How to Rewire a Lamp

Almost every time I bring home a lamp from a thrift store, Tom rolls his eyes.  “Now I’m going to have to rewire that so it doesn’t burn the house down,” he says.  Watching him work, it seemed an easy enough task, but it’s always been one of those things that I let him think that only he can do.  Ladies, I know you have those things around your house, too, right?

Well, my sweet friend Jenna from SAS Interiors is about to ruin that charade for me.  She’s put together a wonderful tutorial for you detailing how to rewire an old lamp.  Thanks, Jenna!

Thank you so much Lindsay for having me as a Guest Blogger today at Living With Lindsay! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Jenna and I’m an Interior Designer and blogger of SAS Interiors. I have been a huge fan of Lindsay from the day I started blogging and her DIY skills just continually blow me away. She is such a kind, inspirational person and I am so glad to call her a friend!

My post for today is about changing out the “lamp guts” of a light fixture. Over the years, I’ve had many lamps that didn’t stand up over time – either because they were cheap or just overly used. Even though they didn’t function anymore, I couldn’t throw them away, because they were still “nice” looking. I assumed one day I’d take them to a lamp shop for an ole’ fixin’, or maybe give it a try myself. Well a few weeks after scoring this old lamp that cost only $1, I decided on the later… to fix it myself!

When I made my purchase, I was SO excited that the lamp only cost a dollar, that I didn’t even check to see if it worked. DUH… No problem though! Once I did test it when I got home, the existing lamp guts were totally shot. Another trek to Home Depot was upon me and I ventured into the (somewhat overwhelming) electric department!

Thankfully I didn’t need to start from scratch since the plug and wiring of my lamp were still in good condition. If they hadn’t been, I would have chosen a new lamp kit ($10+/-), like this~


Instead I only had to purchase two parts: On/Off Socket and Steel Threaded Nipples~

Step 1

The existing threaded nipple in the light fixture was too short and the lamp socket wasn’t able to “grab” on to the threading. Switching to a longer threaded nipple allowed for more play. Depending on the shape and/or size of the light fixture that you are fixing or making, will depend on the size of the threaded nipple you will need. The nipple is the part of the lamp that goes through the fixture and connects the lamp and the socket together. As you see above in the Universal Light Kit, the nipple is very short and wouldn’t have worked for my fixture makeover.

A simple switch of the existing washer and nut onto a longer Threaded Nipple did the trick~

Before moving on to the next step, I thought this would be the perfect time to share a diagram of how all the inner workings of a lamp go together. This is a great pictorial reference for fixing or making a lamp.


We’re ready to move on to the next Step!

Step 2

Pull the cord through the opening of the lamp (as seen in the diagram above), then through the threaded nipple (as seen in my image below)~

Step 3

Remove the bottom part of the on/off socket~

Step 4

Put the threaded nipple through the top part of the lamp, so the cord and wires are exposed~

Step 5

Screw the bottom part of the socket (from step 3) on to the threaded nipple. Once the wires are secured onto the socket, the washer and nut can be tightened as needed~
(If you want to add a lampshade harp, put it on before the socket piece.)

Step 6

With the wires, create an Underwriters’ Knot. This type of knot will prevent the wire from loosening inside the socket. To make this type of knot, first separate the wires, form a large loop with each wire, and thread the end of each wire through the other loop. Complete the knot by pulling the ends of the wires so the knot will tighten~

Step 7

With your fingers, twist the wire strands together to form a partial loop. Then wrap each wire clockwise around the socket terminals (the inside of the screw). Then tighten the terminal (a.k.a. = the screw) ~

Step 8

Once the wires are screwed in and tightened into the terminals, slip on the cardboard sleeve (YES, LEAVE THE CARDBOARD ON), and put the socket shell into position~

And that’s about it. This tutorial may seem long, but it actually only took a few minutes to do and this was my first-time.

This lamp makeover has a whole new set of “guts”, but isn’t done quite yet! I’d love for you to stop over at my blog, SAS Interiors, to check out the remainder of this makeover, where I’ll be changing up the color and adding a cute shade – come over and take a look!

Thanks so much again, Lindsay, for having me over today! xo Jenna

No, thank you for the great tutorial, Jenna!  I guess I won’t be able to pretend I can’t rewire my thrift store lamps any more.  😉

Added 9/13/11: Well, Tom couldn’t just leave well enough alone.  :)  He doesn’t want us to shock ourselves, I guess!  He sent me the following info to include:

Linds – You need to include instructions about which wire to attach where.  This is important because if you do it backwards, the socket and bulb will remain electrified even when the switch is in the “off” position, which means they can shock you.  The two wires in the lamp cord are called the “hot” and the “neutral” wire.  There are different schemes for indicating which wire is which, but in general:

When both wires have the same color insulation on the outside, and same color wire inside:
hot = smooth and unmarked insulation
neutral = ridged insulation or a stripe

When both wires have the same color insulation on the outside, and different color wires on the inside:
hot = copper
neutral = silver

When wires have color-coded insulation on the outside:
hot = black
neutral = white

In all cases, the “hot” wire should go to the copper or brass colored screw, and the “neutral” should go to the silver colored screw.  Doing it this way allows the switch to interrupt the electricity before it enters the socket, instead of as it is leaving.

Filed Under: Create Your Decor

About Lindsay Ballard

Lindsay Ballard is a former college mascot turned political geek turned DIY fanatic who is conspiring to live in a Technicolor dream world. Her designs are bold and graphic, while her spirit is fun and full of color. Lindsay chronicles her projects and design ideas here at Makely, where she shares daily tutorials and inspiration. Lindsay lives outside of Austin, Texas with her husband (Tom), children (Zack and Emma) and dogs (Jack and Duke).


  1. Thank you so much Lindsay for having me over here today!!

  2. OK, I might try this now! Bookmarking. I have several that need to be rewired! Thanks Jenna and Lindsay!

  3. Jenna…I am impressed!!! Maybe I can do this too?? Great tutorial!!!


  4. Lindsay, thanks so much for this walkthrough! I was completely convinced before reading this that something as intimidating as rewiring something was completely beyond me, but now I’m starting to believe that I totally *could* do it myself! Especially with the helpful “how not to electrocute yourself after you’re done” notes. I might be trying this with an old lamp I have laying around… assuming I still have it!

  5. Kresendo Smith says:

    OMG I swear your lamp in the tuturial is the one I just threw away. LOL I found one for $3 and tried to change the part the bulb goes in and couldn’t even get the old socket piece off. Got frustrated and threw it away just last week. Wish I had found this site before but now I know. Thanks so much

  6. My Sister and I have 2 lamps from the 60s that were in our house when we were growing up. The bases are ceramic and…well…they’re *fabulous*! And they desperately need re-wiring.
    We’re keeping these (now) Retro beauties and instead of taking them somewhere for re-wiring, we’re doing it ourselves!

  7. Awesome! Found you through Pinterest. I have just the project to try this out. Also good info for making a bottle into a lamp.

  8. Because of the name of this website, “Makely School for Girls,” I visited it last when researching info on rewiring a lamp. However, I am so happy I found it! It was the ONLY website that offered complete and illustrated instructions. Even the directions on the back of the kit were seriously lacking. The manufacturers who make the lamp kits should hire you and Tom to write or video tutorials. Thank you very much!

  9. Thank you for the tutorial. It really helped rebuilding my bedside lamp. It’s now good as new. :)


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