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How to Rewire a Lamp

You flick the switch and... everything's not illuminated? It may be your lamp needs a quick overhaul. Hey, lighten up, we're here to help.


  • Step 1: Strip down lamp Unplug the lamp and remove its shade, harp, and bulb.
  • Step 2: Remove covering With the folded blanket or towel beneath it, turn the lamp on its side and peel back or remove any felt covering the base.
  • Step 3: Loosen screw Turn the lamp right side up and look for a screw at the base of the socket. If there is one, loosen it with the screwdriver. Some older sockets simply screw on to the lamp top and just need to be unscrewed. For some lamps it may be necessary to unscrew and take out the knob in order to unscrew the socket.
  • Step 4: Cut socket Pull the socket up about 6 inches above the lamp and cut the cord where it emerges from the bottom of the socket. Throw the socket away.
  • Step 5: Cut cord If it seems like threading the new cord up through the lamp will be difficult, tie a knot in the old cord where it sticks out at the top, then cut the cord about 10 inches from the bottom of the lamp.
  • TIP: If threading the new cord up through the lamp won't be difficult, don't tie a knot—simply turn the lamp on its side, pull out the old cord, and thread through the new cord. Then skip ahead to Step 9.
  • Step 6: Strip wire & cord At the cut end of the old cord, pull apart the two strands for about 2 inches. Use the stripper tool on your wire cutter to strip about half an inch of insulation from each end, exposing each wire. Do the same with the end of the new cord.
  • TIP: If you don't have a pair of wire cutters and strippers handy, use a sharp pair of scissors to gently score the outer coating of insulation all the way around each wire and then pull it off.
  • Step 7: Splice ends Twist—or "splice"—the exposed ends of the old cord around the exposed ends of the new cord, and wrap the splice tightly with electrical tape.Don't use so much tape that the splice ends up wider than the opening it needs to fit through.
  • Step 8: Throw away cord Pull the old cord out through the top of the lamp until the splice emerges and the new cord is about 6 inches above the top of the lamp. Snip the electrical tape, undo the splice, and throw away the old cord.
  • Step 9: Take apart socket Take the new socket apart by pinching the top part—or "shell"—near the base and twisting it free.
  • Step 10: Knot strands Pass the two strands of cord up through the socket base, and tie an "Underwriters Knot" by making a loop with each strand of the split cord, looping away from where the strands meet, then passing the end of each strand through the opposite loop and pulling tight.
  • Step 11: Wrap wire Determine which strand of wire is smooth, with no ribs—this is the "hot" or "positive" wire. Loosen the brass screw of the new socket and wrap the "hot" wire once around it. Make sure the edge of the insulation is right up against the screw and no excess wire is sticking out past it. Tighten the screw to hold the wire in place.
  • Step 12: Wrap other wire Wrap the other (ribbed) wire—also known as the "neutral" wire—under the other screw and tighten.
  • Step 13: Reassemble socket Reassemble the socket by twisting the shell back onto the base. Pull the cord from the bottom of the lamp until the socket is back in place, then tighten the base screw to secure it.
  • Step 14: Re-affix covering Re-affix the felt covering by lining the exposed part of the base with hot glue and pressing the felt back into place.
  • TIP: If you completely removed the felt you can create a new covering to replace it. Using the lamp base as a guide, cut the felt into the right shape, then glue it to the base.
  • Step 15: Screw in bulb Screw in a light bulb, replace the harp and the shade, plug in your "new" lamp... and bask in the glow of your success.
  • FACT: Indoor lights and light bulbs were widely available by 1900, but most homes weren't wired for electricity until the 1920s and '30s.

You Will Need

  • A lamp in need of re-wiring
  • A flat surface
  • A folded blanket or towel
  • A screwdriver
  • Some electrical tape
  • A pair of wire cutters and strippers
  • A new lamp socket with the switch of your choice
  • 6.0 new lamp cord ending in a pre-molded plug
  • And some "hot glue" or glue dots suitable for felt
  • A pair of scissors (optional)
  • And a sheet of felt larger than the lamp base (optional)

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