This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, we may receive a small commission. Read our affiliate disclosure here.
Glass lamps are unique and precious lighting fixtures with a lot of historic background. We know it is impossible to resist them, so whether you just fell in love with another one in a vintage thrift store or got bored with your family heirloom, in today’s tutorial we share a complete glass vase lamp makeover tutorial.
Vintage lamps with glass vase bases look so pretty. They come from a time when every decoration was handcrafted and treated as a delicate, special treasure. But with time they lose their spark and appeal (although to be honest, even when they are outdated it still is hard to resist not buying them in thrift stores). And as nice as they may look, glass lamp bases still need constant care to make sure they live up to their old age appeal. For the lucky ones, that just means dusting every now and then.
In today’s tutorial, we are turning an old and boring glass vase lamp into a new and pretty one. For this project, we went all in and took an old, rusty, lamp with a glass fixture and turned it into a bright, re-wired, faux ceramic beauty!
This is the ideal tutorial for glass vase lamps in need of a serious makeover. We used different techniques, supplies and tools to achieve the look, here's what to have ready before taking on this DIY lamp tutorial.
To Re-Wire and Take Apart
With a bit of help from “The DIY Guide to Rewiring and Repurposing Vintage Lamps”, we started to take apart the lamp from the base and worked our way up to the socket and the harp. If you don’t have perfect memory (we don't), you might want to make sure you will remember where everything was supposed to go. We find it very helpful to take photos or write notes along the way of how you took the lamp apart, and keep track of all the small components like washers, nuts, spacers, finials, etc. This will help you put everything back together just as it was.
Once you have your old lamp fully disassembled, use some “Bar Keeper’s Friend” to polish away rust that has formed over the years on the metal components (if any - if you don't have any metal parts on your lamp, you can skip this step). Our glass vase lamp had many brass, or brass plated parts that could really use a nice shine. We poured some of the Bar Keeper’s Friend onto a rag, and scrubbed the surface with the cleaner for about a minute. When you're done, simply rinse it with water.
Don’t worry if it doesn’t all come off at once, it does take a bit of elbow grease to really clean the parts up.
If you have more than one old lamp to revive, our DIY guide shows you how to recover different surfaces, like glass, metal and wood to their original appeal. Get it here.
While the brass parts were drying, we decided to give the glass a bit of an update by spray painting the exterior to look like white porcelain. We cleaned the glass with some rubbing alcohol to get rid of all grease, dust, etc that have accumulated over the years.
To get the desired surface, we sprayed several light coats of White Gloss Enamel spray paint. If you are worried about the paint adhering to the glass, you can also use a primer underneath or scuff the surface with some sandpaper.
Then, to paint the blue details, we used a sample size can of exterior enamel paint in our desired color. This is a great way to save some money, get the exact color you want ( we chose from a whole wall of samples), and have the right quality. You may also want to get an assortment of paint brushes if the details you wish to paint vary in size and shape.
Here we are, only a few steps before we complete our DIY glass vase lamp makeover. We have our freshly painted glass base, polished and shiny brass, as well as a rewiring kit. This would be a good time to take out your notes or pictures from earlier.
It took a few tries (even with the photos!) to remember the correct order in which to rewire the lamp, but we finally got it. Starting from the base as we did before, we threaded the new cord through the base upward, put our newly painted base on, and then rewired the new socket.
To make sure that the “hot” and “ground” wires never touch and short circuit or potentially create a fire, it is standard to tie an underwriter’s knot before you wire up the socket.
Using the helpful diagrams from Old Lamps, New Life, we carefully screwed the lead wires to the correct screws. The guide will also teach you how to differentiate a “polarized” and non-polarized lamp, as well as which is the “hot” lead and which screw (gold or silver) to attach it to.
Adding the socket cover, the nano leaf bulb and finial were the final touches in sprucing up this lamp. We love how fresh this vintage vase lamp looks now.
Get more DIY lamp inspiration on our Pinterest or browse our blog for more tutorials. We have step-by-step DIY guides to help you make a new drum lampshade, rewire any lamp or recycle a bottle into a cool table lamp.