Victorian Hanging Library Lamp - Electrified

Victorian Hanging Library Lamp - Electrified

Lamp Restoration With Replacement Parts From Antique Lamp Supply

Published: 12/4/2014
By: Jerome Vernon
About the Author: Jerome Vernon is a software developer/project manager and an avid antiques enthusiast. When Jerome’s not busy creating business related software products for his clients he’s restoring antiques and writing articles for Restoration News.
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Victorian Hanging Library Lamp - Electrified

Oil Lamp Lamp Restoration Project With Replacement Parts From Antique Lamp Supply

A few months ago one of my favorite antique stores had their annual clearance sale. Noble House Antiques of Visalia CA is a family establishment highly experienced in providing mid-market antiques acquired from across the USA and abroad. They serve the serious collector, interior decorator and designers throughout California with quality antiques at affable prices. What I really like about this antique store is the far back section; it’s filled with great finds and some in need of restoration work. During their annual clearance sale I purchased the Victorian era hanging library lamp shown left for $60.

In this article, I will restore the oil burning lamp to its former elegance while "electrifying" it for use in the twenty-first century home. As can be seen, it’s been left outdoors for years and is severely tarnished.  It’s also missing the glass dome shade, chimney and a dozen or so crystals. The good news is that all the missing parts plus an electrified burner are readily available.

This project will start by completely disassembling the lamp and ordering the needed parts. Next, the crystals and brass will be cleaned. The brass parts will be buffed to a brilliant shine then reassembled and coated with lacquer for brass. Finally, the lamp will be wired for electric operation using beautifully matching cloth-covered vintage-style wire.

(In just three simple steps shown below, you will see how this rather dreary looking paraffin lamp is transformed into a sparkling beauty ready to grace any Victorian style décor.)

Let’s take a look at some of the manufacturers and suppliers of products used for this project

When restoring antique lamps finding the correct replacement parts can sometimes be a bit of a challenge. Fortunately Antique Lamp Supply® of McMinnville, TN has everything needed for restoring antique lamps of any era. Antique Lamp Supply has over 60 years of experience and there customer service department is highly knowledge and ready to help with expert advice. You will find Antique Lamp Supply website and on-line store both comprehensive and easy to navigate.

JAX Chemical Company of Mt. Vernon, NY has been manufacturing metal finishing and polishing solutions for over 40 years. JAX Chemicals are used in the lighting, furniture, decorative hardware and stained glass industries. Artisans and craftsmen rely on JAX for restorations and current work. Visit the JAX website on-line store for quality metal colorants, darkeners, blackeners, cleaning solutions and more.

Process Steps
Dissemble and Parts Ordering

(Note: when working with an item having many parts it’s a good idea to first take plenty of photos and at various angles. The photos can then be reviewed when re-assembling to ensure parts are installed correctly.)

The first step is to disassemble the lamp starting with those fragile hanging crystals. Shown left; a pair of needle-nose pliers are used to bend the supporting wires for removal of the crystals. This lamp is at least 100 years old; the crystals are caked with grime and need to be cleaned. After removal, the crystals were placed in a tray then soaked in warm soapy (dish soap) water. After soaking, the crystals were rinsed and individually dried using a terrycloth towel.

After disassembly and inspection the needed parts were ordered. For this lamp I needed a glass 14 inch dome-style shade, an electrified burner to fit an English-duplex style font and a matching frosted chimney. I also needed 10 U-drop prisms and 8 feet of vintage-style cloth-covered wire. All of the lamp parts were in-stock and ordered through Antique Lamp Supply® of McMinnville, TN.  I ordered the cloth-covered gold-tone wire (22 AWG) from Sundial Wire of Northampton, MA.


Cleaning and Polishing

This project involves metal polishing procedures using a buffer. Considering the large number of parts, polishing each to a brilliant shine would be particularly anguish without first pre-cleaning. Pre-cleaning will remove years of embedded tarnish so subsequently the polishing procedure is greatly simplified.

JAX Chemical Company manufactures an impressive line of metal finishes such as Green Patina, Antique Rust, Flemish Gray and various metal blackeners. They also produce a suite of highly effective metal cleaners.  For this project I will uses JAX Instant Brass and Copper Cleaner. A small amount of the acid-based cleaner is poured into a stainless bowel and applied to each part using a disposable poly-foam brush. The cleaner instantly dissolves and removes the tarnish thus producing a surface which can be more readily buffed to a brilliant shine. After pre-cleaning, the parts are thoroughly rinsed using a trigger sprayer filled with distilled water.

