Monday, July 16, 2012

DIY: Fix a Table Lamp Switch

I have decided to call myself the Lamp Doctor.  

The Great Lampadini.

High Mugwump of All Things Lampish.

I should have been a tinker.

What did I do?  I flexed my DIY muscles and managed to fix a lamp!

I'm a genius!!!


Ok.... I admit it.

It's really not that hard.  It's pretty easy, actually.  So simple, in fact, that I really think anybody can do it.

See, it all began when my beloved table lamp decided to stop working.  

Out of the blue, my three-way switch stopped working.  I don't mean that I'd turn the switch and nothing happened.  I mean it totally stopped working.  The switch wouldn't turn, not even a little.  It was stuck in place, and wouldn't budge.

I love that lamp.  Indeed, you've seen my table lamp in various blog photos. Its base could be seen nudging its way into my playdough post, it helped shed light on my naked gardening, it...

Ok, I'll stop.  You get the point.  I love my table lamp.

Sure, it's nothing special.  It only cost me $19.95, there isn't a particularly elegant design on it, and my table lamp has no especially significant story attached to it.  It's just a simple lamp.

But it's my simple lamp, and I love it.

Now, the way I saw it, I had two choices.  

I could

a) get rid of my table lamp, or
b) try my hand at fixing it.

Obviously, I didn't see choice a as a valid option.  The second option is the more eco friendly option, anyway.  After all, throwing out a table lamp places a lot more waste into a landfill than simply fixing the lamp does.

It's cheaper, too.  A lot cheaper.

This was obviously a green DIY project that I needed to tackle.

So what did I do?

I like to say that every problem can be fixed by one of two things:  duct tape or WD40.  Unfortunately, I've been proven incorrect, because WD40 won't grease the joints and fix this problem.  The bulb socket itself had worn down and broken.

I needed a new socket.  Off I went to the hardware store, where I picked up a new bulb socket for $2.99:  The only money I spent on this DIY project.  I went home to begin my cheap, eco friendly project.

First,  I had to pull the bulb socket out, so that it could be removed easily.  

I pulled it out slowly, so as not to damage the wire bundles.

Once that was done, I used my handy-dandy wire cutters where they connect with the base of the socket to remove the lamp switch assembly.

I then took apart the entire bulb socket that I had removed, damaging it beyond recognition.  This part isn't required, obviously.  It's just a whole lot of fun.  I wanted to see how everything fit together, and how my lamp switch actually worked.

If you think this is destroyed, you should've seen what the rest of the
poor  lamp switch assembly looked like!

Once I snipped the wires from the base, and had a bit of destructive - but also instructive! - fun, I went on to the next step.

I pulled apart the two sections of wire, separated by an insulated covering, and stripped about 1/2" of that insulation from each side in order to reveal the wire inside.

Ok, time for a moment of truth, here.  I kind of didn't do this.  I tried, but I kept stripping the wire because I'd get the blade too close.  A stripping tool, or even some nice pliers would have made this easy, but I couldn't find my pliers.  I had to use the wire cutters, which made life very difficult.

Cue my husband, who works with wires pretty often, and who is also the person that misplaced my pliers.  I think this was probably my form of passive aggressive revenge.  Ha ha!

After the insulation was stripped from the wires, I twisted the wires in both sections in order to keep them snug, as you see in the photo above.

Next, I grabbed the new bulb socket that would be used to fix my beloved table lamp.

From this angle, you can see the standard silver colored screw and contact.  On the other side, however, there's a brass screw and contact.  Don't change the placement of the screws.  Brass must stay with brass, and silver must stay with silver.  

Don't get all creative on me with this one in the name of aesthetics, because it'll negate all the work you've done thus far, and may even produce a pretty fire or shorted electrical socket in your home!  A green DIY project is hardly green if it produces large amounts of CO2 and waste! Not to mention it would be pretty costly... 

Ok, the basic safety speech is done.  Now, back to the good stuff.

Next, I loosened the screws, and wrapped each of the two sections of wire around them, each section to its own screw.

I tightened up the screws, ensuring that the wires all touched the metal contact plating.

Once that was done, it was time to place the whole bulb assembly back into the lamp base.

That should have been easy.  Unfortunately, since I have a three-way table lamp, the switch was one of those types that you turn, rather than press.  This means that the base the assembly needed to fit into didn't have an opening on both sides, and that's what I needed.

So I used a little of what I like to call "creative engineering", which is actually a really nice way of saying, I cut a big funny-looking opening on one side.

Why didn't I just remove that whole black section, so I wouldn't have to worry about doing that?

Because I was a bit eager to get this all done.  Plus, the lamp shade that I like to use needs the black base, since it screws on underneath the bulb.  

Once I fed the wiring back through the lamp and got everything back into place, it was time to test my work.

Outside, because if I did anything wrong, I'd end up with less damage out on the porch!!!  Yeah, so much for self confidence, right?

I made my daughter go to the far side of the yard - just in case - and flipped the switch.


This green DIY project ended up saving me a lot of money.  Even with my lack of skill beforehand, I was able to accomplish my mission of fixing my table lamp switch.  The only waste I ended up with was small enough to fit in the palm of my hand, and fixing the problem cost very little, while allowing me the joy of continuing to use my favorite lamp.

Any chance I can give myself the title of Eco Friendly Tinker?

Because that would rock.

If you need a bit more help on top of my own instructions, I'd suggest watching David Geeting's video instruction.  He knows way more than I could ever pretend to!

And for added convenience, here's the link:

How to Replace a Lamp Socket


  1. I have at least two lamps I have been holding onto because it seems like such a waste to throw them away. I'll have to try this, but electricity makes me nervous!

    1. Ahahaha! Me, too! That's why I moved the project outside as it came closer to completion! Definitely watch David Geeting's tutorial, as well. It helps to see things in action when they make you nervous... takes a bit of the edge off.

  2. Good Information. Thank you for sharing and I want to share information about Sonneman Lights offers the very best in bathroom lights, Table Lamps, ceiling lights, floor lights, modern lighting, wall lights and pendant lights.

  3. Thanks! And yes, when all else fails, buying a new light is an option.

  4. I read with interest your successful attempt at fixing your lamp. I was ready to dump my $20 desk lamp because the switch was so difficult to turn I needed to keep a pair of pliers nearby. After b*tching for months, I tried the WD40. Worked like a miracle.

  5. Ha ha! I've been told that any problem worth fixing has two solutions: Use duct tape or use wd40. If neither solution works, the problem isn't worth fixing. Sounds like your desk lamp was worth it!