How to rewire antique lamps

Updated July 20, 2017

Antique lamps are beautiful additions to any home and can be passed from generation to generation. However the wiring of old lamps can often be a dangerous fire hazard because the plugs are not polarised and designed for today's electrical sockets. With a little work and ingenuity, you can rewire a lamp while preserving its historic look.

Take the lamp apart. Unplug the lamp and remove the shade. Then look at the lamp to see where the lamp is put together. There will be several pieces that screw together from the base to the socket.

Remove the stem from the base of the lamp. This may be done in two ways. Unscrew the base of the lamp from the stem of the lamp or unbolt the stem from the base by unscrewing the bolt found underneath the base. Cut the plug off of the end of the cord and slide the base off of the end of the cord.

Separate the parts of the stem. These parts will unscrew from each other. The number of parts will depend on the length of the stem and the design of the lamp; necks and caps may also need to be unscrewed. There may also be a secondary pipe inside the stem that is used to feed the cord from the base to the socket. If this is the case, remove the pipe from inside the stem by sliding the pipe and the stem off of the end of the cord. Line up these pieces in the order they go back onto the lamp on a table.

Remove the wiring from the socket if you wish to reuse it. This may be the case if the socket is porcelain and can be seen from the outside of the lamp. You will want to unscrew the switch from the socket. This will allow you to pull the socket apart and expose the wires. If you do not need to save the socket, throw it away and replace it with a new socket when you rewire the lamp.

If you are reusing a porcelain socket that does not take the size of the modern light bulb, you will want to purchase a light socket adaptor from your local hardware store. This will screw into the antique socket and will allow you to use energy efficiency light bulbs.

Take the cord set and prepare to feed it into the stem. Ensure the cord is long enough to go the length of the lamp as well as have extra length to reach the plug where you plan to use the lamp. If the lamp has the interior pipe inside the stem, then feed the cord into the pipe. Feed the cord through the separated stem pieces in the order they will be assembled on the lamp. If there is a pipe, push the pieces into place over the pipe. You may want to leave the parts separated to help with movement of the cord during assembly.

Connect the cord to the socket using the screw driver. You will see two screws on the socket. You will want to loosen the screws. Loop the exposed wire on the end of the cord and tighten the screws so that the wires are secure. You will place one exposed wire on each screw.

If the socket goes into an exterior cover, slide it into place and secure by screwing the switch into the light socket.

Reassemble the lamp. You will want to screw the lamp stem back together, and screw the stem to the socket so it is secure. Then screw the stem back into the base. Plug the lamp in, and test with a new light bulb.


All of the parts can be purchased at a local hardware store.

Things You'll Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Light socket or light socket adaptor
  • Cord set
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About the Author

Nicole Ubinger started writing professionally in 2010. She works as a college instructor of psychology and in the Family First of Michigan Program, an intervention program focusing on family preservation by teaching life and parenting skills. Ubinger received her Bachelor of Science in psychology from Central Michigan University and a Master of Science in counseling psychology from Capella University.