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How to Fix a Broken Lamp – DIY Talent Condo Blues

Can you hear the bass drum and the band playing? The DIY Talent Parade is in full swing now. Lisa from Condo Blues is striding this way and ready to show off her mad electrical skills.

I recently met Lisa at Blissdom and she is a real fun gal with lots of energy. Seriously, forget the fountain of youth, I want the secret to her energy! Lisa writes Condo Blues an eco-friendly blog that was recognized as one the 100 Best Green Blogs for College Students and named Best of 2008 Creative Reuse by Apartment Therapy. Her projects have appeared in This Old House Magazine, The Chicago Sun Times, MSN Money, Method Home, and The Columbus Dispatch, on WBNS TV10, and in a series of interviews on The Weather Channel. She says her mission is to teach people how to stop making Honey Do lists and start making Do It Yourself Honey! lists. I love it!!!

And here she is, that vivacious red head, Lisa from Condo Blues! {Whistling and cheering.}

I’m excited to hang out at Brittany’s place today. Don’t worry I wiped my feet on the doormat before I came in. My name is Lisa Nelsen-Woods. I blog at Condo Blues. I got my start helping my father with DIY projects as a toddler.

Now I use everything from a sewing machine to a jackhammer to make my condo stylish and green on a budget. Sometimes DIY projects take a left turn at Albuquerque and make you sing the blues. I tell you what went wrong, how to avoid it, and how to fix it so your project turns out better than you imagined – with a dash of humor on the side.

There are many things a women likes to hear from her husband. “I love you”; “Let’s get ice cream!”; and “I bought you diamonds! Here are those cutting blades you wanted” are a few.

However, “Honey, were those lamps you gave me for Christmas expensive?” is not one of them.

My husband accidentally yanked the pull chain out of the socket when he turned off a lamp in our bedroom. He tried reattaching the pull chain. After several failed attempts, he couldn’t reattach it. He thought a new lamp was in our future.

Until I answered his question with, “Your lamps are hand-crafted stained glass imported from Ireland.” In other words, not inexpensive. But easily repaired for under $5.00. The lamp socket needed replacing.

You will need:

  • Lamp
  • Replacement lamp socket (you can purchase this at any home improvement store)
  • Screwdriver
  • Needle nosed pliers

Fix it!

1. Remove the socket sleeve by pulling straight up on the socket shell. This might take a bit of oomph to remove.

2. The replacement socket I purchased has a bright brass shell. I will replace the socket, reuse the original lamp casing, and pull chain so this lamp matches its companion on my nightstand.

3. I removed the new pull chain from the socket. I threaded the ball chain through the front of the socket. Then I used a pair of needle nose pliers to attach the end of the ball chain to the lamp switch. You can skip this step if you have a knob or slider switch on your lamp socket.

4. Do you see how I left the electrical cord tied in a knot when I removed the old lamp socket? That knot is not a mistake. It is an Underwriter’s Knot. The Underwriter’s Knot keeps the wire from pulling loose at the terminals if someone yanks the cord from the wall. Obviously only a person who is disrespectful of your socket replacement skills would do such a thing. But it is a best practice for a reason and one I suggest you follow. I left the original Underwriter’s Knot intact so I would not have to untie it. If you need to tie an Underwriter’s Knot check out this diagram.

5. Use the needle nosed pliers to twist each set of the wire strands together and to form a hook.

6. Loosen each terminal screw on the socket with the screwdriver. Use your fingers or the needle nosed pliers to hook the wire to the base of the screw.  (Edited to note Norman’s excellent addition to this post in the comments below.) In the interest of safety, plugs that are not polarized (both prongs are the same size) should be replaced with polarized ones (one prong is wider than the other.) Also make sure to attach the ribbed (or otherwise “indicated”) wire to the silver screw. Attach the smooth “hot” wire to the gold screw.) Tighten the screws into place.

7. Place the socket into the socket cap. You may have to pull on the lamp cord to get a close fit. Good thing you tied that Underwriter’s Knot!

