Is it dangerous to wall mount an antique lamp that still has the old wires?

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Topic: Is it dangerous to wall mount an antique lamp that still has the old wires?

General Discussion May 14, 2012 at 9:50 am

Is it dangerous to wall mount an antique lamp that still has the old wires?


I bought an antique lamp to mount in our powder room and I was going to rewire but it turned out to be more difficult than I thought. So I’m wondering, do I still need to rewire it if still works for safety reasons? My wife is worried that I may burn the house down.

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Old wiring can be potentially very dangerous.
I had an old (1940s) desk lamp a few years ago. Seemed ok, no cracks or damage to the wiring. When I plugged it in, though, the base of the metal lamp shocked me! Turned out someone had replaced the original cloth covered wire with plastic in the 1960s, but had forgotten to reattach the ground wire. Made the whole lamp “live” with 120v AC current.
If the wiring in your old lamp is cloth covered, you should definitely rewire it. If it’s more modern (plastic covered) you’ll still want to seriously consider replacing the wiring. Old wiring (and old plastic) often has damage that’s hard to see visually, just from age. Sometimes, older lamp wiring can be rated at a much lower amperage than is commonly used today in modern homes. Another reason to update the wiring is to handle the higher amps that modern homes have. Keeping the old, lower amp rated, wiring can sometimes cause the wiring to heat up under higher amperage. You don’t want that.
I’ve found the folks at Logan Hardware very helpful with helping me select the right wiring to replace in some of my vintage lamps. They should be able to help you figure out how to remove the old wiring, too. I’ve had a lot more success talking with staff at the smaller, “mom and pop” hardware stores than the “mega” shops (like Home Depot, etc.) about things like this. My two cents.
I would spend the few bucks to replace the wiring, if only for the peace of mind that goes with it. If you can have an electrician look over your lamp, that might be even better. Better safe than sorry.
Good luck with it!


Thanks for taking the time to provide a great answer! I would like to rewire it, but it seems impossible to get the old screws out of it. It’s a cast iron lamp from the early to mid 1900s. I’ve been trying to unscrew it to get the old wires out but the screws are all messed up and I can’t get the screwdriver to grip. I will keep trying and then I will check Annie’s Ace for wiring advice. Thanks!

oven cleaner or w2 should help get those screws out. 

Worst case scenario would be to use WD40 and a drimel to create a new groove for a flat head screwdriver.  Definitely don’t use the old wiring though.  Rewire it or just use it as a decorative piece.  

Glad to help, fz!
ebgb and webster_res both offer good tips for helping to loosen old screws. If the screw head slots have worn down to the point where the slot isn’t holding your screwdriver anymore, using a file or a dremel (electric hobby drill) to create a new groove might be the best way to get those screws loose.
I’ve used WD-40 with the straw attachment on the nozzle (to get fluid inside tight places) with some success. I’ll spray a tough area and leave it for 6 hours and then spray again before working on a tough bolt or screw.
Here’s a link to some stripped screw removal tips, in case it helps:
Annie’s Ace is a great resource for advice, too. Lucky to have them as your neighborhood hardware store!
Good luck!

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