Electrifying an Antique Oil or Kerosene Lamp

Introduction: Electrifying an Antique Oil or Kerosene Lamp

About: Fixer, Finder, Fabricator. I teach engineering to high school students, at St Marys Secondary College in Nathalia VIC Australia

Before I start, I must tell you that you can buy a kit, to replace the burner that will convert your lamp to electric, they are available on the internet if you want a quick and easy project. 
But if you like to make things yourself then this is the  Instuctable for you.
I found an old kerosene lamp that was pretty beat up the glass was broken and it had been through the flood that we had here a few months ago. I like old stuff, but it has to be useful, if it just sits around doing nothing cluttering up the place it would annoy me. I wouldn't use it as a kerosene lamp, but with an electric light hanging in the back porch I would use it every night.

Step 1: Stuff You Will Need.

  • One old lamp
  • Cord,  I've use a cord from a broken appliance which has a plug fitted to one end
  • Light socket
  • Light bulb, I've used a reproduction vintage bulb, available from ebay.
  • Plug.
  • Cable strain relief
  • Hole saw.
  • Drill
  • Grinder
  • Screw driver
  • Wire cutters / striper
  • Tape
  • Bicycle brake cable
  • Large clamp.
  • You must also have a good practical understanding of mains electricity, as it can be lethal if wired up wrong. If in doubt just buy the kit!

Step 2: Cleaning and Dissembling

First thing I did was to strip the lamp down and clean all the parts in hot soapy water. The glass was broken so I glued it  with some JB weld.Then I started to think about where I wanted the bulb to be mounted ( from the top or the bottom) and where the cord should come out.
It soon became apparent that the bulb would have to be mounted on the bottom inside the tank, and the cord would have to come out the top as the lamp will be mounted on the ceiling from the handle.
I would have to remove some of the tank to get the light socket to fit, and the power cable would have to go inside the frame and up to the top and out near the handle.

Step 3: Fitting the Light Socket.

I wanted to be able to fit a large vintage light bulb to the lamp, so the light fitting would have to be fitted inside the tank. I couldn't use a hole saw in the usual manner as the frame was in the way of the drill.  So by using a clamp, a little oil for lucubration and a spanner, I was able to slowly cut a hole in the tank. It took about 10 minutes and was quite fiddly. Putting a little oil on helped it cut without jamming. Once the hole was cut, I sanded the sharp edge and test fitted the light socket.

Step 4: Fitting the Power Cord

I want the cord to come out the top near the handle to make it easier to hide. So I used an angle grinder to cut a small hole then used a Philips screw driver to tidy up and finish the hole.
Surprisingly the tank has a hole in it where the frame connects, so I just threaded a bicycle brake cable through the hole down through the frame and into the tank. The brake cable was then taped to a power cord and it was pulled through, I put a piece of hose on the cable to act as cable relief, to stop damage due to lamp swinging and the sharp edge.

Step 5: Wiring

If you are confident with electrical wiring this is pretty easy. Just make sure that the cord can't rub through the insulation or be yanked out. There are only 2 wires to connect, (3 if you are required to fit an earth lead in your area).  Once the light socket is wired I drilled a hole in the base and fitted a screw to hold the socket in place. As I used a cord off a broken appliance it already had a plug on the other end.

Step 6: Fitting the Glass

It would be impossible to fit a large bulb and the glass at the same time as the hole at the bottom is too small to fit the light bulb through.
I open the hole up with some tin snips, the steel is quite soft. Not shown is the repair to the glass, I glued the broken pieces together with JB weld. The bulb it quite awkward to fit  so hopefully it wont have to be changed too often. The vintage light bulbs look fantastic the photos don't do it justice.

Step 7: Fitting Lamp to Ceiling

The old lamp is an improvement on the ugly light I have under the porch, and I'm pleased that the handle hides the cord. The broken and cracked glass doesn't look too bad and the JB weld has worked well  holding the glass together. There is only one problem, now I"ll have to find a couple more lamps to put around the place.

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    9 years ago on Step 7

    Another great work of yours!

    I wish they sell those beautiful vintage bulbs here.. but they dont.. :(
    Maybe i'll try and make it with white-yellow LEDs that flicker to simulate real flame? I'll sure make an i'ble for that one if it comes around.. :)


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks Londobail.
    You would get some great looking lamp in Indonesia. I got the bulb from ebay, have a look at http://global.ebay.com/search/?Query=vintage+light+bulb&Region=0
    you just have to make sure you get the right voltage for your area, Australia and the UK is 240 volts, the US 110 volts.
    I think 10 or more lamps in a restaurant or bar would look pretty cool..


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    In the US you can buy what are known as "EDISON BULBS" that look like the old hand blown ones from the Edison labs. Once upon a time these were called MAZDA LAMPS (after the Persian god of fire; not the car!) You can surely get them on line but Lowes etc sell them. Just measure your fixture to see if the bulb (not sure if they come in different lengths) will fit the height without touching anything flammable.

    There are a bunch of very cool handmade light fixtures DIY out there using these--one source where I see peoples postings often is HOUZZE.com. I am sure if you did a Google for these you would come up with a bunch.