In the past few months I’ve acquired some great old lamps. Two pair came from an estate sale, one from eBay, and a couple from the Habitat ReStore. I’ve become quite a lamp lady, but only if they need fixing it seems. In my quest to rehab them I’ve learned quite a bit.
Lamp tip 1: Use WD-40 to clean up non-brass metal lamps.
My favorite Dallas lamp parts shop is Royal Touch Lamp and Fixture Service
, and the folks there told me that most old Stiffel lamps (including these) are not brass, as many people believe. Instead they are made from high-quality, heavy zinc plated with brass or some other metal, which is then antiqued and lacquered. As such, they shouldn’t be polished with brass cleaner because that would ruin the finish. The Royal Touch experts said to use a soft rag with WD-40 as a solvent to clean the surface without removing the patina.
That suggestion was easy and worked great. These were $10 each and look quite nice now. In the photo below, the lamp on the left hasn’t been cleaned, and the one on the right is after cleaning with the WD-40.
These came from an estate sale in Amarillo and were $10 each. You can tell they were made by Stiffel because they have metal tags along the top of the socket. The three-way switch is on the base of the lamps. Base switches are surprisingly superior to those on the socket. They save time and arm motion, so if you find an old lamp with a working base switch I think it’s worth a premium.
Beyond surface cleanup all these needed were new shades. Unfortunately that can be an expensive proposition.
Tip 2: Become a savvy shade shopper.
- Bring your lamp with you when shade shopping.
- Start with premium lamp shade stores to get an idea of what you want, and try on as many shades as you have patience for.
- Check the following stores for shades, in order from least to most expensive:
- Ross Dress for Less
- Big Lots
- Tuesday Morning
- Antropologie (good sale shades)
- Lamps Plus (also sometimes good sale shades)
- Pottery Barn (occasionally on sale)
- Restoration Hardware (excellent selection, shades tend to be horizontally wide rather than tall)
- Specialty lamp stores (tend to break the bank!)
The shades on these lamps are the box-pleat silk shade in size F from Restoration Hardware. They were expensive ($80 each!), but I thought they looked really great and decided to splurge since the lamps sit prominently in my living room and are visible from the street. It irks me now to see they are on sale for $54.99
, but they still make me happy every time I turn them on so I suppose I can live with my full-price lamp shade guilt.
I’d love to hear comments on where you buy shades! Perhaps I am need to add some places to my list. Next up will be a post on solid brass lamp rehab.