The majority of the buffing was done using a 3/4 HP 3450 RPM machine with 10 inch loose cotton wheels and white blizzard compound. Smaller areas and hard-to-reach crevices were buffed using a flexible-shaft rotary tool with 2 inch lamb’s wool wheel and white blizzard compound. 

Assembly and Wiring

After buffing, a waxy film is deposited over the surface parts. Prior to assembly this waxy film (polishing compound debris) is removed by soaking/scrubbing using a warm digresser solution. SP Cleaner/Degreaser solution is heated to ~170 degrees F. using a submersible heater in this small ice chest.

A small scrub brush is used to thoroughly clean within the small crevices. After cleaning the heater is removed and lid closed, ready to use another day. Both the heater and degreaser solution is available from Caswell Plating.

Shown left, all parts have been polished and cleaned and the lamp is ready for final assembly. With exception to electrical wiring all parts are re-attached.  The small brass "S" hook used to attach the hanger rungs and rungs to canopy were replaced with new solid brass hardware.

To impede future tarnish buildup, after assembly all brass parts are coated with Mohawk Finishing Products Lacquer For Brass.  Prior to coating lacquer, the entire lamp is wiped clean of fingerprints and smudges using Mohawk Finishing Products Wash Wax Remover. Next, a thin coat of Lacquer For Brass is carefully applied over the all surfaces. Lacquer For Brass dries crystal clear within minutes.

The final step was to electrify (wire) the lamp using the electrified burner from Antique Lamp Supply® and 22 AWG cloth-covered gold-tone wire. (With this lamp/burner and chiming, the bulb size is limited to a 60 watt candelabra type.) For wire concealment, I elected to run the wire through the bottom of the font. Several holes were drilled and rubber grummets installed to prevent bulkhead wire chafing.

This was an enjoyable project which yielded gorgeous results in just a few simple steps. Not only beautiful, the lamp also represents a grand time in history where life in ordinary households was transformed by a succession of technological and industrial developments.

During the 63 year reign of Queen Victoria from 1837 to 1901, one momentous development was the discovery of paraffin (kerosene) around 1850 by Abraham Gesner, a Canadian physician and geologist. The new fuel became affordable upon the discovery of oil in Pennsylvania and, by 1865 the Duplex burner paraffin lamp (shown left) was first introduced. Having two wicks and a glass chimney, most also had a large decorative glass shade (diffuser). Often opaque, these shades provided an opportunity for embellishment with a variety of shapes, colors and patterns.

By 1900, electric lighting was still in its infancy. Gas lighting was common in the cities, supplemented by oil lamps and candles in the countryside. All three forms of lighting were in use at the same time however; after WW1 electric lighting emerged unrivalled. Many of the highly decorative Victorian era lamps were either electrified early-on or, eventually replaced by emerging Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau or Art Deco style electric lamps.

Although highly tarnished and somewhat dreary looking, I was lucky to find this lamp both affordable and in its original condition. I was particularly fortunate in finding all the needed replacement parts readily available from Antique Lamp Supply®. Their experienced staff was exceedingly helpful in identifying all the period specific parts needed which arrived within a week of ordering. 

I was also impressed with the performance of the Instant Brass and Copper Cleaner form JAX Chemical Company. During previous metal finishing projects, polishing of multiple highly tarnished brass parts was a laborious process. By pre-cleaning using Instant Brass and Copper Cleaner, returning this lamp to a brilliant shine was relatively effortless and completed in record time.

Restoration News accepted no monitory award, support or payment from Antique Lamp Supply® for the development and publication of this article and its content. The content, usage guidance and, general opinions regarding all products mentioned here are the sole opinions of the Restoration News staff; as determined by their independent interpretation, analysis and testing.  In addition, Restoration News assumes sole responsibility for all content contained in this article as defined by Restoration News limitation of liability and website disclaimers.

Restoration News accepted no monitory award, support or payment from JAX Chemical Company for the development and publication of this article and its content. The content, usage guidance and, general opinions regarding all products mentioned here are the sole opinions of the Restoration News staff; as determined by their independent interpretation, analysis and testing.  In addition, Restoration News assumes sole responsibility for all content contained in this article as defined by Restoration News limitation of liability and website disclaimers.

Antique Lamp Supply
   Antique Lamp Parts and Lamp Repair
JAX Chemical Company
   Metal Finishing and Polishing Solutions
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