June 5, 2012

Bringing the Gun Lamp Back to Life

We've been meaning to share this post about revamping a new-to-us gun lamp (you heard that right), but are just getting to it now — you might notice we got this done a little bit before we were able to paint the front room judging from those bright red walls that are no more in the background of some of these shots. OK, we admit we did this in April and have no excuse — please forgive us!

Growing up, I remember this floor lamp at my maternal grandparents' house and marveling at the fact it was an actual gun, but it wasn't until it was at my mother's house (after both grandparents had passed) that I really began to learn more about it and take interest. It turns out, my grandfather handmade this lamp by recycling a rifle he probably used to hunt with.

If you look closely, you'll notice the stand/base of the lamp is the rifle, the bulb protruding where the gun would be fired and the shade is made from a stitched hide. I sometimes forget how crafty my grandfather actually was and think much of my own creative nature may have been passed down from him. I remember he had an entire 2 car garage set up as an immaculate workshop with industrial tools of all sorts. He made all sorts of things, including necklaces from shark teeth my sister and I would find along the James river when we were little.

My grandpa pictured after what seems to have been a good hunt

When my mother recently asked me if I'd like to have the lamp, I jumped at the chance. Somewhere along the line with normal wear and tear, the mechanisms inside of it had broken and I knew just the man with electrical skills for the job :) It turns out Tim was able to replace the light socket to bring the lamp back to working order and shorten the cord while at it fairly simply — so of course we wanted to share here on the blog!

I'll let him explain things from here on out.

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First things first — this lamp is pretty cool and no paint-visor was required. After studying the socket it was pretty evident I'd need to just replace the entire thing, which is a fairly easy thing to do with a little know how — so don't throw away those broken lights or pass an amazing one up at a yard sale/flea market if you think it just needs a little electrical updating.

Safety Alert: of course make sure all electrical cords are unplugged before taking on a project like this.

I could see right away the lamp was originally made with a 3-way lamp socket, which was exciting to me since it would be able to provide multiple levels of light. You can find an affordable basic replacement socket kits (like this) at any local hardware store — for this project, I picked one up especially made to fit with 3-way lamps.

First I needed to remove the bad socket completely. To do so, I pulled up on the switch barrel to loosen it further from the base it was sitting in and gently loosened the screws on either side of the switch to unwind the exposed copper wires attaching the cord.

Once both wires were free from the side screws, I had something that looks like this:

Then it was time to remove the base of the socket to completely free up the cord and start fresh:

Here's the old switch — see that little silver colored tab in there? That's how you can tell it's a 3-way switch my friends.

Once the socket was completely removed and I had the cord free, I asked Mary to come over and tell me exactly how short she wanted me to make it (we consult each-other on these things). She took the opportunity to try to pick up the lamp and fake shoot it — I think it surprised her how heavy this thing actually is, the base being cast iron.

After telling me how short she wanted it, I cut it to length and added about 6 inches extra since I knew it'd work out better in the end a tad longer (shhhh).

Once the cord was snipped, I strung the base of the new socket through so it would sit at the top of the rifle and then separated the two sides and stripped the plastic coating about 1 inch to expose the copper wiring — can you see how we are basically just putting it back together exactly the way we took it apart only with a new socket?

I then twisted the exposed wiring on either side screw of the new lamp socket. 

Tip: You always wind the wire around the screw in the direction you are going to tighten it — otherwise it will just unwind itself.

Once I got the wires attached to the new socket, I put the brass drum back on top of it and strung the cord back down the base of the lamp until it met and fit into the base of the new lamp socket.

After a twist to secure it, I crossed my fingers, screwed in the new 3-way bulb, and and tested 'er out!

We were in business with this lamp again! So simple.

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And here's where we are now:

A gun with a giant halo of light blasting out of it... In reality, it really does look more defined than this.

We're both thrilled to have this little piece of history in the house — not only does it provide a much better toned down light setting for our family room (other than the one setting ceiling fan we have), it reminds us of our family and how they've been DIY'ing for generations before us.

Hopefully you can also see how easy it could be to turn other objects you may have laying around into functioning lamps. So long as you have the hollow hole to string the cord through and something to ground the socket base, you could soon be making lamps of your own.

Have you taken on a recent restoration project or had something passed down to you that you remember from childhood? We'd love to hear!


  1. that's such an awesome lamp!! it's sort of subtle until you look down. i love it!

    1. Couldn't agree more — you can almost miss it unless you do a double-take!

  2. So. Cool. That is just too much fun!

  3. You both are so clever! Love it! :)

    1. Thanks Jenn!! We had a lot of fun fixing this lamp.

  4. What fun! Nice use for an all rifle. Maybe even sheds light on the issue of gun ownership!

    1. Great point Steve — it's definitely a treasure and we love how it was recycled!

  5. what you've done is so cool!. good thing that you share this.

  6. Ruined what looks to have been a good Swiss 96/11.


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