamp, see if you can take it apart at the bottom, see if you can unscrew the socket, figure out how to get it apart.

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This is what you should end up with. Ta-da! Screw you, lamp!

Now turn the lamp (gently!) on its side and feed the wire through the hole in the bottom. In case this isn’t clear you want the exposed ends of the wire coming out of the top and the plug closer towards the bottom. Depending on your lamp this part might be super easy or super time consuming. This lamp was simple; the second lamp I rewired, a swiveling arm lamp, made me psychotic. Take your time. You’re getting a sweet lamp out of this.

See the base of the socket up there? The part that’s still attached to the lamp. If yours is ruined slide on your new base now and screw it in place. I left mine on because, well, it was stuck.

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Okay, so don’t chicken out but here comes the hard part. You need to tie the wire and attach it to the socket. You are going to tie the two ends of the wire into the above figure eight knot. You want about 1/2″ of wire left out of the knot. Pull it tight but don’t expect the knot to close up entirely. If you’re still confused you can refer to the instructions that came with the wire.

Now you attach the wires to the socket. Look at your instructions to see which wire goes on which screw in case there is any brand variation. It will explain that one wire goes with a silver screw and one wire goes with a gold screw. You get the idea; check your instructions.

You will wrap the top of the metal around the screw, then tighten it. Once both wires are attached push the socket into place. This is where the gloves are handy. Really push on the top of the socket, but be careful not to bend the socket over or break the lamp base. You want it to be a snug fit.

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Amazing. You have a new lamp! Go enjoy it! Find a place for it to live! Do stuff in the light! Turn off the other lights and bask in the light of YOUR PERSONAL HANDINESS!

What, too dramatic?

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I’m happy with the lamp in our room. I’m not thrilled with the shade (I already had and wasn’t using this one… And I’m kind of cheap) but that’s a project for another day.

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Also, Yogurt demanded to be in the pictures. He’s sort of a ham.

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