How to rewire a lamp.

Everybody give Shelly a big Art of Doing Stuff welcome with all the enthusiasm you show me every day! ~ karen

Hello Readers (who must be so smart because you read such a smart blog)! I’m Shelly Leer, aka Mod Home Ec Teacher, and Shelly Miller Leer. I’m so appreciative that Karen, one of the truly BEST bloggers out there, invited me (so I’d quit nagging) to write a guest post for The Art of Doing Stuff.

So, here’s the back story in a nutshell.  Way back in the olden days of DIY blogs and bloggers, there weren’t that many of us. I was a writer for, and Karen was getting her blog started.  I came across her somehow and sent her an email. I knew right off the bat she’d be a star, and secretly pride myself on the fact that I knew it before there was enough DIY traffic to even have a star.

We’ve connected off and on and I sincerely consider her to be one of the best and most worthwhile bloggers in the bloggy blogosphere. She had me hooked when she wrote that early, clever post entitled “How to Recover a Chair in 5 Minutes” where she plopped a Mongolian throw over an old MCM chair.  Brilliant!

Sidenote: I’m an upholsterer turned DIY Blogger turned upholstery teacher and still a DIY blogger. Furniture is really my thing, but I’ve been living a double life in the DIY world.

On with it already!!

Late in the Fall, on one of my regular thrifting trips, I came upon a spectacular authentic vintage lamp at my local Goodwill Store. Many times I pass up unique pieces just because I need to purge so many ‘meh’ things in my garage.  But this lamp was too good and too unusual to leave behind. It had two problems though. It had no shade and it had one scary looking plug. Rewiring lamps has become second nature to me since I clearly have an obsession with scouting out and scooping up vintage lamps in organic shapes, preferably white. I also have a stockpile of decent and inexpensive lampshades I’ve come across while thrifting, so the lamp cord was the only real issue.


Alright, let’s get started with this little DIY on how to rewire that spectacular lamp you might find with exposed wires, circa 1940.

First and foremost, you don’t have to fear rewiring lamps. The wire kits come with all the instructions you need. You can buy the entire kit, or each of the pieces separately. This lamp worked, so I knew the socket was good.

***Always follow the directions that come in your kit.

You’ll need:

A flat head screwdriver

Needle nose pliers

A new cord/socket kit with instructions

Here’s what you do:


  1. Poke a hole in the bottom covering so you can access the cord inside the lamp base







  1. Remove the top of the light socket and the cardboard sleeve to expose the wires and screws



  1. Unscrew both wires on the light socket. One will be on a silver screw and one on a brass screw



  1. Remove the old wire from the lamp, pulling it down and out the bottom of the lamp



  1. Review the manufacturer’s instructions with your new lamp cord and/or entire kit



  1. Determine if your new cord needs some of the plastic to be peeled back to expose the wires, or if it’s ready to attach like this one. Very nice and user friendly.





  1. Insert the new cord through the lamp base and up through the threaded pipe in the top of the lamp. Even though it looks like I’m helping this lamp give birth, it’s just my arm threading the cord through the upper pipe in the neck of the lamp.


  1. Now, you need to split the cord about 4” down from the top and tie the Underwriter’s Knot which is included in a diagram on the instructions.


  1. Here’s the most important part: there is one side of the cord that has grooves all the way around it (flat head screwdriver in the photo is resting on the grooved side). The other side is smooth.  The grooved side goes on the silver screw, and the smooth the side goes on the brass screw. MAKE SURE YOU GET THIS RIGHT.



  1. Replace the cardboard sleeve over the wire and screw piece of the socket



  1. Replace the metal sleeve onto the socket





  1. Trace and cut out a new piece of felt to glue on the bottom of your lamp for furniture protection.

I’m not such a fan of this kind of lampshade, but I had it on hand, it fits the lamp and it only cost $11.99, also at Goodwill.



My studio upholstery classes in Indianapolis have attracted students from all over the US. Our recently added online upholstery courses, Upholstery Knockouts, includes students from the US and Canada who are learning how to upholster through our online ‘classroom’ (private blog) videos, written materials, a private Facebook Group, as well as emails and group calls. If upholstering in your jammies sounds like the way to go, check out ModHomeEc and the Upholstery Knockouts sales page for the class that is now in session.


