Posted by: Mrs. HSH | September 8, 2010

PROJECT: Lamp Revamp

With the Labor Day weekend ahead of me, I decided to attempt a “real” DIY project and spruce up an old lamp we had in our living room. I’d considered just buying a new one, but the lamp had good bones and what better excuse to attempt a new project!  Baby steps, right?  


After looking at a few websites, blogs and other tutorials on refinishing old pieces of furniture, I decided I was more than capable of refinishing the base of our old lamp and installing a new shade.  A quick trip to Home Depot later, I was armed with a cheap-o paint brush, some Minwax wood stain, and a package of rags.  Since I am a novice and very inexperienced in the home-improvement department, I am going to keep it real and give you the real story…mishaps and all!  

Step One/ First Mistake –  Sanding 

I always, always forget something when I go shopping regardless of the list (one of my husband’s pet peeves and one of my self-proclaimed flaws).  So, it wasn’t a surprise when I got home and realized that I forgot to buy sandpaper!  However, we have a garage full of stuff, so I rummaged around and was able to find a sheet of old sand paper.   This, perhaps, was my first and biggest mistake.  I was able to lightly sand down the lamp base, but I wasn’t able to sand enough for the stain to absorb well, necessitating several more coats (more on this later).  

Sand it!

Lesson One: Make sure you have the proper tools and sand down your piece completely if you want an even stain.  Don’t forget to sand in the direction of the grain! Luckily, I managed to do that!  

Undeterred, I wiped all the dust off the wood and set about starting to paint.  

Step Two/ Second Mistake – Staining 

Starting at the top,  I painted the lamp with a dark walnut stain.  As soon as I was finished, a flash of anxiety flooded over me. 

Minwax Dark Walnut Stain


According to the information I’d read, you should let the stain sit for 15-20 minutes to soak into the wood.  However, the stain looked so dark on the lamp that I began the wipe-down process a mere five minutes later, fearful that the stain would be too dark. 


Oh no! Too Dark!

In addition to my forgetful shopping tendencies, I also don’t like to read directions thoroughly.  I’d read quite a bit about the process before starting this project, so didn’t feel it necessary to review the directions on the paint can. Instead of waiting the recommended 4-6 hours to apply a second coat, I waited about, oh 45 minutes.  This resulted in my second coat coming off in a not-so-easy, gooey fashion. 

Always one to learn from my mistakes, I reviewed the directions, waited 6 hours, and applied a third coat. I then set the project aside for a few days to make sure the stain dried thoroughly. I was actually really happy with the color and wanted to make sure I didn’t screw it up!  Finally, I applied a thin coat of water-based polyurethane to seal the deal. And, presto! 

Just Right!

Lesson Two: Read the directions. And, more importantly, follow the directions!    

 Step Three –  Shopping for Shades  

I wasn’t sure what size shade I wanted to top my new lamp. So, I bought several different ones from several different stores.  

Lesson: Don’t be afraid to try out several different shapes and sizes to find just the right fit.  Just simply return the ones that don’t work!  


Step Four – Socket to me  

I hadn’t planned on tinkering with the wiring of the lamp at all.  However, since I was trading in the old glass shade for a new fabric shade, I had to take the socket apart to install a lamp harp (the metal piece that holds up the shade).  


First, I made sure the thing was unplugged! After carefully removing the socket casing and then the actual socket, I was honestly a little freaked out to find just with two wires sticking out of the lamp.  


But, I read the directions and installed the new socket just as I’d removed the old by threading the lamp wires through the base of the new socket and wrapping the wires around the screws on the socket and tightening.  

Step Five – Wrap it up!  

I tried on several different shades until I found the perfect one! I popped the shade on, screwed in the light bulb and I was DONE!  


Lesson: This project was not very difficult. It just requires some time and patience. Practice does make perfect!  And, next time around I think I’ll read the directions a little more carefully! 



  1. Could you email me with a few hints & tips about how you made your site look this awesome , I would appreciate it!

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