8. Leave the cardboard insulating sleeve inside the top lamp socket shell.

9. Slip the socket shell over the socket and into the socket cap.

10. Screw in a light bulb, plug in the lamp, and light up the night!

Do you like food? I also blog about making real food, real quick, and for real budgets on The Lazy Budget Chef and am the food blogger for The Balancing Act on Lifetime Television. If you are more of a socially social person follow me @condoblues on Twitter or friend me on Facebook.

Put your hands together for that stunning DIY performance. I really love how Lisa saved that beautiful lamp from a certain fate in the landfill. And she spent less than $5! Way to go girl.

Well, look at who’s strutting up the street! If it isn’t the DIY Queen herself! The fabulous Allison from House of Hepworths is up next.

Don’t forget to join the line up by taking part in the linky party next Friday at the end of the parade.


11 replies
  1. Chris Mills
    Chris Mills says:

    If I buy a lamp in a foreign country, can I safely use it in the U.S. after changing out the plug or putting on a plug adapter? Would it require “foreign” light bulbs?

  2. ROSS C.
    ROSS C. says:

    I have many lamps from Duffner , Handel , Suess , Wilkinson , and a few more from the turn of the century makers. This step by step repair information is very good for the person that has never repaired a socket before. Thanks for posting these pics and instructions…. Ross…Tn.

  3. Paul Berweiler
    Paul Berweiler says:

    Thanks for the excellent information with great pictures. I never tried to do something like this before, but when my wife’s lovely Tiffany-style lamp had its pull-chain stop working I wanted to fix it. I am nowhere near a handyman, but I found this to be extremely easy and the parts I needed from the hardware store was less than $6.00. As far as the wiring went, the old adage of “black to brass” worked just fine. Thank you once again.

  4. Norman D. Ploom
    Norman D. Ploom says:

    Older lamps had cords with smooth and ribbed insulation to identify which was “hot” and which was “neutral”, but the plug itself was not polarized, i.e. both prongs of the plug were the same size. Those plugs could be inserted into an outlet either way, meaning that there was a 50-50 chance that the lamp socket would effectively be wired with the hot wire going to the more nearly accessible socket screw shell, which posed the same danger identified above. In the interest of safety for children, and others, those non-polarized plugs should be replaced with polarized ones, making sure to attach the ribbed (or otherwise “indicated”) neutral conductor to the wide prong, and the smooth “hot” one to the narrow prong.

  5. Norman D. Ploom
    Norman D. Ploom says:

    Sorry, but this tutorial is DANGEROUSLY WRONG on a basic point. The pictures in the tutorial show that the wires were, in fact, attached to the correct screws (except that all wires should be wound around the screws clockwise), but FOR THE WRONG REASON. WIRE COLOR IS IRRELEVANT. It’s not the color of the wire, but the TEXTURE OF THE INSULATION on the wire. The wire with the smooth insulation is the “hot” conductor, and it is attached to the brass screw (which is attached to the contact at the bottom of the socket). The wire with the ribbed insulation is what is called the “neutral” or “grounded” conductor, and it is attached to the silver screw (which is attached to the threaded part of the socket into which the bulb is screwed). At the wall outlet, this neutral wire is connected to the wide prong on the plug). This wiring scheme was designed to prevent electrocution if a person accidentally touches the threaded portion of the socket, a not uncommon occurrence. If wired backwards, an accidental touch of the threaded portion of the socket could result in severe injury or death. So, follow the otherwise good advice in the tutorial, but when determining which wire goes to which screw, GO BY INSULATION TEXTURE, NOT COLOR.

  6. Kim @ Sand & Sisal
    Kim @ Sand & Sisal says:

    I soooo needed this post! My kids break every lamp in my house! I do need to figure out how to not get the socket to tip over. Mine don’t stay up straight, so all my lampshades are cock-eyed (kids…grrr). I’m going to share this on my FB page today!

  7. Condo Blues
    Condo Blues says:

    Thanks for having me over at your place today! How much do I owe for all of the nice things you said about me? Or I just rewire all of your lamps as a thank you 🙂


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