I am so happy with how this turned out! I saw a pair of these not exactly beautiful reverse-painted 80s table lamps at a thrift shop. As soon as I saw them I envisioned a Japanese paper lantern. I bought one to see if my vision could even be realized, as I wasn’t sure how easy the blue would be to take off, but once I got it home, it took a total of 45 minutes to disassemble the lamp and clean the blue paint from the inside. So of course I went back to get the other one the very next day. I am going to transform it as well, and gift or sell it, but first I am going to try a different treatment on the glass and pick which one I like best. But I am really happy with this version.
There are a lot of similar lamps out there at thrift stores and garage sales, and you can probably also find vintage lamps with clear colored-glass bases fairly inexpensively. Sure, you can just give them a new surface finish, and continue to use them as a table lamp, but the ability to convert them like this opens up SO many possibilities.
If you have never disassembled and/or rewired a lamp before, it is usually very simple with modern materials. Since these weren’t all that old, I reused the electricals. First, remove the shade by removing the finial at the top. Next, remove the harp to which the shade was attached by sliding the two moveable pieces next to the bulb up the wires a bit and squeezing then pulling. You can now also remove the little cup around the bulb socket. But this can be a little tricky, so you can also wait until after you have everything pulled apart. Next locate the nut on the base of the lamp. You may have to remove some felt or other surface on the bottom first.
This bit can be tricky, because you will have to hold the socket assembly firmly in one hand while loosening the nut, but persevere. Gently. Once you remove the nut you can begin to slip pieces off the threaded rod. In my case I had to first feed the cord backwards into the lamp base to give me some slack, but I didn’t want to cut the plug off the cord and pull it completely through because I was going to reuse that bit. Next came the gold metal base, then the whole glass piece, the small gold finishing piece on top, and the harp-receiving bit. Now unscrew the socket assembly from the threaded rod.
In more modern lamps, and in new hardware, the socket assembly is made up of three parts: a base with a threaded hole, the socket itself, and the metal and pressboard cup that slips over the socket. Gently pry the cup and base apart, set the cup aside, and take a look at your socket. In older lamps this will actually be wired with screws holding bare wires for the connection, but in newer hardware, the cord is slipped into a slot that is then clamped closed, and two small metal teeth pierce the wire jacket to make the connection. VERY simple. There should be a small clip you can gently pry open with a screwdriver. Once the wire is disconnected from the socket, you can pull it out through all your components, and you wind up with this:
Next I cleaned the paint from inside the lamp. It was very easy with a bit of hot water, fine steel wool, and the sprayer on my sink.
After this step I had a crisis of creative ideas and asked for help choosing a finish here and elsewhere. I have light sensitivity and my husband isn’t super into moody lighting, so my options were narrowed somewhat. What I ended up using here was multiple coats of Rustoleum Matte Clear spray finish applied only to the inside. It might not stay like this, but this is what I hit on. Here are all the parts I needed for the reassembly:
First, since this will be hanging, the switch on the socket wouldn’t work, so I needed to add a switch to the cord itself. Normally, this is done on one continuous piece of cord and is a very easy, though precise, process. But I also realized I would need a longer cord. Wanting to reuse as much as possible, I spliced the cords from both lamps together with heat shrink right at the switch. I only had to splice the neutral side of the cord, as the hot wire is split to install the switch. Probably don’t do that bit without some experience. When I finish the other lamp, I will have to buy more lamp cord and a plug. It is very cheap and sold by the foot, or you can buy pre-wired/switched pendant lamp cords. Anyway.
That done, I could just fit all the pieces together. I reused the socket assembly, cord, and the little gold top finishing piece from the original lamp. I purchased a 3" threaded rod (properly named a “lamp nipple”), a pendant lamp loop, the side switch, and a few feet of hanging chain. I also picked up a little brass coupler that I only used as a spacer because what I actually needed was a 2.5" nipple, but they didn’t have one. The length of nipple will depend on whatever elements you are using and where you want the bulb to sit in the glass. As it turns out, this was fine for me, because the opening on my glass was a little bigger than the socket and it was a little wonky trying to tighten it, but the coupler is made to fit two different sizes of nipple together, so one end is larger and helped everything sit flush. I also included a little bit of felt padding to protect the glass from being damaged by the metal.
Start by weaving your lamp cord through the chain. This just makes it more wieldy during use.
Then, slip on the loop and finishing bit.
Next, feed the wire into your glass from the top, then slip the nipple onto the wire. Feed on the socket base and screw it onto the nipple until snug. Connect the wire to your socket and pull on the wire until the socket sits flush in the base, and pop that cup back on. Then, feed the nipple back through the top of the glass, slide the finishing piece over, and tighten it all down with the hanging loop.
Last but not least, open up one loop of chain and slip it onto your loop, and you are done!