Hands On: Wiring a Cord and Socket

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You don’t have to be an electrical engineer to create AND wire your own task lighting. When you find (or make) that perfect lamp or lampshade, why not create the perfect wiring to accompany it? Not all cord and socket sets are a good fit for the type of lighting you are looking for. It’s often difficult to find the right length, color and style of bulb that’s right for your lamp or lampshade. Because, after all, you want people to notice your excellent taste in lighting not that ugly brown cord trailing behind it.

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What do you do when you need an extra long cord, or you’d like a candelabra bulb, or in my predicament, need the cord to thread through the washer fitting at the top of the lamp shade frame? You make it yourself, that’s what you do!

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Cord and Socket Sets run between $10 and $20 depending on how long the cord is. I found this one (below) at my local hardware store for $19.99. The cord is 11 feet long and holds a standard light bulb. But it’s not going to work with my lampshade.

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I recently revamped a lampshade (using only bakers twine) that requires a harp and a lamp base that would fit a harp. I found several lamps that would accommodate a harp, but my shade was too little for such big lamp bases and it just didn’t look right.

I decided I would hang this lampshade from the ceiling, which would solve my lamp conundrum (because I wouldn’t need one) and it would free up space on my side table.¬†Because I was creating a hanging fixture, I wanted a cord that was long enough to plug into the wall and run up to the ceiling and down again. I opted for a pull chain switch near the bulb, but you can also find cords that contain an inline switch or you can get a socket with a rotary switch.

See how many options you have! You can customize how you turn it on, the length and color of cord, the size and wattage of bulb, etc. With the right supplies and the know-how, you are no longer at the mercy of ugly cords (or ugly lamps).

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Length of electrical cord with plug – $5.39

Pull chain light socket – $4.99

Strain Relief – $1.99

Light Bulb

Phillips head screwdriver

Lamp shade

Wiring a cord to a socket is not that difficult, I’ve come to find out. Keep in mind you can customize the parts to fit your lighting needs.

First of all, because I wanted this light to hang (level) without putting too much strain on where the wire connects to the socket, I used a cord strain relief. This little plastic gadget grips the cord where it meets the socket and takes the strain off the connections. This piece was also handy in keeping the shade level.

The first thing I did was thread the cord through the top half of the strain relief.

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Next, thread the wire down through the opening in the wire frame and out the bottom of the shade.

Thread the bottom half of the strain relief onto the wire with the alligator like prongs first.

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Unscrew your socket and remove the inner piece.

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Thread the top part of the socket casing onto the wire.

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With a Phillips head screwdriver, unscrew both the nickel and the brass screws just enough so that you can wrap the wires around the screw post. On your electrical cord, one half has a smooth texture and the other half has a ridged texture. The wire on the smooth side will be wrapped around the brass screw and the wire on the ridged side will be wrapped around the nickel screw.

Tighten the screws once the wires are in place.

Slide the inner part of the socket back up into the casing.
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Then thread the bottom part of the casing onto the wire and screw the socket back together. The bottom part of the strain relief will screw into the top of the socket.

DIY Lamp Wiring-19 Place the strain relief through the lampshade frame so the lampshade sits on top of the socket.

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Screw the top of the strain relief to the bottom with the frame sandwiched in between.  DIY Lamp Wiring-21

Ta Da! You have successfully achieved electrician status. JK! You’re no journeyman, but you ARE a lamp wiring wiz. Just screw in your bulb, plug into the wall and you have custom task lighting that is far less expensive than a store bought lamp or fixture.

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Alison is the Operations Associate at Whimseybox. Born and raised in Maine, Ali was brought up in the creative culture of craft fairs and artist co-ops where she discovered her love of all things handmade. A true dilettante, she rarely repeats a project and considers herself one lucky lady that her passions have collided with her career.


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