How to Lovingly Restore an Old and Rare Draughtsman's Lamp
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There is nothing like bringing an old piece of tech back from the dead. In this tutorial, we are going to lovingly restore a vintage draughtsman's lamp.
The final product looks absolutely stunning and will be a fine addition to your desk or workshop.
Like any project of this nature, you'll first need some stuff to get you started.
Tools and equipment needed
- Old vintage draughtsman's lamp
- Rust remover
- Paint stripper
- Dremel rotary tool and various bits
- New power cable and plug
Step 1: Dismantle your lamp
The first step is to check your particular lamp for any obvious work that needs to be done during the refurbishment. Check for things like physical damage, perished or missing parts, loose or broken cabling, etc.
With that complete, you can now begin the restoration process. The first step, obviously, is to begin to dismantle the piece.
Use a variety of tools like ratchets, spanners, screwdrivers, etc, to carefully remove screws and bolts as needed. Throughout the dismantling process, be sure to keep a note of how the pieces fit together, and ensure you don't lose any serviceable parts.
As you pull the lamp apart, check for damage, rust, etc of pieces that become exposed. Usual culprits are things like old iron-rich nuts and bolts, etc.
You may find that old rusted bolts and screws can be very stubborn to loosen. In this case use some pliers to grip the nut, and remove the bolt using a spanner. You may need to add some lubricant or WD40 to help loosen parts.
Keep separating all parts of the lamp until all its constituent parts are isolated. For parts like old electrical plugs and cables, you may find it easier to simply cut off and replace them with a new one.
Especially if you plan on using the piece once restored -- it will be safer. If you have opted for this option, simply pull the old cabling out of any parts of the lamp and disconnect from the lamp head.
Step 2: Remove any and all rust and paint
With the lamp now fully dismantled, we can begin the actual restoration process. The first step here is to remove and treat any rusted parts.
Grab any and all rusted parts, and submerge them in some rust remover. Leave them to stew for about 20 minutes or so, and then remove the parts and rinse off the rust remover.
Dry the parts as needed.
With that complete, we can now begin to remove the perished paint on the outer parts of the lamp. One by one, cover them in paint stripper.
Let the stripper do its magic, and then start to scrub off the old paintwork using an old toothbrush or stiff-bristled brush.
A word of caution here, however. Older paint can contain small amounts of lead. This is highly toxic, so be sure to wear gloves, a mask, and do this in a well-ventilated space.
Make sure you also wash your hands before eating afterward. With that complete, we can now move on to the electronics of the lamp.
Depending on the thickness and number of layers of old paint, you may need to repeat the process again, and again until the bare metal is exposed underneath.
Dispose of the paint-sludge in a safe and environmentally friendly manner.
Step 3: Dismantle and restore the old lamp fittings
With the main mechanical parts now cleaned of rust and paint, we can turn out focus to the old lamp fittings. Take the assembly, and, if not already done so, carefully and systematically dismantle it.
Use electrical screwdrivers to loosen any wiring, and continue to pull the fitting apart. Fully break down the fitting into all its constituent parts.
With that complete, take all the metal parts of the fitting, and begin to polish them up using mechanical polishing tools like a Dremel or similar tool.
Keep working the pieces to remove decades of tarnish, dust, and other grime. Your aim is to make them look as if they have just come off the assembly line.
Take your time and enjoy the process. This part is one of the joys of restoration -- if you like that sort of thing.
Pay particular attention to any brass parts and old chrome fixtures and fittings. They really look stunning when buffed and polished.
Step 4: Degrease parts, as needed
With the polishing process complete, we can now start to degrease the previously paint stripped parts of the piece. Take some degreaser agent, and clean any grease-covered parts of the old lamp.
Take the pieces one by one, and clean them in the degreaser using a regular paintbrush. Be sure to wear gloves when doing this by the way.
Rinse the parts once degreased, and then dry them as necessary.
Step 5: Repaint the pieces
Once the degreased, and paint stripped, parts are fully cleaned and dried, we can begin the process of repainting them. One by one, repaint the parts using either a paintbrush or a paint airbrush.
Be sure to paint all exposed parts of the metal as needed. Depending on the paint chosen, you may need to give the parts several layers of paint.
In this case, a cream gloss enamel paint has been chosen for the inside surface of the head, with a lighter white color chosen for the external surfaces. The weights of the piece have been painted in a matt jet black color.
Paint all pieces as needed, and leave the paint to dry as needed.
Step 6: Continue restoring the electrical components
With the main parts of the lamp now repainted, we can turn our attention, once again, to the electrical components. Let's take a look at the main on-off button.
Depending on its age, and of course condition, you can either simply clean up and reuse the parts or, as in this case, remove any replace things like wiring with newer, safer parts.
For the latter, take your new electrical cabling, and prepare the ends of the wires by removing a small strip of the outer insulation to expose the copper wiring inside.
Match up the live, neutral, and earth wires to their matching parts (where relevant) on the old switch and tighten the screws to securely hold the wires in place.
With that complete, wire up the switch and main cable to the bulb holder terminals as needed. You may want to use new wires lengths to do this.
With that complete, reassemble the main bulb holder socket and support bracket, and thread reinstall the piece to the main lamp head.
With that complete, reassemble the main button to the rear of the lamp as needed. Be sure to use any, and all, of the original parts when doing so.
Test the button's action, and adjust as needed if it feels stiff or not quite right.
Step 7: Begin to reassemble the main lamp supports
With the main lamp bulb fixture pretty much complete, we can now begin to reassemble the main support frame for the piece.
Start to install each piece in sequence from the neck of the light head. Use the original bolts, screws, washers, etc to firmly secure them into place as needed using screwdrivers, spanners, ratchets, etc.
Next, take the top set of support strut(s) of the lamp, and feed through the main electrical cabling as needed. Once all the way through, secure each part to its predecessor in sequence, as needed.
Be sure to reassemble any joints, springs, etc, as needed to allow the lamp head (and main body) to pivot and turn.
Test the action of each joint as your rebuild it and adjust as needed.
Step 8: Complete the restoration
With that complete, move on to the next part of the supporting structure of the lamp. Once again, feed the cable through the center of the piece, and attach to the previous strut using the original nuts, bolts, and elbow parts.
Be sure to leave a small loop of exposed cable around each of the joints so that it can move without stressing the cable once fully assembled.
With that complete, secure the completed part of the structure to the lowermost strut as needed. Once done, add the supporting struts for the base weights, and then attach the weights as needed -- again using the original nuts, bolts, washers, etc.
Secure the cable into place as needed to the main structure using any washers, etc, from the original piece. With that complete, the main structure of the lamp is now effectively complete.
Now, all we need to do is wire the new cable to a new plug. Depending on where you are in the world, use the appropriate design of plug for your region.
As before, expose the inner wires of the cable, and wire up the plug as needed.
With that done, select a suitably sized bulb with the same fitting type as that of the lamp -- in this case a traditional bayonet type.
Secure the bulb into its fitting, and then set up up the lamp ready for testing.
With that done, plug the lamp into the main, cross your fingers, and then flick the lamp's switch. If everything has gone to plan, the bulb should turn on!
If not, troubleshoot the wiring to see if any wires have come loose or not.
With that, you have fully restored your old vintage draughtsman's lamp! Well done you.
If you enjoyed this restoration project, you may enjoy something a bit more challenging. How about, for example, restoring an old floor tire pressure gauge?