How to Build an Antique Fixture for Under $25

Mar 30, 12 How to Build an Antique Fixture for Under $25

As we’ve discussed in an earlier articleAntique light bulbs and antique light fixtures have become increasingly popular in recent years. Whether it’s nostalgia or just an honest affinity for ornate blown glass and intricately looped glowing filaments, restaurants, upscale retail shops, and even homeowners can’t get enough of antique lighting.

Unfortunately, high demand leads to inflated prices. Any simple fixture that claims to be “antique” or “vintage” costs a premium. Some are worth the price, but we’ve seen simple antique pendants out there going for over $100, when the raw materials to build the fixture cost under $25. These are certainly nice products, but are they worth the markup?

The following guide will show you how to build your own antique swag light fixture in less than 10 minutes with materials you can buy for about $25, including the bulb.

Needed Materials:

(1) antique twisted wire cord - $6.00
(1) dimming brass socket - $10.00
(1) EZ grip antique plug - $1.50
(1) antique light bulb - $5.00

Needed Tools:

A flat head screwdriver
A set of wire strippers
A pair of scissors

Step 1: Prepare the Wire

Prepared Wires

Prepared Wires

Using wire strippers, strip the PVC jacket of both wires on both ends of the cord, exposing about 1/2 inch of the inner copper strands. Trim back the cloth covering another 1/2 inch, using scissors to cut away any frayed threads.

Step 2: Attach the Socket

Attaching Socket Terminals

Attaching Socket Terminals

Pop the socket cap off the socket shell. Feed one end of the cord through the top of the socket cap. At this point, tie the wires into an Underwriter’s Knot to relieve excess strain. Using the screwdriver, attach the wires to the terminals in the socket shell. Since the plug we’re using is non-polarized, it doesn’t matter which wire you attach to which terminal. Slide the socket cap down the cord and snap it back to the socket shell.

Step 3: Attach the EZ Grip Plug

Attaching Plug Terminals

Attaching Plug Terminals

Remove the plug cap from the shell by removing the screws on either side of the plug blades. Slide the plug shell out of the plug cap. Feed the free end of the cord through the top of the plug cap, then attach the wires to plug terminals on the shell, just as you did with the socket. Slide the cap back over the shell and replace the screws.

Step 4: Screw in the Bulb

Screwing in the Bulb

Screwing in the Bulb

Screw the bulb into the socket. You can now hang your swag fixture from a ceiling hook and plug it into any wall outlet. Use the built-in dimmer on the socket to adjust the brightness to a suitable level.

Optional Modifications

If you’d like to make a pendant fixture instead of a swag, the modification is simple: Just leave off the EZ grip plug and direct wire the fixture into an existing J-Box.

This is a very simple and versatile fixture, so there are many ways to modify it. You can use a different socket, add a cage or lamp shade over the bulb, twist together multiple pendants to create a chandelier, or even attach the socket to an old table lamp. Do you have other ideas? Post them in the comments, on our Facebook, or let us know on Twitter. Even better, send us a photo of your project and we’ll post it on our Pinterest.

Important Safety Note

This homemade fixture is not UL listed. Use reasonable safety precautions when assembling and installing your fixture. Never leave the fixture unattended or plugged in when not in use.

1000Bulbs.com

Benjamin is a writer for 1000Bulbs.com.

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9 Comments

  1. I didn’t know y’all sold that wire. Cool! I’ll keep that in mind.
    Oh, and I have an original antique electrical plug very similar to that. :D
    -ALH

  2. Charles Howell /

    Your video neglected to include an Underwriters Knot, an essential strain relief step to keep the wire from pulling out of the socket or the plug. See http://electrical.about.com/b/2008/10/07/learn-how-to-tie-an-underwriters-knot.htm

    • Benjamin /

      You’re right. The video has been replaced with an updated (and corrected) version. See the new version here: http://bit.ly/Hlu5B0

      Thanks for the feedback!

  3. HJ Schwab /

    Hi,

    Your video shows the installer putting the wire under the screw on the plug the wrong way. The wire should “wrap” clockwise — in the same direction as the screw tightens.

    This should come “natually” to most mechanics.

    Otherwise, the wire tends to come out from under the screw while tightening down.

    On the socket, the installer should have bent the end of the wires a little more around the screws before tightening it up.

    Cool bulbs!

    Thanks for listening.

    • Benjamin /

      You’re right, HJ. We should’ve wrapped those wires a little tighter and “hooked” in that last wire clockwise.

      However, I should note the installer in the video wasn’t a mechanic or an electrician, just a “Joe Schmo” trying out some simple wiring. Not to downplay safety in any regard, but even with a couple minor mistakes, I think the video proves that just about anybody with 10 minutes and a screwdriver can make a so-called “designer” fixture.

      Thanks for the feedback! It’s appreciated.

  4. heidi /

    Benjamin, I’d like to make this exact same thing but in black, straight wire instead of the twisted, no plug (hanging from the ceiling), with 3 bulbs instead of just one. I’d like to hang them about 1 foot apart from each other but appear to come from one fixture. can you direct me to the correct components on your website, explain how you combine the three separate wires into one socket and also suggest an approach for what materials i might use to make this a single fixture look but with 3 pendants coming down? thanks!

    • Benjamin Rorie /

      Hi Heidi,

      Here’s the non-twisted cloth wire you need, and here is a selection of antique sockets.

      Having all three wires coming from a single source is tricky. I would suggest wiring the three pendants into three separate junction boxes covered by canopies that look something like this. We don’t carry J-Boxes or canopies, but you can find them fairly easily at any hardware store.

  5. Ryan /

    Benjamin,

    I am very interested in putting together a vintage light for my kitchen. A few questions: I would like to make a fixture with two pendants from the same spot in the ceiling hardwired into a jbox. So, what products of yours do I need to make this happen? Could you please help me out?

    • Benjamin Rorie /

      Ryan,

      Right now, we don’t carry all of the hardware you’ll need to create the fixture you describe. We have the antique wire, sockets, bulbs, cages, and even wire nuts you need, but you’ll have to go to your local hardware store for the J-box and canopy.

      As for attaching multiple pendants to one canopy, I’m guessing you mean something like this? That’s outside of my area of expertise, but I’m sure a local electrician could help.

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