Lampshades: Support Hardware & How to Choose Them
Lamps Class

Lampshade Support Hardware


A harp is the most common way that American lamps hold up shades. The harp saddle is built right into the lamp (under the socket cap), while the top is removable. We used harp saddles in every lamp in this lesson except the Bottle Table Lamp. (smaller lamps work best with clip on shades)

NOTE: European shades (i.e.: IKEA) don't use harps and are supported directly by the sockets. I'm not as big of a fan of this style as their fitter doesn't work on all conventional North American sockets. They're just too specialized.

Harps come in a wide range of sizes - from 4" - 15" in mostly 1/2" increments. This offers a lot of flexibility for getting your shade the exact right height on your lamp.

There are both regular and heavy duty harps available, but there's never a need for heavy duty. I recommend getting regular weight only = plenty strong, unless you're trying to make a shade out of a bathtub. (But don't really ever do this.) They also come in different finishes so you can match the harp to your hardware!

To attach the harp to the saddle, squeeze the harp ends in until they fit into the saddle 'holders'. Lower the sliding caps over the connections. (like pictured above) This locks the harp in place.

This strong wire structure will support any commercial shade.


Shade risers can be used in place of a taller harp. If you are trying to extend an existing harp, a riser will be cheaper than buying a new, taller harp.

Bulb Clips

If you're working with a smaller lamp that doesn't have a saddle, like the Bottle Table Lamp, bulb clips are a great way to attach shades to lamps, via the bulb.

NOTE: These will not work with most compact fluorescent bulbs.

There is both a tall and a short bulb clip available for shade height adjustment options.

They work on both incandescent and LED bulbs.

Bulb clips in action!


Finials are like the hair pins of lamps - both functional and aesthetic, they secure the shade to the harp or bulb clip. They come in SO MANY shapes, sizes, materials, and metal finishes. I recommend getting fun with these. They are an inexpensive way to add to the style/look of a lamp. Their female threads are 1/4-27F.

The images above show a finial in action!

You can even buy finial bases that you can customize with your own objects / ideas! Even MORE fun to be had!

How to Pick a Lampshade

Picking a lampshade to go with a table or floor lamp has more to do with personal taste than it does hard fast rules, but there are a few great guidelines that can help make the choosing process easier.

1. A shade should ALWAYS cover the socket and non-decorative hardware. Think of the socket and inner working hardware as the Wizard of Oz. No-one should be able to see behind the curtain - it would ruin the magic.

A neck is considered decorative, so seeing 1/2" - 1" of that is A-ok.

The above lampshade is sitting at the perfect height. Shade height can be adjusted up or down by swapping the harp for a taller or shorter one, or you can add risers to the existing harp - but often if a shade is too small for the lamp, no amount of adjusting will make it cover the hardware.

This shade is sitting way too high and is a perfect example of seeing too much non-decorative hardware.

2. Hardback shades (plastic backed drum & 'A' shades) work best with modern and contemporary lamp bases, while fabric backed shades, especially those with piping, are great for more classic and traditional bases.

Modern hardback shade.

Traditional shade that's fabric backed w/ piping.

3. Trust your eyes! The right shade will often just 'feel' right, while less appropriate ones will seem 'off'. I know this isn't a clear 'if this then that' guideline, but I have faith in your gut. Here's a few examples of what I mean:

Too tall and skinny. And it comes down too far.

This one's too small and traditional for the ruggedness of the base.

Hahaha, this one's just HUGE! It's swallowing the base.

Aaahh, this one's just right. It sits at the perfect height, the color compliments the base, and the proportions work.

Ok, here's a better hint than just 'feel' it: A shade's height should be about 2/3 the height of the base. In most cases, this creates a visually balanced relationship. (I'm always open to exceptions!!)

4. TAKE YOUR LAMP WITH YOU SHADE SHOPPING! And when you're at the shade shop, find a table that's the same height as the one it will live on at home to try shades on. The table height will affect perspective. A shade that looks great on your lamp when it's at counter height, may completely cover/eat your base when it's on a low side table.

5. If the lamp will be a reading light, go for a light colored shade. If not, then you're free to go with whatever color works best with the lamp base and the decor of the room it's going in.

6. A shade's shape should follow the contour of the lamp. Round shades go with round bases, square shades go with square bases. Generally. But of course, not always. If you have a round base on a narrow table that's in a hallway, you might choose a square or rectangle shade so that it sits flat against the wall and doesn't stick out into traffic.

If you're having trouble deciding what style/size/color to go with, I'm happy to help! Just send me a message via my Instructables profile page along with photos and dimensions of your lamp and I'll make some suggestions of shades to try.

What's Next?

Put on your cap and gown or in lieu of those, your makin' stuff apron, and get ready to graduate!!


Share a photo of your finished project with the class!

Nice work! You've completed the class project