Okay kids, who thinks electricity is a demon that can only be mastered by memorizing arcane mystical symbols and gestures? Turns out that is only partially true, and this is the workshop I learned it at:

photo by Sean Campbell

Finger Lakes ReUse collaborated with the Ithaca Fixers CollectiveGet Your Greenback Tompkins and Significant Elements, a program of Historic Ithaca, to offer two well-attended repair skills workshops in May at the Ithaca ReUse Center. Curious-minded individuals brought their malfunctioning items hoping to learn the best way to fix them while some just came by to learn some tips.”

Seriously, I have tried via both classes and questioning patient electricians/shamans to brave even the simplest of wiring skills, and this workshop got me by far the furthest. Nick DiGiacinto from Significant Elements discussed projects brought by the participants one by one, then volunteers advised as we got hands on with our lamps, and it really worked for me.

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This is the found object lamp I started with. I have no idea where this came from, not to mention anything about lamps in general. The top and bottom seem to be almost different styles and materials, and the whole thing was heavily tarnished. The wiring was old, but not as old as the lamp, and it’s head hung sadly sideways. I mean it’s socket and brass neck were disconnected.

First things first-we were shown some of the tools of the trade, then the basics of electricity and the differences in lamp parts that you should be prepared to consider when shopping at the hardware store were explained, and noted down by someone who is not me. ( I wouldn’t have anyone think they could safely wire a lamp from reading this blog post, so I won’t be teaching it here per se. I did learn enough to make me able to learn more, and that’s what I hope to encourage here.) 

Table lamps are not required to have ground wire, so lamp cord contains two 18 gauge wires, a hot wire and a neutral one, bound together. Strip the insulation off this cord (too fun if you have the right tool),and you’ll see the paired bundles of copper wires inside. They would work if solid copper wires instead of the stranded wires that they are, but then your cord wouldn’t be as flexible.

My lamp was examined and exclaimed over and declared in need of a simple wiring job. We got all the materials we needed FOR FREE!,so I picked a yellow cord and plug combo, and a new metal cap and shell socket.

My friend didn’t have a lamp of her own, so we shared mine-luckily for me, as it turned out.
The first step was to unscrew the old socket from the lamp, then strip the ends of both the new wire and (after cutting the plug off) the old one, wrap the bundles of wires to each other and tape them. This is so you can use the old wire to pull the new one through the pipe inside the decorative body. We had to retape it a couple of times in a couple of ways in order to fit it through. My lamp had no felt on the bottom, so it was easy to see what was happening.


Some get this right away



Once you have it through the top,disconnect the old wire and socket, and remove the new socket cap. “Press” where noted on the cap, and it will pop off easily just as soon as you hand it to Nick.
Tie the cord in an uber cool Underwriters knot to keep it from being pulled back out of the lamp from the bottom.

Feed the new wire through harp bottom,then the cap, and you are ready to wire the socket.

The hot wire will attach at one end to the brass (bottom,less accessible) terminal. The insulation on the hot side of the cord will be smooth and unmarked,or if it is a separate cord, be black. The neutral wire will will go to the silver terminal in the socket and the insulation will have ridges or be marked, or if a separate cord, be white.If you have a polarized plug at the other end, the neutral wire will be attached to the wide prong. (Side note: a ground wire is green). Power reaches the bulb by running through the metal tab at the bottom of the socket (via the hot wire), where the bulb sits, through the bulb, and back out the metal threads where the bulb is screwed in (via the neutral wire), creating a circuit. The switch cuts the power on the positive side, stopping the power before it gets to the object.

This is the important part-when wired properly, the metal threads of a socket will not be “hot” or give you a shock, whether the switch is on or off. When wired incorrectly, the threads – and any metal touching the threads, including the outside of the socket, or the threads of a light bulb – can give you a shock whether the switch is on or off.

Screw the while thing back together and SHAZAM-you are an electricity wizard!

photo by Sean Campbell

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Editors note: Extra special thanks to Sean Campbell who generously allowed me to use his photos


For our first mini-vacation of the year, we attended the Friday auction at the Bostwick Auction & Gallery in Candor. (I assume the “gallery” part refers to the old advertising signs on all the walls.)They auction the barn stuff outside and the household items inside.There is food and lots of dogs and babies and local characters-it’s a small town social event. The first time we went we didn’t have a plan, and while I was happy with what we got, we definitely went over budget ! Now we look at the posted pictures first, and decide what we are willing to spend. You have to keep in mind the buyers fee and taxes for it to really work. Honestly, we still play it pretty loose. Often what we like in the picture doesn’t hold up to an in-person once over, but conversely, we’ll go for a great deal on just about anything.
Today we got a wheelbarrow and a four-wheeled dolly for about thirty bucks. The “anything if it is a deal” purchase was three marble topped sinks for five. Mushroom sorting table? Batik sink? Barn clutter?
Our score (and big ticket item) was this crazy little Eastlake style side table. It has brass plated cast iron side decorations & a quarter sawn oak top. The corner braces (purely decorative) are solid brass. The bottom shelf seems to have a story-the bottom of the lower shelf has mostly peeled off veneer. It seems unlikely they would veneer the bottom, so we’re thinking some repair where the bottom was flipped over. We are sanding the the top and refinishing it.
After the auction, we had dinner at the Calaboose Grill in Owego, first stopping in the park to check out the original fire alarm bell purchased by the village in 1867.
This location has been the site of multiple restaurants, all of which have referenced “jail” in the name, and for good reason. Home of the former Tioga County jail house, much of original metal jailhousework has been retained. Upstairs are tables entirely within a cell-no windows, of course!-with barred doors that can still slide closed. This jail building was attached to the sheriff’s residence, constructed in 1910, replacing a previous jail. The cell work is the Pauly System, which has a locking device, whereby the cells may be all locked and unlocked by the movement of one lever. After Image0031the county built a new jail in 1996, this one was sold, and by 2000, the second and third floors had been renovated into apartments. Since the cell work was structural, it was retained. The first and second floors were also renovated to house the first of several jail themed-restaurants.
Important note: Thursday is Tioga Tourist Day-10% off if you are from out of town!