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How to Build a Lamp

How to Make a Table Lamp

Thread the wiring post through the stopper and plug the stopper in; add a harp and a light bulb.

No home can function without light, and nice-looking fixtures don't have to be expensive. With a hardware-store kit and lamp shade, you can turn any large container into a custom-designed table lamp.


  • pliers
  • screwdriver
  • if required, drill


  • bottle, jar, or basket for base
  • sand or weights
  • electric candlestick conversion kit (lamp kit) or socket and cord, plug, threaded hollow rod, and brass sheath
  • lamp harp
  • lamp shade
  • light bulb
  • if required, silicone adhesive

Time: 15 minutes to 1/2 hourFor the base of the lamp, choose any container you like -- a large wine bottle is ideal, especially the thick, rippled-glass kind or a basketed jug. A large jar, a pottery or ceramic jug, milk can, or a woven wicker basket would also make a good base.The base of the lamp must be firmly weighted. If the container is opaque, fill it with sand or weight it with pieces of brick or lead. If you're using a clear container, you can use anything you like to fill it—seashells, pebbles, buttons, matchbooks, layers of sand, dried beans, or whatever appeals to you. Make sure add have enough weight to keep the lamp base steady.The type of container you use dictates the type of lamp kit, or electric candlestick conversion kit, you should buy. For the easiest wiring job, or for solid containers, buy a kit that simply plugs into the top opening of the container -- choose the standard type or the special kerosene-lamp type. With this kind of kit, the cord is attached at the top of the container, so no drilling is necessary. If you're using a container that isn't solid, such as a wicker basket, buy the lamp components separately: a socket and cord, a plug -- the clip-on type is easiest, a threaded hollow rod -- as long as you want the lamp to be high, a brass sheath to cover it, and a lamp harp. This assembly isn't a kit, but it's almost as easy to put together. With the long rod, the cord runs through the rod to the bottom of the base container; you'll have to drill an opening in the bottom for the cord.If you're using a plug-in lamp kit, weight the lamp base before you wire it. Then, following the manufacturer's instructions, assemble the wiring post. The kit includes several rubber stoppers of various sizes; find the stopper that best fits the top opening of your container. Thread the nipple of the wiring post or rod into the center of the stopper and tighten it securely. Screw the brass washer and locknut onto the base end of the rod; screw the lamp socket onto the other end.


Insert the assembled wiring post into the weighted container, socket end up, and push the stopper firmly into place. This completes the wiring of the lamp.

To attach the lamp shade (select any one you'd like to complement your lamp's base), add a lamp harp, which is a screw-on wire attachment. Attach the harp to the socket base as directed by the manufacturer. Then, remove the locknut at the top of the harp, set the lamp shade into place, and replace the locknut. Finally, screw a light bulb into the socket and plug the lamp in.

If you're using a wicker basket and a long threaded rod to wire the lamp, start by drilling a hole in the bottom of the basket for the rod and the cord. If necessary, drill another hole in the basket's cover for the top of the rod to pass through. Drill the holes large enough to accommodate the rod itself on the bottom, and the rod's brass sheath on the top.

To assemble the components, thread the plug end of the cord through the rod and pull it through. Secure the socket at the top of the rod with the locking screws provided. Slip the brass sheath over the rod to butt into the socket at the top.

Tie a loose knot in the cord near the base of the rod to reduce the stress on the cord. Then set the rod into place in the basket and pull the cord out through the opening in the bottom of the basket. To secure the rod at the lamp bottom, apply a bead of silicone adhesive to it at the bottom of the basket. Set the basket's cover over the rod and secure the rod into the opening with silicone adhesive.

To complete the lamp, weight the base as described previously. Be sure to use a weighting material that won't sift out of the basket. Then clip the plug to the end of the cord, as directed by the manufacturer. Complete your lamp by adding a lamp harp, a shade, and a bulb, as directed above.

With this lamp now shining brightly, continue to the next page to learn more about creating lamps. You can build one out of stovepipe!

For more information on lighting and electricity, see:

  • How to Do Home Electrical Repairs: Whether the lights are out, the appliances won't come on, or a switch won't work, use this site to learn how to make simple home electrical repairs.
  • How Light Bulbs Work: Sure, it lights up when you connect it to a lamp or light fixture, but what goes on inside a light bulb? Find out here!
  • How Electricity Works: Learn how this mysterious force creates power for everything from toasters to Times Square.