Vintage floor lamps have a distinct look that modern lamps cannot match. While many manufacturers try to replicate the look of lamps from an era-gone-by, nothing beats the real thing. You can build your very own vintage lamp from parts gathered from garage sales, swap meets, junk yards and more. It can be difficult and expensive to purchase an original, so why not save some money and build your own unique article?
1. Part Acquisition
The basic parts you will need are the lamp base, shade, socket, and post. The good news is that many of these parts can be universally connected together. Any type of store which sells used parts and antiques can be a good place to look. Post an ad on an internet classifieds section to see if any locals have old lamps in their garage or shed. You have the option with sticking to a specific theme such as Victorian, or you can combine parts from different eras for a very unique design.
2. Cleaning and Repairing Components
Wear and damage on the exterior of a piece is what defines the look of vintage floor lamps. However, if a part has chipped paint, it may be prudent to remove it and clean it up. If you do not have a sandblaster, the old paint can be removed using paint stripper and/or rust remover. This is done by applying the chemical with a wire brush and washing it off with water.
Various sections of the lamp parts will have threads where they screw together. If these areas are difficult to turn, apply some lubricant to the threads.
3. Light Kits
The internal electrical components of the lamp should be removed and discarded for safety reasons. Original vintage wiring can be a fire hazard. Buy a modern floor lamp light kit to replace the old wiring. These kits include cording, a socket, and a harp which secures the lamp shade in place. The cord runs through the lamp column through the center, connecting the plug to the socket without being seen. Always confirm that the length of the cord will be long enough to pass through the column.
4. Lamp Shades
The weakest part on vintage floor lamps is probably the lamp shade. Many shades for antique floor lamps are no longer available because they have become degraded. Therefore, a new one must be chosen. A good rule of thumb is to select a lamp shade which is as wide or larger in diameter than the base of the lamp. Typically, a diameter exceeding the base by 2-6 inches looks best, but this is purely a personal choice.
After testing to make sure all of the parts come together properly, the lamp can be assembled as a whole. If certain parts do not screw together properly, conversion adapters can be bought from a hardware store. Start by pacing the base on the floor and screwing on the column. Run the light kit cord through the column, making sure that the wall plug is at the bottom and the socket is at the top. Secure the socket and harp to the top of the column.
You can now screw a light bulb into the socket, making sure not to exceed the wattage rating for your particular light kit. Place your chosen lamp shade over the harp and screw on the top cap. Wiggle the vintage floor lamp to make sure everything is firm, and turn it on.