The Secret Trick to DIY a French Wired Lamp

I am by no means a DIY girl nor is this really a DIY design blog. I did DIY for years when I had to, but I never really liked it. (My husband used to joke that I “may not have expensive taste, but very particular taste.” Now my taste is a little more expensive, too — hahaha, sobsobsob.) Nowadays with 2 super busy kids, limited time for my poor husband, a house and yard, and my own business, too little time for exercise and music, DIY is almost never in the cards. I just wait and save.

Why would I DIY now? Well, as a part of the lighting plan for my One Room Challenge foyer, I had a gorgeous vintage blue opaline lamp (I have two, but I’m only using one for this project) that had been converted from gas to electric eons ago. The result was an ugly pipe going through the middle of it, disrupting the beautiful glowy blue glass.

Yuck.

Yuck.

I wanted it GONE. So I thought, “Easy peasy. I’ll French wire it.” Some of you may be saying, “Of course!,” and the rest of you are scratching your heads and looking at me (hypothetically, of course) as if I had two. Let me explain.

What Is a French Wired Lamp

French wired lamps are nothing new in design; they were very common a century ago. It is a type of lamp where the cord comes directly from the socket rather than having the wire pass through the lamp’s vase and out the bottom. You can find them aplenty on the web — especially on lamps with opaque or crystal bases where one wouldn’t want to have the beauty disrupted by a metal column.

Makes a big difference, yes?

(Btw, you could totally make something similar to the PB Clift Table Lamp but perhaps a little more vibrant and authentic yourself. Put the search term “demijohn” into eBay or Etsy.)

French wiring is also handy if you want to make a lamp from a vase or bottle and you don’t want to drill a hole in the bottom. For example, if you picked up a beautiful pair of Chinese vases at auction and wanted to maintain their integrity.

I wanted to French wire my blue opaline lamp so that the lovely blue would glow better. But when I set about to French wire a lamp on my own, I called a million lamp parts shops and no one, I mean NO ONE, knew what I was talking about. So how did I do it?

“French Wired” = “Side Out or Side Oulet” in Lamp Language

It’s just a matter of semantics. The thing I realized is that design speak is not the same as lamp-maker speak (unless you happen to be an upscale lamp shop that works with a lot of designers — not really where I was shopping, being in small town NH and interested in DIY stuff this time around).

After probably 5 calls — including local lighting stores — I looked at the contact info for The Lamp Shop, one of the more prominent online parts distributers, and I saw that, lo and behold, it was located in Concord, New Hampshire. I thought I knew every home-type of store within a 30 mile radius. How did this place go below my notice? No hours were listed, but I called them up and asked if I could visit in person, and away I went.

The Lamp Shop is located in the Smokestack Center, which is across from the State Prison for Men. (Why do I keep ending up at the prison? See my previous escapade here.) There is no sign on the door. And when you go inside, you find:

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This is the Olivander’s of lamp shops, my friends. The Lamp Shop is actually a 75-year-old business, is third generation owned, and has parts dating back 100+ years — and like Olivander the Wand Maker, only the owners know where to find things.

I brought my French wiring question to the owner — and immediately she said, “Oh, you just need a side-out.” Whaa?

See the hole for the cord to come out?

See the hole for the cord to come out?

After that, it was so easy. I got a 3-way version, so I could change the intensity of light. I had to get a few more parts, assembling them in this order:

  1. 8 ft. Gold Cord
  2. 2 in. Threaded Rod (or whatever length you need)
  3. Brass Harp Bottom
  4. 11/16 Threaded Neck
  5. 1 5/8 in. Vase Cap (or whatever size you need)
  6. Steel Lockwasher
  7. Stamped Steel Hex Nut

Then I epoxied it to the top of my lamp base. For the best assembly instructions I found on the web, see here. Total cost: $19.41.

(If you do happen to have a vase or demijohn you would like to French wire, The Lamp Shop also sells kits. Of course, now that you know what to look for, so do a lot of other places, like Home Depot. Just be sure to look for the “side out socket.” Make it easy on yourself.)

I epoxied the whole thing to a clear acrylic base, which I found at Zadai Studio. No, they are not cheap, but they really elevate a lamp, no pun intended.

Lastly, if you are putting your new lamp on a base as I did, especially if it’s clear like mine, make sure that you get a solid base — not one with a hole (where the cord would typically come out).

Add harp and shade. Look at my lovely lamp! I’m kind of obsessed.

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Questions, comments? I’ll be back next Thursday morning with my One Room Challenge and some unique art/wall decor options I found on Minted.com (and you thought they only did prints and photos!) that can add an extra sense of character and place to any home…. ‘Cause I never did like having the same things everyone else does. 😉

-Amy

P.S. Starting this winter, I will be the regular Home writer for both New Hampshire Magazine and Around Concord Magazine (quarterly). Look for me on a newsstand near you soon! Near you in New Hampshire, that is. 

P.P.S. Not many people seemed interested in my favorite auction finds from a couple of weeks ago, so I don’t think I’ll be making a series of it. More finds for me! However, for those of you interested to see what *steals* you missed, I updated the post with gavel prices here. A couple went higher, some went way lower. Better luck next time!

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