108. a light for your path, Part 1: never buy a new lamp again…

True confession time: in the forty plus years since I have been furnishing my own dwellings I have only purchased two new lamps.

(My sister, the decorator, would say, “Yes, I can tell.”) šŸ˜„

But I get much joy from making something shabby look good again. And you can too, here at Lamp Repair 101.

Step One: Painting/Cleaning the Lamp

This lamp was purchased today at Construction Junction for $10. I needed a taller lamp to go with the washstand I just redid. (See postĀ 78 for a before photo of the washstand.) I was looking for a basic lamp to paint. The top and bottom part of this lamp will be spray painted with my favorite Oil Rubbed Bronze shade of Rustoleum; the middle will be painted with the left-over chalk paint from the washstand, a pretty shade of blue green, Calico, from Sherwin Williams.

Usually I test old lamps but there were no light bulbs at the check out counter and the folks who work there are pretty much “Eh, you want it, you buy it. Ya don’t want it, somebody else will buy it…”

Lamp partsI dusted it, cleaned it with vinegar and tested the lamp. The switch was a turn knob, which didn’t click cleanly in place and the light from the bulb flickered. It would needĀ to beĀ replaced with new lamp parts from our favorite Big Box Store.

Tip # 1. If your significant other tries to direct you, ignore all their instructions and do it your way. Then if it fails, you can blame only yourself. Conversely, if it fails after you’ve done it THEIR way, you will be muttering about how you should have done it the way you wanted to in the first place…This is true in all of life.


I was going to just mask the middle and spray paint. Instead Mr. H.C. suggested I take it apart. He usually knows best, so I did. (See Tip # 1.) In retrospect, he was right (he usually is) because the socket was going to have to be replaced anyway. I should have just taken the whole thing completely apart, instead of keeping it linked together.

Tip # 2. When you take apart a lamp, especially if you are doing this for the first time, Remember how it goes back together. Put all your parts together in a big tin can, or place them somewhere in order to help you remember what washer goes on what nut. (If I can do this, you can too; I scored 0 (Zero) on the mechanical ability tests we had to take in high schoolā€¦)


Note the blobby spray paint

Note the blobby spray paint

Tip # 3. Don’t do your spray painting on a day that has 99% humidity and temperatures in the eighties. It takes forever to dry and then easily scrapes off.

All the DIY blog posts I’ve ever read make it all sound easy and never write a word about messing up. You will get the truth in this post. I have never had any metal not take to my favorite Rustoleum oil rubbed bronze spray paint. Last week I even spray painted a shiny metal lamp shade. It worked great. The shiny fake brass top and bottom of this lamp did not take the paint. I lightly sanded them, put a light base coat on first, and then watched as the second finish coat Ā just scraped right off. It was disheartening. (See Tip # 3.) And time consuming.

Tip # 4. Do not use a cheap brush for chalk paint.

I already had the chalk paint for the middle of the lamp, but you can find the recipe here. The best tool I had forĀ painting a curved lamp was a small foam brush. The cheap brush that I started with left bristles everywhere and had me bristling. (Sorry, couldn’t resist — see Tip # 4.)

After I had sanded and scraped off the goopy-never-did-dry coat of spray paint, I started again. This time I took the pieces outside where there was a slight breeze, and spray painted again. I didn’t touch them for four hours, and this time they dried fine. Who knows? I’m blaming the humidity and the bad working conditions of the garageā€¦

Putting the lamp back together was the most fun of the project. In Part Two of thisĀ post we will cover rewiring; if you aren’t into learning how to rewire, then just skip it and look at the final photos of my beautiful new old lamp.

Or maybe you like this lampshade better?

Tell me which you prefer, and in the next post I’ll show you the one I kept.

Note about the washstand: This may or may not be the way it stays. I needed it to look good in a hurry, which meant only sanding the straight parts. The pieces in between the drawers are curved; there are insets on the sides that need much sanding work, so I took the quick route and painted what wasn’t easily sanded. It fit the bill for fast, but I’m not sure if I like it; at least it will do until I decideā€¦Plus, it’s a compromise between “Don’t ever paint oak/husband” and “But the color goes better with the room/Wife.” What do you think? Hmm. Might depend on your gender?

11. Lights, Hardware, Action?

The kitchen cabinets are looking creamy and shiny — the luscious color of steamed milk. They are ‘curing’ in the garage bedroom, and before we leave them for awhile, I have a confession to make : I spent as much on the new hardware for them as we spent on the cabinets themselves.

The bottom two handles are from an antique cupboard that we bought from the E.N. Miller Antique Mall (***** 5 stars) in Verona last year. It is the bottom to an old schoolhouse cupboard that held art supplies. We will be using it as the island in the kitchen. It has great charm, but could be considered by some to be in rough shape. More on its transformation later…

The handles are wonderful — old, heavy, off-set pulls — and I wanted those exact handles for the other cabinets. I found them online at VanDyke Restorers. I’ve blanked out how much they were individually, but the final total was about $280. (I missed out on the sale price by “thinking” about whether I really wanted to spend that much. When I made the decision to buy — a day later –they were two dollars more!)

I confess to having measured the holes on the cabinets. And I ordered 3″ handles. They don’t fit. The holes are actually 2 7/8″ apart. Stupid me, I assumed that handles were uniform on the half inch. I guess that is modern cabinetry. Carpenter husband assures me it’s only a minor glitch, but the cabinets are painted, and I’m ready to dress them up with their finery, but now we have to drill new holes. Patience is being taught here…


Painted cabinets awaiting their handles.

The next step is the lighting and that means rewiring (not MY job) before the ceiling can be installed. This is what Michael reads before bed:


Bedtime reading — It puts him right to sleep!

On to the fun stuff — the lights. Michael hung them temporarily so we could visualize and also see if the kitchen was bright enough. (Yes, at our age we like lots of light — no squiggly bulbs here!)

These are just up temporarily, so ignore extensions cords hanging from them! (We are visual learners…)

The light in the center is over the island; the ones that are pendants are on either side–over the sink and over the pass-through. (I think we will lower them a couple of inches.) I realize that’s backwards and most people have hanging lights over the island, but we tried it and like this better. It’s more symmetrical, and I like symmetry! A LOT! When I see the asymmetrical, I want to go fix it.

And now, back to the island cabinet…Michael spent many hours on these beautiful doors:

The center of the doors was originally veneer. It was warping and buckling so I scraped it off, and we decided to put thin wainscot on because that’s what is on the inside of the cupboard. They looked like this:


He painstakingly beveled all the edges and then had to get just the right stain mix to match hundred year old wood.


The mixologist at work…

We also spent time researching what kind of finish was on the cabinet and how to clean it. The librarian did the research, the woodworker did the experimenting. (What a team!) We determined it was lacquer and cleaned it with a mixture of linseed oil and turpentine. They were detailed instructions and if you want the full article on cleaning and restoring shellac, lacquer, or varnish you can find it here. http://www.ca.uky.edu/hes/fcs/FACTSHTS/HF-LRA.053.PDF We still aren’t finished with the cupboard, but it looks lots better already, and the doors look like they were original.


With the temperature hitting 100 degrees, we were glad to work inside in air conditioned comfort.

How amazing that we have air conditioning in our humble cottage when our walls look like this:


and this:

It looks like someone took a shotgun to it, but it was really just Clara’s picture wall. It was covered with photographs. She must have moved them around a lot…


Patience is being taught here…