Learn This Skill, and You’ll Never Have to Toss a Broken Lamp Again

updated Dec 11, 2023
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Whether they come from thrift stores, resale sites, or hand-me-downs, vintage lamps have a lot of style. (Or, at the very least, a lot of potential, as proven by these thrifted lamp redos.) But what happens when the important part of the lamp—you know, the part that actually lights up—doesn’t work?

Don’t worry! Once you learn how to swap out the old cord for a new one, you can make any malfunctioning lamp workable again. It will only take you about an hour, plus the cost of a new lamp kit (you can find them for less than $15 online). Bonus: This skill translates to making new lamps, too, out of anything you can safely string a cord through. Happy re-wiring!

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Supplies you’ll need to rewire a lamp:

Directions for how to rewire a lamp:

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1. Pull out the old socket

Before beginning, unplug your lamp. Tilt the lamp on its side, take off the harp, and unscrew the old light socket from the base. Pull the socket out so there’s some cord exposed at the top of the lamp.

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2. Cut the old lamp cord just under the socket

Pull the cord out of the top of the lamp enough to give you room to cut it. Use wire cutters for this task.

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3. Pull the rest of the wire out from the base of the lamp

Once the top of the wire—including the old socket—is cut off, pull on the bottom of the cord to pull the rest out of the base of the lamp; you may need to remove a felt pad on the bottom of your lamp in order to do this.

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4. Prep the new cord

Grab the cord from your lamp kit. The end without the plug will be the one that you thread into your lamp. Split the two sides apart by about 6 inches.

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5. Use wire strippers to expose the inner wiring

Strip about an inch of coating off both of the cords to expose the wiring beneath.

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6. Note which side is “hot” (or positive) and which is neutral

The “hot” side will be smooth, while the neutral side will be ribbed. You’ll need to know this for later when you attach the socket.

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7. Tape the wires together, then feed the cord up through the bottom of the lamp

Use electrical tape to join the wires, then push the cord up through the base of the lamp. Pull the cord out of the top of the lamp, and through your lamp kit’s provided hardware.

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8. Tie an underwriter’s knot to secure the cord

Remove the electrical tape from the cord. To make sure the cord doesn’t slip back through the lamp, tie an underwriter’s knot. Bend the two pieces outward to make an M shape. Then, pull the left side over the right, keeping the M shape intact. The knot should look a bit like a pretzel.

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9. Attach the wires to the socket

Loosen the screws on either side of the socket enough that a wire can fit beneath them. Hook the smooth (hot) wire over the brass screw; the ribbed (neutral) wire should go over the silver screw. You may have to use wire cutters to trim any excess, if the exposed wires extend past the bottom of the brass screw.

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10. Fit the harp onto the socket

Pinch the harp into place, and add your lamp shade. Plug in and enjoy your “new” lighting.

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