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Got an odd piece that you want to display, but aren't sure what to do with it? How about making a lamp? You can make lamps out of almost anything, and they provide decor and ambience, in addition to making great conversation pieces. If your craftsy side is feeling neglected and you want to spark it back into action, here's a perfect project for you.

Difficulty: Easy
Cost: Cheap
Prep time: 1h
Execution time: 1h
Wait time: 0m
How to Build a Lamp

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Prerequisites

The base for your lamp should be sturdy enough to stand on its own, even after you add lamp apparatus and a shade on top. If you have a hollow base that you need to stabilize, consider partially filling it with something like marbles or sand. Some ideas for lamp bases that you could use:

  • Wine bottles
  • Log or timber
  • Wooden pails or buckets
  • Toys or figurines
  • Hollowed-out books

1 - Buy a lamp kit

Buy a lamp kit

These can be found at most hardware stores. Note that it's possible to purchase the pieces separately, but buying them together will ensure a better fit. If you do buy the cord separately, choose a #18 size cord. If you don't want to buy a lamp kit, and instead want to purchase the items separately, you'll need: Detachable harp Cord set Push-through socket and socket shell Finial Assorted hardware, like nuts, bolts and washers

2 - Prepare the base for the rod

Prepare the base for the rod

The rod is a hollow tube that will run the cord up through the bottom of your base to the lightbulb at the top. Depending on your base, you may have to drill or cut holes wide enough for the rod at the top and bottom of the lamp. If necessary, you can trim the rod with a hacksaw or pipe cutters, but it's best (and easier) to choose a base that's fitted to your rod. Sawing your rod down to size is not ideal.

3 - Stabilize the bottom of the base

Stabilize the bottom of the base

Your lamp kit might come with a piece meant to stabilize the bottom of your base. If it doesn't, simply purchase rubber stoppers. Affix these at intervals around the base to prevent sliding and lift the base slightly off the table, allowing room for the cord.

4 - Thread the cord through the rod

Thread the cord through the rod

The cord should consist of two covered wires stuck together. Thread it through the rod from bottom to top, leaving 3 or 4 inches (7 to 10 cm) of cord about the base. Before threading, tape the wire ends together so that they fit smoothly inside the rod. When doing this, make sure that the bottom of the plug doesn't rub against the rod's sharp edge.

5 - Screw the lock nut onto the end of the lamp rod

Screw the lock nut onto the end of the lamp rod

Make sure your cords are threaded to where you want them first.

6 - Screw the neck onto the lamp rod (optional)

Screw the neck onto the lamp rod (optional)

Your lamp kit may or may not come with a flat, broad "neck" piece or a rubber stopper to add to the lamp rod.

7 - Add the harp bottom

Add the harp bottom

Screw the harp bottom onto the lamp rod, arms facing upward. This will be the base for the rest of the harp.

8 - Screw on the socket cap

Screw on the socket cap

Put the bowl-shaped socket cap on top of the harp bottom, open end up. Secure tightly.

9 - Strip the wires

Strip the wires

Pull the two covered wires at the top of the cord apart, separating about 4 inches (10 cm) down the cord. Using wire strippers or a knife, remove the insulation from the top 1 inch (2.5 cm) of the cords.

10 - Tie the wires

Tie the wires into an underwriter's knot, which looks like a pretzel. Doing this will prevent the wires from falling through the rod to the base. To tie an underwriter's knot: Bring the left wire down so that it's facing to the right, in front of the doubled wiring. Bring the right wire down so that it's facing to the left, in back of the doubled wiring. Put the right wire into the loop on the left side. Pull the ends of both wires tight, fastening the knot.

11 - Find the hot wire and the neutral wire

Usually, the neutral wire will be surrounded by ribbed insulation. If you're unsure, refer to the instructions that came with your lamp kit. If the wires have two colors at all, the white is the neutral wire and the black is the hot wire.

12 - Wrap the wires around the screws on the bulb socket

Wrap the wires around the screws on the bulb socket

The bulb socket in the lamp kit should have two screws of different colors positioned at the base. Wrap the neutral wire clockwise around the silver (or white) screw, and the hot wire clockwise around the gold (or dark) screw. If you're unsure, check the manual that came with your lamp kit. Using a screwdriver, tighten the screws down over the wires.

13 - Put the socket shell over the bulb socket

Line it up so that the slot coming up from the bottom of the socket shell aligns with the switch on the bulb socket. Tuck the cords inside so that they won't be visible, and push down the socket shell until it locks into place.

14 - Attach the top of the harp

Attach the top of the harp

Squeeze the sides of the harp as you slide them into the slots on the harp bottom.

15 - Place your lampshade on top of the harp

Place your lampshade on top of the harp

Once it's secure, twist down the locknut to secure it.

16 - Screw a lightbulb into the socket, and plug in your lamp.

Screw a lightbulb into the socket, and plug in your lamp.

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