light fixture
Photo: John W. Taylor
When you see a vintage light fixture that would look perfect in your house, don't pass it up just because it has brittle wiring or a cracked lamp base. With a few dollars' worth of common hardware and fasteners, it can be safely hanging from your ceiling. These are the parts we needed and the steps we took to get an old fixture from an antique store up and working.

1. Remove the globe and unscrew the two halves of the old ceramic lamp base. Take them with you to the store and buy a replacement of the same diameter.

2. Measure the distance from the ceiling to the attachment holes on the fixture. (We did this by holding the fixture base up to the ceiling, sticking a bamboo skewer up through the base's attachment hole until it touched the ceiling surface, then denting the bamboo with a thumbnail.) Buy an 8-32 roundhead bolt 1⁄4 inch longer than that measurement for each attachment hole, along with a matching nut. (We also bought 8-32 tapped brass balls to cover the exposed bolt ends and match the fixture.) If the outlet box on the ceiling doesn't have a crossbar, add that and a grounding screw to your shopping list.

3. Screw the ceramic lamp base halves together, clamping the fixture's base between them. To prevent short circuits, put electrical tape over the lamp base where the pigtail wires are attached.

4. Shut off the electricity to the ceiling outlet. Use a circuit tester to make sure its wires are safe. Remove the crossbar from its outlet box (or package) and insert a bolt in each slot, pointing down. Fasten the green grounding screw loosely to the underside of the crossbar, then screw the crossbar to the box.

5. Check bolt length. Lift the fixture base to the ceiling, and fit the bolts through its holes. Tighten the nuts (or brass balls in this case) onto the bolts until the base sits on the ceiling. Take the base off for the next step. If the bolts are too long, thread a nut up to the head of each one , then cut them with a hacksaw. Back the nut off to restore the bolt's threads.

6. Lift the fixture base to the ceiling, then use wire nuts to connect each pigtail wire on the lamp base to the same color wire coming out of the ceiling box. Attach the bare copper wire to the grounding screw.

7. Insert the bolts through the base again, attach the nuts (or balls) and tighten them until the base rests firmly against the ceiling.

8. Reattach the globe to the base with its screws. Turn the electricity back on and enjoy your new fixture.
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