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Lamp-Making is Fun Do-it-Yourself Project

How about a lamp made from cowboy boots or a Chinese vase?

It's easy to make a decorative lamp from almost anything. In the fictional family from the comedy film A Christmas Story, Dad wins a contest and the mysterious prize arrives in the mail. Eagerly tearing the wrapping off his precious package, Dad reveals his tacky prize--a bare mannequin leg in fishnet stocking rigged as a table lamp. Mom, of course, screams in horror.  The moral of the story? If you're going to create a lamp from some unusual object, try to stay within the bounds of good taste.

Fortunately, the options for making a lamp include more tasteful things, and you don't need much money or any sophisticated tools to create a lamp from your favorite object. You do need to follow instructions from your lamp-making kit and pay attention to safely wiring your lamp, just as with any electrical appliance. But the possibilities are limited only by your imagination and what you can find in your attic or the local garage sale.  Imagine these funky or festive lamps adorning your home, all have been made into lamps according to author Deborah Morgenthal: bird cages, sports trophies, flower pots, an old clarinet, champagne bottles, Chinese vases, cowboy boots, and elk antlers. 

You'll need the following basic tools to build your lamp: pliers, hammer, screwdriver and drill, and possibly a saw. Hardware and craft stores carry lamp-making kits or the essential components are available separately, i.e., rods, wires, sockets and plugs. If you can't find what you need in the local store, look for mail order catalogs and suppliers on the Internet. Remember that you're working with electricity and that means danger of electrical shocks and even fire if you don't wire your lamp properly. Wear protective eyeglasses and gloves. Put everything together carefully to keep your project from backfiring and spitting sparks. For example, lamp cord has two wires, a "hot" wire and a ground wire. Make sure you connect the right wire to the right post on your lamp fixture. The smooth side of the cord houses the hot wire. Connect that to the copper or brass post. The grooved side is the ground. That connects to the silver post. 

Another common mistake is to use a bulb that is too high in wattage for the fixture. Too much wattage caused bulbs to burn out prematurely or can ruin the socket. Use the appropriate-size bulb for your lamp kit. Also, don't assume that the lamp you bought at the garage sale is in perfect condition.  Take it apart, check the wiring and connections and replace, if necessary.  Look for old wires that are deteriorating or unsafe splices that could cause shorts or electrical shocks.

Sources used to create this article include Dru Wilson, Knight Ridder News Service and the Lexington Herald Leader.