Rewire a Vintage Table Lamp

Updated on March 2, 2018
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Sherry has been writing about home, family, and pets since 2008. She enjoys retirement, traveling, reading, and crafts.

1940 Era Gonder Lamp
1940 Era Gonder Lamp

Lamp Rewire How-To

Building or repairing a lamp for your home is not hard to do. The principles are easy, and all you need is a screwdriver and a wire clipper. Measuring, a vision, and where to buy lamp parts helps the process move along faster. Keep three rules in mind before you start.

  1. Have the lamp unplugged.
  2. Start from the bottom and work to the top of the lamp.
  3. Arrange screw nuts, necks, and spindles to secure each section of the lamp at a junction.

The process is demonstrated here with a vintage-era Gonder lamp acquired several years ago. Finally, a shade was found, and I can build a new 1940s-style table lamp.

Table Lamp Restoration Summary

  1. Assess the Rebuild
  2. Take Lamp Measurements
  3. Start Lamp Assembly
  4. Stack the Parts
  5. Socket Assembly
  6. Adjust the Harp

Old lamp
Old lamp

1. Assessing the Rebuild

  • Dismantle the cord and parts of the lamp.
  • Measure the shade for correct harp size.
  • Reuse the socket because it is in good shape.
  • The cord is cracked and new cord ordered.
  • Reuse vintage finial.

Are You Considering a Lamp Rebuild?

Do you need some tips on lamp rebuilding?

See results

Dismantle the Old Lamp

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Here I have snipped off the socket. I took note of the parts for the original build. We have a one inch neck, a nut for securing.The cord is removed and I have a hollow spindle and a felt from the inside of the baseThe cracked cord. I want a new cord with on/off switch.
Here I have snipped off the socket. I took note of the parts for the original build. We have a one inch neck, a nut for securing.
Here I have snipped off the socket. I took note of the parts for the original build. We have a one inch neck, a nut for securing.
The cord is removed and I have a hollow spindle and a felt from the inside of the base
The cord is removed and I have a hollow spindle and a felt from the inside of the base
The cracked cord. I want a new cord with on/off switch.
The cracked cord. I want a new cord with on/off switch.

2. Take Measurements

Tips:

  • A harp should be the same height as the shade.
  • Consider the measurements between the on/off switch and the top of the socket for the cord leader length.
  • Measure the length needed between the bottom of base and outlet.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The lamp looks stubby and I have decided to add a 3 inch neck to bring the shade up higher.The harp section should be the same height as your shade.  I needed to go to the internet for a 10 inch harp.Measure distance between the on/off switch and your socket. For this lamp a 20 inch leader length is needed.
The lamp looks stubby and I have decided to add a 3 inch neck to bring the shade up higher.
The lamp looks stubby and I have decided to add a 3 inch neck to bring the shade up higher.
The harp section should be the same height as your shade.  I needed to go to the internet for a 10 inch harp.
The harp section should be the same height as your shade. I needed to go to the internet for a 10 inch harp.
Measure distance between the on/off switch and your socket. For this lamp a 20 inch leader length is needed.
Measure distance between the on/off switch and your socket. For this lamp a 20 inch leader length is needed.

Above illustrates parts needed for a rewiring. Consider the cord as two measurements.

  1. Socket to on/off switch. This is known as the leader.
  2. Length needed from base to outlet.

The spindle is one inch longer than the 3 inch brass neck decided on. This allows for screw tightening at both ends.

Local stores do not have a full stock of various lengths in lamp parts. The internet is going to be your source.

Take note of the socket assembly. There are three parts: bottom cup, the inside with the knob, and the metal outer shell. Let's put the table lamp together!

