Last year I bought two mid-century lamps at the Goodwill Bins store for $3. They were so adorable with their art-deco style and peach color. Plus burlap shades. For $1.50 each? Crazy, right? There was an outlet at the store, but no bulbs, so I couldn’t test them. Since they were so cheap, I bought them anyway. When I got home, one worked and one wouldn’t turn on. I was sad, because I think they’re so awesome in that Mad Men sort of way and I wanted both.
I called for reinforcements. My super handy husband saved the day! (For the record, I totally could have done this myself. No, really.)
Turns out, I didn’t need to worry. Lamps have very simple electronics. When you take one apart, what you basically have is the cord running up a tube from the base to the top, attached to a simple switch that the light bulb screws into. The switch is in a case that pops open to give you access. You can buy a lamp switch replacement for about $5.
Start by removing the switch casing and unwinding the wires from the screws. (Make sure the lamp is unplugged!) The wire looks like an extension cord without the plug end.
The cord has two halves. Each part wraps around a screw on the switch, which is then tightened down. Think about battery cables, only without polarity so it doesn’t matter which side of the cord wraps around which screw.
If you take apart the switch casing (that’s the gold thing in Kevin’s left hand), you’ll be able to remove the actual switch (the silver thing with the switch in Kevin’s right hand.) The only tool you need is a flat head screwdriver.
I was worried about a modern lamp switch fitting my vintage lamp, but lamp switches come in standard sizes–because light bulbs come in standard sizes. In the picture above, you can see Kevin tightening the screw on the wire. We wanted to make sure it was the switch that was the problem, and not the wire. If it had been a wire, Kevin would have cut the plug off of an extension cord and striped the wires to replace the existing lamp cord.
The bottom of the switch case goes in first, then the switch is wired and put in place, followed by the top of the switch case, and voila! All fixed and for less than five bucks, including the lamp, plus about fifteen minutes of work. I’ll never worry about whether or not a cute thrifted lamp works again.
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