 Thanks to Shelly!  I’m back tomorrow everyone so I’ll see you then. Wait. No I’m not. I’m not coming back until Friday. See? I’m so tired from working I can’t even be trusted to make sense anymore.  ~ karen



  1. doug barrey says:

    i rewire old lamps too i started doing that since age 12 which was in 1984 and 85 to now which i still do it old lamps are made better than new lamps in my opinion and experience and have lots more character to them and are more interesting i use the old plugs if possible if they have the wires exposed i redo the wires if the wires are good then put a piece of plastic or cardboard on the plug where the prongs are at whee the cover goes all depending on what kind of cardboard it is right now i am in search of a tension pole lamp they are hard to find hoping this year i find one

  2. Sabina says:

    I have a wonderful old wrought iron kitchen ceiling fixture that I snatched at a flea market, I use on my patio in the summer. There is an on/off switch along the cord itself. Can I rewire this with outdoor grade wiring/switch?

  3. Maureen says:

    I’m just finding this post today, and thanks! I have a lamp that the base/cord went underwater during Sandy. It’s a one of a kind copper lamp, made as a retirement gift for a plumber, and it’s oddball, but I have loved the thing ever since I spotted it a the yardsale. I don’t trust the old cord after being exposed to the salt/muck. Now, I can salvage it! Already ordered a replacement wiring kit.

  4. Julie says:

    Hi Shelly – How timely your post is! My friend gave me a lovely lamp that needs to be rewired. I was going to have my husband do it and he said “he would put it on the list” which means whenever he gets around to it! Now I can tackle this myself. Thanks a million!!! I too am going to check out ModHomeEc.

  5. Susan says:

    Hi, Shelly! I check into your blog occasionally, to see what new things your are up to and your students have done. Love the thing you and your students do! Thanks for the tute on lamp rewiring!

  6. says:

    I was pretty pleased to discover this site. I want
    to to thank you for ones time for this fantastic read!! I
    definitely liked every part of it and i also have you saved to fav to see new information on
    your website.

  7. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Thanks Shelly..easy to follow!

  8. Amy in StL says:

    I rewired a two socket lamp that I inherited. However, I cut the plug off the old cord and twisted each side to the wires on the new cord to help fish it up the lamp. It wasn’t big like yours, its a little tube just big enough for one wire – because it came loose once. Pulling the new cord through was easier than trying to “push a rope”.

  9. Deirdre Fowler says:

    I just have to say, I LOVE your wallpaper. Beautiful lamp too.

  10. cathy says:

    Thanks for making this so down to earth and not brain surgery…anything electric scares me, even though I did replace my dining room fixture. I have some really frightening 1940s wiring.

  11. Julie Ives Lemke says:

    Shelly, what a helpful tutorial. Once again, I’m motivated by what you share!! THANKS

  12. Marti says:

    This was a great tutorial. LOVE the lamp… it would work great on my Danish modern sideboard. (Need my shipping address?) I worked in a lamp shop several years back and I learned a LOT from this little write-up (particularly about what to do with weekends if I ever move to Indianapolis!) so thanks much Shelly!

    Karen, what happened to Lynne? Are you THAT tired?

  13. shelly says:

    Tigersmom-I completely get it that those wires are almost indistinguishable, but they really are! Get a magnifying glass, or better yet, close your eyes and feel the two sides with your finger tips. You’ll feel the grooves. (Feel the Groove–a good name for some project! haha)

  14. Tigersmom says:

    Hello and Welcome, Shelly.

    That is a seriously cool lamp. I see why you couldn’t pass it up.

    I have rewired a lamp before (thanks to Karen convincing me I CAN do stuff) and as is typical, a fifteen minute job took me, an actual living and walking idiot, an hour and a half.

    One of my main problems was being able to tell the difference between the all important piece of wire that had the grooves on it and the one that didn’t. I saw no difference whatsoever and see no difference in the ones in the above photo. And, yes, I did use my reading glasses.

    Do you have any further details to share that may help an idiot such as myself to tell the difference between those wires? Up until now I thought it was just a funny joke the electrically savvy liked to play on those of us not so electrically inclined. Or perhaps I just need some much stronger reading glasses, like a microscope. Any help would be appreciated.

