Shedding some light on saving old lamps

They say that things were made better in the old days -- houses, cars, furniture and, yes, even lamps.

Whether you pick up an old lamp at a garage sale or find a hidden treasure in your parent's attic, chances are the wiring is so old, it will need to be updated.

Well, rewiring an old lamp is easier than you might think, says Mike Frentz. A friend recently discovered a very old, two-light lamp with pull chains that needed rewiring. The wiring is rayon-coated and frayed and the plug is so old that it isn't polarized and the wires are exposed inside. You can tell if a plug is polarized by the size of the prongs. If it has one wide prong and one small prong, then your plug is polarized.

As far as a rewiring job of this sort goes, a two-light lamp is about as complicated as it gets, so we're going to show you how to do it.

1. Get prepared
Before you get started, it's a good idea to gather together everything you going to need for your rewiring project.
Here's a shopping list:

· 8-ft. lamp cord with molded plug

· 2 light sockets

· 1-2 ft. of additional lamp wire without a plug

· 2 electrical wire nuts

· 1 brass lamp check ring

2. Disassembling the lamp
Once you've got all your parts together, it's time to get going. Start by disassembling the lamp.

· Cut the old plug off the end of the old wire

· Then remove the brass covers from the light sockets. Then loosen the socket screws and remove the old wires.

· Hint: When a lamp has as many parts as this one does, it helps to lay the parts out in the order they were disassembled. That will make putting it all back together.

· Next remove the old wire cord from inside the lamp.

3. Putting it all back together
If you had to completely disassemble the lamp to remove the wire, now's the time to put it back together. The next step is take your new lamp cord with a molded plug on the end, and start feeding it back up through the base of the lamp.

Next you want to cut two 6-inch pieces of electrical wiring and feed them through the top of the lamp and socket holes.

Once you have pushed the wires through the bottom "cup" of the fixture, tie an "underwriters" knot in the wire below the socket cap. This keeps the wire from accidentially being pulled through the lamp and disconnecting from the socket.

Next strip about 3/4-inch of the plastic coating on the wires from each end as well as the plug cord.

4. Finish rewiring
Now's the time to rewire the sockets in your lamp. If the original sockets are too worn out, you'll want to replace them with new ones. In this case, our original ceramic sockets are keepers. "They're in good shape and they're heavy duty," Mike says. When you begin to connect wires, that's when you need to pay attention to their make up. Each length of cord consists of two wires -- one with a ribbed plastic coating (the neutral wire) and one with a smooth plastic coating (the hot wire). Twist the exposed wires clockwise to keep them from fraying.

Now, connect the ribbed (neutral) wire to the screw terminal that is connected to the outside shell of the socket (silver screw). Then connect the smooth (hot) wire to the screw that is connected to the screw terminal that is connected to the switch inside the socket (brass screw). That's the best guide when you're working with old sockets, Mike says. New sockets are color-coded -- you'll want to connect the neutral wire to the silver-colored terminal and the hot wire to the brass terminal. A tip from Mike: Always wrap your wire clockwise around the screw. That way, when you turn the screw, it tightens the wire around it.

Now it's time to connect all the wires at the top. This is actually very simple. Twist all the ribbed (neutral) wires together and then twist all the smooth (hot) wires together. Next, to keep all your wires connected, you'll want to cover them with wire nuts. Simply screw the wire nuts onto the wire bundles clockwise.

5. The Finish Line
Finally, pack the two bundles of wires back into the top of the lamp and then put the brass lamp check ring on top before replacing the finial.

You're finished rewired lamp will work like new!