Got an odd piece that you want to display, but aren’t sure what to do with it? How about making a lamp? You can make lamps out of almost anything, and they provide décor and ambience, in addition to making great conversation pieces. If your craftsy side is feeling neglected and you want to spark it back into action, here’s a perfect project for you.
1Find a base. The base for your lamp should be sturdy enough to stand on its own, even after you add lamp apparatus and a shade on top. If you have a hollow base that you need to stabilize, consider partially filling it with something like marbles or sand. Some ideas for lamp bases that you could use:
- Wine bottles
- Log or timber
- Wooden pails or buckets
- Toys or figurines
- Hollowed-out books
2Buy a lamp kit. These can be found at most hardware stores. Note that it’s possible to purchase the pieces separately, but buying them together will ensure a better fit. If you do buy the cord separately, choose a #18 size cord.
- If you don’t want to buy a lamp kit, and instead want to purchase the items separately, you’ll need:
- Detachable harp
- Cord set
- Push-through socket and socket shell
- Assorted hardware, like nuts, bolts and washers
3Prepare the base for the rod. The rod is a hollow tube that will run the cord up through the bottom of your base to the lightbulb at the top. Depending on your base, you may have to drill or cut holes wide enough for the rod at the top and bottom of the lamp.
- If necessary, you can trim the rod with a hacksaw or pipe cutters, but it’s best (and easier) to choose a base that’s fitted to your rod. Sawing your rod down to size is not ideal.
Stabilize the bottom of the base. Your lamp kit might come with a piece meant to stabilize the bottom of your base. If it doesn’t, simply purchase rubber stoppers. Affix these at intervals around the base to prevent sliding and lift the base slightly off the table, allowing room for the cord.
1Thread the cord through the rod. The cord should consist of two covered wires stuck together. Thread it through the rod from bottom to top, leaving 3 or 4 inches (7 to 10 cm) of cord about the base.
- Before threading, tape the wire ends together so that they fit smoothly inside the rod.
- When doing this, make sure that the bottom of the plug doesn’t rub against the rod’s sharp edge.
Screw the lock nut onto the end of the lamp rod. Make sure your cords are threaded to where you want them first.
Screw the neck onto the lamp rod (optional). Your lamp kit may or may not come with a flat, broad “neck” piece or a rubber stopper to add to the lamp rod.
Add the harp bottom. Screw the harp bottom onto the lamp rod, arms facing upward. This will be the base for the rest of the harp.
Screw on the socket cap. Put the bowl-shaped socket cap on top of the harp bottom, open end up. Secure tightly.
Strip the wires. Pull the two covered wires at the top of the cord apart, separating about 4 inches (10 cm) down the cord. Using wire strippers or a knife, remove the insulation from the top 1 inch (2.5 cm) of the cords.
7Tie the wires. Tie the wires into an underwriter’s knot, which looks like a pretzel. Doing this will prevent the wires from falling through the rod to the base. To tie an underwriter’s knot:
- Bring the left wire down so that it’s facing to the right, in front of the doubled wiring.
- Bring the right wire down so that it’s facing to the left, in back of the doubled wiring.
- Put the right wire into the loop on the left side.
- Pull the ends of both wires tight, fastening the knot.
1Find the hot wire and the neutral wire. Usually, the neutral wire will be surrounded by ribbed insulation. If you’re unsure, refer to the instructions that came with your lamp kit.
- If the wires have two colors at all, the white is the neutral wire and the black is the hot wire.
Wrap the wires around the screws on the bulb socket. The bulb socket in the lamp kit should have two screws of different colors positioned at the base. Wrap the neutral wire clockwise around the silver (or white) screw, and the hot wire clockwise around the gold (or dark) screw. If you’re unsure, check the manual that came with your lamp kit. Using a screwdriver, tighten the screws down over the wires.
Put the socket shell over the bulb socket. Line it up so that the slot coming up from the bottom of the socket shell aligns with the switch on the bulb socket. Tuck the cords inside so that they won’t be visible, and push down the socket shell until it locks into place.
Attach the top of the harp. Squeeze the sides of the harp as you slide them into the slots on the harp bottom.
Place your lampshade on top of the harp. Once it’s secure, twist down the locknut to secure it.
Screw a lightbulb into the socket, and plug in your lamp.
How many sockets can I have on my lamp?
You can run as many sockets for the lights as you would like, as long as your power supply can power each light. This depends on the voltage of each light bulb and also how the circuit is run (i.e. if the lights are in a parallel circuit or not).
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- If you don’t wish to run a rod through your lamp base, sockets are available that allow the lamp cord to come through the bottom part of the socket shell.
- Reassemble both the plug and the socket as necessary, making sure there is no excess wire sticking out that can short to the other conductor. If any of the wires from one conductor touch the other conductor, you will have a “short,” which can shock you or cause a fire.
- Standard lamps are drilled down the centre to take the wire. At home this can be best achieved by using 3 wooden rods, such as broom handles glued together in a triangle. This automatically leaves a space down the centre. Alternatively, you could use a metal tube, but take care with metal and electricity.
- Ensure that decorative items or wires are not too close to the lightbulb. Always leave spacing from the light bulb and other materials which can cause burning and damaging.
- Keep in mind that wiring electrical circuits carries some risk. If the wiring is not correct, you can be shocked or electrocuted or the device can cause a fire. If you are unsure of what you are doing, you may want to prepare the object you want to make a lamp out of for wiring (the mount, the passageways for the wire, the lamp socket and shade mounting) and let someone more skilled in electrical wiring actually wire up the lamp.
- Always unplug the lamp before working with the wires. Do not plug in the lamp until you’re finished building it.
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