hands rewiring a lamp
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How to Rewire a Lamp

A few inexpensive supplies and the right connections can make an old lamp new again

When you purchase an antique torchere, such as the one dissected here, or any vintage floor lamp that has not been restored, inspect it thoroughly to be sure every part is in working order. After time and extended use—or disuse—the sheathing (called a jacket) that covers and protects the wires inside the electrical cord may be cracked or frayed, or completely exposed. The prongs on the plug may have corroded, and the switch may not operate correctly.


Steps // How to Rewire a Lamp
1 ×

Overview Diagram for Rewiring a Lamp

 
Step One // How to Rewire a Lamp

Overview Diagram for Rewiring a Lamp

illustrated diagram of standard lamp parts and construction
Illustration by Steve Stankiewicz

Always unplug a lamp before attempting any repairs.

Once it is unplugged, take the lamp to a hardware store to determine what type of cord and plug will suit it best. Electrical cord may be flat or round. A flat cord will take a clamp-style flat-cord plug; a round cord will require a two-prong round-cord plug.

A socket is composed of several parts: an outer metal shell; an insulating sleeve; the threaded socket with its switch and two screw terminals (one silver, one brass) to which the two wires inside the cord attach; and an insulated cap, which protects the terminals.

A two-prong, round-body plug is composed of several parts, too: the plug body, the shell, and the cord clamp. A clamp-style flat-cord plug comes in two pieces, a core with prongs attached, and a shell.

 
2 ×

Remove the Base

 
Step Two // How to Rewire a Lamp

Remove the Base

base of a lamp to rewire
Illustration by Steve Stankiewicz

Pry cover off the bottom of the lamp to reveal the nut holding the pipe through which the cord passes from the socket to the plug. Pull the pipe partway out the top of the lamp, in order to unscrew and remove old socket.

 
3 ×

Thread the New Cord

 
Step Three // How to Rewire a Lamp

Thread the New Cord

cord threaded through a lamp being rewired
Illustration by Steve Stankiewicz

Cut off old plug; attach new cord to old cord and pull all the way up through pipe; snip off old cord and discard.

 
4 ×

Make the Wire Connections

 
Step Four // How to Rewire a Lamp

Make the Wire Connections

making the wire connections to rewire a lamp
Illustration by Steve Stankiewicz

Split top 2 inches of cord jacket off new cord; strip ½-inch of insulation off wire ends; form exposed wire ends into loops. One wire end is "hot"; the other, which is ridged, is considered "neutral."

Screw in new socket; tie Underwriter's knot between socket and cap; hook hot wire around brass terminal and neutral one around silver terminal; tighten screws; slip insulating sleeve and outer metal shell over socket and switch.

 
5 ×

Reattach the Base and Connect the Plug

 
Step Five // How to Rewire a Lamp

Reattach the Base and Connect the Plug

reattaching the base and connecting the plug to rewire a lamp
Illustration by Steve Stankiewicz

Tighten nut around pipe at base; re-attach base. (Cover with a new piece of felt, if desired, to prevent lamp from scratching floor.)

To wire a two-prong round-cord plug, pry out body; feed cord into shell; strip ¾-inch of insulation off wire ends after splitting bottom 1¼ inches of cord, as per Step 4. Tie wires into Underwriter's knot; twist wire ends clockwise and connect to plug screws; snap plug body into shell; tighten clamp.

For a clamp-style flat-cord plug (like the one pictured here), pinch prongs to release plug core; spread prongs. Feed blunt end of flat wire through hole in bottom of shell, inserting it so that the ridged, neutral wire connects to the wider prong; squeeze prongs together; re-insert core in shell.

 
 
 

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