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?

8. Random Mew-sings on Kitties, Perfectionism, Paint, and Freedom

I’m posting this from my IPhone so it is very imperfect! I can’t get the photos to be placed where I want them, and I’ve lost several huge chunks of text — just out there somewhere in Saved WordPress Land… Did I mention typing all this on an IPhone keypad? It’s very frustrating, but I’m here at the cottage for working, not writing.

Happy Fourth! May you think about your freedoms today …

We had several firsts with our kitty this week: He was here to greet us when we got out of the truck on Friday afternoon. Sleeping in the side yard under some bushes, he was trying to keep cool in the ninety degree plus temperatures. We invited him inside and gave him lunch–we didn’t even have to ring the dinner bell. We had errands in town and he wasn’t interested in going back out in the heat, so we left him sleeping on the cool linoleum floor. He made himself right at home–he was sleeping on the bed when we returned.

So the name Phineas T doesn’t just roll right off our tongues. Half the time I can’t remember it. If Michael calls him anything other than Kitty, it’s likely to be George or Elmo. Cats don’t really come to their names anyway, do they? Here Elmo, Elmo….

After I finally chose the color for the kitchen cabinets — Steamed Milk in a semi-gloss sheen — the painting contractor husband started with second thoughts about oil base. I’m thinking he was worried about my lack of skill in the painting dept.; he is a perfectionist. I myself have those tendencies. Sometimes it’s not a good mix; sometimes a person is needed who will just jump right in and get it done. Sometimes I can be that person, but not in the aforementioned painting dept.–there I will always defer. So we dithered. We bought a gallon of latex in Steamed Milk for the insides of the cabinets in case it was too difficult to make the oil look good. “Oil is hard to use,” he said. “It runs, it drips, it is sticky, it smells bad, it is hard to clean up.” Not to mention that it is now considered to be a hazardous material! (More on that later…)
So I have now tried both types of paint. And the verdict is…


It looks much better than the latex. It feels better on the wood. And how wonderful it is to have the perfectionist painting contractor look at a drawer just painted by the grunt laborer and say, “Wow! That looks like you sprayed it on!” High praise, indeed, and good for the soul.

With the exception of choosing the color (463 shades of white) the main difficulty lies in the actual purchasing of oil-based paint. The big box stores don’t even sell it. In PA it can only be sold to residential customers in quarts. If I were painting a pipeline, I could get it in larger quantities, but probably not in the lovely off white color of Steamed Milk. (Isn’t that perfect for a kitchen?) I digress…

A few weeks ago my niece posted this on her crafty blog handmaden.com “Little-known-fact: You canā€™t buy spray paint in Chicagoā€™s city limits. This is not good news for crafters. So we started this crafternoon with a trip to the suburban Home Depot for some metallic spray paint.”

Rant ahead : Now I get why Chicago has done this; I understand that kids buy the stuff and either harm themselves with it or use it for graffitti. In PA the law is eighteen and older to buy alcohol, cigarettes, and spray paint! (A sales clerk at HD carded me the other day when I was buying a can–I was incredulous to say the least. She told me that at WM the clerk carded her for white-out!) Where will it end? What do you think is the ratio of responsible buyers vs. those who will be using these items illegally? I guess in Chicago it must be pretty low. Since it is the 4th of July, let me just suggest that freedom always comes with personal responsibility. Can I say this is government protection on steroids? I personally want the freedom to buy spray paint and white-out and a gallon of oil-based paint. Accept no substitutes! (There is no substitute for spray paint…) and if we’re considering substitutes and personal freedoms and government regulations, I also hate those squiggly light bulbs …