How To Wire a Lamp

How To Wire a Lamp

Colleen Quinn
Feb 26, 2010

Lamps seem to be a popular DIY topic this month, probably because the extra hours of darkness we see during the winter months remind us of the importance of good lighting in the home. Whether you are trying to fix up a vintage lamp, or trying to create a lamp from something new, we hope you find this tutorial on wiring a lamp useful. The sample lamp shown belongs to my mom, and dates back to my parents' first DC apartment c.1971. Though mom still loves the lamps, they were getting rather temperamental- turning this one on required a gentle 1.65 turns of the switch rather than the more standard 1 turn, not exactly a confidence builder when you're talking about electricity.

What You Need

1 vintage lamp (or whatever vase/box/doodad you want to turn into a lamp)
1 lamp wiring kit (you can assemble the various components yourself at the hardware store, but I'm lazy so I bought the kit)

drill (only if you are converting something into a lamp and need to drill holes for the cord etc)


1. Start breaking down your existing lamp. Take off the harp. Untwist the on/off knob until it comes free. Untwist the lamp socket. Pull the lamp socket apart to gain access to the wires. Unscrew the wire connections and pull off the socket cap. Pull the cord out through the base of the lamp.

2. Thread the new cord up through the base until it emerges at the top- make sure you push up extre to make for easy manipulation. Slip on the new neck and nipple (or reuse the old ones) and screw tight. Slide the bottom of the lamp harp onto the nipple. Screw the new socket cap into place on the nipple.

3. Tie an underwriter's knot in the cord. Connect the wires to the terminal screws- the wire with the ridge or colored strip connects to the silver screw. Pop the new socket on top of the cap and press down until you hear it snap into place.

4. Put the new harp into place, screw in a lightbulb, add back the shade and plug in your lamp.

Keep in mind that sometimes vintage lamps have surprises in store. When I first started loosening the locking nut at the top of mom's lamp, I realized that the metal lamp was actually four separate pieces being held together by the tension created by the nut. I quickly retightened that nut and moved on to the next step of the process. If you buy a kit, there are nice instructions and a picture on the back (my primary motivation for purchasing the kit).

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Images: Colleen Quinn

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