Give Old Ugly Lamps New Life




In this instructable you will learn how to turn your old, ugly, gold or brass colored lamps into a modern usable lamp.

After breaking both of my lamps in the living room, I decided it was time to buy some new lamps. Never having gone lamp shopping before, I was quite shocked to see just how much it cost for a nice lamp, garage sale time. While searching garage sales most of the lamps were old and quite ugly, or as my mom would say "Ugly as sin". They were the type of lamps that if you cut in half would make quite a nice Gold sports trophy.

2 weeks later and tired of living by the glow of my 20" monitor, I picked up some ugly lamps at a garage sale for $5 as temporary lamps. Then a thought came to me, why not just paint them? and add a new shade. And so started this project.

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Step 1: Tool's and Supplies Needed

For this instructable you will need:

- A Lamp
- 1 Can of good quality spray paint
- Some denatured (or rubbing) Alcohol (for cleaning)
- A rag
- Masking tape
- New lamp shade

Step 2: A Clean Lamp Is a Happy Lamp

Time to prep the lamp for painting.

All that is necessary is to clean the lamp of all oils and dust. To do so you must use some kind of degreaser, an alcohol works nice for this.

I used some rubbing alcohol, but I would have rather used a denatured alcohol if I had some.

Clean the entire surface with a rag and cleaning agent, and let dry in the sun.

Step 3: Removing and Masking

After cleaning the lamp it's time to remove any hardware that you don't want painted.

In this case the lamp had a switch at the base, and was very easy to remove.

Also be sure to wrap the cord with a strip of masking, so that it doesn't catch any over spray.

Step 4: Paint

Now it's time to paint.

I chose a Krylon brand gloss Almond color.

Painting should be relatively easy, be sure to hold the can at least 8" away from the object, and use a sweeping motion back and fourth and up and down to cover the whole lamp.

Don't try and do it all on one coat, use multiple coats and let dry at least a half an hour between.

If a drip does occur, be sure to deal with it right away. Use a wet cloth or your finger to whip it off before it dries. Then repaint the area.

I found 3 coats was sufficient, be sure to look at the lamp from many angles to check if you got every part painted.

Step 5: All Done

The painting is done, make sure you leave it to dry for 6-12 hours before bringing it in your house. When it is fully dry it will no longer smell like spraypaint fumes :D

Step 6: Final Touches

Now that the lamp has been painted and allowed to dry we need a new lamp shade. I found one at walmart for $10.

After the shade has been installed the lamp looks much better. Your all finished! just sit back relax and read something by your new lamp.

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    24 Discussions

    sandy gizmo

    3 years ago

    When I spray paint cabinet knobs, I unscrew them then put the screws back in, so you can hold them while using steel wool to rough up the knobs, then I use the screw, still attached to the knob, and put it in styrofoam to hold them in place then start the spray paint.


    8 years ago on Step 6

    Beautiful job. I find myself to be severely spray painting challenged. I wonder if epoxy paint might stick to the metal better.

    5 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you. I will try that. I painted a plastic three tiered parts tray other day and used a large cardboard box and that seems to have helped a bit. It kept the wind from blowing paint spray. It made access a little difficullt at times but I think a bit larger box would solve that.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    ya, well, ya think ya could 'ave told me that part before ;0) ? lol When I did try-and I made a mess by the way-the wind came out of no where, I was spray painting my stuff way too close and it was disasterous! The grass was spray painted, I was covered in paint... (it was my SIL that told me how I should have been spraying the way I suggested LOLROTF) ;0)


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    You might also try scuffing up the surface a bit with some steel wool, or a fine grain sand paper as others have suggested. This (in most cases) will help the paint stick better to the surface that you are painting. Also, just remember to keep back the recommended distance on the can and make sure you are always moving while spraying (in a sweeping motion). Remember, Its better to take it slow and do lots of coats then trying to get it all in one shot.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I do tend to get too close and want to do it all at once. The last things I painted I worked a bit farther from them and worked with lighter coats and it really made a difference. Having something to block the wind also really helped.

    When I volunteered for Habit for Humanity at their Re-Store there was a very talented woman who did this kind of stuff and set up model rooms in the store. She was able to take the ugliest stuff and get wonderful results just like you have. Way to go. fun Instructable!


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Oh how cool, I would think you'd have to do some kind of prep besides cleaning and masking, but I guess with these new spray paints.

    *eyes lamps in own room* I have a weekend project now haha

    Lamp looks great, what would you suggest to seal the paint or do you think it'll be alright?

    2 replies

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Oh I think it should be fine with out sealing it. If you really wanted to do it right (but would take quite a bit of time) is to go over the surface of the lamp with a fine grain sand paper, fine enough where it doesn't leave noticeable scratches, then prime the lamp with a primer spraypaint then paint with your chosen color. Instead of using a primer paint I just used many coats of the spraypaint, but a primer probably would be a good idea. But I figure if it last for a few years and needs repainting I can always do it. Put on enough coats and it should last a while : D Thanks for your nice comments. -Mike


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    The metal lamps can be a huge problem for paints. They usually come coated with some sort of clear coat and providing your spray paint is compatible I would suggest leaving the gloss paint intact and lightly scouring it with a Scotch pad. The reason why is that many metals like brass and copper oxidize rather severely and that oxidation will lift paint right off the metal in a year or so. As an example clean a stub of copper pipe about two feet long until it is like a brand new penny and then paint it. Let it stand somewhere for a year and then simply handle the piece a bit. The paint will fall of leaving large bare spots. Aluminum also acts this way. Lately there are some paints that actually etch their way into the surface of aluminum but I am not certain that any of these paints work well for brass or copper.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Great Tutorial, I have recently been doing this very same thing on garage sale, goodwill, salvation army lamps and would would just add. The paint does appear to stick 'a little better' if you just use some basic steel wool, sanding block in the cleaning part. I guess its cause it takes off most of the natural 'enamel' that is put on the lamp and gives the surface a better chance with the paint. Anyways that's nitpicking as you have already stated that your doing 2 or 3 levels of paint (I went cheap and did just 2). As for paint, if you have a badly scratched and even minor dents look for the sanded texture or hammered textured paint as it will cover those nicely and you can't even tell where the damages are. After they are on if you don't like the color just spray the paint color that you do want and you get the benefit of texture and your preference color. Doing this you should easily have enough paint for 2 lamps in the cans. Great idea and thanks for posting, being that I work in a store that sells lamps I know that this is a HUGE money saver. Not to mention your keeping things out of the LANDFILL.