The lamp kit
Lamp kits come in all shapes and sizes, from simple to complex, but in essence, all lighting kits will have a socket for the lightbulb, a cord, a plug and the hardware to put it all together. Depending on the lamp you're restoring or building, you may also need to purchase items like tubing to encase the cord inside the lamp or a shade riser to fit over the socket to keep the lampshade well away from the heat of the lightbulb. The more complex your project, the more pieces you may need to finish your lamp, like the dimmers, bases and caps available at Lamp Stuff.
While standalone lamps are relatively safe and easy to build, as they are not connected to a power source until completed, you should always use caution when dealing with electricity. Building a lamp is no time for "winging it," so follow all the steps in your lamp kit's instructions and doublecheck your work before plugging in your finished lamp.
Lamp Stuff lists a number of wiring tips to remember and check, such as tying an underwriter's knot in the wire before attaching it to the socket to keep the wires from slipping or pulling loose.
Vintage lamps can cost a pretty penny at antique stores, but you can save a bundle if you salvage and restore your own. The trick with restoring lamps is removing the original wiring without damaging the housing. You may need special soldering or electrical tools to get the job done.
Tie a string on the old cord before you pull it out of the lamp, especially if the housing or tubing is curved. Keep one end of the string hanging out of the top as you pull the old wire out, then leave the other string end hanging out the bottom once you pull the old cord out. Use the string to help guide the new cord through the lamp housing to prevent it from getting stuck halfway through.
Before you throw away the old wiring and socket, use them as a sizing gauge to pick out new lamp kit fittings that will work with the lamp housing without requiring much modification.
With a drill, a lamp kit and a few electrical tools you can turn almost anything into an attractive lighting solution. You might create a lamp from a wine bottle saved from a special occasion or transform an interesting piece of driftwood from a dust-collecting knick-knack into an attractive, functional light.
While wiring up a lamp is relatively simple when you follow safety standards and the included instructions, the trick with custom-built lamps is balance.
A top-heavy lamp creates a fire hazard, as it's more likely to tip over. The taller your free-standing lamp is, the bigger, wider and heavier your base needs to be. Before going through all the trouble of installing the light kit, test your lamp's stability with the lampshade on top to make sure it's not likely to tip over.
More on lighting