Repairing a table lamp, like creating your own antique pendant lamp, is one of the easiest DIY lighting projects you can perform. In addition to making use of an old lamp, repairing a lamp also gives you the opportunity to update it to match the latest styles.
The typical table lamp—shown in the photo—consists of 6 parts: The base, the spindle, the socket, the cord, the plug, and finally, the shade.
1. Remove the Bulb and Lamp Shade
To begin your repair, you’ll need to disassemble the lamp. Unscrew the bulb from the socket; then remove the lamp shade.
2. Remove the Socket
Most sockets consist of two parts: The shell and the cap. The shell is the part that holds the socket and the switch, while the cap only snaps onto the shell and screws to the lamp spindle. Pry or unscrew the socket shell from the socket cap. Leave the wires connected to the socket shell, and don’t remove the socket cap just yet.
3. Remove the Old Cord and Plug
Because we’re going to completely replace the cord and plug, use a pair of wire cutters to cut the plug from the cord. Now, pull the socket shell and cord from the top of the lamp. Then check to see if there is a setscrew where the socket cap attaches to the spindle. If there is, loosen it before unscrewing the socket cap from the spindle. Finally, unscrew the spindle from the lamp base.
4. Prepare the New Cord
Now it’s time to rebuild the lamp. Start by using wire strippers to strip both ends of the replacement cord by about a half inch. If you’re using a cloth-covered antique cord like us, use scissors to trim back the cloth another quarter to half-inch and wrap the ends of the cloth covering with electrical tape to prevent fraying.
5. Thread the New Cord Through the Lamp
Pass one end of the cord through the bottom of the lamp base and out through the top. Thread the wire through the spindle and reattach the spindle to the lamp base. Next, thread the cord through the bottom of the new socket cap, screw the cap to the spindle, and tighten the cap’s setscrew if it has one.
6. Attach the New Socket
Pull through about 4 inches of the new cord, separate the two wires, then tie them into an Underwriters Knot. The Underwriters Knot will prevent the cord from being unintentionally pulled loose from the bottom of the lamp base. Attach the black (positive) wire to the brass screw terminal. Attach the white (neutral) wire to the other screw terminal in the same way. Snap the socket shell to the socket cap.
7. Attach the New Plug
Disassemble the plug and attach it to the other end of the cord in the same way: Black wire to the brass terminal and white wire to the silver terminal. Reassemble the plug after you’ve attached the wires.
8. Replace the Bulb and Lamp Shade
Now replace the bulb and the lamp shade, and you’re done. For a detailed visual step-by-step, check out the video below. Be sure to share your idea in the comments selection below or on our Facebook or Google+ page. You can also follow us on Twitter or show us your project on Pinterest.
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.
A flat head screwdriver
A set of wire strippers
A pair of scissors
Step 1: Prepare the Wire
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
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
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
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.
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.
Unless you’re an electrician, you’ve probably never changed a ballast. Chances are, when your garage fixture or kitchen light went out, you changed the bulbs, and when that didn’t work, you went to an overpriced hardware store and bought a brand-new fixture. Sound familiar?
Unfortunately, you could’ve saved a lot of money by switching out the ballast—an investment of only $10 to $15.
But with so many options out there, how would you know which ballast to pick? The truth is, it’s pretty simple. There are tons of fluorescent ballasts to choose from (we have nearly 300 on our site!), but most business owners and even homeowners will find it easy to wade through that seemingly never-ending selection if they concentrate on just 3 key specs: Bulb type, start method, and ballast factor.
Needless to say, this is the most important part. If you don’t know what type of fluorescent bulb you’re using, you’re going to have a hard time figuring out which type of fluorescent ballast to buy. Fortunately, most fluorescent fixtures will use one of three common bulb types: An F40T12 (4′ long; 1.5″ in diameter), an F32T8 (4′ long; 1″ in diameter) or an F54T5 (46″ long; 0.625″ in diameter). If your bulbs don’t meet one of these descriptions, you’ll need to check the etching near one of the ends of the fluorescent bulb (a good idea even if you think you know the bulb type).
Once you’ve determined what type of fluorescent bulbs you have, don’t burn them out prematurely by choosing a ballast with the wrong starting method. As discussed in a previous article on how to extend the life of a light bulb, an instant start ballast hits the fluorescent bulb cathodes with about 600 volts every time you flip the light switch. As you might imagine, the bulb can only stand so many of those on/off switches. Consider where your fixture is installed. Offices, boardrooms, and retail spaces tend to stay lit for long periods, so use an instant start ballast should be fine, as long as you don’t switch the lights off and on more than about 3-4 times a day. Hallways, stairwells, and bathrooms are switched much more frequently, especially since the lighting in these areas is often controlled by an occupancy sensor. In these areas, it’s best to use a programmed start ballast, which will heat the bulb cathodes more slowly and prolong its life.
Finally, you need to consider light output. “What?” you say. “You mean the bulb isn’t exactly the brightness it says it is on the label?” Nope. The light output shown on a fluorescent bulb’s label, expressed in lumens, is figured using a normal light output ballast with a ballast factor between 0.77 and 1.1. A normal ballast factor is usually the right option, for “normal” circumstances. But if you don’t need your room quite as bright, you can save electricity by using a low output ballast with a ballast factor below 0.77. On the other hand, if you are lighting a warehouse or manufacturing facility where brightness is important, you will need a high output ballast with a ballast factor above 1.1, which will push the bulb to be 10% or more brighter than stated on the label.
Of course, if you need something more specialized like a sign ballast, dimming ballast, or circline ballast, you’ll likely need an equally specialized electrician. The same principles still hold true, however, so if you need to call an electrician, at least he’ll be impressed by how much you know!
If you own or manage a business of any sort, it is likely required that you invest in exit lights, safety lights, and emergency signage. While no business owner wants to think his or her business might suffer a fire or other emergency, it is important to prepare for that contingency anyway. Insurance companies demand it, and most local fire codes make it a requirement. Most importantly, however, proper emergency lighting is for the safety of your business, customers, and suppliers. The last thing you want is for a simple lack of signage or emergency lighting to lead to a tragic accident.
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