3. Start Lamp Assembly

Our lamp has a very tall base and threading the cord needed some extra problem solving.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
I puzzled over the parts and decided this is what I will need at the top of the base. Spindle, nut, felt, slip-on brass neck, harp and socket.1. Put wire ends through the feeder hole at the base of the pottery. 2. Thread the spindle with  the felt on top of the nut.
I puzzled over the parts and decided this is what I will need at the top of the base. Spindle, nut, felt, slip-on brass neck, harp and socket.
I puzzled over the parts and decided this is what I will need at the top of the base. Spindle, nut, felt, slip-on brass neck, harp and socket.
1. Put wire ends through the feeder hole at the base of the pottery. 2. Thread the spindle with  the felt on top of the nut.
1. Put wire ends through the feeder hole at the base of the pottery. 2. Thread the spindle with the felt on top of the nut.

Since the base is 15 inches high I twist tied a BBQ skewer onto the wire end to aid in threading the cord and spindle through the hole at the top of the base. A straightened coat hanger probably would have worked better.

The spindle is 4 inches because the brass neck is three inches, leaving enough screw threads on each end for the tightening of the components. The felt is inside resting against the pottery hole and the nut is in place as an anchor for tightening the assembly.

4. Stack the Parts

Put the decorative neck over the spindle.

Now thread the harp and last is the bottom of the socket. The cord was lost once into the base. A simple twist and an anchor nut holds the cord until it is secured with a UL knot.

5. Socket Assembly

The bottom of the socket screws onto the top of the 4 inch spindle.

Tighten the socket. It should be very tight and the whole assembly should not have any wiggle room.


A UL underwriter's knot is needed to prevent pulling on the screwdowns. It is a simple over hand knot.

The wire ends should fit under the screw like an inverted J. Screw the J shaped wire ends securely under the screws of the socket component.

Lay the knot flat as possible and stand the inside unit into the base.

Slip the outer part of the socket over it lining up the area for the switch knob. Give the outside case a nudge down and it will snap into the bottom of the socket, securing everything into place.

You are ready to test a light bulb.

Test Okay.

6. Adjust the Harp

  1. The cradle arrangement at the top of your harp can be tipped back and forth for leveling the shade.
  2. Tighten the cradle using a pliers by pinching the small projections on each side to the center.
  3. Set shade on top.
  4. Use a finial to secure the shade to the harp.

Completed Gonder Lamp

Gonder Lamp
Gonder Lamp

The Matching Gonder Pottery

The color of this old pottery sometimes looks green and at other times looks brown-mustard. There are no chips or crazing and I love the pieces collected.

With a new cord and socket rewiring this lamp is safe to use and fits into matching home decor for many years of enjoyment. Satisfaction guaranteed!

Last Reminders for Lamp Creators

I have built two lamps. I am not a professional, but with trial and error most decorators can rebuild lighting for your home. Remember:

  • Always use the UL Knot.
  • Find a good sourse for lamp parts.
  • Use nuts and screw elements at all junctions to stablize the parts for tight fits.

Questions & Answers

    © 2014 Sherry Venegas

    Have questions or comments about building a lamp?

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      • paperfacets profile imageAUTHOR

        Sherry Venegas 

        3 years ago from La Verne, CA

        If you have any questions, let me know.

      • Au fait profile image

        C E Clark 

        3 years ago from North Texas

        I think being able to repair or build a lamp is so cool. Years ago when I was still in elementary school I remember my sister-in-law repairing one of our floor lamps, fixing or replacing the switch. She talked about how easy it was to build a lamp, too. I've seen some really interesting hand made lamps. I really appreciate this article and I'm going to have to study it a little when I have more time. Wish you were my neighbor so I could get some direct instruction . . .

      • Gypzeerose profile image

        Rose Jones 

        4 years ago

        You go girl. Pinned to my home repair board.

      • Merrci profile image

        Merry Citarella 

        4 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

        Great how-to! I don't need it just now, but sure could have used it in the past!

      • ecogranny profile image

        Kathryn Grace 

        4 years ago from San Francisco

        Lovely! The shade looks beautiful with the base. Thank you for sharing these tips.

      • lesliesinclair profile image

        lesliesinclair 

        4 years ago

        Nice job! I've done this too and I appreciate what you went through.

      working

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