Can Antique Oil Lamps be Converted to Electric?

What's not to love about the subtle glow and charm of an antique lamp? Old lamps are enjoying a bit of a comeback recently, but oil and kerosene aren't for everyone. Don't abandon that old heirloom. Instead, you can electrify it and restore it to its former glory with the convenience of electric lighting. Antique Lamp Supply has more than 60 years' experience in the lighting business, so we know a thing or two about converting and electrifying old lamps. Antique collectors and enthusiasts do love the look of antique oil lamps, but they often avoid lighting them due to the risk of fire. Luckily, this guide will explain how you can convert your collectible lamp into a functional source of light.

How to Convert an Oil Lamp to Electric

Electric lighting poses less of a fire hazard, and you can preserve the original look of your antique or early-style lamp by following this simple guide. You will need to gather a few tools and supplies: a plug, light socket, light bulb, cable strain relief, saw, drill, grinder, screwdriver, wire cutters, tape, hose, and clamp. Inspect the old lamp to check that it has a threaded lamp collar. Measure the inside diameter of the lamp collar to properly select a suitable burner or an adapter. If the lamp has an oil burner, unscrew counterclockwise until it detaches from the lamp collar. Check whether the lamp has any remaining fuel in the reservoir. If so, dispose of it properly to reduce the risk of shock.

Carefully remove the glass globe or chimney, remove any remaining wick, and disassemble all the components of the lamp. Rinse and dry your lamp completely before proceeding. Depending on the style of your oil lamp or lantern, you will mount the bulb from either the top or the bottom. Carefully cut a hole in the tank of the lamp. You might want to use a little oil for lubrication. Once the hole is cut, sand down the sharp edges and test-fit the light socket. You can easily hide an electric cord by cutting a hole in the top of the handle. Thread a cable or hose down through the hole, frame, and tank to serve as cable strain relief that prevents damage due to sharp edges or frequent handling.

Feed the electrical wire through the hole you made in the base of the lamp and up into the center hole. Using a wire stripper, remove an inch of insulation from the wire. Attach both the exposed copper ends of wire to the screws at the bottom of the light socket. Tighten the screws and insulate the connection with electrical tape. Place the socket in the center hole of the lamp or lantern. Screw in the lightbulb. We recommend purchasing an old-fashioned bulb that suits the style and time period of your lamp. Reattach the glass chimney or globe.

About one-and-a-half feet down the electrical wire, cut one of the two wires in half to expose the copper within. Place both pieces of wire into the bottom of the of the lamp-switching housing and divide the two wires around the center hole. Push the top portion of the housing unit onto both wires, so two pieces of metal pierce the wire and touch the exposed copper inside. Securely screw the housing. Take the disconnected end of the electrical wire and thread it through the plug cap, bottoming out the wire into the pronged end of the plus. Clamp down the prongs of the plug, securing the cap for safety. Test your electrified lamp or lantern by plugging it in.

Make your old-fashioned oil lamp new again by installing solar lights, electric candles that flicker, or sensors so it turns on as someone approaches. Before attempting to electrify an oil lamp, you must disconnect or unplug the fixture from any source of electricity. Turning off the lamp will not protect you from an electrical shock. We offer a wide selection of electrified burners to suit some of the most popular lamp styles. We also offer electric galleries, sockets, shade holders, and so much more. Need assistance or information about rewiring an old lamp? Look no further than our helpful resource: How to Rewire an Antique Lamp. If you have any questions about this article or need help finding the right parts for your lamp, please contact us today to learn more.