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Old lamps have something really irresistible about them. Personally, it’s hard to resist not taking them all home whenever I’m in a thrift store. Sure, sometimes it can be a challenge to upcycle those old lamps and make them look new and modern, but every now and then, I get to find old lamps that don’t need that much of a big DIY project to get them to shine. Today’s makeover tutorial is for such a lamp.
This beautiful old ceramic lamp base has been collecting dust in my storage space for a time now. Like any well-respected lamp lover, I tend to hoard thrift store lamps until I eventually run out of space. The trouble is that I look at a dusty, broken, rust-eaten lamp and see its potential and then it’s impossible for me to leave it in the store. So, I take it home, but in the meanwhile, I get sidetracked by, well, life, and forget about it for a long, long time... I bet many DIY crafters out there know what I’m talking about.
Going through my storage space recently, I refound this lamp and lovestruck for the second time. I decided it was time to give it a modern, fast and easy makeover. Luckily I didn’t have to buy new resources for this old lamp makeover. When I checked my DIY drawer, I found a spray primer and pink spray paint from when I did the tutorials for my eBook “Old Lamps, New Life”.
Depending on the kind of look you want, you may also want to spray the lamp with a clear coat of glossy or matte spray paint.
Step 1: Test the wiring
Before beginning this project, I tested the existing wiring to make sure that it was functioning properly.
When using an old or antique lamp that you found, you should test if all the parts are working. Be sure to use proper safety precautions. Make sure you are at no risk of electrocution or fire (using a surge protector can make sure you don’t damage your outlets.)
If your wiring is faulty, I recommend you take your lamp apart and change the electric part. I know this might sound like a daunting prospect, especially if you’ve never made your own lamp before and if you’re not feeling very tech-savvy. This is completely understandable.
There are sockets and wires and electricity, so being a little nervous is totally normal. But let me assure you that making your own lamp from scratch is actually a simple and safe project - as long as you do it correctly. I have a step-by-step rewiring tutorial here and if you need even more information, my eBook is chock-full of useful information.
Step 2: Prepare the base with sandpaper
Once you know you are safe, take the sandpaper and scuff the surface of the ceramic. This is to ensure that the primer and subsequent layers of paint stay on the surface.
You can also use the sandpaper to spruce up and brighten some of the brass details. Just remember that the direction of your scratches will appear in the end. I went in a circular, sweeping motion to sand the base.
By the way, if you’re looking for a tutorial on how to update a brass lamp base, you can download mine.
You may want to use a sanding block that is made of foam to be able to get into tight spots. I used a very gentle grit to be able to scratch the surface without taking off too much, since large scratches will appear through the paint.
This is to help the primer stick, but the primer really does most of the work to provide an ideal surface for the spray paint.
Step 3: Cover the base with painter's tape and apply primer
Tape off all areas that you do not want to get spray paint on. I decided to keep the brass as is and keep some of the white and gold detail at the top to make the piece cohesive. You can play around with layers and maskings.
Read the directions that are specific to your primer. Generally, you want to spray in light, even coats waiting a few minutes in between each coat.
Our primer gave the ceramic a dull surface with a fine texture that is perfect for the paint to stick onto.
Step 4: Spray paint your lamp
Once the primer is fully dry, apply the color you wish onto the ceramic. Again, it’s best to go in light, even coats to prevent bubbles and drips in the paint.
Step 5: Peel off the tape to reveal your new fixture
If your tape didn’t get all the folds and details like mine did, you can use some alcohol or diluted paint thinner to carefully remove paint from unwanted areas.
Notice that the sanding I did on the base of the shade follows the curves and details to give a “brushed brass” look. You can also clean rusty metal and brass parts with “Bar Keeper’s Friend” if you prefer a finish that is brighter and restores it to its original shine.
For more makeovers and tutorials, check out our other blog posts and Pinterest boards.
To shop for your DIY lamp making supplies, check out our shop right here. We sell everything you need to make or restore a lampshade, make a bottle lamp and rewire a lamp base.
To learn how to make a lamp from anything, we have this nifty tutorial that takes you through all the needed steps.