Anatomy of a Lamp

Remember this lamp?  It started out as a vintage brass lamp I found gathering dust in the lighting section of Goodwill.  The shade was found at a Goodwill on the other side of town, slightly damaged but with its Target sticker still attached.  I brought them both home, sprayed the lamp down with Rustoleum, turned the damaged part of the shade to the wall, and voila–I had the perfect bedside lamp for my master bedroom, for less than $10.  (You can read more about how I redecorated my master bedroom with Goodwill finds HERE.)

The only problem was, I had an identical bedside table flanking the other side of my bed.  And it didn’t have an apple green lamp.  Things were looking slightly unbalanced.  So I kept my eyes open for another lamp.  I didn’t want an exact match–this bedroom happens to be pretty matchy-matchy as it is.  My aim was balance.

It took almost a year to find the right lamp.  Just so you won’t feel like my situation was too desperate, I’ll level with you: that was only about five trips to Goodwill.  When I felt a little impatient, I Googled “green lamps” and found prices that cooled me down:

Then, one day this summer, when I ran into Goodwill on a whim, I found my lamp!  Heavy-duty brass with a similar–not matchy-matchy–shape and an identical height.

The price was right, so I snatched it up.

I made another quick trip to Target that evening, which still carries the exact shade I found damaged at Goodwill last year.  Hooray!  I figured it was pushing my luck a little too far to find the same shade again at Goodwill, so I was willing to plunk down $24 to get the new, undamaged version.

After all, my total cost for this pair of lamps so far was $36.98, a clear savings compared to the lamps I had Googled.  (Lamps were $5.99 and $7.99, damaged shade $3.49, Rustoleum spray paint $3.50, plus new lampshade = $36.98.)  No DIY project is without it’s challenges, though.  I had one.

Check out my brass lamp.

Now look at the inner workings of that lampshade.

Hmmmm.  I hadn’t realized my shade wasn’t designed for this type of lamp.  After careful study, I decided there had to be someway to get that wire thingy out of the way so my shade would fit on the lamp.

Um, could someone please reassure me that I’m not the only person who just barely learned that most lamps were designed to accomodate two types of shades?  I learned this the hard way, by unsuccessfully trying to first unscrew the wire thingy and then searching the Bionic Man’s toolbox for something I could use to chop it off.  When that didn’t work, I resorted to squeezing the wire thingy, really hard.

It worked.  Apparently, because it was designed to work.  Huh.

And by the way, just because I need to redeem myself for my complete ignorance when it comes to lamps, I just Googled “parts of a lamp” and found this handy reference:

The wire thingy?  It’s called a harp.  

And just in case there are a few others out there who–like me–are a little naive when it comes to the big, bad world of lamps, harps are removable.  Don’t ever pass up a Goodwill lamp because it has a harp and your shade doesn’t.  Just sqeeze hard so the harp will come loose from the harp bottom (actual lamp anatomy, there)

and pull up

and stick that lampshade on!

Stay tuned–I’ll show you how I painted the lamp, tomorrow!


  1. Wait! I’m still confused. So unscrewing the finial and putting the lampshade on the screw wouldn’t work? What did you end up attaching the lampshade to? Enlighten me!

    • Oooh, I’d better add another picture! That type of lampshade is designed to rest on the lamp socket (refer to the handy diagram). It fits right over the place where the lightbulb goes. That way, you just reach down through the top whenever you change the bulb–no need to remove the shade. Resting on the top of the harp wasn’t an option because of the metal supports inside the shade.

      Who knew lamps could be technical, right?

      • Got it! Because it’s almost a cylinder, I didn’t realize that we were looking at the shade from the bottom up, not the top down. AHA! Can’t wait to see it green. Yummy color!


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