    I also am looking forward to checking out the upholstering in my jammies classes as I try to do most things in my jammies. I have reupholstered a few simple dining chairs, headboards and footstools (all in my jammies), but would love to advance to trickier items.

    Karen – I read your line at the end as if it were a sarcastic thanks to Shelley and that you were annoyed at having to be back tomorrow. While speed reading does nothing for my comprehension, it does provide me with the occasional laugh, so for that reason, it is still my friend.

    Hope all is going well and I echo the request for bunches of pics because I know that’s what you want to be doing, stopping work on your kitchen every five minutes to set up and take a picture of every blinkin’ step. ; D

  15. Laura Bee says:

    Timely post -thank you! Sometimes I don’t trust internet DIY’s, but if you are a friend of Karen’s you can be trusted! And the pictures are great! I have an antique floor lamp I paid someone to rewire about 18 years ago when electrical work scared me. The socket has become loose and comes apart sometimes (the bulb hangs upside down). Guess I should get the replacement socket and just do it! Is there a special one for inverted bulbs? It looks normal.
    Guess my step one would be: Unplug the lamp.

  16. Ev says:

    Post was well done! Thanks for the info. I would never have tried to rewire a lamp, now I can. Goodwill here I come!

  17. Devin says:

    Hi Shelly! After I finished university, about 4 years ago, I was still working my part time job as a secretary at a hospital and I used to read curbly every day on my breaks and that’s how I found Karens blog! So I guess I owe you a big thanks :)

    (I love curbly and wish I still had time to keep up with all the posts!)

  18. karol says:

    Awesome tute! I’ve bookmarked it for future use. I too passed up way too many vintage lamps because I was “afraid” of the scary looks of the old wiring. Now I know it’s as easy as 1-2-3 to rewire.

  19. Maureen Locke says:

    Love the lamp and the shade looks great on it. Thanks for the tutorial. I’ve always wanted to know how to do that. Unfortunately I got rid of the lamp I wanted to fix but it’s still a good thing to know. I’m all about becoming the best DIYer that I can be. :)

  20. Su says:

    Sweet lamp and simple instructions – thanks!!

  21. Great info Shelly! Cheers.

  22. RosieW says:

    Shelly, Your tutorial is perfection. Rewiring CAN be for wimps because it’s really a simple process.

    Like the refelting the bottom instructions too.

    Wish like everything I could find someone like you for reupholstering workshop nearby! I’m in the North Atlanta area if anyone reading has a recommendation.

    Rosie, in Sugar Hill, GA

  23. shelly says:

    The shade I used is one of those that has the frame that fits down on top of the socket. I love drum shades, but I would rather have the better shades that fit onto a ‘harp’ (you know, the metal frame that allows a better quality shade to be screwed on top). This shade is a good color and shape, but tends to be looser than the other.

  24. Pam'a says:

    I have a big, Jetson-esque floor lamp that needs a three-way switch. I’m taking it on faith that these, too, can be purchased in toto at the hardware store… ? (Excellent post, btw.)

  25. Debbie says:

    Awesome! First, I love Thrift Shops! Second, now I won’t shy away from lamps that need rewiring. This is perfect timing as we are lamp hunting for my son’s first “real” apartment (to go with his first, out-of-college “real” job!) Third, I really think I can do this. I just have to be careful I don’t get “screwed” by mixing up the screws! Fourth, thanks for guest writing!

  26. TucsonPatty says:

    Thanks! You made this sound and look so simple, I’m going to quit being such a baby about rewiring lamps. I’m always afraid there are some extra electricity juices stored up inside there. I know, I know, not possible, but it sounds good!

  27. Debbie says:

    Thank you Shelly for your post on how to rewire a lamp. I have a couple lamps now that need this in order to be used again. Now that I see how easy this is I will be on it this weekend. I will be looking you up for the upholstery. I have several pieces now I want to work on. For some reason this is very hard to find anyone teaching here in Oregon. You made my day. Thank you

  28. Barbie says:

    My husband just re-wired a lamp for me a couple weeks ago. Now I will try to do one myself! Thanks!!

  29. Call Me Patty says:

    Great practical blog Shelly. I have rewired countless lamps using this method. some of those old lamps are too good to pass up. I don’t mind spending a little money on lampshades because I figure the money I save on the base, it still ends up being WAY cheaper than buying brand new.

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