I’ve been wanting a floor lamp for a long, long time. We had an old one in the barn, but I knew it would need to be cleaned and completely rewired. I decided to take on this project. Was it worth it? Economically, it might be a toss-up as to whether I should have done this or bought a new one, but this old lamp is a “match” for my vintage couch, and I’m satisfied. Here’s what I had to do.
First of all, let me be clear that this was not an attempt at restoration. One of the bronze parts of the pole broke years ago as a result of being knocked over one too many times by exuberant boys. However, the break only makes the pole a little wiggly. As long as its not being knocked over so often, I think it will be fine. I only wanted to make this lamp functional, so I didn’t have to worry about some former state of glory to be recaptured.
First I took a hard look at the lamp. Twenty years in the barn hadn’t done it any favors. Apart from the break, I was sure that all the internal parts and cord would need to be replaced for safety. I also learned that the longest part of the pole and the cup at the top where the electrical socket sits are not brass, but simply coated steel, so those were all rusted.
It was a simple matter to get new cord (be sure you buy one long enough and heavy enough- I bought 10 feet) and a plug at the hardware store, but to replace the socket I had to go online. However, there were any number of places which still carry this item. This is a mogul socket for a 3-way bulb. Mogul just means that the socket is oversize. This requires a bulb with that size base, or an adapter plug.
Once I knew that I could get the parts, I set about to clean the lamp. I cleaned the brass with baking soda and vinegar, scrubbing the decorative designs with a toothbrush. It took a couple of applications, but the brass cleaned up well enough.
Then I used some emery cloth on the pole and cup to take off the accumulated rust. Finally, I wiped away all the dust from this process with a damp cloth. This took less time than cleaning the brass! I then took the whole thing outside, taped some plastic to protect the brass, and sprayed the steel parts with primer. For the finish coat, I used a blue paint that matches some other things in my house. It was brush-on, but I could have easily used a spray paint with a faux bronze finish, or any other paint appropriate for metal.
The most difficult part was getting the internal parts of the lamp together. The porcelain socket screws on to a gray metal bracket that supports it. I tested this to be sure that the new socket would fit. It was supposed to, but one of the screws in the new socket was off by the tiniest bit, and it took me a lot of tries to get it together. Once assured that it would work, I had to take it apart again to wire the socket. The cord had to be threaded through the gray bracket, then split for about six inches. Then I stripped about 3/4 inch at each end, twisted the wire, formed each into a hook, and attached one wire to each of the screws on the bottom of the socket. Next, it was back to getting the bracket screwed on the socket, but I finally got it attached.
This whole assembly then screws on to a hollow post which is found in the bottom of the cup. Of course the long tail of the cord is threaded down the length of the lamp post before you screw the socket into the cup.
The most difficult part of this project came next. I discovered that the new socket has a deeper base than the old one and the hole in the side of the cup for the switch to fit through was too low. The switch has to screw into the socket, through that hole, but they did not line up. There seemed to be no way to overcome this except to enlarge the hole in the cup.
To enlarge the hole, I had to take the socket out again (but didn’t have to separate it from the bracket). Then I simply drilled a new hole above the old one, and smoothed the connection to the old hole with a grinder. This was all accomplished with a variable speed home drill. I did own a grinding bit, so didn’t have to go buy one of those. A final touch-up with emery cloth removed a couple of sharp burrs, and then I was ready to re-install the socket. I could have repainted to cup to cover up a small scratch, but I didn’t bother, since it will hardly show, under the shade.
The next thing was to put the plug on the other end of the cord, which is now protruding from the bottom of the lamp. My lamp has a hole in the base to thread the cord through to keep it from catching under the lamp feet. After doing that, I separated the parts of the plug, slid the main part of the plug on the wire, split the end of the cord a couple of inches, and again stripped about 3/4 inch of each wire. Those were twisted and bent into hooks, securing one under each of the wiring screws of the plug. Finally the protective cover of the plug was put back on.
My lamp will sit on carpet, but if I were going to use it on a floor, I would have also sanded the bottoms of the feet, and applied felt pads to keep it from scratching.
I had bought a new globe for the lamp, and this was put in place on top of the cup. All of the holding screws were still with the lamp, and still worked easily, so I didn’t have to do any work on them.
When I plugged the lamp in and gave it a try, it worked just fine, so I moved it to beside my reading chair, added the shade I had bought, and was ready to find a good book.
I know I could have found a cheap floor lamp for what I spent. However, I’ve been looking for quite a while for a style I like, and couldn’t find one. Also, I believe that even with the broken brass piece, I now have a lamp that is much more sturdy and will last longer than a new, cheap lamp.
Costs: total $52.62
10 feet cord: $2.90
3-way porcelain socket + shipping: $16.49
Glass globe: $11.99
Lamp Shade: $14.96
3-way bulb: $3.99
I already had the primer and paint- very small amounts needed